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US plans new system for international travel, contract tracing rules

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The United States is developing a “new system for international travel” that will include contact tracing for when it eventually lifts travel restrictions that bar much of the world’s population from entering the country, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board the administration does not plan to immediately relax any travel restrictions citing COVID-19 Delta variant cases in the United States and around the world.

Reuters first reported early in August that the White House was developing vaccine entry requirements that could cover nearly all foreign visitors. The White House previously confirmed it was considering mandating vaccines for foreign international visitors.

“The American people need to trust that the new system for international travel is safer even as we – I mean at that point – we’ll be letting in more travelers,” Zients said on Wednesday, adding it will eventually replace existing restrictions.

“We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” Zients said.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at the same meeting that the spike in COVID-19 cases is preventing lifting international travel restrictions. “We want to move to a metrics-based system,” Raimondo said. “Before we can do that, we have to get a better handle on the domestic situation, which requires us to get everyone vaccinated.”

Zients said the new plan would replace the current restrictions and would be “safer, stronger and sustainable.” He did not lay out specific metrics for when the administration might relax restrictions.

“Vaccination rates matter here at home and other countries,” Zients said, urging travel companies like airlines to quickly mandate employee vaccines.

Some industry officials fear the Biden administration may not lift travel restrictions for months or potentially until 2022.

The extraordinary U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. Numerous other countries have been added, most recently India, in May.

The administration wanted to lift travel restrictions “as soon as we can,” Zients said.

CONTACT TRACING

Zients said the new system will include collecting contact tracing data from passengers traveling into the United States to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact travelers if exposed to COVID-19.

The Trump administration in 2020 blocked an effort to require airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers after some senior administration officials cited privacy concerns.

Zients said they want the new system to be “ready to press go on” when it is safe to lift restrictions. “We get the importance of this,” Zients said.

The United States currently bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The United States separately bars non-essential travel by most non-U.S. citizens at U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada.

Critics say restrictions no longer make sense because some countries with high rates of COVID-19 infections are not on the restricted list while some countries on the list have the pandemic under control.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernadette Baum and Aurora Ellis)

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Surges in coronavirus cases in several U.S. states this week, along with staffing and equipment shortages, are exacting a mounting toll on hospitals and their workers even as the number of new admissions nationwide ebbs, leading to warnings at some facilities that care would be rationed.

Montana, Alaska, Ohio, Wisconsin and Kentucky experienced the biggest rises in new COVID-19 hospitalizations during the week ending Sept. 10 compared with the previous week, with Montana’s new hospitalizations rising by 26 per cent, according to the latest report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday.

In Alaska, the influx is so heavy that the state’s largest hospital is no longer able to provide life-saving care to every patient who needs it, according to an open letter from the medical executive committee of Providence Alaska Medical Center this week.

“If you or your loved one need specialty care at Providence, such as a cardiologist, trauma surgeon, or a neurosurgeon, we sadly may not have room now,” the letter read. “There are no more staffed beds left.”

Women run past an exhibition of white flags representing Americans who have died of COVID-19, placed over 20 acres of the National Mall, in Washington, on Friday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Some hospital workers have become so overwhelmed by the fresh wave of COVID-19 cases — a year and half after the pandemic first reached the United States — that they have left for jobs at retailing and other non-medical fields, Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety the American Hospital Association, told Reuters.

At the same time, distribution and other issues are leaving some hospitals short of oxygen supplies desperately needed to help patients struggling to breathe, Foster said.

On Friday, the hospital association held a webinar for its members on how to conserve oxygen, an effort to address a 200 per cent jump in demand at many hospitals, she said.

“There is a shortage of drivers with the qualifications to transport oxygen, and a shortage of the tanks needed to transport it.”

While there are some breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, Foster said most of the hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated.

New hospital admissions are still surging in several mostly rural and Midwestern states, even as the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals daily in the entire United States slipped to about 10,685 on Tuesday after cresting around 13,028 in late August, according to the latest data from the CDC.


What’s happening across Canada

Calgary doctor worries about triage amid COVID-19 surge

2 days ago

Emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond says the crush of seriously ill people from COVID-19 may force doctors to make life or death decisions for patients. ‘We never wanted to be in this position,’ he said. (Nancy Walters/CBC) 1:09

  • Health authority, N.B. working to meet demand for COVID-19 tests amid surge in cases.
  • Outbreaks are ‘a weird moment’ for P.E.I. Here’s one expert’s advice on how to cope.
  • N.S. reports 18 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

What’s happening around the world

As of Friday afternoon, more than 227.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

The British government announced a major simplification of its rules for international travel on Friday, heeding complaints from travellers and businesses that its regulations aimed at staving off the spread of COVID-19 were cumbersome and ineffective.

Testing requirements will be eased for fully vaccinated arrivals to England from open countries, who will no longer have to take a COVID-19 test before travelling. Travellers will still need a test after landing, but from the end of October an inexpensive lateral flow test will suffice, rather than a more sensitive — but pricier — polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The new rules apply to travellers from Canada.

In the Americas, an influential panel of expert outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted against approving COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans, but endorsing them for those 65 and over and for those at high risk of severe disease.

The decision marked a huge step back from the sweeping plan proposed by the Biden administration a month ago to offer booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to nearly all Americans eight months after they get their second dose.

In Asia, Cambodia is vaccinating children ages six to 11 so students can safely return to schools that have been closed for months due to the coronavirus. Prime Minister Hun Sen opened the campaign Friday, with his grandchildren and young family members of other senior officials getting their shots.

Children wait before they receive a shot of the Sinovac vaccine outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Friday. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of a nationwide campaign to give COVID-19 vaccinations to children between the ages of six and 11. (Heng Sinith/The Associated Press)

Cambodia already has been vaccinating older children, and Hun Sen says he ordered health officials to study if children ages three to five can be vaccinated. Nearly 72 per cent of Cambodia’s almost 17 million people have received at least one COVID-19 shot since vaccinations began in February. 

India gave a record 22.6 million vaccinations on Friday, three times the average daily total during the past month. The health minister called the vaccine milestone a birthday gift for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who turned 71 and was criticized heavily for India’s dramatic rise in infections and deaths in April and May.

India’s previous vaccination peak of 14.1 million was reached on Aug. 31, with a daily average of seven million doses in the last 30 days.

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'Trudeau is bad for Canada,' Singh says as Liberal leader asks progressives to unite – CBC.ca

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launched his most pointed attack yet on his Liberal opponent today, saying Justin Trudeau is a failed leader who is “bad for Canada.”

Trudeau, meanwhile, dismissed the NDP as an unserious option, saying the NDP has presented a vague plan to spend $200 billion more over the next five years while offering few details.

“We think Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada because he’s failed on the crises and made things worse, not better,” Singh said, condemning Trudeau for voting against non-binding NDP motions on pharmacare and long-term care homes.

Singh also pointed to higher greenhouse gas emissions and a tax system he said is skewed toward the “ultra rich.”

“He is bad for Canada. He was an abject failure,” Singh said of Trudeau.

WATCH: Singh says ‘Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada’

Jagmeet Singh: ‘Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada…Mr. O’Toole is also bad for Canada’

8 hours ago

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole are “bad for Canada.” He was asked by reporters if there’s any party he would not work with if Monday’s vote elects a minority government. 0:41

With just three days left in the 44th general election, Singh and Trudeau are scrambling to shore up support among the progressive voters who could decide which party governs the country after Monday’s vote.

Trudeau wants a majority government. Singh, meanwhile, is trying to avoid a repeat of the last election — which saw NDP support crater, leading to a loss of 15 seats.

Trudeau said a vote for the NDP would amount to a vote for the Conservatives because vote-splitting could put Erin O’Toole in the Prime Minister’s Office. Singh said left-wing voters shouldn’t fall for Liberal pressure tactics.

“The Liberal Party is not only the only party that can stop the Conservatives, but we’re also the only party with a real plan to get things done,” Trudeau said, pointing to experts who have criticized the NDP’s climate plan as unrealistic.

“Progressives are quite rightly worried. I know there are a lot of people out there who are torn. You don’t have to make an impossible choice and vote strategically. You can actually vote for the party that is going to stop the Conservatives and move forward with the strongest plan to get things done.”

Trudeau prompted this election last month, saying the opposition parties have blocked the Liberal agenda by delaying government bills and disrupting the work of parliamentary committees.

 WATCH: A roundup of where the leaders were on Day 34 of the campaign

A roundup of where the leaders were on Day 34 of the campaign

3 hours ago

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole were all in Ontario. People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is headed to Alberta. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet stayed in Quebec, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh toured Nova Scotia. 7:28

Since the election call, Trudeau has been asked over and over to explain why he’s sending Canadians to the polls during the fourth wave of the pandemic. The CBC Poll Tracker suggests some Liberal supporters soured on Trudeau after the campaign launch — and the majority government the party wanted may now be out of reach.

When asked Friday how he’d handle another minority government, Trudeau said he’s asking voters to return as many Liberal MPs as possible to prevent that outcome.

Singh dodged questions today about the concessions he’d try to extract from the next government in exchange for NDP support on confidence motions.

Singh said he hasn’t given this much thought because he’s running to be prime minister. Polls suggest the NDP will be hard pressed to do better than third place, let alone form a government.

Asked today why his campaign has failed to catch on with more voters, Singh said the election isn’t over.

“We’re working hard and the Liberals often take people’s votes for granted,” he said. “I’m always prepared to work hard.”

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U.S. senators push Biden to lift border closure with Canada – CBC.ca

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Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October.

The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans. Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

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