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Vaccine tourism: Canadians fly south for shot as U.S. demand falls – CTV News

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With COVID-19 vaccine demand declining in the United States, some Canadians facing third-wave lockdowns are flying south to get inoculated, perhaps months earlier than they would be able to at home.

Jimmy Simmons, 37, saw friends in their 40s struggling to get a shot in the hard-hit Canadian province of Ontario. The Toronto businessman decided to spend a few weeks in New York City to meet clients and get vaccinated. He got his first of two shots on Tuesday.

Simmons, who works in real estate, is not yet eligible for a vaccine in Ontario. His girlfriend, a medical student who treats COVID-19 patients at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, has still only received one dose, he said.

“I want this (pandemic) to end, and in order for this end I need to get vaccinated,” Simmons said. “Just sitting at home in Ontario isn’t going to change anything.”

While almost a third of Americans have been fully vaccinated, Canada has inoculated only 3% of its almost 38 million people, though more than 34% have received a first dose.

Canada is allowing for a four-month gap between doses, while Americans are getting their second shots three or four weeks after the first to reach optimal protection much sooner.

The U.S vaccination campaign has reached a tipping point, with supply outstripping demand due to a combination of factors including skepticism about the vaccines. The number of Americans seeking vaccines dropped by a third in recent weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That is encouraging Canadians to cross the border and tap into this oversupply without paying any fee, which means the U.S. government is paying for foreign travelers to get their COVID-19 shots. The White House declined to comment.

Simmons and others had little trouble getting vaccinated at no charge in the United States, where the government is now practically begging people to get the shots and several states do not require proof of residency.

The trick was to fly because land crossing has been closed to non-essential traffic since March of 2020.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged those who are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it was a matter of “life or death.”

Everyone age 16 or older can get vaccinated in the United States, while in Ontario, most adults 18 and up will not be eligible for a first dose until May 24.

‘REALLY EASY’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by the end of September. Andrew D’Amours, 31, of Quebec City, said that could mean “another half pandemic” without getting inoculated.

He flew to Dallas and got vaccinated on April 10. With his business partner at the Flytrippers https://flytrippers.com travel website, D’Amours booked an appointment for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine online.

“It took a couple clicks. We got an appointment in a grocery store pharmacy and we booked flights for the next day, Friday, and on Saturday morning we were vaccinated,” D’Amours said.

While D’Amours used hotel and flight points, he estimated a weekend trip to Dallas – if two people share costs – could be as low as C$750 ($611) each. He flew directly from Montreal.

David, 37, an executive from Ontario, said he and his girlfriend got vaccinated without appointments at the Ellis Davis Field House site in Dallas, after showing a Texas hotel address.

When the couple went back for their second shot, “there was no one there,” he said. “It’s immoral that they may be throwing shots out while people are dying of COVID,” he said.

Americans have been sharing vaccines with Canadians in other ways. Truck drivers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan are receiving jabs in North Dakota, while Alaska’s governor has offered surplus shots to a neighboring Canadian town to help reopen the border sooner.

While it is not known how many Canadians are traveling for U.S. vaccines, several people on Simmons’ packed flight to New York told him they would get inoculated, and D’Amours has fielded several queries from others interested in doing so.

Canada still discourages foreign travel and requires a 14-day quarantine and testing upon re-entry. D’Amours said it still may be worth it.

“If you want to travel, if you want to be fully vaccinated, and you’re able to go and you’re going to do it safely, it is really easy,” he said. ($1 = 1.2271 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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