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The government is to consider banning all foreign travelers from Canada and introducing a recommendation banning non-essential international travel for Canadians

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December 14, 2021December 14, 20213 minutes read A possible travel ban could include foreign travelers from the US, the source said. Photo by Carlos Osorio/Reuters/File

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The Liberal government is considering a series of new border restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron-COVID-19 variant, sources told the National Post.

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A senior Liberal source said the government is considering all measures, including travel restrictions, but has not yet made a final decision.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to speak with prime ministers Tuesday night about the Omicron variant and what can be done to curb its rapid spread.

The surge in Omicron’s cases is clearly worrying the premieres, especially as Christmas is just over a week away when many family reunions will take place.

A source familiar with the Liberal discussions said the government is considering banning all foreign travelers from entering the country for non-essential reasons and introducing a recommendation banning non-essential international travel by Canadians.

The ban could include foreign travelers from the US, the source said.

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While no final decision had been made as of Tuesday night’s press time, an announcement could be made as early as tomorrow.

  1. A healthcare worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a young mother in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 4, 2021.

    Everything we know about Omicron is based on early data in South Africa

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    Norway introduces alcohol ban to slow oncoming Omicron wave

One important detail ironed out is the effective date of the new measures.

The sources said the federal government will focus on border and travel measures on the call with prime ministers and will encourage prime ministers to focus on rapid testing and booster shots, as well as advise against relaxing rules around Christmas celebrations.

In Tuesday’s budget update, Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland said the government is planning $1.7 billion to buy more rapid tests and ship them to provinces across the country.

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She also said $4.5 billion would be set aside for Omicron’s spending.

On Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s top doctor, urged the provincial government to take urgent action to combat omicron.

Moore says an announcement will be made later this week in which health officials will review restrictions like maximum group sizes for gatherings.

Although the new variant is still being studied, Moore says there is evidence that it is more easily transmitted and that more fully vaccinated people are contracting it.

Omicron is on track to become the dominant strain in Ontario, and Moore says all new cases going forward should be treated as Omicron, meaning all of their contacts must be isolated for 10 days, even if vaccinated .

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In Quebec, the provincial government on Tuesday recommended employers prioritize remote work and promised to release free rapid tests to the public next week.

The recommendation for remote work is effective immediately, Health Minister Christian Dube told reporters. He said the government is also looking for volunteers to help it ramp up its booster vaccination program, but in the meantime, he added, Quebecers need to scale back their outreach.

“Given the rising cases and the potential of Omicron, we want to speed up booster shots,” Dube said of the new variant of the novel coronavirus, of which only 11 cases have been confirmed in the province so far. “But we need more vaccines. Starting today, we are asking employers to prioritize (remote work) until further notice to minimize workplace contacts.”

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You have to stay ahead of the game

Later Tuesday, the government announced that it had suspended its return-to-work order for government employees issued in mid-November. Full-time remote work would apply “to relevant public service personnel until otherwise advised”.

Dube said that despite the high level of transmission in Quebec, the government will stand by its decision to ease restrictions and allow up to 20 people to gather indoors starting December 23, up from a limit of 10 people.

But that could change.

“We’re not afraid to change our minds if we think we’re not going in the right direction,” Dube said. “You have to be ahead of the game.”

The provincial health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, appealed to common sense among Quebecers. In his own case, he said he reduced the size of his holiday gathering from 15 to seven people. “You have to manage your own risk,” Arruda said. “I appeal to the intelligence of Quebecers and if they have concerns and are worried they should reduce their contacts.”

British Columbia has detected 44 cases of omicron. Those who have tested positive for Omicron range in age from five to 72 and none have been hospitalized.

According to the Ministry of Health, 20 of those infected have recently traveled to Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Germany, Portugal or the United States.

— With additional reporting from The Canadian Press

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