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Reopening the Canada-U.S. border will be a long, piecemeal process – CBC.ca

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The Donald Trump era began in 2015 with a promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Five years later, the Trump era may end with citizens in much of the rest of the world — Canadians, in particular — insisting on a virtual wall between themselves and the United States.

With the United States adding 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, the European Union is leaving the U.S. off a list of 15 countries whose citizens soon will be allowed to visit its 27 member nations. In Canada, there seems to be no great desire to quickly reverse the unprecedented border restrictions that were imposed in March.

The question for Canadians is how much longer the virtual wall will have to be in place — and how much it might hurt to keep it there.

“My guess is it’s going to have to stay closed for more than 12 months,” Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told CBC News this week. “It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen in the United States until we have a vaccine or until the population has been sufficiently infected that you have herd immunity.”

Canadians are in no rush to reopen

When Leger Marketing asked Canadians in May when they thought Canada should reopen its border with the United States, 47 per cent of respondents said “not before the end of the year.” With more than 2.6 million cases now in the United States, it’s unlikely Canadians’ enthusiasm for welcoming our American neighbours has increased since then.

An exemption for “essential” travel significantly reduced the disruption to the Canadian economy. “Canadians continue to get the food, medicine, commercial goods, and other essential supplies they need to live and work, and Canadian exporters for the most part have not suffered disruption,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

But the decline in traffic across the border has still been precipitous. According to data obtained by Postmedia, between June 15 and June 21 just 170,998 people entered Canada at a land crossing with the United States — and 104,247 of those people were truck drivers. Over the same period in 2019, more than 1.2 million people traveled through a land crossing from the U.S. into Canada.

Based on those numbers, the pandemic is going to leave a deep mark on the Canadian tourism industry and on border towns like Windsor and Sarnia, Ontario. Hyder and the Business Council have called on the federal government to extend its wage subsidy for the tourism sector through the rest of the year.

The damage could be lasting

But it can’t be assumed that the exemption for essential business travel and widespread use of video conferencing are preventing all damage to the economic relationships between Canadians and Americans.

“People say, okay, well, the trucks are going, so the supply chains are working. But the supply chains reflect agreements and contracts that were made in the past with a lot of face-to-face interaction,” said Bill Anderson, director of the Cross-Border Institute in Windsor. “If those agreements aren’t being made now, the question is — what’s the supply chain going to look like six months to a year from now?”

It also can’t be assumed that cross-border travel will quickly return to its pre-COVID-19 normal once the threat of the disease has passed, Anderson added. Traffic between Canada and the United States dropped significantly after 9/11 and had yet to fully return to previous levels when the pandemic hit.

Beyond the economic concerns, there are the personal plights — the families still being kept apart by the border restrictions. An exemption introduced in June only applies to “immediate” family members such as spouses, parents, children and guardians.

A pandemic running rampant in the U.S.

But all complications associated with the current restrictions must be balanced against the significant health risks of reopening the border — and the economic disruption that would occur if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in Canada.

Furness said his suggestion of 12 months was not meant to be perfectly precise. “It’s a very, very rough idea,” he said. “I just want people to get used to the idea that maybe it’s not going to be next week or next month.”

But his projection is based on a belief that COVID-19 has now spread too far in the United States for it to be contained. “My assumption is that the genie is so far out of the bottle that there isn’t even a bottle anymore,” he said.

In these circumstances, it might be hard for any industry or community to argue that the border should be reopened. But accepting that a return to normal is unlikely in the near future could refocus the discussion on what, if anything, can be done to find a new normal that is even just slightly less restrictive.

Baby steps

“I don’t think the solution is to say, ‘Let’s pick out a date and say, OK, the border is now open.’ In fact, I would say that maybe ‘open’ is the wrong term to use,” said Anderson, who is also thinking of COVID-19 as a long-term problem. “I think what you need to do is try to find rational and safe ways to ease some of the restrictions.”

Anderson said that expanded testing (likely conducted away from the border crossings themselves) might allow some travellers to cross if they can show that they have recently tested negative. The effectiveness of that approach, of course, would depend on the accuracy of the testing.

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at West Washington University, said the current exemption for family members could be broadened to include extended family like grandparents. Furness also would look at family unification.

“I really would like us to revisit that with a long view,” Furness said of the current policy on family members. “To say, ‘This is going to be in place for a long time, now how can we alleviate the worst of the suffering?'”

Two friends embrace during a visit at the Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

If that meant a lot more people crossing the border, then testing could be a useful policy, Furness said. But he suggests that what is currently a “tiny trickle” of cross-border travellers should only be allowed to become a “slightly bigger trickle” — no tourists or unnecessary business travel. He said international students should still be allowed to enter Canada, but he would like greater clarity on what constitutes “essential” travel.

The border restrictions put in place in March have been extended three times and are now set to expire on July 21 — officially, at least. Even if the deal is only extended for another month, it’s likely time to accept that a largely closed border between Canada and the United States is, like the disease itself, going to be our reality for the foreseeable future —  and to plan accordingly.

“Right now I think everyone’s responsibility is to figure out how we’re going to live with this thing,” Anderson says. “Because it might not go away for a long time.”

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Has the Atlantic bubble already opened to the rest of Canada? – CBC.ca

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Premier Blaine Higgs says it will be at least another week before New Brunswick even considers opening up to the rest of Canada, but in a way, it already has through its Atlantic bubble agreement with Nova Scotia.

So has P.E.I.

Nova Scotia’s borders have never been closed to visitors.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, anyone from any province or territory has been able to enter Nova Scotia for any reason as long as they self-isolated for 14 days, confirmed Heather Fairbairn, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness.

Since the Atlantic bubble started on July 3, those visitors have been able to travel freely within the three Maritime provinces once their isolation is complete. (Newfoundland and Labrador allows only Maritime residents to enter, unless they have been granted exemptions.)

So even though New Brunswick has kept tight reins on those it allows in, and the conditions they have to meet, anyone who wants to get into the province could get in by going through Nova Scotia first.

Higgs told CBC News he was “fully aware” of Nova Scotia’s open-door policy and that their visitors could continue on into New Brunswick.

“We have the Atlantic bubble, and the idea of doing that was to allow free travel to people that have isolated, people that we considered that should have free movement within this region,” he said.

We too have been bringing family and friends to New Brunswick, and they would self-isolate for 14 days and then they’re allowed to travel around to different provinces in the Atlantic region.”

For example, New Brunswick dropped requirements in June for out-of-province workers to self-isolate, even though Nova Scotia still requires workers living in the province and working elsewhere to self-isolate for 14 days when arriving home. 

“So this is a reciprocal kind of program and … so far, it’s been working well,” said Higgs

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, thinks any outbreaks will be driven by international travellers. (Supplied by Raywat Deonandan)

Epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, calls it “surprising” and “strange.” 

“I thought the bubble idea was that the borders were sealed entirely,” said Deonandan, an associate professor with the faculty of health sciences at the University of Ottawa.

It also “makes little sense in terms of control of seeding [COVID-19] events,” said Deonandan.

“The entire idea behind a contiguous bubble of adjacent provinces is that there should be consistency of policy around how you manage the borders. That’s the only way this works.”

It sounds that Nova Scotia is the most lenient partner, therefore everyone has de facto the same policy as Nova Scotia, whether they like it or not.– Raywat Deonandan, epidemiologist

“If there isn’t consistency, what are you doing?”

Deonandan draws a comparison to social bubbles.

“You’re only as good as the people you trust.” he said.

“The [Atlantic] bubble is only as good as its most lenient partner. So it sounds that Nova Scotia is the most lenient partner, therefore, everyone has de facto the same policy as Nova Scotia, whether they like it or not.”

Deonandan points out there’s “nothing magical” about the 14-day isolation requirement either. It’s a median only, based on the estimated incubation period of the coronavirus.

“It’s possible that you can pass the 14-day quarantine and still be positive.”

Having said that, Deonandan thinks the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks within the Atlantic bubble from Canadian travellers who have self-isolated for 14 days is “low.”

If outbreaks do occur, he believes they’ll be driven by people who have travelled internationally, which has been the recent experience in some other jurisdictions.

Isolation won’t be required

When New Brunswick does open up to the rest of the country, Higgs said the 14-day isolation period will no longer be required.

“I’ll be … having calls with my Atlantic colleagues about the next step, but at this point we don’t have any date in mind for reopening with the rest of Canada,” he said Aug. 5.

He wants to evaluate the second week of expanding the New Brunswick bubble to residents of two Quebec border regions without the need to self-isolate, he said.

Residents of Avignon Regional County Municipality, which borders Restigouche County and includes Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix, and of Témiscouata Regional County Municipality, which borders Madawaska County have been able to cross into the province for day-trips only since Aug. 1.

Right now, New Brunswick limits who is allowed to enter the province. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Other approved reasons for entry include:

  • travelling through New Brunswick to reach another destination.
  • returning home to New Brunswick.
  • work-related travel.
  • child custody arrangements in New Brunswick.
  • moving to New Brunswick to take up residence.
  • travel related to medical appointment.
  • resident of the Atlantic provinces 
  • visiting immediate family in New Brunswick.
  • property ownership in New Brunswick.
  • travelling to pick up/drop off student.
  • attending a funeral.
  • compassionate exemption.

Once someone has completed a 14-day isolation in one of the Atlantic provinces, however, they are welcome to enter New Brunswick, confirmed Department of Public Safety spokesperson Geoffrey Downey.

New Brunswick has six active cases of COVID-19, all temporary foreign workers in Moncton who immediately went into self-isolation upon arrival.

The province has recorded 176 cases of the respiratory disease since the pandemic began in mid-March. Two people have died and 168 have recovered.

New Brunswick has six active cases of COVID-19, and the province has had a total of 176 cases since the pandemic started in March. (CBC)

Higgs has said the resurgence of the virus some jurisdictions have seen is “very concerning,” and any expansion must be done with caution with the start of the school year around the corner.

“We want to be able to continue to get kids back to school and not be in a situation that we’ve seen a resurgence of the virus in advance of that, or certainly during,” he told reporters on July 30, during the Quebec bubble announcement.

“So I would say, you know, we go through this 14 days, we’ll look at other provinces and see where they’re going, are they trending up, trending down. And then we look again at the prospects of how we can open.”

Higgs said he doesn’t want to see a resurgence of the virus as school starts. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nova Scotia is looking into possible ways opening up could work, but is “not there yet,” Premier Stephen McNeil has said.

No decision has been made by P.E.I. either.

Last week, the Island began allowing recreational visits by family members of residents who are Canadian citizens or have permanent residency status, but who live outside Atlantic Canada, provided they self-isolate for 14 days.

In June, P.E.I. opened its borders to family members of Islanders in need of support, such as those living in long-term care, as well as to seasonal residents.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador and its Public Health officials are in regular discussions with federal, provincial and territorial partners on pan-Canadian strategies related to COVID-19, including border measures, according to a Department of Health and Community Services spokesperson.

“No decision has been made relating to any further lifting of the current travel ban,” she said in an emailed statement.

“Newfoundland and Labrador’s borders are closely monitored and protocols for entry are strictly enforced as they relate to the Atlantic Canada Bubble. One of these protocols is the requirement for persons travelling to provide proof of residency in Atlantic Canada.”

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Canada reports 195 new coronavirus cases, 5 more deaths – Global News

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Canada reported 195 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, as well as five more deaths.

The new cases bring Canada’s total COVID-19 infections to 119,382 and its death toll to 8,981. Over 5.17 million tests have also been administered across the country while 103,726 patients, or over 86 per cent of all confirmed cases, have since recovered from the virus.

Read more:
How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Sunday’s numbers, which were tallied from both provincial and federal health authorities across the country, do not reflect all regions due to several provinces like Alberta, B.C., P.E.I. and the territories not releasing data over the weekend.

A statement Sunday from Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam praised “the continuing efforts and sacrifices of Canadians” that helped flatten and control the curve of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.

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“This has allowed us to protect our healthcare system, while at the same time we have increased capacity in hospitals and across our public health and laboratory systems to maintain epidemic control going forward,” read Tam’s statement.

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“Our efforts have also bought us time as research and science accelerate at an unprecedented pace towards finding safe and effective vaccines.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Quebec, the country’s hardest-hit province, reported 104 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as well as three new deaths — one of which had occurred before Aug. 1. As of Aug. 1, there have been 60,471 confirmed cases of the virus within the province — 50,866 of which have now recovered — and 5,695 deaths.

Ontario added 79 new cases on Sunday, raising its provincial total 40,046. The province also reported two new deaths related to COVID-19, raising its death toll to 2,786. A total of 36,279 patients — over 90 per cent of the province’s cases — have since recovered from the virus.

Read more:
Temperature checks and ‘deep cleaning’ aren’t good at stopping coronavirus. So why do we bother?

Saskatchewan added 15 new cases of the virus on Aug. 9. Total cases of the virus in the province only grew by 12 on Sunday, however, as some cases previously counted were removed from the total because the patients did not live in Saskatchewan.

The province’s total cases now stand at 1,445 confirmed cases, with a death toll of 20. A further 1,257 patients have since recovered from the virus.

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Manitoba added 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, raising its total lab-confirmed and “probable” cases of the virus to 542. Sunday’s numbers from the province are not reflected in Global News’ totals however as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. A total of eight people have died from the virus in the province.

Nova Scotia reported zero cases of the virus on Aug. 9. Its provincial total stands at 1,071 confirmed cases of the virus, as well as 64 fatalities.

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New Brunswick also reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with its total cases standing at 176. Provincial health authorities announced that there are only six active cases of the virus as of Aug. 9, as well as two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported zero cases of the virus on Aug. 9 during its daily statement. The province currently has one active case of COVID-19.

Cases of the new coronavirus continue to surge worldwide, with a global total of over 19.7 million cases, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. More than 728,000 people have since succumbed to the virus, while over 12 million patients have recovered globally.

The United States continues to lead with both the highest number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities worldwide, followed by Brazil.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sunday Scrum: Canada's response to the Beirut explosion – CBC.ca

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CBC News Network’s Sunday Scrum panel is your destination for frank discussion and analysis of the week’s big political stories.

This week, we talk to our panellists about Canada’s response to the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

Ottawa says it will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the deadly Aug. 4 blast in Beirut and will also match donations made by Canadians up to $2 million. But nothing will go directly to the Lebanese government, due to fears over corruption.

The panellists also discuss the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Also on the program: pricey privacy demands from Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, Canada’s latest tariff tiff with the U.S. and new concerns over WE Charity from the federal charity watchdog. 

WATCH | Canada’s response to Beirut explosion:

Ottawa says it will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the deadly blast in Beirut and will also match donations made by Canadians up to $2 million. But nothing will go directly to the Lebanese government, due to fear of corruption. 7:55

WATCH | Canada’s latest tariff tiff with U.S.:

Ottawa announced this week it will impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to restore a 10 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum imports. 6:52

WATCH | Payette’s pricey privacy demands:

This week, a CBC exclusive revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to satisfy Gov. Gen. Julie Payette’s need for privacy at Rideau Hall, but she still hasn’t moved into her official residence almost three years into her five-year mandate. 4:59

WATCH | Charity watchdog raised red flags over WE:

Federal charity watchdog officials sounded the alarm during a Commons committee hearing on the WE controversy this week, raising concerns about the organization’s structure and how WE breached a financial contract on millions of dollars in bank debt. 7:59

WATCH | The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine:

A co-chair of Canada’s new COVID-19 vaccine task force says it will be critical to have a number of vaccine candidates on hand to halt the spread of the coronavirus, as Canada’s chief public health officer warns not to expect any vaccine to be a ‘silver bullet.’ 8:33

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