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Data shows Canadians are starting to head outside more often – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Stay home. Stay home. Stay home.

That’s been the consistent plea from public health authorities for nearly two months now.

Stay home to avoid catching COVID-19. Stay home to avoid spreading it. Stay home to stay healthy.

The message seems to have landed. Workplaces and public spaces have closed, leaving the streets of even Canada’s biggest cities looking like virtual ghost towns at times.

But that can only last so long, right? Surely stir-crazy Canadians will eventually look at the generally declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases and conclude that it must be safe to venture outside, just a little bit, even if the government is saying otherwise? Especially once blustery spring weather is replaced by warm, sunny summer?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to think so. On Thursday, in announcing that some national parks will be reopened June 1, Trudeau seemed to suggest that the decision was in part based on getting ahead of expected behaviours.

“We know that you can’t prevent Canadians from going outside when the weather is nice,” he said.

The latest data available from two tech giants’ tracking of Canadians’ movements during the pandemic indicates that the prime minister may be correct in that assessment.

Google has been maintaining mobility reports for many countries during the pandemic. The reports are compiled based on data from Google users who allow the company to track the locations they visit and keep a log of them.

The company’s latest report for Canada, which contains data up to May 7, shows that while Canadians are spending far less time at stores, offices and transit stations than they were before the pandemic, the numbers are slowly inching back to the pre-pandemic normal.

In retail and recreation – a category that includes restaurants, shopping malls, libraries and theatres, among other destinations – the amount of time logged by Canadians in mid-April was approximately 50 per cent below what it was before the pandemic. By early May, the drop was closer to 40 per cent.

Canadians are also, based on Google data, spending more time in grocery stores, pharmacies, workplaces and transit stations than they were even a month ago, and slightly less time in their homes.

The most telling statistic, though, might be the amount of time spent in parks. That figure was near or below the pre-pandemic baseline for several weeks, reaching a low of nearly negative 40 per cent in early April. It shot up as soon as May hit. On May 7 – the last day for which data is available – Canadians spent 32 per cent more time in parks than they did before the pandemic, according to Google.

Some of that can be explained by loosening restrictions in certain parts of the countries. Time spent in parks on May 7 was the most abnormally high in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, both of which have started reopening their normal societies. In Ontario, which has been slower to reopen, Google reports that park usage remains closer to pre-pandemic (i.e. winter) levels.

Apple has a different method for estimating movement patterns during the pandemic. Its Mobility Trends Reports compare current search volumes in Apple Maps for driving, walking and transit directions to pre-pandemic levels, on the assumption that fewer users asking for directions correlates with fewer people using each method of transit.

According to Apple’s data, the number of routing requests from Canada fell sharply in the second half of March and bottomed out around Easter weekend. There have been steady week-by-week increases since then, with May 8 bringing the highest search numbers since the pandemic began. On that day, requests for driving directions were at 85 per cent of their usual levels, and requests for walking directions at 76 per cent of their usual levels. Both of these numbers were regularly around 50 per cent in early April.

Public transit directions continue to lag well behind, having risen from lows of 18 per cent in early April to pandemic-era highs of 25 per cent last week.

Based on the trends in Apple’s data, it is entirely possible that requests for walking and driving directions could be back in the range of their usual levels as soon as this weekend.

This may help explain why Trudeau followed his comment that nobody can stop Canadians from enjoying nice weather with this: “You just have to help them do it safely. Continue to impress upon them the need for physical distancing. Recognize that certain areas are more vulnerable than others.”

From the prime minister, at least, it seems the message may be shifting from “stay home” to “stay safe.”

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.

China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.

The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Renewed concern over rising COVID-19 cases, delta variant: 

Despite Canada having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, that might not be enough to slow the spread of COVID-19 driven by the highly contagious delta variant. 2:34


What’s happening around the world

A visitor submits her documents at the reception to receive a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo on Monday. (Stanislav Kogiku/The Associated Press)

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 198.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will focus on hospitalizing patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and those at risk of becoming so while others isolate at home amid worries about a strained medical system as cases surge in Olympics host city Tokyo.

Pakistan’s top health official says his country for the first time has administered one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine across the country in the past 24 hours. The latest development comes days after Pakistan imposed a lockdown in the southern port city of Karachi and in other high-risk areas.

In the Americas, the U.S. states of Florida and Louisiana were at or near their highest hospitalization numbers of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, a trend driven by the still-spreading delta variant.

Nearly three out of four Americans above the age of 18 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disesae Control.

In Africa, Morocco will lengthen its night curfew as it tightens restrictions to counter a surge in infections.

In the Middle East, Iran on Monday reported 37,189 new cases of COVID-19 — a single-day high, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The country, which has been hit hard by several waves of the novel coronavirus, also saw 411 additional deaths.

In Europe, France’s overseas territory of Guadeloupe will to go into a new lockdown for at least three weeks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to get the travel industry moving again with a simple user-friendly system to allow for trips abroad without importing new virus variants.

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET

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Canada fines travellers for fake vaccination and testing papers – BBC News

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A Covid screening centre at the Vancouver airport

Getty Images

Canada has fined two travellers arriving from the US who, officials say, forged Covid-19 testing and vaccination documents.

Each was fined C$19,720 ($16,000, £11,500) after inspectors at the Toronto airport found their vaccine cards and proof of testing were fake.

It comes as Canada is set to ease travel restrictions on US visitors.

Around the world, nations are grappling with how to re-open their borders to travellers amid a virus surge.

According to a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the two unnamed travellers had entered Canada from the US during the week of 18 July.

The Canada Border Services Agency, which inspects Covid travel documents for authenticity, determined that the duo had faked the documents that they had uploaded to the government’s ArriveCAN travel website.

“The Government of Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported and will not hesitate to take enforcement action where it is warranted to protect the health of Canadians from the further spread of Covid-19 and its variants of concern,” the agency said in a statement.

Canada did not identify the travellers or their itineraries. The health agency told Newsweek in a statement that they were Canadian citizens.

Canada loosened requirements for international travellers on 5 July. Anyone entering the country must provide proof of vaccination. The unvaccinated have to submit to multiple tests, and stay for three days in a government-run hotel before quarantining for 14 days.

Canada will begin letting vaccinated Americans enter the country starting on 9 August.

The US border with Canada and Mexico, however, remains closed to foreigners until 21 August.

Other countries are quickly amending their travel restrictions, depending on the rise or fall of new infections and vaccinations.

On Monday, the UK began allowing vaccinated Americans and Europeans to enter without undergoing quarantine.

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US Customs agents arrest Canadian woman attempting to smuggle drugs – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
A Canadian woman has been caught attempting to import a significant quantity of cocaine into the country, U.S. border agents report.

The suspect, who was driving a commercial truck loaded with watermelons and peppers, attempted to cross into Canada at the office in Sweetgrass, Mont. on July 29.

Upon further inspection of the truck, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered a number of bags hidden among the cargo.

The substance inside the bags tested positive for cocaine, officials said. The total amount of drugs seized was 31.5 kilograms.

“Utilizing high-tech tools, our frontline CBP Officers used a combination of their training and experience to detect and seize 69.5 pounds of cocaine in the cargo environment,” said area port director Jason Greene, Sweetgrass Port of Entry, in a release.

“The ability to facilitate lawful trade and travel while sustaining a focus on enforcement, is critical to our border security mission.”

Charges are pending against the suspect, who has not been identified.

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