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Travel during the continuing PANDEMIC


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2 hours ago, Kargokings said:

No sure as things are changing rapidly but the new travel restrictions posted today by the US do not mention and needs for additional testing for visitors from Canada so perhaps reciprocity at work?

This testing is another knee-jerk reaction from a government without a clue.

I may test negative on arrival, but who is to say I wouldn't test positive 3 - 7 days after arrival ??

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17 hours ago, AIP said:

This testing is another knee-jerk reaction from a government without a clue.

“ The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has confirmed to True North that unvaccinated illegal border crossings are being allowed at Roxham Road, Quebec. 

According to CBSA spokesperson Sandra Boudreau, the Canadian government is accepting asylum and refugee claims “regardless of their vaccination status.”

https://tnc.news/2021/12/01/unvaccinated-migrants-being-welcomed-into-canada-at-roxham-road/

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1 hour ago, Jaydee said:

“ The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has confirmed to True North that unvaccinated illegal border crossings are being allowed at Roxham Road, Quebec. 

According to CBSA spokesperson Sandra Boudreau, the Canadian government is accepting asylum and refugee claims “regardless of their vaccination status.”

https://tnc.news/2021/12/01/unvaccinated-migrants-being-welcomed-into-canada-at-roxham-road/

nuff said.

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Canadian airports warn of 'chaos' amid new COVID-19 testing rules

Anna Mehler Paperny and Allison Lampert

 

TORONTO -- Canada's plan to require novel coronavirus tests for all but U.S. arrivals on international flights risks causing "chaos" and long lines if all passengers are expected to get tested at airports, industry groups said.

The move, announced Tuesday, comes as the travel season kicks into gear and could stretch airport resources as well as testing holiday-makers' patience, they said.

Daniel Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, said airports cannot test all overseas arrivals on-site without long wait times.

 

Coronavirus Coverage

 

"Do we really want people waiting for hours for a test in a customs hall?" he asked by phone on Wednesday.

"We want to avoid chaos. And we want to ensure that travelers who have booked trips are comfortable to travel."

Canada on Tuesday said it will require people arriving internationally by air, except from the United States, to take a COVID-19 test, seeking to halt the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Currently, only randomly selected passengers from international flights are tested at airports by private companies the government contracts.

The announcement came as the country's aviation sector, battered by the pandemic, had been looking forward to a stronger holiday season this year.

Canadian public health authorities did not say Wednesday when the policy will come into effect, who will administer the tests or whether the tests will be administered on-site or through take-home kits.

Airports are pushing for the latter.

Tori Gass, a spokesperson for Toronto's Pearson International Airport - Canada's largest - said in an email that "a combination of onsite and off-airport testing must be considered to accommodate the volume of tests contemplated."

Some travellers, meanwhile, who had rushed to book trips amid loosening restrictions just weeks before, were having second thoughts.

"I know various clients who have decided to cancel and are now looking at what refunds they'll be able to get," said Marty Firestone with Travel Secure insurance, adding that the travel landscape had been getting better.

"Now we've taken two steps back," he said.

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BY EARLY NEXT WEEK, CANADIANS AND ALL OTHER FOREIGN VISITORS WHO FLY TO THE UNITED STATES WILL NEED TO GET A COVID-19 TEST NO LATER THAN 24 HOURS BEFORE THEIR DEPARTURE.

Memo makes no mention of land borders

  • Calgary Herald
  • 3 Dec 2021
  • JAMES MCCARTEN

WASHINGTON •Byearly next week, Canadians and all other foreign visitors who fly to the United States will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than 24 hours before their departure.

U.S. President Joe Biden is slashing the current 72-hour testing window for fully vaccinated travellers as part of a suite of public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of the highly mutated Omicron variant.

“We're pulling out all the stops to get people maximum protection from this pandemic,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a briefing Thursday in advance of Biden's afternoon announcement.

“Our view and belief, and the belief of our medical team, is that we have the tools to keep people safe. We're executing on a robust plan that builds off of all the actions we've taken to date — we are not starting from scratch here.”

A White House background memo makes no mention of land borders, or whether fully vaccinated Canadians who drive south would be required to show a test result. Currently, no such test is required to cross into the U.S. by land.

Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto, said he's been run off his feet in recent weeks as clients seek clarity on the everchanging constellation of travel rules — and he expects that to continue given the latest changes.

Firestone said he's already heard from clients who say they're having trouble finding an affordable antigen test that has a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, forcing them to pay a premium for quicker testing options.

“They called Shoppers (Drug Mart) and they say they can't get it back to you quick enough that you'll have it guaranteed for sure before you hop on an 8 a.m. flight,” Firestone said.

“So they're being forced to go to private health clinics where the cost of a rapid test, to get it back in 15 minutes, is $350, if you can believe it.”

Psaki was asked Thursday about the potential challenges of a 24-hour window and said the White House is taking the issue under consideration, but couldn't say immediately whether there would be any exceptions.

She also pointed out that there are still more questions than answers about the dangers of Omicron, making it difficult to anticipate future changes to international travel restrictions.

“I wouldn't expect the lifting of restrictions before we know more about the variant,” Psaki said.

“We will continue to evaluate if additional restrictions need to be put in place. None of these are meant to be permanent. None of them are meant to be a punishment.”

Canada, meanwhile, has for now exempted U.S. visitors from its stringent new rules, which require all other foreign air travellers to get tested upon arrival and self-isolate while awaiting the results.

Canada, which began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to enter the country back in September, continues to require everyone who's had a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine, including Canadians, to also provide proof of a recent negative COVID test.

Travellers are developing a severe case of regulatory whiplash, Firestone said.

“They are mentally fatigued. It plays mind games with you,” he said.

OUR VIEW AND BELIEF ... IS THAT WE HAVE THE TOOLS TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE.

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For those of you travelling to the US, when you return you need to be tested within 72 hours of your scheduled departure time. Most people think they need a PCR test, and while that is one test you can get, you can also get others, such as NAAT tests (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) which are available at selected Walgreens - the test is called "Go Now" - for free.

https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/flying-canada-checklist/covid-19-testing-travellers-coming-into-canada

https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/covid19/testing?ban=covid_vanity_testing

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Racism is behind new travel rules, group says

 

  • Calgary Herald
  • 8 Dec 2021
  •  
img?regionKey=yOqEF9C3cR1WJWzzbMggOA%3d%3d Michael Embaie

The president of the African Community Association of Calgary says its members feel hurt and believe it's important for the federal government to address what they say is subtle racism behind Canada's new travel rules.

Michael Embaie is also a parttime professor in the University of Calgary's Faculty of Social Work and has worked as a consultant on immigration for the United Nations and the federal government.

He says he appreciates Canada's effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to limit the spread of the new Omicron variant. But the federal government needs to explain why some rules are being enforced with a different measuring stick for African countries.

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 before quarantining.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has said the government exempted the United States from the initial ban because it was testing travellers departing the country.

Embaie says South Africa was also testing, and refusal to accept the results of the country's tests is one example of how racism is present in politics.

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Keepin' the faith....

The Globe and Mail reports in its Monday edition that Canada's airlines are urging the federal government to relieve them of the responsibility for approving passenger applications for religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The Globe's Eric Atkins writes that the National Airlines Council of Canada says the government should be in charge of approving or rejecting faith-based travel requests from people who are not vaccinated against the deadly virus. "Individual companies in the private sector should not be responsible for determining whether a person's religious beliefs are 'sufficient' to merit an exemption from a federally mandated obligation related to public health, nor do companies have the means to evaluate a person's religious convictions," says the letter. The airlines are reacting to a new federal rule, effective as of Nov. 30, that requires all air and rail passengers older than 11 who are travelling within Canada or leaving the country to show proof they are fully vaccinated. Travellers whose "sincere religious belief" prevents them from being vaccinated are exempt from the rule. Passengers seeking religious exemptions must apply to their airlines three weeks before travelling.

 

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Ryanair Boss Calls for Ban on ‘Idiot’ Anti-Vaxxers

Sat Dec18, 2021. - Bloomberg News
By Charlotte Ryan

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Ryanair Holdings Plc’s Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary thinks only vaccinated passengers should be allowed to fly, according to the Telegraph.

The newspaper said that the European airline chief pushed back against compulsory vaccine programs being rolled out in Austria and Germany in an interview. Instead, governments should “make life difficult” for people who refuse to take the vaccine without good reason. 

“If you’re not vaccinated, you shouldn’t be allowed in the hospital, you shouldn’t be allowed to fly, you shouldn’t be allowed on the London Underground, and you shouldn’t be allowed in the local supermarket or your pharmacy either,” he said. 

The omicron variant has once again dashed the travel sector’s hopes for recovery, as a fresh wave of restrictions leads passengers to cancel or hold off on booking trips. O’Leary said Ryanair expects to fly 10% fewer passengers in December as a result, according to the newspaper. 

He said he also expects the first few months of the year to be weak if there’s continued uncertainty over restrictions, or if new measures are imposed. 

The outspoken CEO already hit the headlines earlier this week, as Ryanair used its Twitter account to mock U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Christmas parties in Downing Street. The image listed mock government responses to coronavirus alert levels, ranging from “Small gathering with wine and cheese” to “Full on rave.” 

O’Leary was unrepentant according to the Telegraph, saying “You get promoted around here for upsetting Johnson and his half-witted idiots.”

He criticized the U.K. government for panicking over the omicron variant when other European countries don’t seem to have the same concerns, and said this would likely prevent people from traveling over Christmas due to the uncertainty. 

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Omicron signals from Denmark, which has tracked COVID variants as closely as any country in the world, "have never been more concerning," The Washington Post reports from Copenhagen: 

  • "Omicron positives are doubling nearly every two days. The country is setting one daily case record after another. ... And scientists say the surge is just beginning."
  • "A just-published paper from the institute and other researchers described a Christmas party attended by about 150 people. Most were vaccinated. And yet 71 tested positive for omicron."

Between the lines: We are about to go off the rails.

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27 minutes ago, conehead said:

I’m afraid you are correct. 😕

Ontario stats are spiralling upwards at a frightening pace. I think the problem is no longer the “daily death count” but hospital capacity. At the present rate Ontario could be over 10,000 cases a day by Christmas, in which case we can probably all kiss Xmas 2021 get togethers goodbye.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/tracking-every-case-of-covid-19-in-canada-1.4852102

433CA7FC-B407-4F4E-8AC0-96363F79BA15.jpeg

Edited by Jaydee
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Canada's vaccine mandate for foreign crews a headache for European airlines

'Carriers will need to find workarounds in order to comply with the Canadian entry requirement'

Sun Dec 19, 2021 - National Post
by Allison Lampert and David Shepardson

European airlines are walking an increasingly fine line to meet both foreign inoculation and local privacy requirements, as more countries require flight crews to be vaccinated against COVID-19, carriers say.

Canada is slated on Jan. 15 to end an exemption that allowed entry of unvaccinated foreign flight crews, joining others that have vaccine mandates for pilots and passengers alike.

That’s creating a logistical headache for European carriers, who are unable to ask for their employees’ vaccination status since they are bound to strict data protection laws in Europe, a spokesperson for the trade group Airlines For Europe (A4E) said.

“Carriers will need to find workarounds in order to comply with the Canadian entry requirement,” A4E spokesperson Jennifer Janzen said by email.

U.S. carriers like United Airlines require their cabin crew to be fully vaccinated, while rivals like American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have delayed the effective date of vaccine mandates until 2022 for employees.

Airlines, which have suffered steep losses due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and bans, are blaming a patchwork of shifting rules for increased red-tape and depressed demand for international travel.

Airlines expect to see more inoculation mandates for crew as the fast-spreading Omicron variant forces governments to tighten border restrictions.

“We now see that more and more countries are mandating or considering immunization of flight crews,” said KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in a statement.

The carrier identified intercontinental flights to about 10 destinations where crew are currently not exempt from vaccine requirements.

As more countries demand proof of inoculation from everyone on planes, international flights will no longer be practical without vaccinated crews, said a spokesperson for Germany’s Lufthansa AG which can’t obligate its personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Canada, which implored residents on Wednesday not to leave the country due to Omicron, is expected to announce on Friday that it will again require people returning from short foreign trips to submit a negative COVID-19 test.

Still, some countries give foreign flight crews a pass from vaccination rules aimed at international travellers, as recommended by the U.N.’s aviation agency.

International flight crews are exempted from U.S. requirements that all non-U.S. citizens traveling from abroad be vaccinated. Transport Canada said in a statement it is working closely “with public health officials on the vaccination requirements impacting international aircrew.”

Since KLM does not require crew members to be inoculated or share their vaccination status, employees must instead seek a generalized “travel restriction” so they are not scheduled to fly to a destination with entry requirements they cannot meet, the carrier said.

“Managers do not gain insight into the reason for the restriction,” the airline said in the emailed statement. “Only in this way we can continue to fill in the rosters properly and keep our operation feasible.”

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Advisor: Omicron doubles or triples infection risk while flying

Omicron is rapidly spreading just as more travellers take to the skies for yearend holidays and family reunions.

382322128.jpg?resize=770%2C513
Business class may be safer than more densely packed economy cabins, said David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 carriers worldwide [File: Bloomberg]
By Angus WhitleyBloomberg
Published On 22 Dec 202122 Dec 2021
 

Aircraft passengers are twice or even three times more likely to catch Covid-19 during a flight since the emergence of the omicron variant, according to the top medical adviser to the world’s airlines.

The new strain is highly transmissible and has become dominant in a matter of weeks, accounting for more than 70% of all new cases in the U.S. alone. While hospital-grade air filters on modern passenger jets make the risk of infection much lower on planes than in crowded places on the ground such as shopping malls, omicron is rapidly spreading just as more travelers take to the skies for year-end holidays and family reunions.

Business class may be safer than more densely packed economy cabins, said David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 carriers worldwide. As before, passengers should avoid face-to-face contact and surfaces that are frequently touched, and people sitting near to each other should try not to be unmasked at the same time during meals, he said.

Powell, former chief medical officer at Air New Zealand Ltd., spoke with Bloomberg News on Tuesday about flying during the pandemic.

Here’s an edited transcript.

What are the risks of infection during a flight?

Whatever the risk was with delta, we would have to assume the risk would be two to three times greater with omicron, just as we’ve seen in other environments. Whatever that low risk – we don’t know what it is – on the airplane, it must be increased by a similar amount.

What should passengers do to minimize the risks?

Avoid common-touch surfaces, hand hygiene wherever possible, masks, distancing, controlled-boarding procedures, try to avoid face-to-face contact with other customers, try to avoid being unmasked in flight, for meal and drink services, apart from when really necessary. The advice is the same, it’s just that the relative risk has probably increased, just as the relative risk of going to the supermarket or catching a bus has increased with omicron.

What about masks at meal times?

For a two-hour flight, it’s pretty easy to say, ‘just keep your mask on the whole time.’ But if it’s a 10-hour flight, it becomes pretty unreasonable to ask people not to eat and drink. What most airlines have been doing is encouraging, but not insisting, on customers trying to stagger their mask-off periods a little bit.

In simple terms, two people masked have minimal transmission from one to the other. If one of you removes your mask, then that person’s at greater risk of transmitting and at slightly greater risk of receiving. But if both of you remove then obviously, there’s no barrier there and you can freely transmit one to the other.

Would it be safest not to fly at all?

The greatest protection you can give yourself is to be vaccinated and boosted. The protection that you give yourself from an extra mask or a different type of mask, or not flying at all, frankly, is probably less than the benefit you would get from just being fully boosted. There’s a sort of a rule of thumb starting to appear, that essentially omicron loses you one vaccine dose of benefit. So, two doses against omicron is about similar protection to one dose against delta. That’s not established in hard science, but it roughly seems to correlate with what’s coming out in studies.

Is it safe for healthy passengers if an omicron case is sitting on the plane?

It’s an enclosed space, but it’s a leaky box, and we pressurize it by putting a huge airflow on one end of it, and then having an exhaust valve out the other end. So you’re sitting in a very high-flow airflow environment. It is an enclosed space, but that doesn’t shout ‘risk’ to me. An Irish pub with a fan in the corner shouts ‘risk’ to me, or a gymnasium with a whole lot of people shouting and grunting and sweating. But any flight you take does involve airports as well, which are a little bit less controlled. So, there is risk there. What can you do? Vaccination, testing, mask-wearing, distancing. Are surgical masks better than cloth masks? Yes, probably. On average, maybe 10-20%.

Most of the documented cases of spread in flight are from way back in March 2020 – before we had testing, before we had masks, before we had organized boarding procedures, before there was a high degree of awareness about not flying if you were unwell.

What about leaving middle seats on rows empty?

It’s incredibly appealing, intuitively. It does give a greater physical distance between you and the next person. But we haven’t seen that actually deliver a whole lot of benefit. But if there’s some cross airflow from the aisle to the window, or the window to the aisle, and you remove the person from the middle seat, you’ve helped the person who would have been in the middle seat. You probably haven’t helped the person in the next seat a whole lot, because it’s likely to drift across without the obstruction of that first person.

Should cabin crew wear full protective clothing, such as body suits and face shields?

Probably not. There hasn’t been a lot of passenger-to-crew transmission throughout Covid. There has been some, but it’s very, very small numbers. It’s tended to be passenger-to-passenger or crew-to-crew. And again, very small numbers of crew-to-passenger. Let’s just be stringent about the measures already in place, and wait until we have a bit more data on omicron.

What are the risks of infection at the airport?

The requirements for airflows on board are much more stringent than they are for airport buildings generally. The protections for the airline cabin are: everybody stays seated, facing the same direction, there are these physical barriers that are in the way, you have a high degree of airflow that’s by and large from ceiling to floor, minimal drift along the airplane, a little bit more drift across the airplane. Roughly 50% of the airflow is fresh from outside, 50% is recirculated, but when it’s recirculated, it’s HEPA-filtered, so it’s clean. Most of those aren’t present in the airport phase. You’ve got much more random movement, much more potential for face-to-face contact, you’ve got generally reduced airflows. Airport ventilation rates are a 10th, maybe, of what they are on the airplane.

What about children on the flight? How should families manage them?

The risk of severe illness to small children themselves from traveling is low, just because the risk of severe Covid is so low for children. It’s one of the unanswered questions with omicron. The risk is not so much to them. The risk is that they may be mildly infected, not know it, and potentially be spreading whilst they’re traveling. And so that is a risk. Getting them to keep a mask on is hard. The smaller they are, the harder that’s going to be.

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13 hours ago, Kargokings said:

Why would you suggest that? Surely you have been offered guidance in the past that you chose not to follow.

Every study has concluded that travel per se contributes little to the spread of the virus. It is close and prolonged interaction with others without adequate protection....ie; community spread.

This "reprimand" is once again political optics; "Canadians will not listen to us if elected representatives ignore our guidance ".

You live in a multi-family condo in downtown Brampton but have the opportunity to stay in a single-family home on a 5 acre estate in Florida. Where do you think you'd be safer?

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2 hours ago, Kargokings said:

Still do as I say rather than do as I do.  
Entitled still fits as it did last year for those who skirted travel restrictions.  

"Skirted".....does that refer to understanding and complying with all restrictions; for example....flying into US but returning (via the US) by automobile?

"Entitlement" is not a pejorative. But I acknowledge; not everyone is entitled.

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A quick note that there appears to be a very high response in Florida to the suggestion of testing before gathering.

I passed by a free testing site in Ft.Myers this morning and there was a significant number of cars snaking through the parking lot.

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16 hours ago, UpperDeck said:

A quick note that there appears to be a very high response in Florida to the suggestion of testing before gathering.

That's true everywhere I think.

The are only really reliable at testing for positive results.  If it says positive then you probably do have covid. 

If it says negative then you might be virus free but you also might be in the early or late stages of an infection where there is not enough virus to trigger a positive and you're much less infectious.  This latter point has been raised by several Chief Medical Officers in the last day or two to highlight that if haven't had any symptoms then do the test right before you go to your party instead of doing it a day or two before. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/opinion/rapid-tests-omicron-britain.html   

 

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9 minutes ago, Specs said:

That's true everywhere I think.

The are only really reliable at testing for positive results.  If it says positive then you probably do have covid. 

If it says negative then you might be virus free but you also might be in the early or late stages of an infection where there is not enough virus to trigger a positive and you're much less infectious.  This latter point has been raised by several Chief Medical Officers in the last day or two to highlight that if haven't had any symptoms then do the test right before you go to your party instead of doing it a day or two before. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/opinion/rapid-tests-omicron-britain.html   

 

Specs....I recently was confronted by a report of a "positive" result from a rapid antigen. Not many days earlier, I had a "negative" PCR ...98% accuracy.....and for the 8 days preceding the antigen test, I only had contact with two people one of whom was my wife who tested negative when I tested positive. I immediately reached out to the other person to report the result. My wife then administered a similar rapid test which generated a negative result. I had high confidence that my first test was a "false positive". I returned to that testing site. They refused to re-test. I went directly to a different testing site ( government-authorized) and obtained another test which was again negative. 

 I wrote a letter of complaint to SwiftHealth which is selling testing services to the public knowing they generate almost 30% in "false positives" without any recourse ( or refund!). A re-test at my expense if confirmatory was not burdensome but would have saved me (and others) a lot of unnecessary anxiety.

The other contact referenced chose to get a PCR. He was also negative.

No one said it was going to be easy!😁

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