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Philippines to reopen ‘soon’ to vaccinated foreign tourists

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The Philippines has approved a plan to allow entry soon to foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19, its tourism ministry said on Friday, following moves by other Southeast Asian countries to relax travel curbs.

The coronavirus task force “approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists” from countries with low COVID-19 cases, the ministry said, adding that guidelines must be finalised.

The Philippines, known for its diving and thousands of tropical islands, saw an 83% drop in foreign arrivals last year, receiving nearly 1.4 million visitors, compared to nearly 8.2 million in 2019. Japan, South Korea and China are its biggest tourism markets.

It imposed some of Asia’s tightest entry requirements during the pandemic and has been one of the region’s worst hit countries in terms of cases, deaths and economic losses. Just over a quarter of its population has been vaccinated.

Neighbours Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have also announced various degrees of reopening in recent weeks, after progress in vaccinating their local populations.

“Allowing tourists from green countries or territories that have the majority of its population vaccinated and with low infection rate, will greatly help in our recovery efforts,” tourism minister, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, said in the statement.

The Philippines includes on its “green” list of approved countries Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and India, among others.

 

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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Merck ties up with Thermo Fisher to make its COVID-19 pill in Canada

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Drugmaker Merck & Co on Monday announced a deal with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture its experimental COVID-19 pill at the medical device maker’s site in Whitby, Ontario.

The site will manufacture the pill, molnupiravir, for distribution in Canada and the United Kingdom as well as markets in the European Union, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

The Ontario site is one of three manufacturing sites in the world for the pill, which is being developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Merck on Friday said the government of Canada had secured access to 500,000 courses of molnupiravir in 2022, with options for up to 500,000 more, pending the country’s health regulator’s nod.

The drugmaker said it had filed the final molnupiravir real-time application seeking approval in Canada last month. The UK in November conditionally approved molnupiravir, branded as Lagevrio.

The company had also entered into a pact with the U.S. government to supply as many as 5 million courses of the antiviral at a price of $700 per course.

Merck is awaiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision after the regulator’s panel of independent advisers voted to recommend the pill’s authorization.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Shailesh Kuber)

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Canadian traveller forced to stay in quarantine facility after negative COVID-19 test – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
Lennard Skead says he felt like he’d been put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit when he returned to Canada from South Africa on Thursday.

Skead, who lives in Brandon, Man., said he wasn’t allowed to leave a Toronto quarantine hotel until the day after he received a negative result on the COVID-19 test he completed when he arrived in Canada.

“Our negative results came out on Saturday, but we are not allowed to leave until the quarantine officer calls us and tells us you can leave now. Nobody called us. Nobody called us until Sunday,” said Skead, who was travelling with his wife, Charlotte.

Skead, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, said in an interview Monday that by the time he was told he could leave, he had already cancelled a flight back to Manitoba, keeping him in the hotel for another day. It was Skead’s third negative COVID-19 test of the trip.

Canadians travelling from one of 10 African countries, including South Africa and Egypt, are required to obtain a COVID-19 test in the country they’re travelling from, obtain a second test while in transit and get a third after arrival in Canada. They are required to stay at a designated facility on arrival.

Health Canada said in an email Monday that the requirement for testing in transit “is in place so that the risk of the traveller being exposed to the virus and its variants between the time of testing and boarding the plane, which can take up to 72 hours, is reduced.”

Tiffany Gaura, who returned to Calgary from Cairo on Saturday, said she felt after landing in Canada that she was being punished for travelling to Africa.

“From the time you give them your passport, they call somebody immediately who then stays with you, takes you through to a separate secondary screening area where they question you extensively, read you your rights, tell you you have a right to a lawyer and you’re being transported by the federal government to an isolation facility,” she said in an interview Monday.

While the quarantine facility is in a hotel, she said, it doesn’t have any of the usual hotel services, like a restaurant, cleaning or room service.

Gaura, who was travelling with her two children, aged five and eight, said she doesn’t understand why she had to stay in a quarantine hotel instead of returning to her nearby home to isolate there.

“This is absurd for a family with a solid quarantine plan, who has no history of not following public health directives, who’s fully vaccinated, who’s following all the rules, who has done all the PCR tests,” she said.

Asked about reports of poor conditions in federal quarantine facilities, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Monday the requirement is “a necessary and fair trade-off.”

“We’re not going to spare any expense or resources when it comes to protecting Canadians, including at the border. We’re going to continue to provide clear travel guidance to all Canadians and others who are travelling to Canada,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

Gaura said she thinks Canada’s decision to place additional restrictions only on African nations at a time when the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is present in Europe and the United States is “opportunistic and xenophobic.”

She said she was lucky she was able to clear German customs and get a PCR test while transiting in Frankfurt, because while Canada has put restrictions on Egypt, Germany has not.

On Saturday, the federal government announced that travellers coming from South Africa and transiting through Frankfurt would be exempt from the in-transit testing requirement until Dec. 13.

Tasha-ann Bussell of Rossland, B.C., whose husband was in South Africa for his brother’s wedding, said he was able to use that new exemption to get on a flight home, due to land in Calgary Monday.

“He’s exhausted and stressed,” Bussell said in an interview Monday. “We have three small children and my youngest and the middle child have birthdays in December so he’ll miss that … at least he’s gonna be home for Christmas.”

She adds she’s not angry with the government for implementing the regulations because one of her children is immunocompromised.

“I really appreciate the fact that they are trying their best,” she said. “It’s just hard. That’s all it is.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Canada updates travel rules for Canadians flying in from South Africa – Canada Immigration News

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Published on December 6th, 2021 at 10:30am EST

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Travellers walking through an airport with luggage, wearing surgical masks

Travellers walking through an airport with luggage, wearing surgical masks

Canada has temporarily tweaked its travel rules to allow Canadians to return home from South Africa without having to do a COVID-19 test in a third country.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be able to get a pre-departure test in South Africa, provided they meet all of the following eligibility requirements on the government website:

  • Get a pre-departure negative COVID-19 molecular test from an accredited laboratory in South Africa no more than 48 hours before the scheduled departure, or a positive test result from between 14 and 180 days before departure.
  • Fly from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight that departs on or before December 13, 2021.
  • Transit through Frankfurt airport to travel on a direct Lufthansa or Air Canada flight to Canada.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

The Canadian government made the amendment on Saturday evening, after Canadians spoke out against the new travel rules. Many said the requirement to get tested in a third country prevented them from returning home.

Canada implemented the rules following the emergence of the Omicron variant. So far, travellers from 10 countries are restricted from coming to Canada:

  • Botswana
  • Egypt;
  • Eswatini;
  • Lesotho;
  • Malawi;
  • Mozambique;
  • Namibia;
  • Nigeria;
  • South Africa; and
  • Zimbabwe.

On Friday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted four flow charts that offer visual guidance on the new travel measures.

Regardless of vaccination status, if you are a Canadian coming home from one of the 10 prohibited countries, you have to go into isolation after you arrive. You also have to do COVID-19 tests upon arriving to the airport, and on day 8 of your quarantine.

Vaccinated travellers from all countries other than the U.S. will need to do an on-arrival test and quarantine until they receive a negative result. If the result is positive, they must remain in isolation for 10 days.

Unvaccinated travellers from all countries other than the U.S. who are allowed to come to Canada, will need to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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