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Snowbirds gather at Alberta border towns in advance of Nov. 8 reopening – Global News

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Ready, set, go: after being closed to most leisure trip vehicle traffic for nearly 20 months, the Canada-U.S. land border will open for fully vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8 and that has snowbirds excited.

Canadians getting set to spend the winter in the United States have been preparing to migrate south.

Some have packed up their motorhomes and trailers and are spending the weekend in towns along the border, ready to cross bright and early Monday.

Calgarians Andre and Donna Call have been camped out since Oct. 20, waiting for the border to open so they can seek out the weather they’ve been missing.

“The sun, the warmth, and we’ve made some friends down there,” Andre said. “We’ve established some good relationships, some new friends — some Americans, some Canadians.

“I like the idea of where we are: we can buy fresh vegetables and fruit dirt cheap… so you can eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit all winter long. It’s amazing.”


Click to play video: 'Open Canada-U.S. border means options for Alberta snowbirds'



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Open Canada-U.S. border means options for Alberta snowbirds


Open Canada-U.S. border means options for Alberta snowbirds – Oct 13, 2021

Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Lisa White said the first few days of the reopening will most likely see more southbound than northbound traffic as eager snowbirds flee to warmer climates — but next weekend could be a different story.

“There might be a little bit of a pick up in local traffic down at Coutts and Carway, but I think looking towards the weekend is when we can expect to see higher volumes as a result of the of the opening,” she said while speaking to Global News from the Calgary International Airport.

Remembrance Day falls on a Thursday this year, and White said stats like that traditionally corresponded with an increase in border traffic as people take the Friday off to have a long weekend.

“Looking at pre-COVID numbers, it’s always been a popular weekend, that in and of itself could be a reason for folks to to head south now,” she said.

“There’s also a lot of family reunification that’s probably going to happen this weekend as well, right? So we can expect to see some some numbers pick up Canada-bound next weekend.”

Read more:
Canada-U.S. land borders will open Monday. Here’s what we know

The United States said non-essential travellers crossing land borders from Canada will be asked about their vaccination status, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through.

Proof of vaccination will be required if selected for random screening. COVID-19 testing will not be required to enter the U.S., provided visitors meet vaccination requirements, officials said.


Click to play video: 'Everything Canadian snowbirds need to know this year'



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Everything Canadian snowbirds need to know this year


Everything Canadian snowbirds need to know this year

However, the rules to return to Canada are different. Anyone crossing the border into Canada must show their proof of vaccination, must have a valid PCR test from within the past 72 hours, and must have the Government of Canada’s ArriveCAN travel application downloaded and filled out.

Those without a smartphone can also fill out the information online.

“You have to plan for your return to Canada as much as you should be planning for your trip south,” White said. “You have to make sure that you have your ArriveCAN completed — whether that’s using a computer or using a smartphone.”

Read more:
ArriveCAN app for cross-border travel includes hurdle for blind Canadians: advocate

White recommended drivers plan to avoid the peak busy periods — late afternoon or early evening — because crossing will take longer during the pandemic.

“Our CBSA officers will ask a lot of questions. With that added layer of the health screening questions that are now being posed, that takes extra time,” White said.

“We’re also doing PCR verification, vaccine verification, ArriveCAN verification — so all that combined, it’s taking a little bit longer than usual.”

People shouldn’t just have online access to digital forms of their documents — they should take screenshots or better yet White said, print everything off to have hard copies in case your phone dies or loses reception.

“Have paper copies of your vaccine records, have paper copies of your PCR test. Have all of that ready as a Plan B. So really, planning will make your travel, your return a lot smoother.”

Read more:
PCR test policy at border ‘actively being looked at,’ Tam says

White also noted that Canadians have a legal right to enter their home country — even if they catch COVID-19 while in the United States.

Anyone who arrives at the border with a positive PCR test, or is selected for random testing while trying to cross back home, will be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine next steps.

That’s why, White said, it’s critical is for all returning Canadians to have a quarantine plan — even if they don’t think they caught COVID-19 during their travels.

“Some questions that we get is, ‘Why do we have provided quarantine plan?’ Because we’re still doing testing at the border. It’s random, but it’s mandatory.

“So should you test positive upon arrival at the border, you need to have that quarantine plan to fall back on.”


Click to play video: 'The Travel Lady: What you need to know before crossing the U.S. border'



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The Travel Lady: What you need to know before crossing the U.S. border


The Travel Lady: What you need to know before crossing the U.S. border

One last reminder for Canadian travellers: all other border crossing rules still apply.

“So you’re entitled to $200 of goods duty and tax free after an absence of 24 hours and after an absence of 48 hours, you’re entitled to $800 duty and tax free upon return to Canada.”

Read more:
End ‘irrational’ COVID-19 testing at U.S. border, Canadian tourism group says

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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BC floods: Evacuation ordered in Abbotsford area – CTV News

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VICTORIA —
British Columbia says it’s prepared to use a national emergency alert system should the third in a trio of ongoing storms pose a risk to life and safety in the coming days.

Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices. B.C. has faced criticism for not using it during deadly natural disasters this year.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says provincial officials are working with local governments, First Nations and emergency managers, adding the province is prepared to use the system should a community feel there is an imminent threat.

Farnworth made the comment during a briefing on an ongoing series of storms in the province in which officials warned that the third one, due to make landfall Monday, could reach intensities similar to those that destroyed highways, flooded communities and prompted mass evacuations two weeks ago.

Armel Castellan of Environment and Climate Change Canada says there is a lot of uncertainty at this stage, and while meteorologists hope the impacts remain as low as possible, they are urging maximum caution, vigilance and readiness for a “very strong storm and swell.”

The River Forecast Centre issued a new flood warning for the Coquihalla River and says the Nooksack River in the United States is at risk of overflowing its banks late today and spilling into Sumas Prairie.

Meanwhile, a new set of evacuation orders were issued for 56 properties in the Petit Creek-Spius Creek area west of Merritt, B.C.

“We’re in the middle of one of the most intense series of storms that we have seen along coastal B.C.,” Farnworth said.

“Once again, it’s time to be ready.”

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Canada's first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in Ottawa – CBC.ca

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There are two confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Ottawa, the Ontario government announced Sunday.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.

These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had visited several countries in southern Africa over the preceding two weeks.

Those travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has provoked global concern.

Passengers line up to get tested for COVID-19 at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Friday. The new coronavirus variant, omicron, was first identified by researchers in South Africa and has led a growing list of countries to ban travellers from several nations in southern Africa. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labelled as a variant of concern. It is being linked to a rapid rise of cases in a South African province.

It is not known at this time whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, than other coronavirus variants.

“The best defence against the omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said the statement from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The provincial government urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue following public health guidance.

“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant.”

More confirmed cases likely: health minister

In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.

Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, shown last year, said in a statement on Sunday that the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that Canada’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops.

“The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required,” it said

‘Better to be safe than sorry’

Reacting to the news, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos emphasized the lack of information the world has so far about the omicron variant, noting that some other variants failed to take hold and out-compete the dominant strain.

“While it’s important not to under-react, it’s important not to overreact. We don’t have a lot of information about whether this variant is actually more dangerous than the variants that we’ve dealt with,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network.

Still, he said it was “better to be safe than sorry” and take precautions. But he said that until there was more information, it was not necessary to radically change behaviour, so long as you are vaccinated and otherwise acting in accordance with public health guidance.

“The stuff that worked before should work now.”

WHO urges countries to keep borders open

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. It said it is studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as suggested by “preliminary evidence.”

The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure at stopping the spread of the virus. South Africa has said the travel measures are “unjustified.”

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said instituting travel bans targeted at southern Africa “attacks global solidarity.”

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired prior to the government announcement on Sunday, WHO special adviser Dr. Peter Singer said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the variant was in Canada.

He said the United Nations agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-limited,” part of a comprehensive package, rather than the only measure taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.

“They’re definitely not a silver bullet,” he said. Singer argued the international community should not create situations that disincentive countries from being transparent about new variants.

Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and follow public health measures.

“This is a call for individuals to raise their guard. There are things individuals can do which help with any variant or any version of this virus, including omicron.”

He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources to the global vaccination campaign, saying that’s the best way to stop the spread of omicron and potential future variants.

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Canada finds first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario. Here’s what we know – Globalnews.ca

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Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus’ fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” read the statement Sunday.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges'



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COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges


COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges

Read more:
Netherlands, Australia confirm cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

“In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to hold a press conference on the variant’s discovery Monday morning, according to the statement.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also confirmed Canada’s first two cases in a statement Sunday evening, and said that he was working with the province’s public health officials to contact trace the cases.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” read Duclos’ statement.


Click to play video: 'Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern'



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Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern


Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.”

South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.

Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant’s high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.

Other experts were quick to point out South Africa’s low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant'



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COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant


COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant

Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.

Canada’s Chief Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also confirmed the detection of the new variant, and said that Canada has a “robust monitoring” system in place to detect genetic changes in the virus or new variants of concern, such as the Omicron.

“Last Friday, Canada announced additional travel measures for all travellers coming into Canada from the South African region. It is not unexpected that additional cases of this variant will be discovered in Canada,” read Tam’s statement.

A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.

The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by “early 2022” if it was necessary.

Read more:
Will COVID-19 booster shots protect against the Omicron variant? Experts undecided

“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.

Canada’s vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says'



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COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says


COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says

Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada’s announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was “already here” and spreading within Canada’s borders.

On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.

The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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