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The Omicron variant of the virus responsible for Covid-19 has reached the NWT, the territory’s chief public health officer said on Sunday.
The number or location of Omicron cases was not given, but the territory said an exposure warning issued earlier this week for two WestJet flights was now considered to involve the new variant.
Sunday’s advisory came as the territory anticipates a burst of travel over the holiday period, much of it south to areas already experiencing an Omicron surge. Changes are being urgently made to try to cope with an influx of returning travellers and, potentially, Omicron cases.
From now on, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said, anyone considered a contact of Covid-19 in the NWT must isolate for at least eight days – regardless of their vaccination status.
A negative test on day eight will release you from isolation if you have no symptoms, otherwise you must wait for a full 10 days. All contacts must be tested on day four after exposure and on day eight, and those tests must be laboratory PCR tests.
Dr Kandola said anyone considered a contact is urged to isolate wherever they are when they are told as much, as the territory tries to keep fast-spreading Omicron out of smaller NWT communities, some of which have full vaccination rates lower than the territorial average.
“Any movement of persons who have Covid-19 increases the risk of transmission to the public and to communities,” Kandola said in a Sunday statement.
“The appearance of the Omicron variant in the NWT is not a surprise.
“What we currently know about the Omicron variant is that is highly transmissible. We must ensure people are supported to isolate at home as much as possible in community settings.”
Kandola said two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine do provide some protection against the Omicron variant. However, she acknowledged that Omicron has been shown to often evade the defences a two-dose vaccination regimen provides.
Early research does suggest a booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine performs well at stopping Omicron infection. Both are mRNA vaccines and are so far the only two appearing to show significant protection against infection by the latest variant.
If you were in rows 23-29 of WestJet’s flight 280 from Kelowna to Calgary on December 13, or rows 16 to 22 of flight 3359 from Calgary to Yellowknife on the same day, you must now isolate regardless of vaccination status. See the NWT government’s exposure notifications page for more information.
More broadly, Kandola asked returning travellers to be as cautious as possible in the three days after they reach the NWT.
Sunday’s advisory stated: “This means that for the first 72 hours on return from travel, you limit contacts between your household and others; wear well-fitted and constructed masks in social settings, especially in indoor crowded settings; avoid high-risk activities; and do not attend large gatherings.”
Kandola added: “It is also more important now to ensure you isolate away from others and arrange for testing at the first sign of symptoms.
“Omicron symptoms appear to present more like the common cold (runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat) so please continue to be vigilant.”
HONG KONG, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Asian shares and U.S. futures tumbled on Tuesday after a tumultuous Wall Street session, with investors nervous about the situation in Ukraine and eyeing the U.S. Federal Reserve amid worries about a move to tighter monetary policy globally.
NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, in what Russia denounced as Western “hysteria” in response to its build-up of troops on the Ukraine border. read more
There were sharp declines around the region. Hong Kong (.HSI) lost 1.64% and Korea’s KOSPI (.KS11) fell 1.67%. The Australian benchmark (.AXJO) tumbled 2.73% to hit an eight-month low, hurt also by a high inflation print Tuesday morning that stoked fears of approaching rate hikes Down Under. AZN0236PW
Asian markets were being dragged lower by concerns about faster U.S. rate hikes, mounting tensions over Ukraine, rising inflation and higher oil prices, said Carlos Casanova, senior economist at UBP.
“But on the upside, valuations are becoming more attractive and earnings growth are still robust for some sectors. So I think we will see a tug of war in the market for this week,” he said.
U.S. futures also fell in Asian hours, Nasdaq futures (.NQc1) shed 1.2% and S&P500 futures lost 0.95%, after U.S. stock markets had recovered strongly late in the session to close higher, recouping steep losses made early in the day, as bargain-seeking investors snapped up shares.
Keeping traders on their toes, the Federal Reserve will begin its two-day meeting later on Tuesday, with investors starting to speculate that there is a small possibility that they will announce a surprise rate hike.
Investors are also anxiously looking out for any hints about the timing and pace of rate hikes expected later this year. Money markets are priced for a first rate hike in March, with three more quarter-point increases by year-end.
However, U.S. benchmark Treasuries were sitting out some of the speculation. Yields on benchmark 10 year notes were at 1.76%, steady on the day, having finished a choppy day of trading Monday near where they started.
Singapore’s central bank also tightened monetary policy on Tuesday in an out-of-cycle move. read more
Market nerves sent the dollar higher against most peers. The dollar index was at 95.922, hovering near a two-week high, having gained 0.29% overnight. FRX
The Aussie dollar gained briefly after the high inflation print, but failed to hold on to its gains and the risk friendly currency was still hovering near the one-month low hit the day before.
Oil prices were also elevated, further worrying stock investors. U.S. crude rose 0.5% to $83.73 per barrel and Brent crude was at $86.83, up 0.65%.
Gold held on to its recent gains as investors sought safety. The spot price was at $1,841 an ounce, flat on the day but near last week’s two-month high of $1,847.7.
Reporting by Selena Li, Xie Yu and Alun John; editing by Richard Pullin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
European markets dropped sharply on Monday as concerns about military tension between Russia and Ukraine and interest rate rises prompted sell-offs.
In London, the FTSE 100 fell more than 2.6%, while exchanges in Germany and France slid nearly 4%.
But shares in the US staged a rebound and closed in positive territory despite falling more than 2% earlier.
The swings came ahead of a meeting of the US central bank and amid warnings of a potential invasion in Ukraine.
Nato on Monday said it was putting forces on standby, after Russia deployed some 100,000 troops and heavy armour at the Ukrainian border. On Sunday, the situation prompted the US, the UK and Australia to order diplomats’ families to leave Kyiv.
“Ukraine clearly is a concern that’s weighing on the markets today,” said Darren Schuringa, chief executive officer of investment adviser ASYMmetric ETFs.
“This will continue to weigh on the markets for the foreseeable future until there’s some type of resolution and more clarity as to what the outcome looks like.”
Concerns about inflation, Covid and other issues have led to three weeks of consecutive declines on US markets.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq has fallen more than 10% from its previous high – a drop considered a market “correction” – and the broad-based S&P 500 is flirting with a similar decline.
Meanwhile, the price of Bitcoin, which hit a high of $69,000 in November, has almost halved since, dropping below $35,000 on Monday, before recovering ground to more than $36,000.
Monday saw moments of torrid selling piling onto January’s losses, with the Dow down more than 1,000 points – nearly 3% – at one point.
But the index, which includes many of America’s biggest companies, closed nearly 0.3% higher.
The Nasdaq reversed a more than 3% drop to end 0.6% higher, while the S&P 500 finished 0.3% up.
The swings come as investors wait for action by the US central bank, which has said it expects to respond to soaring US inflation by raising interest rates this year.
Such moves typically depress stock prices by making other kinds of investments more attractive.
Investors have also been also selling shares as they try to position themselves ahead of a wave of reports from companies about their end-of-year performance.
Last week, Netflix, one of the biggest names to share results so far, disappointed analysts with its forecast for the upcoming months, prompting shares to plunge more than 20%.
The declines were seen as a possible warning about other firms.
Walt Disney, which has been focusing on its streaming strategy to compete with Netflix, was among the biggest initial losers on the Dow on Monday, down more than 4% at one point, while Tesla, which reports this week, fell more than 6%.
Shares in both firms later recovered, with Disney ending flat and Tesla down about 1.5%.
Stock markets plunged into the red before recovering to finish the day in positive territory on Monday, as fears over war in Ukraine and higher interest rates in the U.S. and Canada took investors on a wild ride.
Early in the afternoon, the Dow was off by more than 1,000 points, or about three per cent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was faring even worse as investors worried about the prospect of war in Ukraine.
“What really sparked the sell-off today is the fact that we seem to be marching inexorably towards a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” Dennis Mitchell, CEO of Toronto-based investment firm Starlight Capital, said in an interview.
Canadian shares were not exempt from the sell-off, as the benchmark Canadian index was on track for its worst day in months, down more than 600 points, or three per cent at one point.
In the afternoon, however, the market changed direction and investors started buying up shares. All three major U.S. stock groupings, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, finished the day in positive territory.
“The selling that you’re seeing today is usually a good indication that this is a good buying moment,” Mitchell said.
After falling nearly three per cent by midday, the TSX mounted a comeback of its own in the afternoon but fell short of reversing its losses, and closed the day down 50 points to 20,571.
Dianne Swonk, chief economist with Grant Thornton, said the pandemic has been a time of unprecedented volatility for almost two solid years now, and that can sometimes result in wild swings for stock prices.
“This is giving us a lot of turbulence out there,” she said in an interview, “and the problem is it it ups the uncertainty at a time when uncertainty is already high.”
Prior to Monday’s trading, the major event of the week was slated to be the Bank of Canada’s interest rate decision on Wednesday. Expectations are growing that central banks will soon have to raise their interest rates to keep a lid on inflation, which has run up to the highest level we’ve seen in decades lately.
All things being equal, higher interest rates are bad news for stocks because they raise the cost of borrowing. That gives companies and investors less of an incentive to borrow to invest.
Currently, the market is pricing in about a 60 per cent chance of a rate hike in Canada as soon as this week. If one doesn’t come this time around, it’s a near certainty to happen next time the bank meets in March, according to trading in investments known as swaps.
Swonk said some of the uncertainty comes from figuring out how central banks are going to try to find the right balance between keeping a lid on inflation but also not harming the economy that is still being hit by Omicron.
“They don’t want to put the flame out on the economy, but they certainly want to cool it off a bit,” Swonk said. “That’s left many people unsure of how fast rates will go up.”
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