Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Dec. 7

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday criticized Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa, for proposing a vaccination requirement for travellers arriving in the country to help prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Bolsonaro dismisses vaccination requirement for entry into Brazil

A commuter wears a protective mask in a subway station in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Dec. 1. (Andre Penner/The Associated Press)

The latest:

  • Quebec increases limit for indoor holiday gatherings, extends eligibility for 3rd doses.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday criticized Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa, for proposing a vaccination requirement for travellers arriving in the country to help prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.

"Anvisa wants to close the country's airspace now. Not again, damn it," Bolsonaro said at a business event in Brasilia.

Anvisa last month proposed adopting a "vaccination passport" for entry into Brazil, which Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked, but the government has not yet decided on the matter.

Vaccine skepticism from Bolsonaro, who says he has not gotten a COVID-19 shot, has done little to dampen Brazilians' eagerness to get immunized, with more than 85 per cent of adults now fully vaccinated. However, his discretion over federal policy may settle the debate on requiring vaccines for travellers.

The government had scheduled a meeting on Monday to debate the issue. It was cancelled after the Supreme Court gave 48 hours for the executive branch to explain why the vaccination passport has not yet been adopted.

Last week, at the suggestion of Anvisa, the government suspended flights from six countries in southern Africa, where the new, fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus was identified.

While much is still not known about omicron, unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of severe COVID-19 cases and deaths.

More than 600,000 Brazilians have died of COVID-19, the highest death toll outside of the United States.

Surge in Europe's cases

Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization's office for Europe said children in the five to 14 age group now account for the highest rates of reported COVID-19 infection in the region.

WHO Europe regional director Dr. Hans Kluge also argued that vaccine mandates should be "an absolute last resort," and said that COVID-19 deaths remain "significantly below previous peaks." But he said that coronavirus cases and deaths have more than doubled in the last two months in the 53-country region stretching to central Asia.

Schoolchildren wear masks in their classroom at a primary school in a city in Belgium on Monday. (James Arthur Gekiere/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images)

Kluge urged countries to "protect children and the schools" amid the rapid increase in cases among the young in the region, and said the incidence of COVID-19 was two to three times higher among young children than the average population in some places. Children have tended to face less severe cases than more vulnerable populations such as older people, health-care workers and people with weaker immune systems.

LISTEN | Travel restrictions 'could change at any time,' says Transport Minister Omar Alghabra: 
In the face of the omicron coronavirus variant, are new testing rules and travel restrictions effective? Matt Galloway talks to infectious disease physician Dr. Zain Chagla, and Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra 20:01

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 3:30  p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of the COVID-19 advisory board for Ontario, talks about omicron, risk and why he doesn't think restrictions will be eased in January

Keep holiday gatherings small in face of omicron variant, Ontario science adviser says

2 months ago
Duration 4:23
Dr. Peter Jüni says people need to 'use your common sense' when it comes to having small gatherings over the holidays in the face of the omicron variant. 4:23

What's happening around the world

A medical worker wears a shirt with the slogan against vaccine requirements for health-care workers during a protest against the Belgian government's measures aimed at reducing COVID-19. (Johanna Geron/Reuters)

As of Tuesday evening, more than 267 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

In Europe, thousands of Belgian health-care workers rallied Tuesday in Brussels to oppose mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and to demand better working conditions as a surge in new cases weighs heavily on hospitals.

The noisy rally ended outside the Belgian Health Ministry, where police at one point used pepper spray to keep some demonstrators away. There were no reports of injuries.

Starting Jan. 1, health-care workers in Belgium will have a three-month window in which to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Those who remain unvaccinated will be notified that their contracts will be suspended unless they provide a certificate proving recovery from COVID-19 or a recent negative test.

Health-care workers participate in a demonstration against a requirement that they receive the COVID-19 vaccine, in Brussels on Tuesday. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

From April, those without a proper justification for refusing to comply could be dismissed. According to some estimates, about 60,000 health workers across the country of 11.5 million people are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Sweden is set to reintroduce a raft of measures on Wednesday to curb rising COVID-19 infections and urge renewed physical distancing and the use of masks on public transit, the government said on Tuesday.

The Norwegian government introduced stricter rules on Tuesday to slow the spread of the illness amid a surge of infections in recent weeks.

No more than 10 visitors will be allowed in private homes, and people must keep a distance of at least one metre from anyone who is not a member of their household.

Bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at midnight.

In Poland, nightclubs will be closed from Dec. 15, except for New Year's Eve, the country's health minister said.

In the Americas, a federal judge in Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday blocked the last of the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, saying the government exceeded its authority with a requirement that millions of employees of federal contractors be inoculated.

The ruling was the latest setback for U.S. President Joe Biden, who announced a series of measures in September aimed at increasing vaccination rates to fight the pandemic, which continues to kill more than 1,000 Americans daily.

In Africa, Uganda has its first seven cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, a health official confirmed Tuesday. The director of clinical services, Charles Olaro, said the variant was detected in travellers from South Africa and Nigeria who arrived in Uganda on Nov. 29.

"We have already notified them about their status and they are already in isolation," he said.

Olaro said the first tests done on the travellers after arrival at Entebbe International Airport showed they were positive for the coronavirus, and further testing confirmed the new variant.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand on Tuesday reported 3,525 new COVID-19 cases and 31 additional deaths. The update came as health officials reported that the people who came into close contact with the country's first confirmed omicron case — a U.S. traveller — had now tested negative for COVID-19, according to local media.

In the Middle East, Iran on Tuesday reported 3,514 new cases of COVID-19 with 79 additional deaths.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 p.m. ET

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

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