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Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are travelling abroad despite Omicron – CBC News

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Despite growing concerns across the globe last fall over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, Sandy Long and her husband departed on Nov. 28 for a 10-day vacation in Mexico. 

Long said they felt comfortable travelling, because they planned to take strict safety precautions. Plus, the couple hadn’t gone abroad for two years due to the pandemic and were yearning to get away.

“Life is short,” said Long, 58, of Richmond, B.C. “We needed to feel some warmth [and] we really missed Mexico.”

It appears many Canadians have a similar attitude toward travel these days despite Omicron’s fast and furious spread, which prompted Canada to repost its advisory against non-essential international travel last month.

Statistics Canada tallied 742,417 Canadian air-passenger arrivals returning home from abroad in December. 

When adjusted to account for recent changes in tracking air travel, that total is almost six times the number of arrivals for the same month in 2020, and more than half the total for pre-pandemic December 2019.

The increase in international travel is likely to continue: there were 216,752 Canadian air-passenger arrivals to Canada during the week of Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, according to the latest data posted by the Canada Border Services Agency. 

Lesley Keyter, owner of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, said clients are booking trips despite the threat of Omicron because they want to return to travelling. (submitted by Lesley Keyter)

Travel agency owner Lesley Keyter said that, since October, the number of clients booking trips has jumped by between 30 and 40 per cent compared to the same time last year. 

She said popular destinations for her clients, most of whom are aged 50 or older, include Europe, Mexico and Costa Rica. When Omicron cases started to surge in December, Keyter said some clients cancelled their trip, but most kept their travel plans. 

“People are saying, “Listen, we only have a limited time on this planet.… We’ve put off travel for two years now, I don’t want to put it off anymore,” said Keyter, owner of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary.

She said travellers also feel confident with the added protection of their COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. Because Omicron is so transmissible and more able to evade vaccines, even vaccinated people may get infected, however, they’re less likely to wind up in the hospital.

Risk of testing positive abroad

But even if infected travellers only experience mild symptoms, they’ll still face hurdles returning home.

To enter Canada, air passengers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. If a traveller tests positive, they must wait at least 11 days before boarding a flight home.

Brennan Watson of Milverton, Ont., tested positive for COVID-19 while on vacation in Ireland. (submitted by Brennan Watson)

Brennan Watson, 26, of Milverton, Ont., tested positive on Dec. 28 while travelling in Ireland. 

He was set to fly home the following day, but instead had to find a place to self-isolate in Belfast. Due to Canada’s rules at the time — which have now changed — Watson had to wait 15 days before he could fly home. 

“It was very stressful in the beginning,” he said. “It was a bit of a panic just to think that I’m stuck here.”

Brennan said the delay cost him: he missed 11 days of work as an electrician and spent $2,000 in added expenses, including another plane ticket home. 

“There’s nothing you can really do about it,” he said. “It’s just something I didn’t even think would happen.”

WATCH | Canada once again advises against travel abroad:

Canada warns against non-essential travel abroad as Omicron spreads

1 month ago

Duration 3:14

The federal government is urging Canadians to stay home or, if they must travel, to plan ahead for quarantine and ensure they have travel insurance coverage. 3:14

Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said travellers can avoid such unexpected costs by purchasing trip-interruption insurance. He said most of his clients now opt for the coverage that will reimburse travellers for some or all of their costs if they test positive and must extend their trip. 

“Trip interruption — which used to be a very rarely [purchased product] — is now being added to all the emergency medical plans, because clients worry terribly about testing positive,” said Firestone with Travel Secure.

“That’s the new world we live in right now with the pandemic.”

Flight cancellations

Another hurdle travellers may face is unexpected flight cancellations. 

Since December, thousands of flights in Canada and the U.S. have been cancelled for pandemic-related reasons including crew members out sick due to the virus. 

This month, Air Canada Vacations announced it will suspend some flights to sun destinations between Jan. 24 and April 30. After cutting 15 per cent of its January flights, WestJet announced on Tuesday it will cancel 20 per cent of its February flights.

Long said she and her husband enjoyed their trip to Mexico so much, they had planned to return again in the upcoming weeks. However, the couple recently nixed their plans due to concerns over flight cancellations.

“It’s the uncertainty right now,” said Long. “I don’t want to get down there and then be stranded.”

However, she’s still optimistic about a trip the couple has booked in May to Spain. 

Despite testing positive while travelling, Brennan hopes to return to Ireland this summer — even if the pandemic hasn’t waned by then.

“I spent a year and a half of my life not seeing family, not seeing friends,” he said. “I’m not going to stop living my life.”

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Ellen DeGeneres makes her final entrance onto the Ellen Degeneres Show

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Los Angeles, United States of America (USA)- Ellen DeGeneres yesterday made her final appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show after 19 seasons.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show began back in September 2003 and has been host to various issues and people.

“Mary and Andy you have been with me since day one, and I am so grateful, I am so lucky that I have two executive producers that not only knew how to make a great show but make a great show for me because you understood me, you got me, you knew who was.

You have been with me for 25 years. We have been through everything together, 25 years, thick and thin. We have laughed, we have cried, you have been my constant source of support and love and I thank you. You are brilliant, you are talented, you are super smart, I admire you, I respect you, and I love you.

To all of you who have watched this show and supported me thank you so much for this platform and I hope that what I have been able to do over the last 19 years has made you happy and that I was able to take a little bit of pain away from a bad day or anything you are going through and I hope I have been able to inspire you to make other people happy and to do good in the world to feel like you have a purpose.

I have said it before and I will say it again if I have done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I have inspired you to be your true, authentic self and if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don’t understand. They are showing you who they are and that is the biggest gift anybody can ever give you, and by opening your heart and your mind, you are gonna be that much more compassionate and compassion is what makes the world a better place.

Thank you so much for being on this journey with me. I feel the love and I send it back to you. Bye,” said Ellen.

In May 2021, Ellen announced that the 19th season of her show would be her last. However, the show will continue to air new episodes with guest hosts and re-runs throughout the course of this year.

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US maintains it does not support Taiwan independence, China hints at chopping hands

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Washington DC, United States of America (USA)- Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has reiterated that the country’s policy on Taiwan remains resolute.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US recognizes but does not endorse, China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. While the act codifies the US’ one-China Policy, it also authorizes informal diplomatic relations with the government of Taiwan and allows Washington to provide Taipei with enough military support to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defence capabilities.

“In Taiwan, our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. As the President has said, our policy has not changed. We do not support Taiwan’s independence, and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” said Blinken.

However, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, has said some people in the US will have their hands chopped if they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question.

“We want to make it clear to some people in the US that their hands will also be chopped off when they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question. The People’s Liberation Army is ready to take all necessary measures to crush any form of Taiwan independence moves and to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The US has been continuously marginalizing and diminishing the one-China principle. It wants to use the salami-slicing tactic to play the Taiwan card to contain China and that is a complete illusion.

We request that the US stops disguising its own rules as international norms and promoting the US-style, hegemony-based order. It must accept China’s peaceful development with a rational, objective perspective, which is in the interest of Sino-US relations and the world’s peace and stability,” said the Senior Colonel.

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BBC to layoff 1 000 staff workers

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London, Britain- The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has revealed plans to layoff 1 000 of its staff within the coming few years.

According to the corporation, BBC World News and BBC News channels will merge to create a single 24-hour TV news channel serving both Britain and international audiences as part of the corporation’s wider plans.

Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge are also among the services being scrapped merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.

BBC Four and Children’s BBC will no longer be aired as traditional broadcast channels after the next few years and will end as linear TV channels and are expected to move online to the iPlayer, while Radio 4 Extra could become available on the BBC Sounds service only.

According to Tim Davie, BBC’s Director-General, the layoffs will save at least £200 million (US$252 million) annually.

“When I took this job, I said that we needed to fight for something important, public service content and services freely available universally for the good of all. This fight is intensifying, the stakes are high.

Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK (United Kingdom) and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that, we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.

This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organization for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world. Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organization which has never been seen before,” said Davie.

The move comes off the back of remarks made by Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, in January, that the licence fee will be frozen at £159 (US$201) per annum for the next two years.

 

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