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Good evening, here are the COVID-19 updates you need to know tonight.

Top headlines:

  1. New Canadian COVID-19 travel rules spark turmoil at airports and criticism from WHO
  2. Non-medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines pose challenges for Canada’s human-rights commissions
  3. What preliminary data might tell us about the Omicron variant’s future in Canada

COVID-19 data is published Monday through Friday.

Coronavirus explainers: Coronavirus in maps and chartsTracking vaccine dosesLockdown rules and reopening

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Police officers dressed in riot gear confront demonstrators during a protest against the Belgian government's restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, in Brussels, Belgium on December 5.JOHANNA GERON/Reuters

Coronavirus in Canada

  • Ontario is reporting 1,184 new cases of COVID-19 today, but no additional deaths linked to the virus. This is the third day in a row that the province has reported more than 1,000 new infections.
  • Quebec is reporting 1,256 new COVID-19 cases today and one further death attributed to the virus. The Health Department says there are 819 active outbreaks in the province.
  • British Columbia’s health minister, Adrian Dix, says the province is “ahead of the curve” on recommendations by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that Canadians ages 50 and older get a COVID-19 booster shot. Dix says that 470,000 people have already had a third shot and that the province would start its booster program.

The growing use of vaccine mandates and requests for non-medical exemptions have led to a surge in calls and complaints to human-rights commissions, prompting new questions about how – or if – human-resource offices should accommodate those who refuse vaccines for non-medical reasons.

  • B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner says that from April, 2020, to October, 2021, the office had a 775-per-cent increase in inquiries related to COVID-19.
  • Some employers are taking a rigid approach when it comes to non-medical exemptions. But in other cases, accommodation is being made for unvaccinated workers. According to the Treasury Board of Canada, federal employees who request an exemption on religious grounds can be accommodated if they swear an affidavit detailing why they can’t be vaccinated.

Travel restrictions: The federal government’s new travel rules, which have been criticized by many scientists and health experts, have left some Canadians stranded in southern Africa while forcing others to spend unexpected time in a war-torn country on their way home.

Omicron in Canada: Infectious disease experts say the rate of COVID-19 among the vaccinated and hospital admissions will likely determine Omicron’s trajectory. With our high vaccination rate, Canada could fare better than others.

Pandemic anxiety: As the new variant Omicron has Canadians feeling anxious, researchers say we can coach our brains to be better at managing this unpredictable world.

Holiday plans: Canadians are feeling uncertain about holiday plans with the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Pandemic aid: Opposition MPs are getting ready to review the Liberals’ latest pandemic aid package and grill Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on economic issues.

Coronavirus around the world

Coronavirus and business

Small businesses across Canada are feeling the crunch of a tight labour market and supply-chain challenges. With the winter holiday in full swing, late shipments and bare shelves could be disastrous for the busiest sales season of the year.

  • “All our margins are gone. We’re selling product, but we’re not making any money,” said Helmi Ansari, who owns Grosche International in Cambridge, Ont.
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Ansari’s products could be manufactured and delivered to Canada within three months. His products now take almost a year to make, and he pays about US$28,500 to get 10,000 of them to Canada – assuming he can get them shipped at all.

Also today: The threat of a strike at Cargill, the Alberta beef processing plant that was the site of a major outbreak of COVID-19, has been averted after workers accepted the owner’s latest offer.

And: Flair Airlines is expanding rapidly, but internal discord and regulatory scrutiny raise questions about its ambitious growth.

Globe opinion

More reporting

  • Canadian women’s field hockey gets travel exemption to leave South Africa
  • Philadelphia Union was short-handed 11 players heading into MLS East final because of COVID-19 protocols
  • Why Aaron Rodgers got away with a fine and three Buccaneers got banned

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