Canadians are flocking to US border cities to take advantage of a travel loophole – and it’s creating lucrative opportunities on both sides of the closed border

Welcome to Canada sign
A “Welcome to Canada” sign at the US-Canada border.

  • Canadian tourists are driving up business in US border towns to avoid strict quarantines in Canada.
  • Those arriving in Canada by land can save as much as $2,000 (Canadian) by not having to quarantine in a hotel.
  • Transportation firms in cities like Buffalo, New York, are reaping the benefits with costly fares.
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Canadian tourists are once again stimulating the economies of American border cities and bringing back the “Buffalo shuffle” despite the border between the two countries remaining closed to non-essential travel.

Transportation companies in Buffalo, New York, are experiencing a long-awaited boom in business by catering to Canadians heading north, CBC is reporting, and the reason is a loophole that allows them to avoid mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantines when arriving back home.

Recently enacted travel restrictions in Canada require that residents returning by air quarantine in a hotel at their expense, up to $2,000 (Canadian), according to CBC. Canadians traveling across the land border, however, need only submit to a home quarantine while undergoing extensive testing for the coronavirus, in addition to providing a recent negative test to border guards.

Buffalo is one outpost that’s seen an uptick in Canadian visitors, but not directly from Canada. Visitors from the north have been arriving by air from parts of the US and making the last stretch of their journey home by land, crossing the world’s longest border by car.

One transportation company, Buffalo Limousine, told CBC that it transports an average of 50 Canadians per day and business has increased by 50%. The pandemic nearly decimated the company, along with countless businesses that relied on Canadian customers.

A Buffalo Limousine trip from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport across the border to Fort Erie, Ontario costs around $120 one-way for the 17-mile trip, CBC said.

Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York
The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, New York with Fort Erie, Ontario.

Public transportation options before the pandemic included Megabus Canada and Amtrak, which took passengers from Buffalo to Toronto with stops along the way. Both have stopped cross-border services during the pandemic, according to their websites.

Reviving the Buffalo shuffle

Prior to the pandemic, America’s neighbor to the north was more than willing to cross the southern border to save on everything from gasoline to airfare. Canadian visa holders also frequently visited the now-closed Consulate General of Canada in downtown Buffalo in order to apply for certain extensions that could only be done outside of the country, a trip known as the Buffalo shuffle.

But the US-Canada land border has been closed to non-essential travel since March as part of a mutual agreement between governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The US and Mexico have a similar agreement, though Americans can cross into Mexico with abandon thanks to the Latin American country’s lax entry and exit rules.

Ironically, US border restrictions prevent Canadians that aren’t also American citizens from entering by land so flying is the only option for many to enter the Land of the Free. A winter visitor to the US, for example, would have to fly from Canada to the US and then fly to a border town like Buffalo to drive back in to avoid quarantine.

The rules have created another niche industry in Canada that supplies short, cross-border flights so Canadians can take advantage of the loophole. CBC reported in February that many Canadians continued to flock to the US even after their government had enacted stricter travel restrictions, and one company even started offering international helicopter flights.

Great Lakes Helicopters operates 28-mile flights from St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls to Buffalo, which costs $1,500 (Canadian) plus tax, according to its website. Canadians can even drive to St. Catharines and have the company ship their cars across the border – cross-border trucking has not stopped during the pandemic – for between $700 and $1,600 (Canadian), depending on the size of the car.

Robinson R44 Helicopter
A Robinson R44 helicopter similar to the one used by Great Lakes Helicopters.

But temporarily gone are the days of Canadians driving across the border to an airport like Buffalo-Niagara International, Ogdensburg International, or Bellingham International, to avoid paying the high taxes levied on international flights from Canada to the US. Major airlines have largely pulled out of border airports during the pandemic, as a result of the border closure.

Allegiant Air packed up from Ogdensburg, New York, billed as an alternative to Canada’s capital of Ottawa just 60 miles to the north, according to 7 News. Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, an alternate to nearby Montreal, and Niagara Falls International Airport, an alternate to nearby Toronto, also saw some flights disappear during the pandemic, according to the Press-Republican and the Buffalo News.

But Southwest Airlines is preparing for the eventual easing of border restrictions and announced service to Bellingham, Washington, slated to launch sometime in 2021. Bellingham is just south of Vancouver and could attract British Columbia residents seeking to head to points south on the cheap.

Canadians seem eager to flee to the US by any means necessary, in contrast to the pandemic’s peak when Americans were shunned from Canada. Cars with American license plates in Canada were keyed and even flipped by some locals.

The US is vastly outperforming Canada in vaccinations per 100 people, according to the New York Times, and the mutual decision to keep the border closed will ultimately depend on how comfortable Ottawa is in allowing cross-border travel along its southern frontier once more.

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Canada’s second-biggest bank is giving staff a subscription to meditation app Headspace and an extra day off

President and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Bank of Canada, Dave McKay, addresses shareholders at the bank's 146th annual meeting, in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
President and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, Dave McKay, addresses shareholders at the bank’s 146th annual meeting, in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

  • Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay said the bank is giving an extra day off to “exhausted” staff.
  • Employees also get a free one-year subscription to the meditation app Headspace.
  • Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s largest, has also offered its workers an additional day off.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Royal Bank of Canada is giving its employees an extra paid day off this year to avoid burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic – as well as a one-year subscription to the meditation and sleep app Headspace.

RBC’s CEO Dave McKay on Thursday said in a company memo that workers were the most exhausted they have been at any point in the pandemic. He said the bank needs to “eliminate the stigma associated with asking for time to focus, concentrate, and in some cases, log off and recharge.”

McKay told employees in the memo they should speak to their managers to book the extra day off and encouraged them to take the time to go on vacation. He said the few vacations he’d taken in the pandemic had allowed him to read, play his guitar, and spend more time outside.

Canada’s second-biggest bank also offered its global workforce of around 86,000 workers a free one-year subscription to Headspace, which usually costs $69.99.

“Beyond this extra day off, we recognize the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, especially for those in regions that have reverted back into lockdown,” McKay said. Canada is currently in a third wave of coronavirus infections which has mainly hit the province of Ontario, where RBC headquarters are. The province has introduced new restrictions to stop the spread.

“I encourage all of you to prioritize your personal time and continue to be mindful about work-life boundaries wherever possible,” McKay told staff in the memo.

Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s largest bank, has also told staff they would get an extra day off work. CEO Bharat Masrani said in a memo to staff, seen by Bloomberg, that they should take the day off when they need it the most.

“After a year of sacrifice and disruption, we must all endure these challenging circumstances for a bit longer,” Masrani said in the memo. “I know that this has not been easy, and everyone is tired.”

The bank’s decisions to give staff an additional day off come after Goldman Sachs was criticized for making junior bankers work 100-hour weeks in “inhumane” conditions, leading to poor mental health.

Citigroup also launched a “Citi Reset Day” on March 28 – a company-wide holiday to relieve stress on staff. CEO Jane Fraser also banned video calls on a Friday.

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Canada’s 3rd wave of COVID-19 is ‘killing faster and younger’ and fueled by new variants

toronto coronavirus
A cyclist wearing a face mask rides along a downtown street amid the coronavirus outbreak on May 19, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario.

  • Canada’s third coronavirus wave is affecting young people more severely than before.
  • Top health officials say the surge of infections are fueled by new COVID-19 variants.
  • The new wave is prompting lockdowns and new restrictions in several provinces.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Canada is battling a surge of coronavirus infections fueled by new variants which is sickening much younger adults than hospitals are accustomed to seeing.

On Saturday evening, the nation surpassed 1 million recorded coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The third wave of coronavirus has mainly struck the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, prompting all three to implement new restrictions to stop the spread.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently announced a 64% increase in new cases involving coronavirus variants – 90% of which involved the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom in September.

Ontario, in particular, has reported an influx of much younger patients in ICUs. Nearly half of the province’s COVID-19 ICU patients are under the age of 60, officials announced this week.

“It’s getting pretty alarming here. It’s spreading quickly, and it’s much faster than the last two waves,” Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, told CNN. “The people filling the ICU right now are all in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.”

Pirzada recently tweeted images of cloudy-looking lungs from ICU patients in their 30s.

“As the new variants spread, you will see that COVID-19 is killing faster and younger,” Adalsteinn Brown, a senior science advisor to the Ontario government, said in a press conference this week. “It’s spreading far more quickly than it was before and we cannot vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave.”

Ontario has enacted a month-long “emergency brake” in response to the surge in infections. The new restrictions will shut down gyms, indoor dining, and personal care services, CBC News reported.

Quebec, meanwhile, has implemented a lockdown in three different cities, shutting down schools and non-essential businesses, and enacting a stricter curfew. British Columbia has also put a three-week ban on indoor dining, worship services, and indoor fitness activities.

Canada has had a remarkably slow vaccine rollout, mainly due to delays in importing doses. The country lacks the capacity to manufacture its own vaccines. As of April 1, just 1.75% of the population was fully vaccinated, and just 11.86% had received at least one dose, according to government data.

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Canada suspends the AstraZeneca vaccine in under-55s while officials investigate reports of rare blood clots

Coronavirus vaccine canada
A nurse is inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTEch coronavirus vaccine in Toronto, Canada, December 14, 2020.

  • Canada paused its AstraZeneca vaccine rollout in people under 55 on Monday.
  • Officials cited reports of a rare blood disorder in young women in Europe.
  • The recommendation was a precaution based on “international data” and a “good supply” of alternative vaccines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Canada has temporarily stopped giving AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people under 55 while it investigates cases of an unusual blood-clotting disorder in Europe.

Canadian officials said there were reports from Europe of a clotting disorder among some vaccinated people in Europe, particularly among young women, called Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia (VIPIT). In this disorder, antibodies “activate” platelets and cause blood clots to form.

“The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends immediately pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in all individuals less than 55 years of age in Canada,” NACI said in a statement late on Monday.

This mirrors similar suspensions in Europe: France, for example, has also suspended the shot for younger people.

NACI said the move was a “precaution,” and that it still recommended AstraZeneca’s vaccine for those over 55 years old. This older age group has a higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and VIPIT appears to be less common in this group.

Eight of Canada’s 10 provinces, including Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec, confirmed they had stopped giving AstraZeneca’s vaccine to those under 55 years old following NACI’s announcement.

Several countries in Europe, including France and Sweden, have also suspended AstraZeneca’s shot in younger people, pending an investigation into reports of rare blood clots. Health officials in Berlin, Germany, said Tuesday that the city would stop its rollout in under 55s while investigations were ongoing, DW reported.

Most of the 18 countries that suspended the shot during the European Medicines Agency’s initial investigation into reports of blood clots have restarted vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in all age groups.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

NACI said Health Canada was investigating the exact mechanism by which the AstraZeneca could vaccine trigger so-called VIPIT, and that it was not yet clear how common the disorder was.

NACI said that its recommendation was also based on a “good supply” of alternative vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Canada was expected to receive enough COVID-19 vaccines to fully vaccinate its population before fall 2021, it said.

So far, less than 2% of Canada’s population are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

No reports of blood clots in Canada from AstraZeneca shot

Health Canada said that it hadn’t received any reports of blood clots in the country. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, told The Guardian that she still believed the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risks.

NACI acknowledged in the statement that the relatively high number of young women who reported with VIPIT could be related to the vaccine’s rollout – young healthcare workers were one of the early priority groups, and this group includes a high proportion of women. When the shot was first authorized in the EU, Germany, France, and Italy did not give the shot to over 65s, so more younger people could have received AstraZeneca’s shot.

Around 20 million people had received AstraZeneca’s vaccine as of March 16 in the UK and Europe. Seven cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels and 18 cases of blood clots in the brain had been reported to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EMA investigated these cases and said March 19 that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s shot in preventing COVID-19 – which has killed 2.6 million people worldwide – outweighed the risk of any side effects.

But it couldn’t rule out a link between the vaccine and very rare, serious blood clotting disorders, particularly in women under 55 years old, it said. The EMA is looking into this further, and is expected to announce any further findings next week.

“It’s reasonable to pause for a period of time while this [risk] continues to be evaluated,” Sharma said, per the Wall Street Journal. “I fully understand this can be confusing. Especially for this vaccine, which has had a lot of confusion surrounding it,” she added.

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Justin Trudeau looks forward to working with President Biden: ‘It’s great to see America re-engage’

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Canada’s PM Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested he’s looking forward to working with President Joe Biden.
  • Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in an episode that will air Sunday, Trudeau said, “It’s great to see America re-engage.”
  • “That need to work closely as neighbors continues,” Trudeau said. “But now it continues with an administration with whom we have a little more in common.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he’s looking forward to fortifying the country’s relationship with the United States now that President Joe Biden is in office. 

“It’s great to see America re-engage” on the global sphere again, Trudeau said in early remarks from a forthcoming interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

When asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd about global policy initiatives Trudeau expects the Biden administration to push forward, Trudeau said Canada and the United States will have to “work together” on several issues, including climate change and solidifying the middle class. 

“And of course as a Canadian, I believe that we all need to work together in a more active way, and I’m glad to see the new administration – this is something I spoke with President Biden about directly – it’s great to see America re-engage,” Trudeau said.

“I think certainly there were things that were more challenging under the previous administration in terms of moving the dial in the right direction on the international stage,” he continued. “But at the same time, you know, we all have democracies that go in different directions from time to time.” 

Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a major concern and a point of unity between Canada and the United States, Trudeau said. 

“The approach that the president is taking on COVID right now much more aligns with where Canada has been for quite a while, grounded in science, grounded in protection of people as the best way to protect the economy, and understanding that, that being there to support people is absolutely essential so that we can get through this as quickly as possible,” he said.

The relationship between the United States and Canada frayed during the years of former President Donald Trump’s tenure. 

Trump mocked Trudeau in private and in public, calling him “weak” and “very dishonest.” Trudeau was once caught on a hot mic laughing at the former president

In an attempt to pressure Trudeau into revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump threatened to hit Canadian cars and auto parts with tariffs

And former trade advisor Peter Navarro said in 2018 that there’s a “special place in hell” for Trudeau. 

Trudeau spoke positively of some aspects of the NAFTA agreement between Canada and the United States, saying the renegotiation “helped.”

“We were able to get them to remove some of the steel and aluminum tariffs that they brought in. And we were able to work together on a number of things” with the Trump administration, Trudeau said on “Meet the Press.” “So obviously that need to work closely as neighbors continues, but now it continues with an administration with whom we have a little more in common, perhaps.”

Trudeau’s interview on “Meet the Press” is expected to air Sunday. 

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The Whisky War: Why history’s most polite territorial conflict rages on

Hans Island Canada Greenland
A wide satellite image of Hans Island, an uninhabited rock in the Arctic subject to a territorial dispute between Canada, left, and Denmark, right.

  • In a remote section of the Arctic, there’s a whisp of land that is subject to protracted conflict over ownership.
  • There’s not much to say about Hans Island, but the debate between Canada and Denmark over who it belongs to stands out as one of history’s most polite disputes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Conflict over land is as old as recorded history, but the world has never seen another quite like the Whisky War. Wars have been fought, violently and continuously, over the rights to territories across the globe. In the case of Hans Island, however, the two countries at odds had a different way of staking their claim.

If you’ve never heard of Hans Island, it’s probably because, well, there’s not that much to say about it. The half-square-mile island sits directly in the middle of the Nares Strait, a 22-mile-wide waterway that separates the most northern land of Canada, Ellesmere Island, and Greenland, an autonomous Denmark territory.

Hans Island itself lacks any real natural resources or territorial advantages. It’s essentially a giant rock, and the only thing that keeps perpetuating the ownership debate is the fact that it sits within the 12-mile territorial limit of both Canada and Greenland, making it close enough that each country involved can claim it under international law.

It started in 1880, when Hans Island got lost in the shuffle of the British transferring remaining arctic territories to Canada. Due to the use of predominantly outdated, 16th-century maps, the small island was not explicitly included in the transfer, and as such wasn’t even recognized until decades later.

Hans Island

In 1933, Greenland was declared the rightful owner of Hans Island, by the ironically named Permanent Court of International Justice. This organization was dissolved within a few years of this decision and effectively replaced with the UN, and the aforementioned ownership resolution was deemed no longer valid, so Hans was once again up for grabs.

Both World War II and the Cold War took precedence over more trivial conversations, and even after a maritime border negotiation in the early 1970s, the territory still sat simmering on the back burner.

The best part of the history of Hans Island comes in 1984, when Canadian troops visited the island and left behind something distinct to the Great White North, an erected Canadian flag, a sign that read “Welcome to Canada” and a bottle of Canadian Club whisky.

Not wanting to show up empty-handed to the party, Greenland’s minister took a trip to the island soon after, removing and replacing all the Canadian offerings with their own flag, a bottle of Danish schnapps, and a sign that read “Velkommen til den danske ø” or “Welcome to the Danish Island.”

And thus began the first chapter of one of the most neighborly and hospitable disputes (or elaborate drinking games) in history, known as The Whisky War. Since then, there have been continued trips by both sides to collect and replace the other party’s goods, and while what happens to the alcohol when it’s taken off the island has never been confirmed, the assumption is someone is out there enjoying it.

In more recent years, both Canadian and Danish representatives have called for the island to be declared a shared sovereignty, but it remains unclear if and when any official resolution to the Whisky War has been reached. Lawmakers have even cited this ongoing discourse as setting an interesting precedent or subsequently having ramifications for border negotiations, particularly international ones.

All in all, few things make for a better story than two allied countries fighting a battle over land for more than three decades with welcome signs and booze.

Editor’s Note: While the word “whiskey” is commonly spelled with an “E” preceding the “Y” in the United States, the “E” is notably absent from the word in nations like Canada, where this story takes place. There actually is a defined difference between the terms, but colloquially, they are often used interchangeably.

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Canada apologized to China after one of its diplomats ordered T-shirts saying ‘Wuhan’ styled with the Wu-Tang Clan’s logo

RZA of Wu-Tang Clan performs onstage during 10th Annual ONE Musicfest at Centennial Olympic Park on September 08, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
RZA of Wu-Tang Clan performs onstage during 10th Annual ONE Musicfest at Centennial Olympic Park on September 08, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • A Canadian diplomat in China ordered custom T-shirts that said “Wuhan” in the style of Wu-Tang Clan’s logo. 
  • The Wu-Tang logo is a “W,” though users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo described the logo as looking like a bat. 
  • Canada apologized to China for the shirts, calling the incident a “misunderstanding.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Canada has apologized to China after a diplomat of the country’s Beijing Embassy ordered custom T-shirts that said “Wuhan” in the style of Wu-Tang Clan’s logo.

The rap group’s logo is a stylized “W,” though Reuters reported that when the maker of the shirt posted images of it online, users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo described the logo as looking like a bat, which scientists have suspected to carry COVID-19 before it spread to humans in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

Upon learning about the shirts, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the Associated Press that he wanted Canada to “thoroughly investigate the incident and give China a clear explanation.”

A spokesperson from Canada’s foreign service agency told Reuters that Canadian officials “regret the misunderstanding” and that the shirts weren’t made to mock China’s response to COVID-19.

 

“The T-shirt logo designed by a member of the Embassy shows a stylized W, and is not intended to represent a bat. It was created for the team of Embassy staff working on repatriation of Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020,” the spokesperson said.

Wu-Tang clan did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on their logo being used.

Chinese-Canadian relations have been tense in recent years – in 2018, China arrested two Canadian men and accused them of spying, and Canada detained the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, Meng Wanzhou, who is wanted in the US on fraud charges.

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Every single passenger on board 2 international flights to Canada informed that they were potentially exposed to COVID-19

air transat flight canada
An Air Transat plane in Canada.

  • All passengers on board two Air Transat flights from Haiti to Montreal have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, the Toronto Sun reported.
  • Passengers seated in “all rows” have been notified by the Canadian government’s exposure tracking system that they need to monitor their symptoms.
  • The Canadian government announced on January 7 that a negative coronavirus test is required to fly. Haiti, where these passengers were traveling from, is one of the two territories exempt from this rule.
  • More than 70 other international flights to Canada have carried people infected with the coronavirus, according to the Toronto Sun.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Two Air Transat flights had so many people on board infected with COVID-19 that all the passengers are now deemed to be at risk of catching the virus, the Toronto Sun reported.

Flights TS663 AND TS665 – both taking passengers from Haiti to Montreal – were identified by Health Canada as flights with several confirmed coronavirus cases, the paper said.

Now, passengers seated in “all rows” have been notified that they have potentially been exposed to the virus.

The Canadian government’s tracking system is used to notify passengers who have been potentially exposed to the virus. Usually, specific rows are identified and those seated there are advised to take the necessary precautions.

On this occasion, however, passengers from “all rows” – the entirety of two planes – have been advised to self-monitor their symptoms for 14 days and to self-isolate immediately if symptoms develop.

The number of people warned about the COVID-19 infection is not known. The Air Transat was flying wide-body Airbus A330s on the Haiti-Montreal route, with a capacity of up to 375 passengers, according to the Toronto Sun.

Read more: Virgin Galactic just revealed a new supersonic passenger jet planned with Rolls-Royce, which used to make Concorde jet engines.

According to the government guidelines, passengers are also advised to immediately contact public health authorities if they become unwell.

The news of these potential exposures follows a January 7 announcement by the Canadian government that requires all those boarding flights to Canada to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test.

Haiti, however, is an exception to the rule. Due to limited testing capacity, passengers flying to Canada from Haiti are not required to provide a negative result.

Since the negative test requirement was introduced, over 70 international flights that have landed in Canada have carried passengers infected with COVID-19, according to the Toronto Sun.

Yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that he hasn’t ruled out introducing an international travel ban.

The tougher restrictions would be a response to Canada’s recent surge in daily cases.

worldometer canada covid cases
Cases per day in Canada.

January has been the worst month on record for new COVID-19 cases in the country, according to Worldometer.

On Saturday, Worldometer data shows that Canada recorded 6,816 new cases.

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More than 400 Amazon workers have been infected with COVID-19 at Canadian facilities, where working conditions are described as ‘hell’

Amazon warehouse staff
Amazon shipping boxes leaving a warehouse.

  • More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19, and some are blaming workplace conditions. 
  • The cases occured at four facilities near Ontario. “The working conditions are hell,” an employee who left prior to the pandemic told The National Post
  • “There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation,” an unnamed employee told The Post. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for coronavirus, with some blaming workplace conditions. 

“The working conditions are hell,” a former Amazon worker told The National Post.

The spread occured at four facilities near Ontario, according to the Post, which quotes former and current employees at the facilities. 

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The company has previously said new hires are being trained to follow strict health and safety rules. It said it invested more than $800 million in new pandemic safety measures in the first six months of 2020, according to an October press release.  

“Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $10 billion in 2020 on COVID-related initiatives to keep employees safe and get products to customers,” the company said on a page dedicated to its COVID-19 improvements. 

But employees at the Canadian facilities have placed some blame for the spread on the fast-paced culture at Amazon facilities. 

“There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation,” an unnamed employee told the Post. “Many of them, 99 per cent of them, are scared of working there, but they have no choice.”

According to the unnamed employee, workers at the Canada facilities are told not to use their own N95 masks. Employees reportedly said they’re timed as they fill boxes, and their bathroom breaks are monitored.

Amazon and Walmart have been locked in battle over which can make shipping and returns easiest. The emphasis on speed makes it difficult for some workers in Amazon warehouses to follow COVID-19 rules, according to the report. 

Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown, which will begin at 12.01 am on December 26. 

“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Doug Ford, premier, in a statement

Amazon’s footprint is ever-growing. In the US this month, it announced new fulfillment centers in Louisiana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and several locations in Texas. 

As the company expands, some lawmakers are asking questions about workplace policies and pay. Last Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called warehouse employment a “scam” because thousands of workers were reportedly on food stamps. 

The US National Labor Relations Board last week said it had found merit in claims that Gerald Bryson, who worked at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, was fired in retaliation for protesting health and safety policies in the warehouse.

In Alabama, workers are expected to vote in January on whether to unionize, according to The Hill. A vote to unionize would be a first for Amazon’s US facilities. 

In a statement issued to The New York Post, Amazon said: “We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire.” 

 

 

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Canada admitted losing out to other rich countries getting early COVID-19 vaccines, showing how fierce the competition is

Coronavirus vaccine canada
A nurse is inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTEch coronavirus vaccine in Toronto, Canada on December 14, 2020.

  • Canada said it faces tough competition from other countries to secure COVID-19 vaccines, meaning it will not be able to roll them out as fast as the UK and US.
  • Anita Anand, a Canadian minister, said “we are dealing with an incredibly competitive global environment.”
  • Campaigners have warned that rich countries’ outsize ability to buy vaccines means poorer countries will be left to struggle.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Canada admitted that is has been losing out to other rich countries in trying to swiftly secure COVID-19 vaccines, showing how fierce the international competition is.

Anita Anand, Canada’s minister of public services and procurement, defended a slower-than-hoped rollout by noting that “we are dealing with an incredibly competitive global environment,” The Associated Press reported.

CNN reported that officials in Canada noted that the country’s first vaccine rollout would not be as widespread as that in the US and the UK because those nations got ahead in the race to have doses shipped early on.

Anita Anand
Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on December 7, 2020.

Anand noted: “It’s very much the long game here.”

Canada has ultimately secured enough vaccines to covers its whole population four times over. But the question is how quickly it gets them.

The first people in Canada to be given a vaccine were injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech shot on Monday, but the number of doses available for Canada this year is relatively few.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the first shots were “a big step forward in our fight against the virus, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

As The New York Times noted, manufacturers are facing a host of struggles to try and make.the vaccines quickly.

More than 472,000 people have been infected in Canada, and more than 13,750 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While wealthy, well-resourced nations like Canada are having some problems getting vaccines, the issue is far more acute in poorer nations.

Campaigners have already spoken out against the outside influence that richer countries have in securing access to vaccines.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a network made up of charities such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, was critical of richer countries reserving more doses than their populations need.

It estimated last week that around 70 poorer countries combined would be able to vaccinate just one in 10 of their people next year without help, while richer nations had reserved excess doses.

Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, described that strategy as “hoarding.”

“The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from COVID-19,” he said in a press release.

“Rich countries have clear human-rights obligations not only to refrain from actions that could harm access to vaccines elsewhere but also to cooperate and provide assistance to countries that need it.”

Other experts previously warned that some low-income countries could have to wait years before they could get enough vaccines for most of their populations, with one estimate suggesting 2024.

Britain has claimed 357 million doses across several types of vaccine, with options to buy 152 million more.

The European Union has secured 1.3 billion doses, with the option to get another 660 million.

There are some programs in place to try to ensure more equal access to vaccines.

Canada says that it will eventually donate its excess supply of vaccines to impoverished countries, the AP reported.

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