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Support for COVID-19 lockdowns dwindles as Omicron spreads across Canada: poll – Global News

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A majority of Canadians say they’re still in support of another lockdown to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, a new poll has found.

But despite more than 55 per cent of Canadians showing such support for renewed public health measures, the poll’s results — done by Ipsos exclusively for Global News — also show that the same support is dwindling.



Omicron FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 variant

Previous polling done by Ipsos showed that in July 2021, nearly seven out of 10 Canadians said they would support more lockdown measures amid a fourth wave of the pandemic, which dropped to 63 per cent in September and now sits at just 56 per cent as an Omicron-driven wave begins to rise across the country.

Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said that the dwindling number may be reflective of Canadians feeling not only frustrated over the repeated lockdowns, but also questioning if this is the right thing to be doing given the high vaccination rates Canada has.

Read more:

Omicron fears force Canadian businesses to prepare for the worst — another lockdown

Bricker said he’s noticed two things changing in public opinion that could also point to the lessening support they are now showing for lockdowns — people are less “overwhelmingly concerned” about COVID-19 than they previously were and that there’s more space opening up for the government to tackle other issues and concerns.

“We’re certainly seeing that in our polling, but also given the fact that we’ve had such an increase in vaccinations, I’m wondering if people think that they’re more protected maybe than they might actually be,” he said.

The new polling comes as public health units across the country brace for what looks to be a fifth wave of COVID-19, driven by the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

Since first being identified in South Africa, Omicron has spread to over 77 countries, including Canada, according to the WHO.


Click to play video: '‘This virus keeps dealing us the next card’: Canadian COVID-19 resurgence predicted as Omicron threat grows'



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‘This virus keeps dealing us the next card’: Canadian COVID-19 resurgence predicted as Omicron threat grows


‘This virus keeps dealing us the next card’: Canadian COVID-19 resurgence predicted as Omicron threat grows – Dec 10, 2021

The health agency said that the variant poses a “very high” risk to derailing the world’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it was likely to be found in more countries

While preliminary data points to the variant — riddled with dozens of mutations — being much more transmissible, it also suggests that it isn’t any more deadly than the dominant strains of COVID-19, like the Delta variant.

Early data also suggests that the variant does not seem to affect the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, and that the shots still provide protection against severe outcomes like death and hospitalization.

Read more:

Omicron is raging in the U.K. What can Canada learn?

That transmissibility, though, has researchers concerned worldwide, as well as in Canada, where public health officials projected that Omicron — should it replace Delta — could be the dominant strain in the country and that daily infections could skyrocket to over 26,000 a day by mid-January.

However, Bricker says that should cases of the variant rise, Canadians’ opinions on the lockdowns may rise over time.

“So I think over the space of the next couple of weeks, because this thing seems to be moving pretty quickly, we’ll either see that number stabilize at this level or if it goes anywhere, it’ll probably go up,” he said.

“It’s something we’re going to have to watch over time.”


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Freeland says Omicron variant as “underscored” importance of pandemic supports offered by Bill C-2'



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COVID-19: Freeland says Omicron variant as “underscored” importance of pandemic supports offered by Bill C-2


COVID-19: Freeland says Omicron variant as “underscored” importance of pandemic supports offered by Bill C-2 – Dec 9, 2021

The poll’s results also differ from region to region, with support for lockdowns highest in Quebec and British Columbia, and lowest in Ontario and Alberta.

Furthermore, the poll also found that Canadians believe that Omicron would ultimately delay the country’s return to normal, with over 80 per cent of Canadians agreeing.

When it came to travel, eight out of 10 said they would cancel their travel plans should COVID-19 get any worse, though over 35 per cent said they were set on travelling next year despite fluctuating case counts.

“It shows that people do realize that there’s an effect that’s coming into Canada as a result of Omicron, that we’re into a new phase of whatever we’re dealing with, and as a result, they should be adjusting their behaviour accordingly,” Bricker said.

Bricker said maybe we’re now seeing a situation in which people are not as supportive of lockdowns as they used to be — “but maybe travelling — that’s still out of bounds.”

However, despite the diminishing support towards lockdowns, Canadians seem to approve of public health officials and their directives. According to the poll, public health officials were found to have seriously outperformed political leaders with their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s approval rating when it came to handling the pandemic stood at 64 per cent, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sat at 49 per cent in comparison. Canadian premiers had also averaged at around 57 per cent approval for their handling of the situation.


Click to play video: 'No shutdowns or lockdowns: Biden unveils U.S. plan to combat COVID-19 in winter'



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No shutdowns or lockdowns: Biden unveils U.S. plan to combat COVID-19 in winter


No shutdowns or lockdowns: Biden unveils U.S. plan to combat COVID-19 in winter – Dec 2, 2021

Bricker says that we’re seeing an evolution in polling as more Canadians develop a nuanced view of the pandemic and public health restrictions, and that we should be preparing for a more diverse opinions as the pandemic progresses.

“We’re learning to, to a certain extent, live with it there,” he said.

“Their decisions are more complicated. It’s not just a light switch flipping on or off, it’s more like a dimmer,” Bricker added. “It kind of goes up or down based on the circumstances or based on based on the particular things that are happening in communities.”

with files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore, Ahmar Khan and Aaron D’Andrea

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Dec. 10 and 15, 2021, with a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18-plus interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18-plus been polled.

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

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N.Korea fires two ballistic missiles from Pyongyang airport, S.Korea says

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North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-used-railway-born-missile-fridays-test-kcna-2022-01-14 this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal.

Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security.

In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars.

Monday’s launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.

The missiles fired on Monday travelled about 380 km (236 miles) to a maximum altitude of 42 km (26 miles), the JCS said in a statement.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean near North Korea’s east coast.

“It is self-evident that the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology,” he told reporters.

“The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi added, noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it assessed that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but “these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s ) illicit weapons programme”.

The pace of testing and the different launch sites suggests that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable expending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and helps reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began unveiling and testing a range of new SRBM designs.

Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.

“Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the U.S. … has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development,” Richey said.

‘ISOLATING AND STIFLING’

The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a U.S. administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the U.N. Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions.

In a statement before Friday’s missile tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was still engrossed in its policy of “isolating and stifling” North Korea.

South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday’s test, with members stressing that “above all else, it is essential to start dialogue as soon as possible in order for the situation on the Korean Peninsula to not become more strained and to restore stability”, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a COVID-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China.

Chinese brokers said they expect the resumption of regular trade with North Korea soon after a North Korean train pulled into a Chinese border town on Sunday in the first such crossing since anti-coronavirus lockdowns began in 2020.

Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea had few reasons to hold back its missile development.

Leader Kim appeared to have little hope of a breakthrough with the United States, and China’s sympathy for North Korea and antipathy towards the United States could encourage North Korea to think that China was unlikely to support any effort by the international community to censure it for the tests, he added.

“North Korea may think this is a safe time to advance its missile development,” Zhao said.

Last week, China criticised the new U.S. sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.

China says it enforces existing international sanctions on North Korea, but has joined with Russia to urge https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-russia-revive-push-lift-un-sanctions-north-korea-2021-11-01 the U.N. Security Council to ease the measures, saying they hurt the civilian population.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo; and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Neil Fullick and Gerry Doyle)

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Winter storm slams U.S. East Coast, Canada, thousands of flights canceled

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A major winter storm slammed much of the eastern United States with snow, ice and high winds on Sunday, causing widespread travel disruptions and power outages on a holiday weekend.

Winter weather alerts stretched more than 1,000 miles (1,609 km) from Alabama to Maine, with the governors of Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina all declaring emergencies due to the storm.

More than 200,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia reported power outages, according to PowerOutage.US, a website tracking power outages.

In North Carolina, where some regions saw record snowfalls, two people died Sunday when they lost control of their car in Raleigh.

The highest snowfall totals were expected along the spine of the Appalachians as well as across the lower Great Lakes.

The storm made its way through the Mid-Atlantic region toward New England on Sunday night, bringing snow that is expected to change to ice, sleet and eventually rain, the National Weather Service said.

In Canada, the storm is forecast to dump between 20-40cm (8-16 inches) of snow through Monday morning over parts of southern and eastern Ontario, the Canadian province that shares part of its border with New York state, the government weather agency, Environment Canada, said.

The inclement weather hits just as Ontario schools were set to reopen for in-person classes on Monday after the winter break was extended because of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

More than 3,000 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled on Sunday, and over 8,000 flights were delayed, according to FlightAware data.

American Airlines Group Inc saw more than 660 flight cancellations. More than 90% of the flights into and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, an American Airlines hub, were canceled, the FlightAware website https://flightaware.com/live/cancelled showed.

American Airlines said it is allowing customers affected by the weather to rebook flights without a fee.

Toronto, home of Canada’s busiest airport, is set to see accumulations of 15 to 20cm of snow.

This was a long weekend for most people in the United States as Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said on Sunday people should avoid non-essential travel in areas impacted by the storm.

“If you’re able tonight and tomorrow morning, stay home and off the roads,” Kemp said on https://twitter.com/GovKemp/status/1482828779005353984Twitter. “It’s going to be treacherous in a lot of parts of our state.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Kieran Murray and Karishma Singh)

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Back to school in 4 provinces as Omicron spreads – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Parents and teachers in four provinces are bracing for students to return to the classroom Monday as the Omicron variant-fuelled wave of COVID-19 continues to spread and questions remain about how prepared schools really are for a full-scale return.

Kids in Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s largest provinces, are to resume in-person learning after their governments delayed their return in the face of record-setting case numbers over the holidays.

While public health experts, parents and officials agree that in-person learning is best for children, school boards, families and unions say they’re preparing for an increase in staff absences because of the virus, with some worried that the contingency plans touted by provincial governments may not be enough to keep schools operating safely.

In a letter to members over the weekend, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario President Karen Brown said educators from across the province have expressed a range of emotions about heading back to class during this fifth wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Some members are enthusiastic and feel safe, others are cautiously optimistic, and some are anxious,” reads the letter to the union’s roughly 83,000 members.

Ontario reported there were 3,595 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, with 579 in intensive care.

The latest figures represent a drop from the day before, but Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that not all hospitals report their COVID-19 numbers over the weekend.

Quebec, meanwhile, said hospitalizations rose by 105 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of patients to 3,300.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia will also send kids back to the classroom on Monday, with Nova Scotia being the only province in the Atlantic region to do so.

That province reported 68 people were admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 on Sunday, 10 more than the previous day, with 10 receiving intensive care.

In neighbouring New Brunswick, where schools won’t return until Jan. 31 and residents are back under a 16-day lockdown, officials reported there were 113 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, logged 384 new infections and one additional virus-related death.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Paul Wozney cast doubt on whether schools will be able to stay open for the week, pointing out that kids had to be sent home earlier than hoped for before the Christmas break because of staffing levels — and that was when caseloads were lower than they are today.

“The pressure that Omicron presents hasn’t lessened, it’s gotten worse.”

Rather than send students back to school on Monday, Wozney suggested the province should have taken a more cautious approach as its neighbours have done until COVID-19 case levels become more manageable.

One of the problems, he says, is the dwindling list of available substitute teachers, which is even more of an issue in rural areas than in the provincial capital of Halifax.

“We do not have the people to sustain in-person learning for any prolonged period of time,” he said. “We’ve made that abundantly clear to the (education) department.”

School boards in Ontario have also warned parents to expect possible returns to remote learning as they try to manage both infection and staffing levels in classrooms.

To keep schools open, Ontario and Nova Scotia plan to supply students with rapid antigen tests. The move comes at a time when Ottawa tries to ensure the 140 million it promised to send provinces this month arrive on schedule, as it works with 14 different suppliers and battles supply issues as demand for the tests have soared.

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government also plans to rely on rapid testing to keep students in school and says it’s still working on ventilation upgrades at many buildings.

Improved air quality and access to better masks were chief among the concerns parents, educators and doctors wanted governments to address before kids went back to class.

In Quebec, for example — where updated guidelines say schools won’t need to shut down in the event of an outbreak but can move online if more than 60 per cent of students are isolating — some parents have denounced the fact N95 masks are being reserved for

“specialized schools.”

“We know surgical masks aren’t as protective, so … by magic, the children will be protected here in Quebec and aren’t going to get COVID?” said Cheryl Cooperman, a Montreal mother of two who penned an open letter decrying what it calls inconsistencies in Quebec’s approach.

Contact tracing also remains an issue. In Manitoba, those infected in schools will not be able to count on officials to notify their close contacts. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s top doctor, said at a briefing last week that the virus is simply spreading too fast.

He also stated the risk of children becoming severely ill from the Omicron variant is low.

The mass return to in-person learning comes after Health Canada reported less than four per cent of children in the country aged 5-11 were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, with nearly 50 per cent having received at least one dose.

At the same time, the country boasts that nearly 90 per cent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated while provinces race to get booster shots into as many arms as possible to battle the current surge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2022.

With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax and Virginie Ann in Montreal.

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