“I worry a bit because we don’t know much about Omicron,” Susanne Sesterer, 63, a retiree in Hanover, Germany, said on Thursday as she was doing her last shopping before Christmas. “But how much worse can it get?”

Others were giving up.

Dorotea Belli, a 42-year-old Italian who has had two vaccine doses, said she would not go to a family gathering for Christmas and instead stay home in Rome. Many of her colleagues had tested positive for the virus, she said, and her children, 4 and 1, are not eligible for vaccination.

“They and I will miss my parents very much,” she said. “But I don’t want to bring Covid around, and even if my husband and I are vaccinated, who knows?”

Spain’s calculus on new restrictions is not only factoring in the all-important holidays, but also legal barriers that emerged after measures taken by the government in 2020.

In July, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the government did not have the authority to impose the lockdown measures that began in March 2020, which restricted Spaniards from leaving their homes except for essential trips like food shopping. Instead, the judges said, the measures required a full parliamentary vote, which few see passing with a majority in the future given how controversial the previous restrictions were.

“The government has its hands tied now,” said Luis Galán Soldevilla, a law professor at the University of Córdoba.

Spain’s lighter measures announced on Thursday received criticism from some sectors, like the Spanish Society of Public Health and Health Administration, a group that includes many health professionals.

“These measures don’t help much,” said Ildefonso Hernández, the group’s spokesman, saying limiting capacity indoors would be more effective. “It makes no sense that people walk the street with a mask and then take it off when they enter a bar.”

In Madrid, residents were charging ahead with their Christmas plans, despite the rising caseload and risks.

Fernando Sánchez, 55, a taxi driver, lost his mother and brother to Covid-19 six months ago. Nevertheless, he was unwilling to cancel his Christmas plans, which this year take place at the home of his in-laws, much as they had before the pandemic.

Antonio Jesús Navarro, 33, a software engineer, had been looking forward to spending Christmas with his girlfriend, who had traveled to Spain for the holidays from the United States. The two had not seen each other since before the pandemic began.

But then Mr. Navarro learned he had come into contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The couple were isolating until he could get his own test results. He said he was frustrated with public messaging on how to stay safe from Omicron.

“Is an antigen test acceptable?” he said by telephone. “What happens if there are no symptoms?”

Hours later, Mr. Navarro called back to say he and his girlfriend had tested positive for Covid-19.

Nicholas Casey and José Bautista reported from Madrid, and Constant Méheut from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Raphael Minder from Geneva; Gaia Pianigiani from Rome; Christopher F. Schuetze from Hanover, Germany; and Léontine Gallois from Paris.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Asia Pacific

CANBERRA/SYDNEY, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Australia will allow foreign visa holders to enter the country from the start of December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, the latest step to restart international travel and support its economy.

Australia shut its international border in May 2020 and allowed only restricted numbers of citizens and permanent residents to enter in a bid to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

The rules were relaxed in recent weeks to allow foreign family members of citizens to enter, and Morrison said this will be scaled up from Dec. 1 to allow vaccinated students, business visa holders and refugees to arrive.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. Australia will also allow in vaccinated tourists from South Korea and Japan from Dec 1, he said.

The return of foreign students, who are worth about A$35 billion ($25 billion) a year to the Australian economy, will be a major boost for the education sector.

More than 235,000 foreigners, including about 160,000 students, held visas for Australia at the end of October, government data showed.

Airport staff hold up welcome signage as the first international travellers arrive at Sydney Airport in the wake of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) border restrictions easing, with fully vaccinated Australians being allowed into Sydney from overseas without quarantine for the first time since March 2020, in Sydney, Australia, November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

Many Australian universities have come to rely on foreign students, who make up about 21% of total enrolments, and the border closure led higher education facilities to lay off hundreds of staff.

Many students locked out of Australia have said they would switch to alternative universities if they were unable to begin face-to-face learning in 2022. read more

The relaxation of the border rules is also expected to ease labour shortages, which threaten to stymie an economic rebound.

“This will be critical relief for businesses who are struggling to find workers just to keep their doors open and for those who need highly specialised skills to unlock big projects,” said Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the industry body, the Business Council.

Border rules, swift lockdowns and tough social distancing rules helped Australia to keep its coronavirus numbers far lower than many other comparable countries, with around 200,000 cases and 1,948 deaths.

Most new infections are being reported in Victoria state, which logged 1,029 cases on Monday. New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported 180 cases. Other states and territories are COVID-free or have very few cases.

($1 = 1.3824 Australian dollars)

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

Reporting by Renju Jose and Colin Packham; Editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Canada Election 2021: Justin Trudeau Projected to Remain Prime Minister

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s political gamble failed to pay off Monday when Canadian voters returned him to office but denied him the expanded bloc of power he was seeking in Parliament.

Election returns late on Monday showed that while he would remain prime minister, it will again be as the head of a minority government, Canadian broadcasters projected.

In August, with his approval ratings high, Mr. Trudeau called a “snap election,” summoning voters to the polls two years before he had to. The goal, he said, was to obtain a strong mandate for his Liberal Party to lead the nation out of the pandemic and into recovery.

But many Canadians suspected that his true ambitions were mere political opportunism, and that he was trying to regain the parliamentary majority the Liberals had until they lost seats in the 2019 election.

Mr. O’Toole, seeking to broaden Conservatives’ appeal, produced a 160-page campaign platform that essentially turned the party’s back on many once-central positions, like opposition to carbon taxes.

Mr. Trudeau broke ethics laws when he and his staff pressured his justice minister, an Indigenous woman, in 2018 to offer a large Canadian engineering firm a deal allowing it to avoid a criminal conviction on corruption charges. Last year a charity with close ties to the Trudeau family was awarded a no-bid contract to administer a Covid-19 financial assistance plan for students. The group withdrew, the program was canceled and Mr. Trudeau was cleared of conflict of interest allegations.

And while Mr. Trudeau champions diversity and racial justice, it came out during the 2019 vote that he had worn blackface or brownface at least three times in the past.

“Every Canadian has met a Justin Trudeau in their lives — privileged, entitled and always looking out for No. 1,” Mr. O’Toole said during the campaign. “He’ll say anything to get elected, regardless of the damage it does to our country.”

Mr. Trudeau returned the criticism, saying Mr. O’Toole’s willingness to ditch Conservative policies and alter his platform mid-campaign showed it was he who would say or promise anything to voters.

While many voters eagerly bumped elbows and posed for selfies with Mr. Trudeau at campaign stops, his campaign was often disturbed by unruly mobs protesting mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports. One event was canceled out of safety concerns, and Mr. Trudeau was pelted with gravel at another.

Mr. Trudeau did have a strong political challenger on the left nationally with Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats. Mr. Singh, a lawyer and former provincial lawmaker from Ontario, consistently had the highest approval ratings of all the leaders before and during the campaign. But personal popularity was not enough: His party gained three seats but won only a total of 27.

As before the election, the New Democrats are likely to be Mr. Trudeau’s primary source of support in Parliament.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Canada Heat Wave Breaks National Record

TORONTO — Vancouverites were frying eggs on pans placed on their terraces.

One man checked into an air-conditioned five-star hotel, after the five fans aimed at his bed at home and the seventh cold shower failed to bring relief.

Lettuce plants shriveled in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia’s picturesque wine region. Flowers wilted. People wilted.

The heat wave across western Canada has much of a country known for its sweater weather sweating.

Canada broke a national heat record on Sunday when the temperature in a small town in British Columbia reached almost 116 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an 84-year-old record by nearly 3 degrees, with dangerously hot weather expected to continue for several more days.

“This is a complete shock to a Canadian — this feels like Las Vegas or India — not Vancouver,” said Chris Johnson, a criminal lawyer who on Monday was heading to an air-conditioned hotel room as temperatures inside his home reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

the northwestern United States, including 112 degrees on Sunday in Portland, Ore.

Emily Jubenvill, co-owner and manager at Enderberry Farm, a farm that produces organic vegetables in the northern Okanagan Valley, said she and her husband were planning to beat the heat by getting to the fields at 3 a.m. Tuesday to pick vegetables. “Things are maturing faster under the stress of the heat, and so we’re not able to harvest as much,” she said, noting that the flavor of vegetables like lettuce could turn extremely bitter if exposed to very hot weather.

Canada’s old national heat record was 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 Fahrenheit, but on Sunday, Lytton, a town of fewer than 300 about three hours east of Vancouver, reached 46.6 Celsius, or 115.9 Fahrenheit, according to Environment Canada.

Other towns in southern British Columbia, including Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna, are breaking local records under the high-pressure heat dome, and temperatures well over 100 degrees are forecast through Wednesday.

Previously, Midale and Yellow Grass, both in rural Saskatchewan, held the record in Canada for the highest temperature on July 5, 1937, at 113 degrees.

National Climate Assessment, a scientific report by 13 U.S. federal agencies, heat waves have climbed from two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010. The season for heat waves has also grown 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, the report notes.

It is all part of an overall warming trend: The seven warmest years in the history of accurate worldwide record-keeping have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000. An analysis from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a group of European climate researchers, found that the hottest year on record was 2020, tied with 2016.

Several school districts in British Columbia were closed on Monday, given that many buildings are not fitted with air conditioning. Temperatures rarely go above 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Vancouver, Mr. Phillips said.

British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, a state-owned utilities company, saw back-to-back record-breaking electricity use on Saturday and Sunday, with some local power outages reported across the system, the Provincial Crown corporation said in a news release Monday.

On social media, people posted photographs of their pets cooling off with ice packs, putting out water trays for birds or avoiding the sun altogether.

In a weather alert for Metro Vancouver on Monday, Environment Canada warned that temperatures could reach as high as 44 degrees Celsius, or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, during the day.

“The duration of this heat wave is concerning as there is little relief at night with elevated overnight temperatures,” it wrote, advising local residents to navigate the “record-breaking heat” by drinking plenty of water and avoiding leaving people and pets in a parked vehicle.

It also advised residents to watch out for the symptoms of heat illness such as dizziness, fainting, nausea and decreased urination.

Henry Fountain contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<