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Virus passports spur vaccinations

Requirement for shots to buy alcohol, pot cited in Quebec by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | January 10, 2022 at 3:58 a.m.

It's shots for shots in Canada after first-dose vaccination appointments quadrupled in Quebec when the Canadian province required vaccination passports to buy alcohol and marijuana.

Quebec announced the new rules Thursday, when there were an average of 1,500 first-dose appointments, the Montreal Gazette reported. On Friday, there were 6,000 first-dose appointments, according to Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube.

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The new rules require a covid-19 vaccination to enter state-run Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) and Societe quebecoise du cannabis (SQDC) locations beginning Jan. 18. More than 78% of people in Quebec are fully vaccinated, according to Canadian government data. That's a higher percentage than in any U.S. state.

In Mexico, U.S. company Moderna donated 2.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccine Saturday as that country's official death toll topped 300,000.

Mexico passed 300,000 test-confirmed coronavirus deaths this week, but so little testing is done in the country that a government review of death certificates putsthe real toll at almost 460,000. Mexican officials welcomed the arrival of the shipment at the airport in Toluca, just west of Mexico City, and said the vaccines will be used to inoculate teachers.

Teachers in Mexico were second in line, after only health care workers, to be vaccinated in the spring.

In April and May, over 2.7 million teachers got initial shots. But most of them got the single-dose Chinese Cansino vaccine, whose effectiveness appears to decline over time. Mexico has now obtained over 200 million doses of vaccines, and has been trying to reopen in-person learning at all levels.

In other world covid-19 developments over the weekend, Australia's New South Wales state reported 16 deaths on Sunday in its deadliest day of the pandemic, even as it relaxed rules to allow some essential workers in isolation to return to work if they are asymptomatic.

Just over 30,000 new cases were reported in Australia's most populous state, forcing those people to join more than 200,000 others in isolation.

No statistics are kept to determine how many of those are essential workers in the food and manufacturing sectors. But some employers say up to half of their workers have been furloughed after coming into contact with a positive case.

Shoppers have reported empty shelves in many supermarkets because of the omicron outbreak's impact on food processing and supply chains.

The rule change applies in agriculture to bio-security and food safety personnel undertaking critical duties; in manufacturing to the production of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products; and in transport to food logistics and delivery.

In China, the major port of Tianjin may be facing that nation's first outbreak of omicron of any size, less than four weeks before the Winter Olympics open in nearby Beijing.

The city began mass testing of its 14 million residents on Sunday after a cluster of 20 children and adults tested positive for covid-19, including at least two with the omicron variant. Officials said the virus has been circulating so the number of cases could grow.

China has stepped up its strict zero tolerance strategy in the run-up to the Olympics, which open Feb. 4. The Chinese capital is 70 miles northwest of Tianjin and many people regularly travel back and forth by car or on a high-speed rail link that takes less than one hour.

Elsewhere, millions of people are being confined to their homes in Xi'an and Yuzhou, two cities that are far away but have larger outbreaks. Both have been traced to the delta variant. The outbreak in Yuzhou is also affecting Zhengzhou, the Henan provincial capital 40 miles to the north. Zhengzhou has been conducting mass testing and is closing schools starting today.

The first two cases confirmed in Tianjin were a 10-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman working at the after-school center. Both were infected by the omicron variant. In subsequent testing of close contacts, 18 others tested positive and 767 tested negative as of Saturday night.

Finally, India recorded 160,000 known cases Sunday as the nation's election commission banned public campaign rallies for a week as coronavirus cases, fueled by the omicron variant, soared in large parts of the country. But the local assembly elections in five states, representing a population of about 250 million, would proceed as planned starting in February, the commission said.

Sushil Chandra, India's chief election commissioner, said the moratorium on rallies would be reviewed Saturday based on the pandemic trends.

New Delhi remained locked down for the weekend, as security forces operated a strict curfew. Several other states and cities across India are also enforcing nighttime curfews and movement limits. In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, officials moved to impose movement restrictions Sunday. But it caused a crowded rush on shopping centers Saturday, as people tried to squeeze in last-minute shopping before a local harvest festival.

Information for this article was contributed by Joseph Wilkinson of New York Daily News; by Mujib Mashal of The New York Times; and by The Associated Press.

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