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U.S. issues advice to those fully vaccinated, but no shift in Canada yet – CTV News

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New U.S. guidelines say people fully inoculated against COVID-19 can drop some precautions when gathering with others, but at least two provincial health ministers say existing public health advice holds for now.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that Americans who have waited two weeks since their second required shot can spend time with other immunized people indoors without masks or social distancing.

The same applies to gatherings by those at low-risk of severe disease, such as fully vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy grandchildren.

The U.S. guidelines recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks, avoid large gatherings and physically distance when in public.

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday that physical distancing and other public health guidelines will be around for some time.

He said about 15 per cent of B.C.’s eligible residents are expected to be immunized by the end of the month, which is “nothing like herd immunity.”

“The future is bright, but we can’t live the future right now. We’ve got to live the now right now.”

Dix does expect visiting restrictions to be loosened in B.C.’s long-term care homes this month as about 90 per cent of residents and staff have been vaccinated.

University of Alberta infectious diseases specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger said evidence on which the U.S. health agency based its advice is “very much in evolution” and such recommendations might not work everywhere.

Virus variants with the potential to break through vaccine protection are also a “wild card,” she said.

But Saxinger said the principles underlying the U.S. guidance make sense, especially since the initial vaccine rollout has targeted older individuals, many of whom have been kept away from their grandchildren for almost a year.

“They’re basically taking a balance-of-probabilities approach to say that if you’ve received vaccine, you should be highly protected against severe disease. Therefore this should be hopefully OK.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said her province is still recommending people take precautions with gatherings and will take its cues from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Ontario reported 1,631 new cases in its latest update, but said the higher-than-expected count was due to a system “data catch-up.” The seven-day average for new cases was at 1,155.

There were also 10 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

Ontario lifted stay-at-home orders in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay on Monday — the last three regions subject to the government’s strictest measures introduced two months ago.

Alberta also loosened some rules for banquet halls, community halls, conference centres, hotels, retail shops, performances and post-secondary sports, as hospitalizations stayed well below the provincial target of 450.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he believes it is safe enough to immediately ease more restrictions

The province reported 278 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths. Six cases of the more contagious variant were also detected, bringing that total to 659. There were 254 people in hospital.

And residents in five regions of Quebec, including the capital, were again able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms.

Restrictions remain in place in the Montreal area due to fear that variant cases will cause a spike in infections and hospitalizations.

Quebec reported 579 new cases in its update. New daily infections had been above 700 for the five previous days. The province also recorded nine more deaths.

All of New Brunswick shifted to a lower pandemic response level Monday. That means a circle of 15 regular contacts can socialize, up from 10. The Atlantic province had five new cases and 36 active ones.

Saxinger said a “judicious and slow” reopening is the safest approach.

She noted that many countries have seen their case counts come down, but the proportion of more contagious variants is higher, planting the seeds for a spike.

“We know that it’s possible that the variants can be responsible for another surge, that a variant surge is harder to contain and you need longer and more stringent restrictions to contain them.”

Also Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Thursday will be a “national day of observance” to commemorate the 22,000 people in Canada who have died from COVID-19 and to acknowledge all the ways the virus has changed our lives in the last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021

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U.S. confirms it will accept Canadian travellers with mixed vaccines – CBC.ca

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Canadians with mixed vaccines and U.S. travel plans can breathe a sigh of relief tonight. 

Following weeks of speculation, the United States confirmed late Friday it will accept mixed vaccines when new rules kick in on Nov. 8 requiring that foreign travellers entering the U.S. be fully vaccinated. 

Individuals inoculated with any combination of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization will be considered fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBC News.

WHO-approved vaccines include Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield. So travellers with any combination of these vaccines will be allowed to enter the U.S. 

The CDC does not recognize mixing COVID-19 vaccines but said it updated its guidance to reflect growing global acceptance of the practice. 

“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in an email. 

Ingrid and John Whyte of Toronto are set to fly to Florida to spend the winter at a condo they own in Naples, Fla. The snowbirds are relieved to hear the U.S. will accept their mixed vaccines. (Submitted by Ingrid Whyte)

Millions of Canadians have mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines. When the U.S. recently announced it would impose a vaccination requirement for travellers entering by both land and air, many Canadians with mixed doses worried they might soon be barred from entering the country. 

“We felt kind of blindsided,” said snowbird, Ingrid Whyte of Toronto. Following Canadian government guidance, she and her husband, John, each got one dose of Covishield and a second dose of Pfizer.

“We did everything that we were supposed to do in terms of getting vaccines,” Whyte said.

The couple had booked a flight to Florida for Nov. 17, but cancelled it due to concerns over their mixed vaccines. They’re now relieved to hear their vaccine combination won’t be an issue when entering the U.S. 

“We are thrilled,” Whyte said. “I wish it could have been a little sooner. It would have allowed people to plan a little bit more effectively. But in the long run, it’s great news.”

It’s also good news for Petar Sesar of London, Ont., who has a mix of Moderna and Pfizer.

Petar Sesar of London, Ont., was relieved to learn his vaccine mix of Moderna and Pfizer wouldn’t bar him from entering the U.S. to visit his fiancée, Mara Bakula, who lives in Cleveland. (Submitted by Petar Sesar)

Sesar’s fiancée, Mara Bakula, lives in Cleveland. Sesar welcomed news this week that the U.S. land border will reopen on Nov. 8 to non-essential travellers, as he prefers to drive instead of fly to Cleveland. 

However, he worried he might have no U.S. travel options come Nov. 8 if the country rejected his vaccine mix. 

“That was a very scary moment,” he said. “It felt like house arrest of sorts, like now I [may] have no option.”

Earlier this year, the CDC stated online that a mix of two mNRA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, would be accepted in “exceptional situations.” But Sesar didn’t rest easy until he learned that the CDC had approved his exact combination. 

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It is such a relief. I share the relief with millions of [Canadians].”

Where does the U.S. stand now on mixed vaccines?

Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.

Meanwhile, the CDC still maintains that “data on the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series are limited.”

But that could change. 

The U.S. recently conducted a study exploring the effectiveness of using a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot. 

This week, U.S. authorities met to review the data which so far suggests mixing vaccines is safe and effective.

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Canadian politicians warn of political violence after U.K. MP is stabbed to death – CBC.ca

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Shocked and saddened by the killing of a long-serving British MP on Friday, Canadian politicians say the threat of a similar incident in Canada appears to be growing.

David Amess, 69, was fatally stabbed around noon on Friday while meeting with constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, a town about 62 kilometres east of London.

The Conservative lawmaker had been a member of Parliament for 38 years.

“The MP who was murdered was doing something that we all do as members of Parliament,” said Lisa Raitt, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister.

“When it’s part of your job, and a fundamental part of your job, it really shook me up.”

For Canadian politicians who have faced harassment and threats of violence, Amess’s death was a startling reminder of the danger that can come with serving as an elected official.

“News like this … I saw this and it just really hit me in the gut,” said Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill.

Police in the U.K. have arrested a 25-year-old man in connection with Amess’s death. He has not been identified.

Rempel Garner said she’s experienced multiple instances of public harassment and received a death threat at her office during the summer election campaign. She said the political climate in Canada is experiencing an escalation of vitriol unlike anything she’s seen before in her 10 years as an MP.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said she was harassed and threatened with death during the summer election. ‘I’m not safe in public,’ she said. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“This last campaign, for me, I have never felt so unsafe,” Rempel Garner told CBC News. She said the next Parliament should do more to ensure the safety of its members.

“Something has changed and it has not changed for the good.”

‘Intensity’ of violence growing

The summer election campaign was marred by repeated incidents of violence and vandalism targeting candidates from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pelted with gravel at a campaign stop in London, Ont. as anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters doggedly followed his campaign.

Far-right extremist groups were also said to be more active than in any prior campaign.

“I’m pretty sure that the same groups of people that were attacking the prime minister on the campaign trail were the same people that were after me on the campaign trail,” Rempel Garner said.

Barbara Perry, a criminology professor who studies extremism at Ontario Tech University, said the campaign made it clear that the threat of political violence has become very real in Canada.

“The pattern is not new. I think the intensity and the breadth of the problem is different and changing,” Perry said. 

She said that while women and people of colour have long faced serious threats of violence in the political sphere, that danger appears to be more widespread now.

A vandalized campaign sign for Liberal candidate Dominic LeBlanc. (Instagram/Dominic LeBlanc)

“It seems as if that has broadened out to represent a risk to virtually anyone who runs for office or holds office now,” Perry said.

“I don’t know if it’s social media, I don’t know what it is,” Raitt said. She described the shift in tone as an “undercurrent of anger and a lack of respect for the job that’s being done.”

Former MP says better security needed at local offices

Raitt said she began taking extra safety precautions about halfway through her time in office, which ran from from 2008 to 2019. Those precautions included installing a panic button at her constituency office and rearranging the space to create obstacles that would make an attack more difficult.

She said those measures were meant to help protect her staff during visits from “very angry people who wanted action immediately.”

Raitt said current MPs would be wise to focus on security at their local offices rather than on Parliament Hill, where security is much more robust.

Perry also laid some blame at the feet of political parties and politicians. She said the embrace of attack-style politics may be fuelling some of the anger that is now threatening politicians themselves.

“The parties themselves have escalated the personalization of issues, blaming individual politicians rather than parties or processes,” she said.

“Even politicians themselves have to be very careful in their language so as not to enhance the kind of polarization that can lead to this sort of hostility and violence.”

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown

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Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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