Incoming air travellers from all countries except the United States will be required to take COVID-19 tests when arriving in Canada, the federal government announced today.
The tests will be required of all travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said today. The requirement will also apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
Incoming travellers will have to self-isolate until they receive results of the test.
Duclos said the new testing requirement will go into effect “as quickly and as much as possible over the next few days.”
The new measure is part of Canada’s rapidly evolving strategy to contain the spread of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
The variant’s emergence last week has prompted the return of border closures, travel restrictions and stricter testing requirements across the world.
Canada will also extend travel restrictions to incoming travellers from three more countries: Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria. The government already had banned travellers from seven nations in southern Africa.
Incoming travellers from those 10 countries will have to quarantine in designated facilities, officials said. Other travellers will be allowed to quarantine at home or at other locations.
WATCH | Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on new travel restrictions
Provincial governments in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have confirmed local cases of the variant. Federal health officials say there are at least six cases of the variant in Canada so far.
“There will be, most likely, community transmission of the new variant at some point in Canada,” Duclos said.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, described the travel restrictions as a temporary measure meant to help the government adapt.
“We can’t close down our borders,” Njoo said. “This is a measure to gain time, in order to have a better understanding of the virus.”
Government seeks ‘guidance’ on boosters
Duclos also announced today that the federal government has asked the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide “quick guidance on whether we should revise national standards, national attitudes and actions on the use of boosters in Canada in the context of the new omicron variant.”
NACI currently recommends a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for people deemed to be at high risk of waning protection against the disease, such as people 80 and older or those living in long-term care facilities.
Boosters are also available to other people considered to be high-risk, such as health care workers, Indigenous peoples and those who received the AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated earlier today that Canada is considering new measures to slow the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant — a strain that may be more infectious than previous versions of the virus.
Speaking briefly to reporters before meeting with his cabinet on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the government is watching omicron “very, very closely.”
“We know that even though Canada has very strong border measures now — we need vaccinations to come to Canada, we need pre-departure tests, we need testing on arrival — there may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully,” Trudeau said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Trudeau was suggesting that COVID-19 arrival tests would become the new norm for returning travellers. Some provincial premiers — such as Ontario’s Doug Ford — have been urging Ottawa to introduce point-of-arrival testing for all passengers arriving in Canada, regardless of where they’re coming from.
Starting today, Canada has dropped the pre-departure molecular testing requirement for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who take short trips across the Canada-U.S. border. If an eligible traveller is gone from Canada for less than 72 hours, a test is not required to re-enter Canada from the U.S. It is unclear if that more permissive approach will continue now that omicron is in circulation.
Large number of mutations
The omicron variant is notable because it has a large number of mutations, which may affect its transmissibility and the effect of COVID-19 vaccines.
In an interview with the U.K.-based Financial Times, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel predicted existing vaccines will be much less effective at tackling omicron.
“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level … we had with [the] delta [variant],” Bancel said.
“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to … are like, ‘This is not going to be good.'”
While Moderna’s leader is signalling concern about the effectiveness of vaccines against the omicron variant, the co-founder of BioNTech — the company that co-developed the Comirnaty vaccine with Pfizer — said today that while the new variant could lead to more infections, it’s likely that fully vaccinated people will still be protected from severe illness.
“Our message is, ‘Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same. Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,'” Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal.
Vaccines teach the immune system — which includes both antibodies and T-cells — to recognize part of a virus. Antibodies prevent people from becoming infected in the first place. A T cell is a type of white blood cell that responds to viral infections and boosts the immune function of other cells. While omicron may evade vaccine-induced antibodies, Sahin said that no variant has so far eluded that T-cell immune response.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital, said Canadians shouldn’t hang on every word coming from a vaccine company’s CEO.
“I want to hear from the scientists doing the actual studies, what they think and what they’re seeing,” Bogoch said, adding there will be much more clarity about vaccine efficacy in the weeks ahead.
WATCH: Will our coronavirus vaccines protect us against the new variant?
While conceding he’s just speculating as laboratory studies continue, Bogoch said he thinks available vaccines will still prove useful in the fight against COVID-19.
“It would be extremely unusual for a variant to emerge that completely erases the protective immunity of vaccines,” he said. “It might chip away at some of the effectiveness but it would be extremely unusual that our vaccines, and or vaccine programs, are now rendered useless.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Trudeau to take a position on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that more countries can produce vaccines like the Pfizer and Moderna locally.
“It’s not enough for us to support Canadians and do our part here in Canada. We also have to help countries around the world, and those particularly that have less means to purchase vaccines,” Singh said.
The NDP leader said protecting pharmaceutical companies’ profits can’t take precedence over the goal of getting everyone vaccinated. Canada, he said, should be pushing this idea with urgency.
WATCH: Singh calls for changes to vaccine patent laws
While some Western countries have signalled they’re open to discussing IP waivers, industry experts say these changes alone would not boost vaccine availability in the developing world — where supply chain bottlenecks and a scarcity of raw materials are also affecting the availability of shots.
In South Africa, where vaccine doses are relatively plentiful, vaccine hesitancy has been the main roadblock to the immunization campaign.
Singh also questioned the government’s decision to limit travel from seven countries in southern Africa, saying that while he is open to hearing better evidence, “testing and quarantining” seems to be a better approach.
Flight bans and measures to limit travel are not the most helpful tools in the global fight against the pandemic, Singh said.
“It really is going to come down to the number one, most effective tool we have … getting people vaccinated. And to do that, Canada has to take a role in pushing for a waiver of those vaccine patents,” he said.
Kamloops ranch that refused vaccinated guest but kept their deposit now says they'll issue $3.2K refund – CBC.ca
A ranch owner in Kamloops, B.C., has been criticized by the province’s solicitor general for refusing to accept a vaccinated international traveller.
The Equinisity Ranch in Kamloops, in the province’s central Interior, is run by owner Liz Mitten Ryan. She told CBC News she catered almost exclusively to international travellers, including from England, Switzerland and Australia.
In a report in The Guardian, published Thursday, a prospective traveller called J.W. York said they had booked a $3,200 retreat (£2,000) with Ryan in May 2020, but the trip was put off due to lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions.
According to York, they were told recently they were not welcome at Equinisity anymore because they were fully vaccinated against COVID — and they would not be receiving a refund due to ranch policy.
Ryan confirmed that the ranch had a “no vax” policy for patrons, even though international travellers have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. The Guardian article quoted her as saying that vaccines were a “bioweapon depopulation tool” that could transfer to animals.
The entire episode was called “outrageous” by B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
“I have asked my ministry, the consumer protection branch, to look into this,” he told CBC News.
“This is just wrong. Like, you want to subscribe to a wack job conspiracy theory. That’s your business. But you don’t rip people off like this. It’s unethical.”
Refunds will happen, says owner’s husband
In a statement, Kevin Ryan — Liz Ryan’s husband — said the ranch would eventually send refunds to customers.
“For personal reasons for this summer, [Liz] has implemented a policy of non-vaccinated guests only,” the statement read. “Not, I stress, realizing any regulations were being broken.
“Due to the current public interest in this situation, and the subsequent informed discussions, she now realizes that it is appropriate the deposit, in this case, needs to be returned to comply with said regulation.”
Ryan told CBC News all deposits “of a similar status” would be returned by the end of the month.
On its website, Equinisity says it provides “a unique journey” for patrons to find “true healing” through meditation, horse riding and other activities. Ryan says his wife had been running the establishment for over 15 years.
Their pricing guide shows that individual patrons can expect to pay $2,800 for an eight-day retreat, while couples can expect to pay $2,400 each.
Before her husband’s statement about refunds, Liz Ryan had suggested that any vaccinated traveller sell their booking. She also said her ranch had been shut down for two years, the longest such span of her career, due to border restrictions.
Farnworth told CBC News that Equinisity’s stance against vaccinated travellers would give international travellers a bad impression of the province.
“It sends a terrible message in terms of tourism here in British Columbia and Canada,” he said. “Because, let’s face it, this person that took this trip is now going to tell their friend … ‘Why would you want to come here?'”
Farnworth said his staff would be investigating if the ranch had received any COVID relief funding, and that the ranch would not be eligible in any case, given the requirements placed on vaccinated travellers.
“I don’t think it’s particularly good business practice,” he said.
How Canada’s new NOC will affect Express Entry eligibility – Canada Immigration News
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) currently uses NOC 2016 to determine the eligibility of occupations under its temporary and permanent residency programs. However, IRCC must switch to NOC 2021 starting in November as per Canadian law.
The NOC is managed by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Statistics Canada, which revise the system every 10 years. NOC 2021 will introduce new terminology and a revised classification structure that will affect IRCC programs.
As a result of these changes, the following 16 occupations will become eligible under Express Entry:
- Payroll administrators;
- Dental assistants and dental laboratory assistants;
- Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates;
- Pharmacy technical assistants and pharmacy assistants;
- Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants;
- Sheriffs and bailiffs;
- Correctional service officers;
- By-law enforcement and other regulatory officers;
- Estheticians, electrologists and related occupations;
- Residential and commercial installers and servicers;
- Pest controllers and fumigators;
- Other repairers and servicers;
- Transport truck drivers;
- Bus drivers, subway operators and other transit operators;
- Heavy equipment operators; and
- Aircraft assemblers and aircraft assembly inspectors.
There will also be three occupations that will become ineligible, including:
- other performers;
- program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness; and
- tailors, dressmakers, furriers and milliners.
These three occupations will remain eligible for programs with broader occupational eligibility criteria, such as some streams of the Provincial Nominee Program.
The major change to NOC 2021 is the current four-category “skill level” structure has been overhauled and replaced by a new six-category system. The new system outlines the level of Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) required to enter each occupation.
The previous NOC had four skill levels. NOC A represented jobs that tend to require university degrees, NOC B included jobs in the skilled trades or that require a college diploma, NOC C covered jobs that require intermediate skills or job-specific training, and NOC D was for labour jobs that require on-the-job training.
In September 2020, IRCC’s Executive Committee decided that the new TEER structure will be adopted as follows:
|NOC 2016||NOC 2021|
|Skill Type 0||TEER 0|
|Skill Level A||TEER 1|
|Skill Level B||TEER 2|
|Skill Level B||TEER 3|
|Skill Level C||TEER 4|
|Skill Level D||TEER 5|
NOC 2021 will use a five-tier hierarchical system to classify occupations. Also, occupations will now have a five-digit codification system instead of the current four-digit system. The TEER system has six categories, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Statistics Canada explains there are two main reasons why the skill type model is being replaced by the TEER system. First, the TEER system aims to provide more clarity on the level of education and work experience required to work in an occupation. Second, the skill type model creates artificial categorizations between low- and high-skilled jobs. Implementing TEER is intended to give stakeholders a better sense of the skills required for each occupation.
This Statistics Canada tool allows you to see how your current NOC corresponds with NOC 2021.
© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.
More Canadians could face late-stage cancer tied to diagnosis delays during COVID pandemic – CBC News
It all started with a stomach bug.
That’s what Cheryl-Anne Labrador-Summers thought, anyway. It was October 2020, not long after she’d moved to the tranquil lakeside Ontario community of Georgina, and instead of relaxing with her family like she’d planned, the mother of three was struggling to figure out why she kept experiencing strange, unexplained stomach cramps.
Labrador-Summers tried to visit her family physician, but the office was shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So she searched for another clinic — only to be offered a phone appointment rather than an in-person assessment. She wound up being told that her grumbling digestive system was likely caused by a mild gastrointestinal illness.
By January, the 58-year-old had a distended stomach, looking — in her own words — “about nine months pregnant.” Again, she reached out to a physician, went for some tests, then headed to the nearest emergency department.
After finally seeing a doctor face to face for the first time in months, she learned the real cause of her discomfort: an intestinal blockage caused by cancer.
“It ended up being a nine-centimetre tumour, and it had completely blocked off my lower bowel,” she said.
An emergency surgery left Labrador-Summers with 55 staples along her torso and a months-long recovery before she could begin oral chemotherapy. Her question now is unanswerable but painful to consider: Could that ordeal have been prevented, or at least minimized, by an earlier diagnosis?
“Had I maybe been able to see the doctors earlier, I would not be in Stage 3,” she said. “I might have been a Stage 2.”
951,000 fewer cancer screenings in Ontario
More Canadians could experience late-stage cancer diagnoses in the years ahead, medical experts warn, forecasting a looming crisis tied to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We expect to see more advanced stages of presentation over the next couple of years, as well as impacts on cancer treatments,” said oncologist Dr. Timothy Hanna, a clinician scientist at the Cancer Research Institute at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
“We know that time is of the essence for people with cancer. And when people are waiting for a diagnosis or for treatment, this has been associated with increased risks of advanced stage and worse survival.”
One review of Ontario’s breast, lung, colon, and cervical cancer screening programs showed that in 2020 there were 41 per cent — or more than 951,000 — fewer screening tests conducted compared with the year before.
Screening volumes rebounded after May 2020, but were still 20 per cent lower compared to pre-pandemic levels.
WATCH | Late-stage cancer being diagnosed in Canadian ERs:
That drop in screenings translates into fewer invasive cancer diagnoses, including roughly 1,400 to 1,500 fewer breast cancers, wrote Dr. Anna N. Wilkinson, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, in a May commentary piece for the journal Canadian Family Physician.
“The impact of COVID-19 on cancer is far-reaching: screening backlogs, delayed workup of symptomatic patients and abnormal screening results, and delays in cancer treatment and research, all exacerbated by patient apprehension to be seen in person,” she wrote.
“It is clear that there is not only a lost cohort of screened patients but also a subset of missed cancer diagnoses due to delays in patient presentation and assessment,” leading to those cancers being diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
Tough accessing care in a ‘timely way’
The slowdown in colonoscopies may already be leading to more serious cases of colorectal cancer in Ontario, for instance, suggests a paper published in the Journal of the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology.
“Patients who were treated after the COVID-19 pandemic began were significantly more likely to present emergently to hospital. This means that they were more likely to present with bowel perforation, or severe bowel obstruction, requiring immediate life-saving surgery,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Catherine Forse, in a call with CBC News.
“In addition, we found that patients were more likely to have large tumours.”
In some cases — like Labrador-Summers’s situation — Canadians learned alarming news about their health in hospital emergency departments after struggling to receive in-patient care through other avenues.
Shuttered family physician offices, a shift to telemedicine, and some patients’ fears surrounding COVID-19 may all have played a role.
“It became harder for patients to access care and to access it in a timely way,” Hanna said.
“At the same time, there were real risks — and there are real risks for leaving home to go anywhere, particularly to go to an outpatient clinic or a hospital in order to get checked out.”
Dr. Lisa Salamon, an emergency physician with the Scarborough Health Network in Toronto, said she’s now diagnosing more patients with serious cancers, including several just in the last few months.
“So previously, it may have been localized or something small, but now we’re actually seeing metastatic cancer that we’re diagnosing,” she explained.
Lessons for future pandemics
Health policy expert Laura Greer is dealing with Stage four, metastatic breast cancer herself after waiting more than five months for a routine mammogram she was initially due for in the spring of 2021 — a precautionary measure given that her mother had breast cancer as well.
Unlike an early-stage diagnosis, Greer’s cancer is only treatable, not curable.
“It was an example of what happens when you don’t have the regular screening, or those wellness visits,” said the Toronto resident and mother of two.
“I most likely would have had earlier-stage cancer if it had been sooner.”
Pausing access to care and screenings for other health conditions can have dire impacts on patients, according to Greer, offering lessons for how policy-makers tackle future pandemics.
“We need to make sure that we’ve got enough capacity in our health system to be able to flex, and that’s what we really didn’t have going into this,” she said.
For Labrador-Summers, it’s hard to forget the moment her life changed while she was alone in an emergency department, learning a terrifying diagnosis from a physician she’d just met. Her mind raced with questions about the future and concerns for her family.
“My older son had just told us they were expecting a child, and I just wanted to be there for them. And I didn’t know what next steps were. And we had lost my mom to cancer a few years back — to us, cancer was always terminal,” she recalled.
“So again, I’m alone, trying to process all of this.”
A screening following Labrador-Summers’ surgery and chemotherapy treatment wound up finding more cancer.
“It’s now life-threatening,” she said.
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