As concerns around the omicron variant grow, infectious diseases expert Dr. Gerald Evans says that now is the time for Canadians to reconsider upcoming plans — particularly if they include international travel.
“What we need to do — all of us — is to reduce the opportunities for transmission to occur,” said Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
Hidayet Mugjenkar and his family were set to fly to South Africa late last month to visit his ailing parents. They were forced to cancel when the federal government announced a ban on flights entering Canada from several countries in southern Africa.
“I really just wanted to go and see them because I don’t know when we’ll see them again,” he told Cross Country Checkup. “Now, with all this travel ban and with COVID, it’s just hard to predict when you’ll be able to fly back again.”
Following a previous announcement on restrictions for some flights from Africa, the federal government this week announced new testing requirements for those entering the country from outside Canada and the United States.
Travellers will now be swabbed upon arrival and required to quarantine until they receive a negative result. That’s in addition to the existing pre-departure requirement of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Canada.
“It’s a little bit like déjà vu all over again,” Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, said, reflecting on travel during the early days of the pandemic.
“We’re just starting to understand this, but we don’t have much data. So what the governments have been doing is reacting very swiftly — maybe too swiftly — imposing some travel bans.”
The U.S. government has also announced that Canadians and other foreign visitors must now provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of departure, regardless of vaccination status, to enter the country as of Monday.
Know the travel restrictions at your destination
The latest data on omicron suggests that the variant may be more transmissible, but changes in the severity of illness compared with other variants remain unclear.
Still, Evans cautions against international travel as the situation shifts.
“In a few weeks, with omicron already well established on many different continents, we may be looking at the potential for travel restrictions being brought in that are more widespread or perhaps more onerous than what exists at the moment,” he said.
Travel bans have largely targeted countries in southern Africa, where scientists sequenced the new variant late last month. Evans notes that countries across Europe, including France and Germany, have seen recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.
That’s a concern echoed by Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who says some countries have not yet focused their screening to detect omicron.
“They might be reporting no [omicron] cases, but when you get there, there might actually be a lot of transmission that might affect your ability to come home,” she said.
In response to the omicron variant, France now requires all travellers from outside the European Union to provide a negative COVID-19 test.
Dimanche encourages anyone travelling this holiday season to be aware of rules and restrictions in their destination country.
‘Travellers don’t like the unknown’
Canada’s latest measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 through travel could also snare travellers at airports in this country, Dimanche warns.
Testing of arriving travellers will take place at airports across the country, according to the federal government, but he says many operators are wondering how that will be implemented — and whether it will delay passengers attempting to board connecting flights or reach their destination.
“There is so much uncertainty because we don’t know how this will be processed. We don’t know how long it will take. We don’t know if people will have to be stuck at the airport before they get the result of the test,” Dimanche said.
“All of those are unknowns, and travellers don’t like the unknown.”
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the rollout of the additional testing would be uneven at first, with certain airports better equipped to handle the new rule.
“Let me be very clear: All travellers should be expected to be tested on arrival. We will not be able to test every targeted traveller overnight. It will take a few days,” Duclos said.
When Mugjenkar travelled with his family last year to South Africa, they ended up trapped in the country for four months after rules had changed. Leaving Canada, they had been cleared for travel.
As the omicron variant makes travel unpredictable once again, he says he’s not eager to repeat what happened last time.
“We’ve got friends that are actually stranded in South Africa at the moment and they can’t fly back into Calgary, and they have no idea when the flights will reopen,” he said.
“We’re OK with the fact that the flights are cancelled, so we’re just hoping they understand the variant better and things will open up again sooner.”
Written by Jason Vermes with files from CBC News, Ashley Fraser and Steve Howard.
Sask. RCMP issue Canada-wide warrant for anti-vaccine dad charged with abducting daughter, 7 – CBC.ca
Saskatchewan RCMP have charged and issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for a Carievale, Sask., man accused of abducting his daughter to prevent her getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Michael Gordon Jackson, 52, is charged with one count of abduction in contravention of a custody or parenting order, RCMP said in a news release Friday evening.
It comes after CBC News reported earlier this month that the father fled with his seven-year-old daughter, Sarah, in mid-November to keep her from getting immunized against the coronavirus. Jackson’s ex-wife, Mariecar Jackson, had wanted to get their daughter vaccinated, but Jackson did not.
The girl had been visiting her father when she was allegedly abducted.
Since an enforceable court order was issued earlier this month, investigators say they have followed up on several tips and reported sightings of the father and daughter — including by reviewing surveillance footage at several businesses. However, no tips have led to locating them.
At this point, RCMP say, the criteria for an Amber Alert has not been met, which is why Mounties are continuing to ask the public for help in tracking the pair down.
“Sarah: we want you to know that you are not in any trouble,” Chief Supt. Tyler Bates, the officer in charge of the Saskatchewan RCMP south district, said in a message to the girl contained in the news release.
“Your mom misses you very much, and we have police officers doing what they can so you can see her again soon.”
Sarah is described as four feet two inches tall, 76 pounds, with waist-length brown hair that’s all one length. She has brown/hazel-coloured eyes and last wore teal-coloured eyeglasses.
Michael Jackson is described as weighing about 250 pounds with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He also typically wears glasses, RCMP said.
While Jackson resides in the Carievale area — located in Saskatchewan’s southeast corner — Mounties said he may have connections to the communities of Dilke, Oxbow, Alameda and Regina, along with Lamont, Alta. RCMP said he may also be in Manitoba.
“Locating Michael Gordon Jackson and Sarah is a top priority for Saskatchewan RCMP officers,” Bates said. “Our investigators are diligently following up on all tips and reported sightings. We are committed to locating Michael Gordon Jackson and reuniting Sarah with her mom.”
WATCH | Sask. woman says she’ll never stop looking for her child:
RCMP noted that investigators believe Michael Jackson may be getting help in evading police and reminded people that this activity may result in criminal charges.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Michael or Sarah Jackson is asked to call the Saskatchewan RCMP at 306-310-7267 or 306-780-5563. Tips can also be anonymously submitted to Crime Stoppers at at 1‐800‐222‐8477 or www.saskcrimestoppers.com.
China’s Investment into Foreign Media
Over the last few decades, China’s power and influence have grown remarkably quickly. The largest country in Asia is now one of the world’s biggest superpowers, and its influence has extended across the continent and into new territories as the Chinese government looks to cement its power for the future. According to a recent report released by Reporters Without Borders, China has started investing in foreign media to deter criticism and spread propaganda.
According to the research, “China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order”, Beijing is spreading its worldview through several techniques, including increased international broadcasting, huge advertising campaigns, and infiltration of foreign media outlets.
China has recently opened laws across the country to give its people more freedom. However, there are still many restrictions in place, including against online gambling. Despite this, Chinese citizens can get online and place sports bets and wagers at online casinos, using trusted online gambling portals such as Asiabet. Interested players can access a wide range of leading casinos and sportsbooks through the site as well as information regarding the legality of the recommended operators, safety, and strategy before joining up, making it easier for players to understand what they’re getting into.
Why Is Chine Looking to Control Foreign Media?
The Chinese government is spending up to $1.3 billion a year to boost Chinese media’s global reach. Chinese state-run television and radio shows have been able to dramatically expand their foreign reach in recent years because of this financing. China Radio International is now transmitted in 65 languages, while China Global Television Network is distributed across 140 countries.
Considering the current global geopolitical climate, this looks to be a smart move, as it allows China to present itself how it wants to be seen to a global audience. In recent years, China has gained media attention across the West for its influence on North Korea, its expansion into the South China Sea, and its treatment of the minority Uighurs within its own country.
How Is China Influencing Foreign Media?
The Chinese government has recently increased spending on advertisements in Western newspapers and publishing sites to promote Chinese viewpoints. Advertising dollars have enticed media outlets, which has had a particularly large impact considering news media is currently struggling with profitability. China Daily, a mouthpiece for the Chinese regime, has paid American newspapers 19 million dollars in advertising and printing in the last four years alone, according to US Justice Department records.
China is also aiming to influence and control foreign media outlets by purchasing interests in them, according to the research. The report found that, in many cases, Chinese ownership typically leads to self-censorship, and journalists have lost their jobs in the past for publishing negative articles about the country.
For example, Reporters Without Borders claim that a journalist for South Africa’s Independent Online, which has a 20% investment in Chinese investors, had his column stopped in September 2018. This came just hours after a column about China’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities was published.
Reporters Without Borders has also claimed that, in addition to buying shares in media firms, Beijing has impacted foreign media by inviting journalists from developing nations to China for training. According to the report, China invited several Zambian journalists to a specially designed event named the 2018 Zambia Media Think Tank Seminar.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Western Media?
China has long had a lack of press freedom, with the country ranked 177 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index in 2021. It looks like the country is using domestic tactics used to control media narratives and bring them to the wider world, allowing it to control what people say about the country and regime in other countries too. By silencing and pressing foreign journalists and news stories, the Chinese government is damaging the trust that people place in the media.
Some people feel that this report is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. It could be that the influence from the Chinese government is even greater than previously expected. While a lot of foreign governments will often have an impact on media in other countries to control a narrative, this is on a scale never seen before.
Despite this, there are many journalists around the world who refuse to be influenced and still work hard to preserve the integrity of journalism. Reporters Without Borders will continue to document and report on the extent of China’s influence on foreign media.
Emmy-winning actor Louie Anderson dead at age 68
The star of the comedy series “Baskets” died in Las Vegas, where he was admitted into a hospital earlier this week for treatment of diffuse large B cell lymphoma, publicist Glenn Schwartz told the entertainment publication.
Anderson was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy Series, winning one in 2016 for his role as Christine Baskets on the FX series.
He also won two Daytime Emmys for outstanding performer in an animated program for “Life with Louie,” a program that aired on Fox in 1997 and 1998.
The Saint Paul, Minnesota, native was a counselor to troubled children before he got his start in comedy when he won first place in the Midwest Comedy Competition in 1981, according to Deadline.
Anderson was in Eddie Murphy’s 1988 hit movie “Coming to America.” He also hosted “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002 and starred in several situation comedies over the last two decades.
Anderson wrote several books, including “Goodbye Jumbo … Hello Cruel World,” a self-help book for people struggling with self-esteem issues.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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