Why exempt the United States from the new travel restrictions? Federal authorities report low transmission of Omicron – National



Transport Minister Omar Alghabra upholds the decision not to extend new travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 in the United States, saying the government has “no significant reports on the transmission of this new variant (Omicron) to United States “

His comments come as the government implemented several new travel restrictions after the discovery of the Omicron variant. Under the new rules, anyone entering Canada from a country other than the United States will have to be tested upon arrival, then self-isolate and wait for their results.

“These measures are temporary to allow us to learn more about this variant, to learn more about its severity, and we will continually adapt based on the advice and information we get,” Alghabra said, speaking at the time. an interview with West Block host Mercedes Stephenson.

“There are very few reports of community transmission (of Omicron) in the United States. If that changes, we will change our metrics. “

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As of Friday, Canada had identified 12 cases of the Omicron variant in the country, while the United States had only reported 10 cases in total. However, there have been at least two known cases of community-based transmission in the United States – one in a fully vaccinated man in Minnesota who had recently traveled to New York City, and another in an individual in Hawaii with no recent travel history.

Meanwhile, Canada has put in place an even stricter set of rules for travelers from 10 African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt.

South Africa has reported thousands of new cases every day this week, and the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said 74% of the 249 samples sequenced in November were identified as Omicron.

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Foreign nationals who have stayed in these countries in the last 14 days are not permitted to enter Canada, and any Canadian returning from these countries will be required to be tested at the airport and will be required to self-quarantine while awaiting the results of the test. are is.

“We hear about community transmission in the United States. We hear about… community transmission in Europe, ”infectious disease specialist Dr Zain Chagla told Stephenson. The West Block.

“And so slapping some countries with travel bans and not banning everyone really doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Alghabra said there are still a number of requirements for travelers from the United States. They still need to follow the rules about pre-departure PCR testing, they need to be fully vaccinated and they could be subject to mandatory testing, he explained.

“Currently, today, we are doing 20,000 tests per day at our borders, both at land borders and at airport borders, at the entrance,” Alghabra said.

“We have the capacity to do tests. We are accelerating it. There is no doubt that this will expand our capacity that exists today, but we have acted quickly. “

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Testing policies are likely to be more effective than travel bans, according to Chagla.

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“Using an airport testing mitigation strategy is probably a long-term solution that makes the most sense,” he said.

“You could be in the United States or sub-Saharan Africa and face a similar risk, depending on what happens, of bringing the Omicron variant back to Canada. “

The new travel rules weren’t the only big COVID-19 announcement the government made this week. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended on Friday that Canadians over 50 should be given a COVID-19 booster – and that those aged 18 to 49 should also be offered six months after their second dose.

But according to Chagla, the benefits of keeping vaccines in Canada for booster shots are not as clear as the benefits of sharing them with other countries struggling to roll them out.

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“There are data for boosters. I’m not going to say there isn’t. There is data coming from Israel. There are randomized clinical trials that show that boosters can reduce symptomatic disease in some people, ”Chagla said.

“There may be population benefits to giving boosters in certain populations. “

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Canada Announces New Travel Measures to Address Spread of Omicron Virus Variant COVID-19

Canada Announces New Travel Measures to Address Spread of Omicron Virus Variant COVID-19

But, Chagla warned, Canada really needs to be “aware” that it “cannot store this vaccine.”

“As long as we’re connected to each other through travel, we’re going to be connected to each other through variants in one way or another,” he said.

“We are not safe until everyone is safe.”

In areas with low vaccination rates, the virus is more likely to spread, experts have repeatedly said. The more the virus spreads – and the more it replicates – the more likely it is to mutate.

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These mutations can sometimes be advantageous for the virus, for example, by making it more transmissible, or by teaching it to evade vaccines.

“In Africa, the vaccination rate is seven percent – seven percent compared to about 70 percent and above in Canada,” WHO adviser Dr Peter Singer said Thursday in an interview with Global News Thursday.

“It’s fertile ground for variations. “

That should be part of the equation as Canada contemplates its stimulus strategy, according to Chagla.

“There are many, many buyers who need this vaccine,” he said, “and a dose that ends up on Canadian soil is a dose that does not end up elsewhere in the world. “

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