Ontario weighs whether to follow US in cutting COVID quarantine period. The province is evaluating whether it should shorten the isolation and quarantine period for COVID-positive people, following recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
On Tuesday, Ontario’s top doctor Kieran Moore postponed a scheduled news conference to consider the new U.S. guidelines, which came into effect south of the border on Monday.
“In light of the recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on shortening the recommended isolation and quarantine period, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Public Health Ontario are evaluating this guidance against Ontario-specific evidence,” said Carly Luis, communications director for Health Minister Christine Elliott.
On Monday, U.S. health officials reduced isolation restrictions for Americans who catch COVID-19 from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.
The CDC’s updated guidance recommends people who test positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others. The advice applies to both those who are unvaccinated and vaccinated.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”
Last week, the province announced hospital workers who have been in close contact with someone who is COVID-positive don’t have to stay home and isolate, as long as they test negative daily for 10 days.
The U.K. also reduced its COVID-19 self-isolation period from 10 to seven days, for people who test negative through a rapid test two days in a row.
Meanwhile, Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced more restrictions for those visiting and living in long-term care facilities, Tuesday, including a pause on visits from those other than designated caregivers, as well as a pause on day absences for residents.
Ontario has been seeing record daily numbers of COVID-19 cases all week, due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. On Tuesday, Ontario reported 8,825 new cases.
On Twitter, Elliott said 187 people were now in intensive care in Ontario hospitals due to COVID-19, among a total of 491 people hospitalized.
Health experts warn the COVID numbers are likely much higher than the official case counts, as testing centres are swamped and PCR testing not available at most GTA-area hospitals until well into the new year.
The United States on Tuesday expressed caution over upbeat comments by Iran and Russia about talks in Vienna to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying it was still too soon to say if Tehran had returned to the negotiations with a constructive approach.
Iran and Russia both gave upbeat views on Tuesday about talks that kicked off this week to salvage Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with global powers, although Western nations have said the negotiations are going too slowly.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said a deal was possible in the near future if other parties showed “good faith” while Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said a working group was making “indisputable progress” in the eighth round of talks.
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Speaking at a telephonic press briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said there was some progress in the last round of talks but it was too soon to tell whether Tehran, in the current round, returned to the table to build on those gains.
“It’s really too soon to tell whether Iran has returned with a more constructive approach to this round,” Price said. “We are now assessing, in the course of these talks, whether the Iranians came back with an agenda of new issues or preliminary solutions to the ones already presented,” Price said.
The original agreement lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities but Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, a year after he became U.S president. Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.
The latest round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States resumed on Monday in Vienna, with Tehran focused on getting U.S. sanctions lifted again, as they were under the original bargain, despite scant progress on reining in its atomic activities. read more
Iran refuses to meet U.S. officials directly, meaning other parties to the deal besides the United States and Iran — Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — must shuttle between the two sides.
The seventh round of talks, the first under Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, ended 11 days ago after some new Iranian demands were added to a working text.
“The Vienna talks are headed in a good direction,” Iranian Minister Amirabdollahian said in comments to reporters broadcast by state media. “We believe that if other parties continue the round of talks which just started with good faith, reaching a good agreement for all parties is possible.”
The U.S. delegation, led by Special Envoy Rob Malley, will be in a better position in the coming days to determine whether Iran has to come to the latest round of talks with a ‘fundamentally different position,” Price said.
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 17, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/EEAS/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
Iran insists all U.S. sanctions must be lifted before steps are taken on the nuclear side, while Western negotiators say nuclear and sanctions steps must be balanced in the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).
European negotiators also said some technical progress had been made in the last round of talks to accommodate Iranian requests, but warned that the parties only had weeks, not months, to salvage the deal.