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Tigrayan forces say they have taken town in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, government denies this

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Rebellious Tigrayan forces said on Saturday they had seized the strategic town of Dessie in Ethiopia’s Amhara region where tens of thousands of ethnic Amharas have sought refuge from an escalation in fighting, but the government denied this.

The fighters pushed Ethiopian government forces from Dessie and were headed towards the town of Kombolcha, Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

He said Tigrayan forces had captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers.

Legesse Tulu, the government spokesperson, told Reuters in a text message that the town was still under the control of the Ethiopian government and said claims by the Tigrayan forces were “fabricated propaganda”.

The Unites States on Saturday afternoon called on Tigrayan forces to halt their advances “in and around the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha” and renewed calls for them to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions.

Asked about the Tigrayan forces’ claims, Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane referred Reuters to the federal government. Amhara spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh, the mayor of Dessie and a spokesperson for the town did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters could not independently verify the account of either side as phone lines in Dessie appeared to be down as of Saturday afternoon.

The capture of Dessie would be a strategic gain for the Tigrayan fighters against the central government forces who are trying to dislodge them from the Amhara region.

The large town is some 385 km (240 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa, and is the furthest south in Amhara that the TPLF has reached since pushing into the region in July.

A school director in Dessie said he saw Ethiopian soldiers retreating from the town on Saturday morning towards Kombolcha and that power across town had been off since Friday.

Another resident of Dessie also said the town had no power and that the federal army had left. Both said they had heard Tigrayan fighters were in town but had not seen them. Both residents spoke on condition of anonymity.

War broke nearly a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million people have been forced to flee.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

In mid-October, the Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military said on Thursday there was heavy fighting there, but accused the Tigrayan forces of starting it.

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom Editing by Mark Heinrich, Frances Kerry and Toby Chopra)

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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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