Experts are divided on whether travel is advisable in light of the Omicron variant spurring restrictions at the border and new travel bans leading into the holiday season.
On Tuesday, the government announced travel bans for 10 countries and added that fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from international destinations other than the U.S. would be required to take a PCR test upon arrival, and quarantine while awaiting the results.
Some travellers are having second thoughts amid the confusion, and Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., told CTV News Channel that the confusion at airports over the new PCR test requirement is likely to grow.
“There’s nothing clearly stated as to how it’s going to work — are they getting it done there, are they lining up with thousands of other people, are they getting a take-home test, are they going to wait and isolate three days till test results — incredibly confusing right now, in all aspects,” he said.
“I’m seeing right now there’s many people that are making a decision to cancel their flights or cancel their trips.”
Firestone said that booking an international trip for January or February might not be the best idea.
“They maybe have to be on hold,” he said.
“I’m looking at summer 2022 as the best chance to start going to Europe and Asia and places such as that.”
So far, just how dangerous Omicron might be is unclear, making it another question in the calculus of whether travelling is advisable. Scientists are studying the variant in the hopes of pinpointing whether it causes more severe illness, but so far cases have shown largely mild symptoms, and no deaths have been connected to the variant.
However, preliminary data suggests that those who have previously had COVID-19 are at a higher risk of reinfection from Omicron than other variants.
Currently, there are 18 cases of Omicron in Canada.
Not everyone is jumping to cancellations, according to Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca and a member of the board of directors for the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), but “new inquiries and new bookings have slowed down.”
“We were at about a 40 per cent of the 2019 level just prior to that,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “And it was rising. So I think people are pausing and they’re trying to figure out what this means.”
Many who had planned Christmas trips are likely going to go through with them and simply plan for the added requirements at the border, he said, adding that whether to travel or not is up to where a person is going and how important it is to them to make that trip.
“I think what’s happening with government testing right now at airports is long overdue,” he said. “And we need to be able to create an environment where people are safe, that we’re vaccinated, […] the testing is available, it’s not [difficult] in terms of costs, that’s convenient and we get the results quickly.”
Firestone believes that it’ll be simplest to go to the U.S. this holiday season, if a person is set on getting away despite the added restrictions.
“Going to the U.S. right now, again, if everything’s properly done, including now the new one-day rapid test, negative test, that has to be done before you get into the U.S., that could still be plausible,” he said, adding that published health measures such as masking still need to be followed.
“But I think that’s the best bet at this point, is a U.S. holiday, possibly a sun destination holiday, although you’re going to face the large crowds coming back in, getting the negative PCR test. So it’s just nothing simple anymore, and I’m hoping that we get a bit of a holiday season and then travel eventually [can] open up again.”
IF I DO TRAVEL, SHOULD I GET INSURANCE?
Travellers worried about insurance should be aware of a couple things, Vanderlubbe said.
One is that since the blanket advisory against non-essential travel was lifted by the government in October, medical insurance policies for travel are now, in general, covering COVID-19 related medical claims, he explained.
“There was a time when the advisory was out that the insurance plans did not generally cover it,” he said. “And you had to buy separate insurance.”
When it comes to cancellation insurance, after some struggles earlier in the pandemic to get airlines to issue refunds when flights were cancelled by the airline itself, airlines are now generally covering any sort of involuntary cancellation where the airline decides not to operate the flight.
“There’s not a lot of risk now for consumers in booking something and then the government comes and, let’s say in the future slaps on a restriction on a certain destination and they cancel all the flights — you won’t lose your money,” Vanderlubbe said.
That leaves voluntary cancellation, which is when a person decides themselves that they no longer wish to fly.
“I’m looking at the arrangements and I’m looking at these things going on and maybe I’m getting cold feet and I don’t necessarily want to travel,” he explained.
Considering the shifting landscape right now, a traveller who is concerned that they may want to back out later — due to fears of COVID-19, due to falling ill themselves before the flight, or due to other unforeseen complications — may want to consider a waiver or other type of insurance that could aid them if they want to cancel a flight voluntarily.
“If you change your mind, at least you don’t lose all your money, you can rebook it as a credit,” Vanderlubbe said.
Trucker convoy: Industry group condemns protest – CTV News
A Canadian federation of provincial trucking groups is speaking out against planned protests by unvaccinated truckers opposed to a vaccine mandate for cross-border travel.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance issued a statement on Saturday saying it does not support and “strongly disapproves” of protests staged on public roads, highways and bridges.
Alliance President Stephen Laskowski says because both Canada and the United States have cross-border vaccination rules in place, truckers “must adapt and comply.”
A website run by protest organizers says convoys of demonstrators are slated to hit the road from British Columbia today, while similar groups from across the country are expected to convene in Ottawa for a mass protest on Jan. 29.
The group has raised over $2.3 million in donations, which will go to the cost of fuel, food and accommodations for participating protesters, according to its GoFundMe page.
The Liberal government announced in November that all Canadian truckers looking to cross the border from the United States would need to be vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine, a policy that came into effect on Jan. 15.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2022.
Why Canada nixed a $222M PPE deal; 1,700 travellers broke mask rules in 2021: CBC's Marketplace cheat sheet – CBC News
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Canada terminates $222M PPE deal following forced labour probe
Do you know where your personal protective equipment is coming from?
Canada is revoking two supply contracts with Supermax Healthcare Canada worth more than $222 million, following allegations that the nitrile gloves it manufactured in Malaysia for use by Canadian health-care workers were made with forced labour.
Marketplace has been on the case for more than a year, following a 2021 investigation that found ‘appalling’ conditions in a Malaysian PPE factory supplying Canadian hospitals.
At that time, documents we reviewed showed that millions of disposable gloves, manufactured in conditions that experts say have the hallmarks of forced labour, have come into our ports. Read more
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When Paul Johnson was diagnosed with a defect in his aortic valve at 15, he was told that one day he’d likely require surgery on his heart.
But after it finally happened, at the age of 62 in 2015, he’d soon face an even greater challenge: complications from a slow-growing bacteria, called M. chimaera, ravaging his body.
Johnson was exposed to the virus during his open heart surgery after a contaminated medical device produced by a company called LifeNova was used in the operating room.
Now 68, he sits in constant pain, unable to move freely around his house on his own. He takes a cocktail of antibiotics and painkillers every day, and his wife, Cathy Johnson, has become his full-time caregiver.
Johnson is now part of a class-action lawsuit against LifeNova that counts at least a dozen other patients with confirmed infections as members. Read more
Some travellers question allowing travellers from U.S. to skip quarantine
If you’ve ever spent any time in quarantine, you’re probably familiar with how long the days can feel while you’re isolating at home.
But some Canadian travellers arriving from countries around the world are wondering why they have to quarantine at all — especially when travellers coming from the U.S. don’t have to.
“There’s something fishy,” said Kevin McNally of Gatineau, Que., who flew from Panama to Montreal on Jan. 7. He spent six days in quarantine before he received his negative PCR test result.
“I felt like a prisoner in my own country and yet an American can come over here and not quarantine,” said McNally. “It makes no sense.” Read more
No masks, big problem. More than 1,700 air travellers broke the rules last year
There are rules. But they still didn’t follow them. And while the spotlight was on a group of partiers on a Sunwing flight from Montreal to Mexico in December, they were hardly alone.
More than 1,700 passengers refused to wear masks during flights on Canadian air carriers last year — a problem the union representing many of Canada’s flight attendants says is getting worse.
The head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ airline division says that many Canadians who appear to be sick of pandemic rules and regulations are lashing out at them
“We have had incidents that have escalated to a physical nature,” said Wesley Lesosky. “We have had issues of obviously being sworn at, we have had issues of being spit at. We have had issues of just disgruntled people. We have had people [who] are just ticked off with the mask policy.”
According to Lesosky, passengers are increasingly ignoring the requirement to wear masks on flights when not eating or drinking. Read more
What else is going on?
Canada’s inflation rate rises to new 30-year high of 4.8%
Grocery prices increasing at fastest pace in more than a decade
Is it time for a shorter work week?
Some advocates say shorter weeks boost productivity and prioritize workers’ health.
Mahruse brand Halva with Black Seeds recalled due to Salmonella
The recalled product should be thrown out.
Kattnakken Junior Rain Jacket recalled due to strangulation hazard
Consumers should immediately remove the drawstring from the children’s upper outerwear to eliminate the hazard.
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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC News
Beijing’s city government on Sunday introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases just two weeks from hosting the Winter Olympics.
Beijing Olympics organizers said on Sunday they had confirmed 72 cases of COVID-19 among 2,586 Games-related personnel entering China from Jan. 4 to 22, with no cases among 171 athletes and team officials arriving in that period.
Final preparations are taking place for the Winter Games amid a global surge in cases of the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant. The Games are set to take place from Feb. 4 to 20 inside a “closed loop” bubble that separates all event personnel from the public. Of the confirmed cases, 39 were found in testing at the airport and 33 inside the loop, organizers said.
Beijing’s Fengtai District — where China’s National Health Commission reported six locally transmitted cases on Saturday — will organize COVID-19 tests for all of its two million residents, district health authorities said.
Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas,” including a neighbourhood of Fengtai, not to leave the city, a local government spokesperson said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Fengtai residents have been asked to avoid mass gatherings.
Beijing city has also asked residents to proactively conduct nucleic acid tests if they find themselves with COVID-19-like symptoms within 14 days of receiving any deliveries from overseas, local authorities said in a statement dated Saturday.
China had urged people to wear masks and gloves when opening mail, especially from abroad, after authorities suggested the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus found in Beijing could have arrived via a package from Canada, a claim experts say is not based on science.
In recent weeks, cities across China have imposed tougher measures to control new outbreaks of COVID-19, a task that has taken on extra urgency ahead of the start of the Olympics.
Many cities have advised residents to stay put or are requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival.
Meanwhile, the Beijing Olympic Committee and Chinese authorities are lowering the threshold for producing a negative test for any participant arriving at the Games.
The cycle threshold (CT) value, which comes from the most reliable test for the coronavirus, will be dropping from 40 to 35. The higher the CT value, the less infectious a person with COVID-19 is.
Many places in Canada use a CT value of 35.
The lower value makes it easier for participants to produce a negative test, especially if previously infected.
What’s happening across Canada
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those there for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region, including seven-day average test positivity rates, in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Ontario, health officials said 3,797 people with COVID-19 were in hospital on Sunday, down by 229 from the day before. Of those patients, 604 were in intensive care, up by four from Saturday.
The province reported 5,833 new lab-confirmed cases and 56 additional deaths.
The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table is calling on the government to change the definition of the term “fully vaccinated” from two doses to three, even though Premier Doug Ford said this week his government wasn’t yet planning to do so.
Quebec recorded 3,293 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, down by 12 from the day before, with 273 of those patients in ICUs, two fewer than Saturday. The province reported 5,141 new lab-confirmed cases and 33 additional deaths.
Hundreds of restaurant owners in the province are considering reopening in defiance of public health measures.
During a briefing on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said despite signs of stability in patient numbers in some provinces, the toll on hospitals remains heavy and many hospitals across the country are under intense strain. More than 10,000 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals each day in the past week, surpassing peak daily numbers in all previous waves of the pandemic.
In British Columbia, due to record-high hospitalizations, COVID-19-positive hospital patients are being placed in the same room with double-vaccinated people who do not have the virus, provincial health officials said.
In the Prairies, a northern First Nation in Manitoba is facing criticism for its lockdown measures after a group of mothers left to buy groceries on Thursday and an attempt was made to prevent them from returning to the community. In Saskatchewan, the chief medical health officer says COVID-19 hospital numbers could rise to as high as 300 to 500 or more in the next few weeks due to the high Omicron infection rate. In Alberta, a group of Calgary moms is fundraising in an effort to supply 115,000 school staff members with N95 masks.
In the Atlantic provinces, the test positivity rate in Newfoundland and Labrador dropped from 21.4 per cent on Friday to 15.8 per cent on Saturday; Prince Edward Island registered its fifth COVID-19 death since the start of the pandemic; New Brunswick recorded six additional deaths; and Nova Scotia says there are 82 people in designated COVID-19 hospital units, including 11 people in intensive care.
In the North, Northwest Territories health officials say its modelling suggests the peak of the Omicron wave “may have already passed mid-January” in the territory, Yukon has confirmed its 16th virus-related death and Nunavut reported 35 new cases and a weekly test positivity rate of 30.2 per cent.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Sunday afternoon, more than 349.6million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.59 million.
In Asia, South Korea posted its second highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, despite extended restrictions and a high vaccination rate, raising concerns of further spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The country recorded 7,630 new cases on Saturday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, above the 7,009 reported a day earlier and near the mid-December record logged.
South Korea in mid-January extended tougher social-distancing rules for three weeks, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafés and bars, and limits on private gatherings.
In Europe, Russia on Sunday reported a new high in COVID-19 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads, the government coronavirus task force said.
Daily new cases jumped to 63,205 from the previous record of 57,212 a day earlier. The task force also reported 679 deaths.
In Belgium, police fired water cannons and tear gas in Brussels on Sunday to disperse protesters marching against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions.
The march followed demonstrations in other European capitals on Saturday that also drew thousands of people protesting vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic.
In Brussels, demonstrators chanted “Liberty!” as they marched.
White-helmeted police riot officers later sought to disperse protesters, who ignored instructions broadcast over loudspeakers that the demonstration was finished and that they should leave.
In the Americas, the world-famous Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro will be held in late April rather than the final weekend of February, as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil spikes and the Omicron variant spreads.
In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealanders are set to face new COVID-19 restrictions after nine cases of the variant were detected in a single family who were on a flight to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Sunday.
The heightened measures, going into effect on Monday, include mask wearing and limits on gatherings. Ardern said businesses can remain open, and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.
In Africa, the World Bank has approved a loan of $750 million US to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury said.
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