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Moroccan king ignores Algeria accusation in speech

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Morocco’s King Mohammed gave a speech about Western Sahara on Saturday but made no mention of an Algerian accusation that Morocco targeted Algerian civilians in an incident last week that the United Nations said took place in the disputed territory.

Algeria’s accusation has raised fears of further escalation between the North African rivals after Algeria cut off diplomatic relations, stopped supplying gas to Morocco and blocked Algerian airspace to Moroccan flights.

Ties between the countries have been fractious for years, but have deteriorated since last year after the Algeria-backed Polisario Front said it was resuming its armed struggle for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory Morocco sees as its own.

King Mohammed’s silence on the dispute with Algeria in his annual speech on Western Sahara is in line with Morocco’s practice since soon after Algeria broke off ties in August in ignoring all statements coming from Algiers.

However, Algeria’s accusation on Wednesday that Morocco had killed three civilians driving in the Sahara on Monday has sharply raised the stakes.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune vowed in a statement that the death of the three men “would not go unpunished”.

Morocco has not formally responded to the accusation.

The U.N. peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, visited the site of the incident in territory outside Moroccan control and found two badly damaged Algerian-plated trucks, a U.N. spokesperson said on Friday. The spokesperson said MINURSO was looking into the incident.

Last year the United States recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of a deal that also included Rabat bolstering ties with Israel.

Morocco has been more assertive since then in pushing European countries to follow suit. However, they have not done so and in September a European Union court said some European trade deals with Morocco were invalid because they included products originating in Western Sahara territory.

King Mohammed said on Saturday that Morocco would not agree “any economic or commercial step that excludes the Moroccan Sahara”.

 

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Canada's first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in Ottawa – CBC.ca

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There are two confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Ottawa, the Ontario government announced Sunday.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.

These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had visited several countries in southern Africa over the preceding two weeks.

Those travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has provoked global concern.

Passengers line up to get tested for COVID-19 at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Friday. The new coronavirus variant, omicron, was first identified by researchers in South Africa and has led a growing list of countries to ban travellers from several nations in southern Africa. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labelled as a variant of concern. It is being linked to a rapid rise of cases in a South African province.

It is not known at this time whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, than other coronavirus variants.

“The best defence against the omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said the statement from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The provincial government urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue following public health guidance.

“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant.”

More confirmed cases likely: health minister

In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.

Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, shown last year, said in a statement on Sunday that the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that Canada’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops.

“The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required,” it said

‘Better to be safe than sorry’

Reacting to the news, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos emphasized the lack of information the world has so far about the omicron variant, noting that some other variants failed to take hold and out-compete the dominant strain.

“While it’s important not to under-react, it’s important not to overreact. We don’t have a lot of information about whether this variant is actually more dangerous than the variants that we’ve dealt with,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network.

Still, he said it was “better to be safe than sorry” and take precautions. But he said that until there was more information, it was not necessary to radically change behaviour, so long as you are vaccinated and otherwise acting in accordance with public health guidance.

“The stuff that worked before should work now.”

WHO urges countries to keep borders open

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. It said it is studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as suggested by “preliminary evidence.”

The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure at stopping the spread of the virus. South Africa has said the travel measures are “unjustified.”

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said instituting travel bans targeted at southern Africa “attacks global solidarity.”

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired prior to the government announcement on Sunday, WHO special adviser Dr. Peter Singer said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the variant was in Canada.

He said the United Nations agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-limited,” part of a comprehensive package, rather than the only measure taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.

“They’re definitely not a silver bullet,” he said. Singer argued the international community should not create situations that disincentive countries from being transparent about new variants.

Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and follow public health measures.

“This is a call for individuals to raise their guard. There are things individuals can do which help with any variant or any version of this virus, including omicron.”

He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources to the global vaccination campaign, saying that’s the best way to stop the spread of omicron and potential future variants.

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Canada finds first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario. Here’s what we know – Globalnews.ca

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Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus’ fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” read the statement Sunday.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges'



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COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges


COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges

Read more:
Netherlands, Australia confirm cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

“In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to hold a press conference on the variant’s discovery Monday morning, according to the statement.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also confirmed Canada’s first two cases in a statement Sunday evening, and said that he was working with the province’s public health officials to contact trace the cases.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” read Duclos’ statement.


Click to play video: 'Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern'



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Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern


Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.”

South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.

Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant’s high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.

Other experts were quick to point out South Africa’s low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant'



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COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant


COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant

Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.

Canada’s Chief Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also confirmed the detection of the new variant, and said that Canada has a “robust monitoring” system in place to detect genetic changes in the virus or new variants of concern, such as the Omicron.

“Last Friday, Canada announced additional travel measures for all travellers coming into Canada from the South African region. It is not unexpected that additional cases of this variant will be discovered in Canada,” read Tam’s statement.

A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.

The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by “early 2022” if it was necessary.

Read more:
Will COVID-19 booster shots protect against the Omicron variant? Experts undecided

“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.

Canada’s vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says'



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COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says


COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says

Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada’s announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was “already here” and spreading within Canada’s borders.

On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.

The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada's inflation not caused by stimulus: Poloz – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says government spending and stimulus are not to blame for increased inflation.

“I think that’s not right,” he said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday. “In fact, what the stimulus did was to keep the economy from going into a deep hole in which we would have experienced persistent deflation.”

Inflation has reached 4.7 per cent, according to the latest numbers released by Statistics Canada in October. The Bank of Canada expects it to peak at the end of this year and start to decline in the latter half of 2022.

“We have to accept the fact that policy [stimulus] response was in the right time, well intended and it did avert all the worst calls that people were making at that time,” he said.

In response to affordability concerns, the federal government has repeatedly referenced their national childcare program, as a means to combat higher costs of living. Nine provincial and territorial governments have signed childcare deals with the federal government, while Ontario and New Brunswick have yet to sign on.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said in a separate interview that the inflation problem is not a uniquely Canadian issue and can be attributed to global supply chain problems.

Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre says the federal government’s fiscal spending is to blame for inflation.

The average inflation rate for member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is currently at 4.3 per cent but Poilievre says the problem is only a global issue as a result of other central banks around the world taking a similar approach to Canada on fiscal stimulus.

“I think those are the countries that did the best job of countering the downside risk that everybody was facing,” said Poloz. “Read a book or two about the Great Depression in the 1930s and realize what was averted when we went through this.”

Poloz says that while governments can try to address affordability concerns in the short-term, any government policy normally takes a year or two to have any effect on inflation.

But he expects housing inflation to persist and says those rising costs can be something the federal government can address immediately.

“What they can do there is get all the levels of government together and figure out a list of things that they should be doing in order to promote supply of housing, we’re clearly short of supply and housing,” he said.

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