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Trudeau invokes emergency powers to quell Canada protests******
A woman walks past vehicles blocking a road during a protest by truck drivers over pandemic health rules and the Trudeau government outside the parliament of Canada in Ottawa on February 14.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked rarely used emergency powers to bring an end to trucker-led protests against COVID-19 health rules, after police arrested 11 people with a "cache of firearms" blocking a border crossing with the United States.
It marked only the second time in Canadian history such powers have been invoked in peacetime, and came as hundreds of big rigs still clogged the streets of the capital Ottawa, as well as two border crossings.
"The federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations," Trudeau told a news conference.
The prime minister said the military would not be deployed at this stage, but that authorities would be granted more powers to arrest protesters and seize their trucks in order to clear blockades, as well as ban funding of the protests.
"We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue," Trudeau said.
"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions," he added, noting that the scope of the measures would be "time-limited" and "geographically targeted," but without providing specifics.
As the threat of violence lingered, federal police said they arrested 11 protesters with rifles, handguns, body armor and ammunition at the border between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, Montana, just a day after another key US-Canada border crossing was cleared in Ontario.
"The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.
The protests by Canadian truckers and their supporters – opposed to mandatory coronavirus vaccines and pushing a wider anti-establishment agenda – have triggered copycat movements from France to New Zealand, with US truckers mulling similar rallies.
Under pressure to act, Trudeau on Sunday convened a special federal response group on efforts to end the occupation of Ottawa and the remaining, economically damaging, blockades of border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.
The Emergencies Act was previously used by Trudeau's father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, during the October Crisis of 1970.
It saw troops sent to Quebec to restore order after the kidnappings by militant separatists of a British trade attache and a Quebec minister, Pierre Laporte, who was found strangled to death in the trunk of a car.
Canada's so-called "Freedom Convoy" started with truckers protesting against mandatory vaccines to cross the border with the United States.
But its demands now include an end to all COVID-19 health measures and, for many of the protesters, for the toppling of Trudeau's Liberal government – only five months after he won reelection.
The truckers have found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents across the globe, even as COVID-19 measures are being rolled back in many places.
In Paris on the weekend, police fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines in an effort to break up convoys coming from across France.
The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria have also seen copycat movements, and Belgian authorities said on Monday they had intercepted 30 vehicles as police scrambled to stop a convoy of trucks.
Canadian police over the weekend cleared a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, which handles an estimated 25 percent of trade with the United States, and had disrupted business in the world's largest economy.
But on Monday morning in Ottawa, as a deep freeze rolled in, protesters remained defiant despite threats of jail and fines of up to C$100,000 (US$80,000).
WHO says not clear weather Omicron more transmissible, causes more severe disease******
A man wearing a face mask walks past a bus in London, Britain, on November 24, 2021.。
It is not yet clear whether the Omicron COVID-19 variant is more transmissible, or causes more severe disease compared to other variants including Delta, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.。
WHO said it's not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants, even though the number of people testing positive has risen in South Africa where this variant was involved.。
It's also not yet clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease, but preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, which however may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected.。
WHO confirmed that there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants, as understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.。
People walk on a commercial street in Cape Town, South Africa on November 28, 2021.。
All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is currently dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.。
However, WHO said preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron, but information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.。
It added that current PCR tests continue to detect Omicron, while further studies are still going on to understand how the Omicron variant will impact on available vaccines and treatments to COVID-19.。
WHO classified on Friday the latest variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2 virus, now with the name Omicron, as a "Variant of Concern" (VOC).。
According to WHO's definition, a VOC, with a degree of global public health significance, demonstrates one or more of mutational changes, such as increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, and decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.。
WHO has since called on countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing on circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, submit complete genome sequences and metadata to a publicly available database, and report initial VOC cases or clusters to WHO.。
It has also recommended field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, the effectiveness of public health and social measures and antibody neutralization.。