By Karen Schwartz
Canada will require passengers seeking to board international flights into the country to show their airline proof of a negative coronavirus test, in addition to entering an already existing, mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival.
The new rule, which the government announced on Thursday, will take effect on Jan. 7 and will require proof of a negative PCR test taken in the previous 72 hours. PCR tests must be sent to a lab and can take several days to process, unlike the rapid antigen test, which gives a result in about 30 minutes.
The country remains closed to most foreign nationals entering for nonessential purposes, but it is tightening its already strict entry protocols as parts of the country, including Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, grapple with an alarming increase in virus cases and deaths.
After a relatively calm summer, cases and deaths in Canada have been on the rise throughout the fall, according to a New York Times database. More than 15,000 people have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, and 573,000 cases have been reported.
As of Jan. 7, the only passengers not required to show a negative PCR test to board a Canada-bound international flight will be children under the age of 5, passengers whose planes are stopping only to refuel, and airline crew members and emergency service providers, such as first responders.
Flights from the United Kingdom, where a more contagious variant of the virus was recently detected, were suspended as of Dec. 23 and will remain so until Jan. 6. Nonetheless, a couple in Ontario with no known travel history were found to be infected with the new variant last week.
In other news from around the world:
Vietnam has reported a case of the variant first discovered in Britain, making it the 34th country to identify the variant within its borders. The health ministry said the case was identified in a 44-year-old woman who had returned to Vietnam from Britain, Reuters reported. She quarantined upon arrival in Vietnam and tested positive on Dec. 24.
After days of record-setting coronavirus tallies in Tokyo, the city’s governor, Yuriko Koike, asked Japan‘s central government on Saturday to declare a national state of emergency for the first time since April, as part of a broader effort to urge residents to stay home as much as possible. Tokyo reported a record 1,337 new infections on Thursday, and the nation has reported a daily average of nearly 3,000 cases over the past week.
Facing broad criticism, the government of the Netherlands on Saturday said it would speed up its lagging vaccination process and provide the first shots to frontline health care workers earlier than its planned start of next Friday. The new start date is expected to be announced on Monday. Most European nations started vaccinations last week. Despite being in lockdown since Dec. 14, the country’s infection rate has only recently gone down, and only slightly, leaving it still among the highest in Europe, with an average of 51 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
Brazil‘s pandemic death toll — the world’s second-highest — is approaching 200,000, as of Saturday. Only the United States has recorded more deaths, with nearly 350,000. Brazil has reported around 7.6 million cases, and Minas Gerais leads all Brazilian states in new ones, with a daily average of nearly 4,000 over the past week.
South Korea said on Saturday that it would extend until Jan. 17 restrictions in and around Seoul that had shuttered schools, gyms, karaoke rooms, bars and other high-risk facilities. Those restrictions are at the second-highest level of a five-tier system, in a country whose pandemic response was once held up as a model. The government said on Saturday that it would expand one of the restrictions — a ban on gatherings of more than four people — from Seoul to the entire country.
Zimbabwe will shutter nonessential businesses for a month and extend a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, its information secretary, Nick Mangwana, said on Saturday. The measures also include restrictions on travel between cities and a 30-day ban on gatherings such as weddings and church services. In the span of a week, the country has recorded 1,342 new cases and 29 new deaths, its highest so far, Mr. Mangwana said.
In the northern Chinese city of Shenyang, which reported seven cases on Friday, officials ramped up restrictions on Saturday by closing public spaces, limiting some residents from leaving their home district and ordering nonessential workers in some areas to stay home, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Officials in Beijing, about 400 miles southwest of Shenyang, also said they had succeeded in taming a small outbreak, but they warned that it could still spread beyond the district where it began.