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Be ‘ready to pivot’ domestic holiday travel plans amid rapidly spreading omicron variant, medical experts say
The rapidly spreading omicron coronavirus variant means Canadians should be “ready to pivot” their travel plans within the country during this holiday season, said medical experts studying COVID-19.
“If [you] can avoid travel, avoid it,” said Dr. Peter Juni, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “We just need to really seriously cut down on our contact.”
And to those who’ve already purchased plane or train tickets for domestic travel, he said he has one question: “Can you cancel still?”
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said the omicron variant caseload could “rapidly escalate” in the coming days, and that it’s on its way to becoming the dominant coronavirus strain in Canada.
It’s considered highly contagious and can infect those who have been vaccinated, but early reports suggest it may pose a less severe risk of hospitalization.
Juni noted that even those who have been vaccinated twice may be at risk of getting infected or transmitting the virus within the confines of a plane or train.
David Naylor, co-chair of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, suggested people who do decide to travel in coming weeks exercise more caution and look for alternatives to their modes of travel to avoid being in cramped quarters.
“I completely understand that, for all kinds of personal reasons, many Canadians will want to travel in the next three weeks,” Naylor said in an email to CBC News. “If you can avoid travel or get where you want to go in a private car with a limited number of trusted passengers, so much the better.” Read more on this story here.
Lighting up the holidays
(Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks past a light arch set up for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays in front of snow-covered trees on the outskirts of Moscow on Tuesday.
The federal government will announce new and expanded travel measures today in a bid to limit the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant. Multiple sources told CBC News and Radio-Canada that the government is expected to renew an advisory against non-essential international travel, which had been in place for most of the COVID-19 pandemic but was quietly lifted in October. Sources say much stronger measures were discussed with premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a Tuesday evening call. The proposed measures included whether to implement a ban on all non-essential foreign travellers into Canada, including from the United States, and stricter quarantine and testing measures for travellers who are allowed into Canada, including returning Canadians and permanent residents, but no decision was reached. Read the full story here.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled a fiscal and economic update Tuesday that commits billions of dollars in new spending to help Canada ride out a relentless health crisis. While the government made a number of big-ticket promises during the last election campaign, this relatively short 96-page document is focused on the fight against COVID-19 — something Freeland described as “our most important national project.” Major Liberal campaign commitments — such as new housing supports, health transfer hikes and climate change initiatives — have been put off until the spring budget as the government adopts an “omicron-centric” approach to governing in the short term, a senior government official told reporters at a briefing. Freeland’s fiscal update projects a $144.5-billion deficit for 2021-22 — an eye-popping figure that’s still $11 billion lower than the original forecast because of higher tax revenues and low uptake on some COVID-19 programs during the summer and fall months. Read more on Freeland’s fiscal and economic update.
Despite its completion nearly 16 months ago, a report into the June 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital hasn’t been publicly released. Fifty-eight people, including staff, visitors and patients, became infected before the outbreak was declared over on Aug. 14, 2020. Eleven patients died. CBC News obtained a copy of the report through a freedom-of-information request. It is the first public glimpse into what went on behind the scenes at the hospital during the outbreak, revealing how the virus spread and the factors that allowed for that. The report identifies missed diagnoses and missed opportunities for testing, and outlines how shared rooms, wandering patients and transfers of patients contributed to the spread of COVID-19. The report also reveals failures on the part of staff who dismissed subtle symptoms that later turned out to be linked to COVID-19 and who wore personal protective equipment improperly or did not wear it continuously when distancing was not possible. Read more on this story here.
A small town in northwestern Ontario is facing a big question: How to determine whether people in the community want to host a site that would store nearly 5.5 million spent nuclear fuel bundles from across Canada. The issue has been ongoing for years in Ignace, with a population of about 1,300, 250 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. But now, it’s one of two communities left in the search by Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization to find a host community for its proposed deep geological repository. The non-profit organization is responsible for coming up with a long-term management plan for Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The final two sites for the proposed storage facility are in Ignace and South Bruce, about 100 kilometres from Kitchener. Read the full story here.
The soon-to-be released Spider-Man: No Way Home sees the web slinger battling a rogues’ gallery of opponents from previous films. So how did we get here? Call it a combination of corporate synergy and comic book theory. Comic writers have long enjoyed exploring the idea of parallel Earths — where heroes’ stories played out differently. (In Marvel there are a lot of them.) What No Way Home refers to as “the multiverse” opens the door to an army of favourite foes, with the side benefit of fuelling a fan frenzy. As CBC’s Eli Glasner writes, the film offers a satisfying conclusion to the three-movie arc that saw a web-slinging kid from Queens, N.Y., become one of Marvel’s most critical characters. Read the full review here.
Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Nasrin Husseini spent her childhood in Iran, a refugee from Taliban-held Afghanistan, where she was prevented from seeking an education. She became determined not only to go to school — but to help other refugees. Now a refugee advocate and researcher at the University of Guelph, Husseini is among an annual list of 100 exceptional women published by the BBC. The broadcaster says the 2021 list highlights the bravery and achievements of Afghan women following the resurgence of the Taliban, who retook control of the country in August. Husseini says she hopes to continue supporting women in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees living in countries like Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia. She hopes her inclusion on the list will help her to raise money for the charities she works with in Canada as well. Read more about Husseini here.
First Person: Christmas is a painful reminder of the family I left behind when I immigrated to Canada
Like many other people who live far away from their childhood homes, Iryn Tushabe says the holidays multiply her feelings of homesickness. Read her column here.
Front Burner: How Succession keeps winning
HBO’s Succession came out of the gate quietly back in 2018. And even as critics raved over its stylish production, intricate plotting and viciously sharp humour, it took a while to catch on. Now it’s easily one of the most influential and discussed TV shows in a long time.
Structured like a chamber drama set in the corridors of elite power and influence, it revolves around the highly successful but highly dysfunctional Roy clan and their sprawling right-wing media empire. The central conflict is between the brilliant and ruthless patriarch, Logan Roy, and his ambitious but flawed children, each vying for his love and attention while at the same time plotting to dethrone him.
This week, its third season came to a dramatic end, so today on Front Burner we talk to writer and showrunner of CBC’s Pop Chat podcast, Amil Niazi and Vulture’s Jackson McHenry on what makes Succession so compelling, and how it’s become a cultural institution. Warning: this episode contains major spoilers.
28:30How Succession keeps winning
Today in history: December 15
1913: Toronto’s newest vaudeville house, the 2,200-seat Loew’s Yonge St. Theatre (now the Elgin), opens. Owner Marcus Loew brought in Irving Berlin to sing some of his favourites to a standing-room-only crowd.
1964: The House of Commons votes 163-78 to adopt the red and white maple leaf design as Canada’s flag.
1988: The Supreme Court of Canada strikes down provisions of Quebec’s language law, Bill 101, which required that all signs, posters and commercial advertising in the province be only in French.
2001: Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens to the public after being closed for safety reasons in 1990. A massive engineering effort, costing around $40 million, reduced the tower’s tilt. The tower started to lean shortly after it was built in 1173.