Coronavirus: Students at York University residence told to go into self-isolation

All students living in a residence building at York University have been advised to go into self-isolation after an individual began exhibiting “some symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.”

The notice was posted on the university’s website on Wednesday regarding Founders Residence.

The university, however, said the individual exhibiting symptoms does not have either a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19.

“York has carefully planned for this scenario and we immediately notified Toronto Public Health to ensure the person is receiving the appropriate care and that proper precautions are being taken to minimize the risk of transmission, including contacting anyone else they believe may be at risk,” the message read.

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“Students and employees sharing space with this individual have been provided additional communication on this matter.

“In addition, as a precaution TPH advised that all persons living in the residence should immediately go into self-isolation.”

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NZ's Ardern says guilty plea gives some relief to people shattered by mosque attack

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the guilty plea and conviction of the Christchurch mosque attacker brings some relief to many people affected by last year’s attack.

“The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15,” Ardern said in a statement.

Australian Brenton Tarrant entered a surprise guilty plea in a Christchurch court on Thursday to all 92 charges against him.

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Bolivia extends closure of borders, declares health emergency for coronavirus

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia declared a national health emergency and extended its border lockdown on Wednesday, as the government seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Interim President Jeanine Anez said in a public address that the border closure was extended to April 15 from March 31 previously. Anez said no one will be able to enter or exit Bolivia during that time.

Bolivia, which was already under a 14-day national quarantine, also tightened restrictions on movement, permitting only one person per household to go out between the hours of 7 am and noon on weekdays.

“In recent days, non-compliance with the quarantine has increased the risk of contagion,” Anez said, adding that the armed forces and national police would become more involved in enforcing the quarantine.

Bolivia has 38 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to government data.

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UK deaths from coronavirus outbreak rise to 463 as of March 25: Government

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen to 463 as of Wednesday from 422 on Tuesday, the British government said, adding that more than 9,500 COVID-19 cases have now been reported in the country.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the UK have risen to 9,529 as of Wednesday, compared to 8,077 cases as of Tuesday, the statement added.

The government is anticipating a peaking of coronavirus cases in Britain in the coming weeks and has appealed to manufacturers to supply the National Health Service with the appropriate requirements.

Britain had been in talks with over 3,000 businesses about supplying ventilators to quickly increase the health service’s capacity. The country’s existing stock of about 5,000-8,000 ventilators is inadequate if cases jump as predicted.

Britain has ordered 10,000 medical ventilators designed at breakneck speed by vacuum cleaner-maker Dyson, according to an internal email to Dyson’s staff, which was seen by Reuters.

Separately, over 170,000 people have signed up to help the NHS tackle the outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Britons on Monday to stay at home to halt the spread of the virus, imposing curbs on everyday life without precedent in peacetime.

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Honduran government delivers food to 3.2 million people amid coronavirus lockdown

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Armed Honduran soldiers began delivering food to some 3.2 million people on lockdown in their homes on Wednesday, part of the government’s efforts stop the spread of coronavirus in a nation with few resources and a limited public health system.

So far, Honduras has reported 36 cases of the virus and no deaths. To prevent the virus from spreading, President Juan Orlando Hernandez has suspended public transportation, closed government offices and businesses, and ordered people nationwide to stay indoors at all hours.

“We are doing everything in our power to save lives. This includes making sure the most vulnerable have food at home on their tables,” Hernandez told a national television network.

The distribution of beans, rice, sugar, butter, cornmeal and spaghetti along with soap, detergent and hand-sanitizer for 6,000 families began in the impoverished Los Pinos neighborhood in the capital of Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. The army will gradually bring supplies to 800,000 families total in San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Choluteca, some of Honduras’ biggest cities, each of which have reported cases of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, residents in various parts of Tegucigalpa protested on the streets to demand food, saying they were unable to work or shop for groceries because of the lockdown.

“This situation has been sad because we didn’t have anything – there’s no transportation, no money. We didn’t have food anymore,” said Maria Montoya, 70, a Los Pinos resident who said her husband, a security guard, has not been able to work.

In Los Pinos, which is controlled by the violent Barrio 18 gang, uniformed soldiers in bulletproof vests and carrying M-16 rifles arrived in army trucks with supplies meant to last 15 days per family, and went on foot through steep narrow streets to deliver packages.

“We are going to go door to door. We want whoever needs it, who doesn’t have money, to have this food package, while this difficult situation lasts,” Hernandez said.

Many other families were going without aid on Wednesday, however, spurring further protests in various parts of the country, with residents blocking a road for several hours outside Tegucigalpa and demanding supplies.

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Shelters in Saint John relocating clients to maintain social distancing

Crystal Scott has worked with the Coverdale Emergency Women’s Shelter in Saint John for 12 years. In that time, she’s worked through a lot of challenges, but nothing like what she’s seen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Never, ever have I ever seen anything like this,” Scott says.

Both the women’s shelter and the Outflow men’s shelter in the city have temporarily relocated their clients to allow for social distancing.

Outflow is redirecting clients to the Boys and Girls Club on Paul Harris Street, with Coverdale moving clients into a middle school gymnasium.

“The bedrooms are very small here,” Scott says. “So you wouldn’t even be able to really stretch your arms out without touching somebody.”

Scott says staff have already implemented a number of procedures to protect clients and volunteers from falling ill, and that the current location will be used to house any of the clients who may need to self-isolate.

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Coverdale’s shelter is set up inside a townhouse.

There are two sets of bunk beds in two of the bedrooms, and one set in two additional rooms.

Scott says an uptick in clients over the past couple of years has meant they even have women sleeping on the floor at times.

The pandemic has only added to a list of concerns for those already vulnerable women, now being relocated for an indeterminate amount of time.

“We don’t have a time frame,” Scott says, “which is very hard to work with the ladies that are already in a situation where they don’t know what’s coming.”

Scott adds that empty shelves at grocery stores across the city are another concern for the Coverdale staff.

“Toilet paper is definitely something we are going through quickly,” she says.

“As everybody knows – it’s become a big joke and it’s really not a joke to us right now because we’re limited. The stores are limiting us to what we can get.”

Scott says donations of everyday items, such as snacks, food or cleaning products would benefit them in the rapidly changing climate of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I don’t even know if there are any Clorox or Lysol wipes anywhere,” she says, “but we could definitely use those.”

Donations can be dropped off or a pickup can be accommodated in most cases. Arrangements can be made by calling 506-672-6285.

With much left unknown, Scott says one thing is certain: “We’re not going to refuse anybody that’s sick,” she says.

“We have a plan.”

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Cases of COVID-19 surge in City of Kawartha Lakes as 3 more confirmed, 10 self-isolating: health unit

The health unit representing the City of Kawartha Lakes reports three new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and 10 self-isolating cases late Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge, District Health Unit update issued online at 4:40 p.m. March 25, the confirmed cases for which tests arrived on Tuesday include:

  • a man in his 70s at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, who is self-isolating
  • a woman in her 60s at Ross Memorial Hospital, who remains hospitalized
  • a woman in her 80s at Ross Memorial Hospital, who remains hospitalized

Ten other cases reported on Tuesday are currently listed as self-isolating. They are all women in their 30s to 70s, according to the health unit.

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Coronavirus: Doctor warns of 'incoming disaster' in Gaza

Palestinian-Canadian physician Tarek Loubani says only a suspension of blockade of Gaza will help in COVID-19 crisis.

Montreal, Canada – For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a simple principle: all patients, no matter where they live, should have equal access to high-quality healthcare. But it is obvious to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor that this ideal is not yet a reality.

“I practised in Canada and I practised in Gaza, and I could see that my patients in Gaza weren’t receiving the same care,” he told Al Jazeera this week, as the blockaded Palestinian territory confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus.

More:

  • Gaza prepares for potential coronavirus outbreak

  • Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed cases?

  • What happens if you catch the new coronavirus?

The global coronavirus pandemic has thrust stark global disparities in access to healthcare and medical equipment into the spotlight, as some countries are being ravaged while others are succeeding so far in staving off a crisis.

The Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places in the world, is expected to be among the hardest-hit areas, as experts fear chronic shortages and an already strained healthcare system will exacerbate the spread of the virus.

Medical workers in Gaza are preparing for the worst, said Loubani, who spent two weeks working there last month. “People were so terrified because they knew that they were living in a powder keg,” he said. “And even these two cases represent such an incoming disaster.”

3D printing supplies

An emergency room physician in the Canadian province of Ontario, Loubani has worked with colleagues in Gaza to address some of the problems plaguing the healthcare system for several years.

In 2015, he raised over $206,000 ($300,000 Canadian) to erect solar panels atop a handful of hospitals across the Palestinian territory and provide a more consistent supply of electricity amid frequent power cuts. He also founded the Glia Project, an open-source charity that produces 3D-printed medical equipment at a low cost. The group has helped deploy 3D-printed stethoscopes and tourniquets in Gaza.

For COVID-19, Glia has shared production plans for medical face shields, which front-line medical workers use when they are treating patients.

The face shields, which are being produced for use in Canadian facilities amid concerns that supplies may run out, are made with mylar and elastic, and they cost seven dollars per unit to produce. They are also reusable, Loubani said.

He said the equipment would help plug a gap in Canada, which is otherwise well-equipped to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and where the government has mobilised various industries to manufacture supplies. But Loubani conceded that face masks alone would not drastically change the reality of COVID-19 in Gaza.

“Face shields in Canada are great because that’s the thing that’s missing. But in Gaza, it’s not the thing that’s missing. It’s like a bridge, but there’s no ends on either side of this bridge.”

‘Nightmare scenario’

Under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for over a decade, the Gaza Strip faces a dire humanitarian crisis and its medical facilities are stretched thin. Many Palestinians in the territory do not have regular access to electricity, clean water or sanitation, a reality that could exacerbate the outbreak.

Serious concerns have also been raised that Gaza does not have enough coronavirus testing kits to meet the needs of the local population, which numbers nearly two million people.

“The hospitals are not yet really ready,” said Matthias Schmale, director of Gaza operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on March 20, just days before the first coronavirus cases were reported.

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem also said on March 23 that the spread of the coronavirus in Gaza would be “a massive disaster resulting entirely” from the conditions created entirely by the Israeli blockade.

“A failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health … combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario,” the group said in a statement.

Loubani said that in February, when he was last in Gaza, physicians did not have enough gloves, face shields, or M95 protective masks, and many hospitals did not have respirators. That equipment is key to combatting the virus, which makes it difficult for patients to breathe and often requires their intubation.

“The most frustrating part about the health system in Gaza is [that] we actually know the answer, and the answer is an immediate end to the blockade, even if for a short period so that we can get through this crisis,” Loubani said.

“There’s some amount of the coronavirus that’s inevitable in Gaza, but the disaster we’re about to watch unfold is not inevitable.” 

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Coronavirus: Town of Cobourg, Ont. delivers pandemic response update

It wasn’t your typical news conference in Cobourg, Ont. on Wednesday morning.

There were no reporters in this live-to-tape update that was eventually posted to the the town’s new emergency control group YouTube page.

It was the first news conference since the town declared a state of emergency on March 19.

“Just recently, I declared a state of emergency that enables us to get additional resources and get provincial funds as required,” said mayor John Henderson.

The town’s emergency operations centre was activated on March 15, and with the call for the public to keep its distance, the emergency control group is meeting daily — virtually.

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“This new way of operating is proving to be productive and efficient in this ever-changing environment we’re working in,” said Mike Vilneff, town fire chief and community emergency management coordinator.

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CFL continues to discuss potential contingency plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the CFL continues to discuss potential contingency plans to its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

No decisions have been made yet but Ambrosie said league officials are aware the clock is ticking.

“We haven’t decided yet on a go, no-go date . . . (but) we know it’s out there,” Ambrosie said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “What we’re trying to do is educate ourselves and be in a position to make really smart, informed decisions when we have the information that’s needed.

“We’ve got a little bit of time and that time can be an ally in helping inform us.”

On Tuesday, the league postponed its global draft — which was slated for April 16 — and said it will now coincide with the opening of training camps. The CFL draft remains scheduled for April 30.

Earlier, the CFL cancelled regional combines in Montreal and Edmonton as well as its national combine in Toronto. Ambrosie said rescheduling the global draft was a no-brainer.

“If we’re going to take this initiative to the next level . . . we’ve got to give coaches and GMs an opportunity to evaluate these players,” Ambrosie said. “We’re convinced . . . this group of players is special and there’s many of them who can make contributions to CFL teams.”

Even if the CFL draft goes ahead as scheduled, it’s difficult to see how the league can’t push back the start of training camps, and by default, the ’20 regular season. On Tuesday, the Tokyo Summer Games, which were scheduled to begin July 24, were postponed until 2021 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

CFL rookie camps are scheduled to open May 13 with training camps slated to begin four days later. The first exhibition game is set for May 24 with the regular season kicking off June 11.

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However, at the heart of any contingency plan would be the integrity of the regular season and how many games would constitute a valid campaign.

“We had that discussion this week,” Ambrosie said. “If you started with that idea, what do you need to have in order to be able to call it a legitimate regular season?

“We’re trying to not write these things down in indelible ink because what we’re trying to do is to keep talking about them with the hope by the time we finish the debate, we’ll have much more clarity and be able to make informed decisions.”

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