The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
10:45 a.m. From adding security screening officers to rolling back mandatory random COVID-19 testing, the federal government is moving quickly to address the chaos at Canadian airports, which have been plagued with delays as air travel ramps up ahead of the summer months.
The delays, which have been attributed by unions to preventable labour shortages, have caused long lines at security checkpoints for departing travellers.
As well, industry representatives have called for COVID-19 screening measures to be rolled back, as they are contributing to delays for arriving international passengers.
10 a.m. Fewer than one in three Americans have received an extra shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and one patient safety group thinks that’s a public health challenge.
The nonprofit ECRI said in a position paper that adopting a booster shot schedule targeting emerging variants would create certainty and convince more Americans to get boosted and help reduce COVID-19 spread in communities.
“This is the call to action,” said Marcus Schabacker, president and CEO of ECRI, a patient safety nonprofit. “Only 30 per cent of people who are eligible to get vaccinated actually have a booster. It’s not enough if we want to get this (pandemic) into an endemic state.”
Federal health agencies have cleared vaccine boosters for adults and teens, and last week, for kids ages 5 to 11. The FDA is reviewing Moderna’s vaccine for younger children. Pfizer-BioNTech on Monday said its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe and effective for kids under 5.
9:45 a.m. Some 8.9 million Canadians received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) during the pandemic, and thousands of them are now finding out they didn’t qualify for some or all of it.
Now, of course, they have to pay it back, with the Canada Revenue Agency sending repayment notices to those it has determined either weren’t eligible at all or received too much.
If you can park how annoyed you are to find out you have to pay the money back, you really have no choice but to try to be strategic about how you’re going to do it, especially if you really, truly can’t afford to do so.
9:15 a.m. Canada’s backlog of Nexus applications has ballooned into the hundreds of thousands, despite a sharp downturn in applicants during the pandemic.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) says more than 295,000 Nexus applications have yet to be processed due to ongoing office closures prompted by COVID-19.
Would-be cardholders in the program, which allows pre-approved Canadians to pass through separate, speedy lines when travelling to the United States, must be risk-assessed by both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The American agency reopened its Nexus enrollment centres for applicant interviews on April 19, but centres in Canada remain closed after shuttering in March 2020.
The resulting backlog means some Nexus members are struggling to book sit-downs before their cards expire, as Canadian residents hoping to renew their status can only schedule interviews in fewer than a dozen border community offices where slots are few.
8 a.m. Morocco, which reopened to tourists in February, has eased COVID-related entry protocols ahead of summer, no longer requiring travelers with proof of full vaccination to produce a negative test result.
“The Moroccan government has decided to cancel the PCR test condition for entry into Moroccan territory. This decision will come into force upon publication of this press release,” officials confirmed on May 17.
As of right now, travelers can visit Morocco with a health form completed before boarding and either a valid vaccination passport or a negative PCR test result less than 72 hours old. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from all requirements.
7:20 a.m. Approval ratings of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government have risen to the highest since the start of the pandemic though there’s lingering concerns over the surging prices of essential items and unemployment, the latest survey showed on Monday.
Modi’s government has met or exceed expectations in the second term, according to 67 per cent of 64,000 people polled by LocalCircles. That’s a jump from 51 per cent last year when a brutal second wave of Covid-19 infections overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums and 62 per cent in 2020 when the pandemic started.
The people surveyed said the government was better prepared to handle a third wave of COVID-19 infections and had effectively managed the economy. Yet there were concerns over unemployment staying around 7 per cent since the start of the year with 47 per cent of those polled saying India hasn’t been able to address the issue.
6 a.m. Novavax hitched its wagon to the global coronavirus pandemic. Before most Americans truly grasped the scope of the danger, the small Maryland biotech startup had secured $1.6 billion in U.S. funding for its COVID-19 vaccine. Its moonshot goal: delivering 2 billion shots to the world by mid-2021.
Although the U.S. commitment eventually expanded to $1.8 billion, hardly any Novavax shots have found arms due to manufacturing issues, and most of the world has moved on. Novavax stock has plummeted from $290 a share in February 2021 to around $50 recently.
The FDA finally appears poised to authorize the company’s vaccine, however. If it does, Novavax would target the tens of millions of Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or would benefit from boosters but have avoided mRNA vaccines because of health concerns or conspiracy theories about their dangers.
In clinical trials, Novavax’s two-dose vaccine has worked well and had few safety problems. It appears to cause fewer unpleasant reactions — fever, chills, and exhaustion — associated with mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
5:45 a.m. With the Ontario election fast approaching, some young people in swing ridings say they remain unsure on who to vote for. But concrete action on mental health could be a deciding factor.
In focus groups held by the nonpartisan organization Future Majority, which focuses on getting out the vote of millennials and Gen Zs in Canada, mental health has emerged as a key ballot issue among young Canadians, alongside affordability and climate action.
The Star spoke with four young undecided voters and volunteers with Future Majority from swing ridings in the Greater Toronto Area, who all detailed why mental health has been top of mind for them and their peers, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. They also spoke on what action they hope to see from politicians.
5:30 a.m. Hundreds of flights worldwide were cancelled by Sunday evening, adding to the mounting number of scrubbed flights during the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S.
About 1,460 flights had been canceled as of 7 p.m. ET Sunday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. That followed more than 2,300 cancellations Friday and another 1,500 on Saturday.
Nearly 450 of Sunday’s cancellations involved aircraft scheduled to fly to or from U.S. cities.
Delta Air Lines canceled the most flights among major U.S. airlines, with more than 250 flights, or 9 per cent of its operations, eliminated Saturday. One hundred and sixty Delta flights were canceled by Sunday evening, according to FlightAware.
“More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation — weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased COVID case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups — are resulting in an operation that isn’t consistently up to the standards Delta has set for the industry in recent years,” Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband said in a post.
5:15 a.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting Sunday, state media reported, as they maintained a widely disputed claim that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak is slowing.
The discussion at the North’s Politburo meeting suggests it will soon relax a set of draconian curbs imposed after its admission of the omicron outbreak this month out of concern about its food and economic situations.
Kim and other Politburo members “made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
5 a.m. Shoppers returned to the malls of Beijing on Sunday as the Chinese capital relaxed pandemic restrictions after declaring a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak effectively under control.
A partial reopening of stores and offices in Beijing was welcomed by a weary populace and struggling shopkeepers eager for life to return to normal. Coupled with a gradual easing of restrictions in Shanghai, it signaled that the worst is over in the twin outbreaks in China’s most prominent cities.
The lockdowns and other restrictions under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy have increasingly frustrated residents as they see other countries ease up and re-open their borders. Some have resisted and staged protests at apartment complexes and university dormitories, in an authoritarian country where people think twice about speaking out publicly because of possible repercussions.
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