Weighing COVID restrictions and Prince Andrew's troubles: In The News for Jan. 14

·9 min read

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 14 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Some areas of the country are easing pandemic restrictions while others are tightening them depending on their perceptions of whether the COVID-19 curve is flattening or has yet to peak.

Quebec announced its controversial 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be lifted on Monday because researchers there believe the latest wave of the pandemic, fuelled by COVID-19's highly infectious Omicron variant, is cresting.

And Nunavut says the tough measures it implemented just before Christmas have been so effective that it's cancelling travel restrictions on Monday, allowing businesses to reopen and schools will resume in-person learning on Jan. 24.

It's a different story in New Brunswick where new restrictions come into effect today limiting residents to a single-household bubble while also closing gyms, entertainment venues and indoor dining at restaurants.

In neighbouring Prince Edward Island where chief medical health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says the "worst of this wave" is yet to come, current restrictions that include business capacity limits and remote learning for school students will be extended.

Across the country, new COVID case counts and related hospitalizations remain at or near record levels.

Ontario recorded a jump in hospitalizations of 182 to an all-time high of 3,630 on Thursday. About 6,000 new cases were reported in Alberta and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced he has tested positive for COVID-19.

The federal government also announced late Thursday that a vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing into Canada from the United States would start Saturday as planned, despite an earlier statement from the Canada Border Services Agency that said Canadian truckers would be exempt.

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Also this ...

When news of the first cases of COVID-19 began cropping up in Canada in early 2020, Linda Silas was one of the first to ring alarm bells about the lack of proper personal protective equipment for health workers.

While early indications showed the virus was spread by droplets that settled on surfaces, Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses, urged health authorities to learn from the SARS outbreak of 2003 and take the highest level of precaution.

Now she knows she was right — the virus is airborne — but she is still desperately calling for more protective equipment for nurses two years later.

Regional unions across the country report that nurses who have requested fit-tested respirators still can't get them in some cases, despite the Omicron variant being far more transmissible than previous variants.

The shortage of healthy nurses to address the massive wave of the Omicron variant has meant hospitals and other health institutions have deployed nurses with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and still some are not offered appropriate masks, she said.

"These vulnerable patients might have a COVID positive staff treating them, and without the proper PPE it's plain dangerous," she said.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, describes the spread of COVID-19 as a cloud of smoke coming from someone's mouth and nose. She and other medical officers have suggested the public use more effective masks to protect themselves.

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And this ...

OTTAWA — Three Canadian regiments are now without a patron after the Queen stripped Prince Andrew of all his military titles and royal patronages.

The disgraced Duke of York was the honorary colonel-in-chief of three Canadian regiments: The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, The Princess Louise Fusiliers and the Queen's York Rangers.

Rideau Hall and a spokesman for the Canadian Armed Forces confirmed that those titles have now been "relinquished" by the prince, the Queen's second oldest son.

Private organizations in Canada — including Lakefield College School, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the Maple Bay Yacht Club and the SickKids Foundation — that had once proudly touted the prince's patronage severed their ties with him in 2019 when he stepped aside from all public duties amid a sex trafficking scandal.

American Virginia Roberts Giuffre has launched a civil suit against Prince Andrew alleging she was trafficked by sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, with whom the prince was friends, and was coerced into having sex with the prince three times while she was underage.

Prince Andrew has categorically denied the allegations.

The Queen's decision to strip him of his military titles and patronages came one day after a U.S. judge rejected a bid by the prince's legal team to have Giuffre's lawsuit dismissed.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

Teachers around the U.S. are confronting classrooms where as many as half of students are absent because they've been exposed to COVID-19 or their families kept them at home out of concern about surging case numbers.

The widespread absences have only added to the difficulty of keeping students on track in yet another pandemic-disrupted school year.

Tabatha Rosproy is a teacher in Olathe, Kan., and the 2020 national Teacher of the Year. She says teachers often have to reteach material when absent kids return.

“This is really taking a toll on the learning,” said Rosproy.

In Seattle, attendance has averaged 81 per cent since the return from winter break. Los Angeles public schools marked about 30 per cent of the district's 600,000-plus students absent on Tuesday, the first day back after the break.

In New York, about 76 per cent of the city's roughly one million public school students were in class Wednesday, with some schools reporting well over half of their students out.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Most access to a major city adjacent to Beijing was suspended Thursday as China tried to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which poses a test to the country's “zero-tolerance” COVID-19 policy and its ability to successfully host the Winter Olympics.

Tianjin is one of a half-dozen cities where the government is imposing lockdowns and other restrictions as part of a policy that aims to track down every virus case. But the outbreak in a city so close to the Olympic host is particularly worrying.

Elsewhere, more than 20 million people under lockdown in China.

Other countries that tried a similar zero-tolerance approach have abandoned it. China persists, but may find the strategy increasingly difficult since the Omicron variant is more contagious than previous versions of the virus. The challenge comes just as China is welcoming thousands of people from abroad for the Olympics, which start Feb. 4.

During the Tokyo Olympics in July, Japan saw a widespread outbreak driven by the Delta variant, but the measures at the Olympics themselves were mostly effective in stopping transmission, said Kenji Shibuya, research director at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research and a public health expert.

The rules in Beijing will be even stricter than Tokyo’s.

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Also this ...

SEOUL — North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles in its third weapons launch this month in an apparent reprisal for fresh sanctions imposed by the United States for its continuing test launches.

South Korea’s military says the missiles came from an inland area in western North Pyongan province.

Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Defence Ministry also detected the launch and its coast guard urged vessels to pay attention to falling objects.

Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement berating the Biden administration for imposing fresh sanctions over its missile tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance.”

Experts say the launches are meant to extract concessions from the U.S.

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On this day in 1990 ...

"The Canadian,'" Via Rail's legendary passenger train, made its final trip across Canada after 34 years of service on the world's longest rail line, a 4,645-kilometre route. Along with this, and the shutdown of other trains, 2,716 jobs were gone.

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In sports

MELBOURNE — Tennis star Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to revoke the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds three days before the Australian Open is to begin.

Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appeal the cancelation in the Federal Circuit and Family Court as they successfully did after the first cancellation.

“The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hawke said in a statement, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

It is the second time Djokovic’s visa has been canceled since he arrived in Melbourne last week to defend his Australian Open title.

His exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement to compete was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa upon arrival in Melbourne. Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge on Monday overturned that decision.

Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers faced an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play next week.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — "Degrassi" is slated to return in the spring of 2023 but the popular teen drama will be a darker hour-long TV series.

U.S. streaming platform HBO Max says it's bringing a fresh take on the Toronto-set high school saga, which it describes as an "evolution" of the "Degrassi" story that stays true to the original but "promises fans a journey into exciting new territory, both creatively and dramatically."

The 10-episode season will shoot in Toronto this summer and be produced in partnership with Canadian production company WildBrain Ltd., which own the show's rights.

Plans to make "Degrassi" available to Canadian viewers are still being ironed out.

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ICYMI ...

OTTAWA — Experts say there are risks to swabbing your throat with a COVID-19 rapid test that’s meant for the nose.

Immunology expert Earl Brown acknowledges recent social media posts that suggest throat samples could better reveal evidence of the Omicron variant.

But the University of Ottawa professor says even if Omicron is more easily detected in the throats of some people, rapid tests should be used as directed.

He says tests that are certified to analyze nasal samples would not necessarily work as well for saliva, which can be contaminated by food and drink, or dilute a nasal sample.

Health Canada says medical devices — including the country's supply of COVID-19 rapid tests — are approved to be used "as recommended by the manufacturer."

However, the agency adds that provinces and territories can offer their own guidance "outside the scope of the product's label."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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