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The so-called “Freedom Convoy” began at the end of January in Ottawa as an objection to a vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to either be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements, Paula Newton and Travis Caldwell report. Other protesters then joined to rail against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other Covid-19 preventative measures.
The protests, which have seen demonstrators leave trucks idling on roads, have infuriated politicians and business owners, with some in downtown Ottawa complaining about financial losses. “Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in parliament on Monday, the same day the Ambassador Bridge, which runs across the border between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was obstructed by demonstrators.
“It’s clear these disruptions have broadened in scope beyond the vaccine requirement implementation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday of the blockade.
The protesters’ demands do not reflect the majority view in Canada, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about four in every five Canadians fully vaccinated. Hate crimes have soared since the protests started in Ottawa, and a dedicated hotline has been established in the city following reports of anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic acts at the demonstrations.
Francois Laporte, the president of Teamsters Canada, said in a statement that the union represented more than 55,000 professional drivers, including 15,000 long-haul drivers, 90% of whom are vaccinated.
“The so-called ‘freedom convoy’ and the despicable display of hate lead by the political Right and shamefully encouraged by elected conservative politicians does not reflect the values of Teamsters Canada, nor the vast majority of our members, and in fact has served to delegitimize the real concerns of most truck drivers today,” he said in a statement.
The protests have been jumped on by the far right and Covid conspiracists around the world. In the US, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shared her support of the convoy on social media, while anti-vaccine mandate activists have created Facebook and Telegram groups to organize a descent on Washington.
Outside the British Parliament on Monday, demonstrators inspired by Canada’s trucker protest swarmed UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, calling him a “traitor” while spouting anti-vax and far-right messages, according to footage shared of the event.
The following day, a convoy of trucks and campervans blocked streets near New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington, Agence France-Presse reports, protesting vaccinations and Covid restrictions that are among the strictest in the world.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who recently announced plans to loosen the country’s tough border rules, said she had no intention of talking to the protesters, saying the majority of New Zealanders support the vaccination program.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Several screenshots on social media are claiming that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on Facebook encouraging people not to interact with the unvaccinated. Is it true?
A: No. The Facebook post in the screenshot is phony. Trudeau did not post any message encouraging anyone to make life difficult for the unvaccinated, Tara Subramaniam and Clara Grudberg report.
Representatives from Trudeau’s office told CNN that “this is not our post.” CNN reviews of Trudeau’s official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts did not find any post that included the material from the viral screenshot, nor any other language from Trudeau asking people not to speak to or text with unvaccinated family members.
Twitter flagged one of the posts displaying the phony screenshot as containing manipulated media.
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READS OF THE WEEK
Costa Rica mandated Covid-19 vaccines for children. But not everyone’s on board
It started as a heated discussion between a father and his son’s doctor. But it quickly escalated to a multi-person fistfight that shocked the nation.
Inside the St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Costa Rica’s Heredia province, not far from the capital San Jose, the argument — over the country’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate — came to blows last week, leading to the arrests of seven people, Rafael Romo reports.
Last November, Costa Rica became the first country in the world to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for minors, with all children 5 and older required to get vaccinated, barring medical exemptions. Now, a small, yet vocal group of parents — like the ones that encircled the hospital last week — is opposing the measure, catapulting the debate around mandatory vaccines onto the floors of Congress.
In some blue states masks are coming off, but the CDC warns against it
Several states in the US, including New Jersey, California, Delaware, and Oregon, have said they are lifting mask mandates in some indoor settings, including schools, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned against it.
Even though the Omicron wave has receded significantly in the US, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told Reuters that “now is not the moment” as the country averages just over 290,000 new cases per day.
“Our hospitalization rates now are higher than they even were at the peak of our Delta surge,” Walensky said. “So in this moment our recommendations are consistent with encouraging students to wear well-fitting masks. And that’s consistent with our guidance that still also recommends that people mask in public indoor settings in areas of high or substantial transmission.”
The pandemic is triggering eating disorders in our children
Pediatric hospitals in Canada and the US report a surge in young people being evaluated and hospitalized for eating disorders during the summer and fall of 2020.
The increased demand in services for pediatric eating disorders began “almost immediately” after the lockdown eased in June, said Dr. Mark Norris of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Norris was busier than he’d ever been, and his team “soon had more patients in hospital than I’d ever witnessed,” Sandee LaMotte reports.
Eating disorders are often triggered or exacerbated by stress, so like many specialists, Norris was worried the upheaval caused by the pandemic would trigger youths (and adults) who were in recovery from known eating disorders to relapse.
How worried should we be about the new ‘stealth’ Omicron? Our expert weighs in.
A new subvariant of Omicron is spreading rapidly in some parts of the world. This spinoff from the original Omicron variant, called BA.2, has been found in at least 49 countries, including the US. In some countries, like Denmark, BA.2 has already surpassed the original Omicron (BA.1) as the dominant variant. Because it doesn’t cause a certain signature on lab tests called an s-gene target failure, it can look like other coronavirus variants on a first screening. That has led some to call it “the stealth variant.”
Given how quickly it has spread and even displaced the contagious original Omicron variant in some places, this new subvariant appears to have an even higher rate of growth, according to CNN’s Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
There’s no evidence it causes more severe disease than the original Omicron, which has been associated with milder illness than previous variants like Delta, she added. Read more here.
Love isn’t just romantic dinners and moonlit walks; it’s also a survival mechanism just like hunger and thirst. On this week’s podcast, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the science behind falling in love and shares one expert’s tips on keeping love alive during the pandemic. Listen Now.