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A trucker protest that has clogged the streets of the Canadian capital for weeks has spread to cities across the world, and impeded access to the busiest land crossing between the United States and Canada as drivers and their supporters demonstrate against vaccine mandates and pandemic control measures. 

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.

A protester walks in front of parked trucks in Ottawa as demonstrations continue over vaccine mandates and coronavirus restrictions on February 8.

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. 

The United States has a booster shot problem. As other nations hurtle ahead in their Covid-19 vaccination programs, lagging uptake in the US of the third vaccine is concerning public health experts.  

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: When can younger children be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the United States?

A: The timeline for when children younger than five might start receiving Covid-19 vaccinations in the US has just been pushed back.

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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Now, other European countries are starting to consider similarly drastic measures to persuade more people to be inoculated, despite criticisms that low vaccination rates made them unrealistic and would deprive millions from earning a livelihood, Eliza Mackintosh reports. 

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.

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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.

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TOP TIP

The head of the Times Square Alliance, Tom Harris, said that all attendees five years and older will have to show proof of vaccination. Those attending with disabilities who cannot be vaccinated must show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours. He added that children under five must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult and all individuals who are unable to be vaccinated must wear a mask. Read more here. 

Here’s a refresher on how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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TODAY’S PODCAST

Remember how awkward and confused you felt as a teen? It’s a time of so many changes – but perhaps the most radical transformation is going on inside the adolescent brain. In this week’s podcast, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta dives into the neuroscience of the teen brain to figure out how teens make decisions and weigh risks. Listen Now.