Italy coronavirus deaths pass 7,500 amid fears of spread to south

ROME (Reuters) – More than 680 people have died from coronavirus in Italy in the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday, as concerns grew that the disease was spreading more towards the south of the country.

The death toll increased by 683 on Wednesday. That was lower than a spike of 743 on Tuesday but more than the totals of the previous two days and the third highest daily tally since the outbreak emerged in northern regions on Feb. 21.

Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with latest figures showing that 7,503 people have died from the infection in barely a month.

The northern region of Lombardy, by far the hardest-hit, showed a steep decline in the number of deaths and new infections on Wednesday, raising hopes that the epidemic may be slowing at its original epicentre.

However, optimism was tempered by warnings from the south, where contagion and deaths are far less widespread but are rising steadily, and could overwhelm a health service which is much less well equipped than in the rich north.

“At this point there is the real prospect that Lombardy’s tragedy is about to become the south’s tragedy,” Vincenzo De Luca, president of the Campania region around Naples, wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“We are on the eve of a major expansion of infections which may not be sustainable,” he said, complaining that the central government had failed to provide Campania with promised ventilators and other life-saving equipment.

So far there have been 74 deaths in Campania, the worst affected southern region. The central region of Lazio, around the capital Rome, has registered 95 fatalities.

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 74,386 from a previous 69,176, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The rise of 7.5% was the lowest since the outbreak began, but only severely ill people are being tested and the head of the agency, Angelo Borrelli, said this week that the true number of infections was probably 10 times those officially recorded.

Borrelli was not present at the customary news conference to illustrate the latest figures because he came down with a fever on Wednesday and was himself being tested for coronavirus.

With Italy in lockdown for the last two weeks and its economy on its knees, Conte on Wednesday promised a second stimulus package in April worth at least as much as the 25 billion euro ($27.17 billion) one he adopted in March.

With his approval ratings at record highs, the prime minister appealed to the opposition to get behind the government’s efforts and halt its attacks on his handling of the crisis until it is over.

“There will be a time for everything, but now is the time for action and responsibility,” he told the Chamber of Deputies.

One source of potential conflict for Conte was defused on Wednesday when the government reached an agreement with trade unions who had threatened strikes because they wanted more companies shuttered to protect workers’ health.

Conte agreed to extend the production sectors that will be temporarily closed because they are not deemed essential to the country’s supply chain.

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Man dies after ATV crash near Marchand, Man.

A man is dead following an ATV crash in rural Manitoba, southeast of Steinbach over the weekend.

RCMP say they weren’t immediately called to the crash, which happened on Trail 19 near Marchand, Man., around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Police say a man and woman had been on a side-by-side off-road vehicle when they swerved off the trail.

They say the trail was in rough condition due to the snow melt.

The 53-year-old man driving the ATV was hit by a large branch and suffered life-threatening injuries, say police.

STARS Air Ambulance was called in and rushed the man to hospital, where he later died.

The 46-year-old passenger survived, but there was no word on her condition Wednesday.

Police say they were first notified of the fatal crash Monday.

Steinbach RCMP continue to investigate along with the office of the chief medical examiner.

Marchand is roughly 73 km southeast of Winnipeg.

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U.S. auto sales in states with coronavirus lockdown orders to drop 80%: analysts

(Reuters) – Vehicle sales in U.S. states that implemented lockdown orders to curb the spread of coronavirus will drop 80% or more, analysts said on Wednesday.

Auto retail sales through the week of March 22 declined 22% nationwide on a yearly basis and as much as 40% in some cities on the U.S. West Coast, according to an analysis by research firm J.D. Power based on data from dealership stores around the country.

Last week’s data did not yet fully account for various U.S. states passing so-called shelter-in-place orders at the end of last week.

“We expect to see a much broader and wider impact from these restrictions next week with sales declining 80% or more,” said Tyson Jominy, the firm’s vice president of data and analytics.

Tyson said New York in particular, a market that has so far proven rather resilient, is expected to change dramatically over the coming week.

New York on March 20 ordered the state’s roughly 19 million residents to stay at home.

But Thomas King, J.D. Power’s president of data and analytics, said car buyers will likely bounce back after an extended shutdown, which will help the auto industry recover.

The crisis is also likely to accelerate the move to online sales by auto dealerships, a business practice car retailers have been slow to embrace.

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Germany plans quarantine for air arrivals from outside EU – Funke media

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to insist that airline passengers arriving from non-EU countries go into quarantine for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the Funke media group reported on Wednesday.

A decision could be taken by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “crisis cabinet” as soon as Thursday and would affect the country’s main airports such as Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin, the media group reported.

Until now, people arriving from countries badly hit by the virus, including Iran, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, France and the United States, have merely had to fill in a form, a situation that has triggered criticism.

However, government ministers now think that differentiating between countries makes little sense given the extent of the infection, Funke media reported, without citing sources.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

The government can make recommendations but quarantine questions are ultimately decided by the federal states.

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U.S. Senate bill to grant airlines bailout to weather coronavirus

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday to give the U.S. aviation industry $58 billion in aid, half in the form of grants to cover some 750,000 employees’ paychecks, in a badly needed lifeline for an industry facing the worst travel downturn in history.

A draft text for a $2 trillion economic rescue deal seen by Reuters would offer passenger airlines $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, cargo carriers another $8 billion in loans and grants, and contractors like caterers up to $3 billion in grants.

Republicans had fought what they called a give away to airlines, while unions said the cash was crucial to keep workers on the job.

“This is not a corporate bailout; it’s a rescue package for workers,” said Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson, who spearheaded the idea of direct payroll grants for employees ranging from janitorial staff and gate agents to mechanics and pilots.

Reuters reported Chao worked the phones late into the night talking to air carriers about what they needed to ensure they could maintain payrolls, a person briefed on call on Tuesday that lawmakers were nearing agreement on a deal for cash grants for payroll and other employee costs, after airlines made a last-minute effort to convince lawmakers they needed the cash to prevent furloughing tens of thousands of workers.

U.S. airline shares extended a Tuesday rally on hopes for cash relief and airlines could get cash assistance in as little as two weeks from passage.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose party had proposed $58 billion in loans, said on Wednesday the grants were a key sticking point. He said Democrats insisted “we give away money to airlines and never get it back.”

In a win for labor, companies receiving funds cannot lay off employees before Sept. 30 or change collective bargaining agreements.

The draft bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation, and allows the government to take equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package.

Airlines would also receive tax relief on fuel purchases and, in a move that will bring down passenger fares, a temporary suspension on ticket taxes.

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, travel demand has plummeted, with airlines drastically reducing flights and warning of more cuts to come.

Airlines keep canceling flights and slashing costs as demand falls. United Airlines (UAL.O) said Wednesday would now cut 52% of U.S. flights and overall capacity by 68%. On Tuesday, 279,018 people were screened at all U.S. airport checkpoints, down 87% over last year.

Airlines accepting loans may have to ensure certain air services in order to maintain health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including to remote communities.

However, other consumer and environmental protections sought by many Democrats did not make it into the draft bill.

Airlines and unions won crucial support for the grants from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who worked the phones late into the night, telling lawmakers and others in the administration she was concerned about the impact of job losses and a decline in the U.S. aviation sector on competition, people briefed on the matter said.

“Without grants, airlines may be forced to choose bankruptcy over federal loans, if loan conditions are too inflexible,” Chao warned in a memo seen by Reuters.

Airlines have argued that they are key to restarting the economy once the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

U.S. airports, whose concourses have been nearly empty, are set to receive $10 billion in grants in the draft text.

The government will also provide $25 billion in grants for U.S. transit systems and $1 billion for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak, that have seen ridership fall dramatically as states ordered tens of millions of Americans to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.

Boeing Co (BA.N) could receive government loans under a $17 billion fund set aside for direct national security-related loans, Toomey said, adding that many companies could qualify. Boeing could also qualify under the broader $454 billion loan program.

“It is not meant to be exclusively for Boeing… You should not think of it as a Boeing allocation,” Toomey said.

Boeing had sought at least $60 billion in government loan guarantees for itself and the entire aerospace manufacturing sector. Boeing did not immediately comment on Wednesday.

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Liberal MP Kamal Khera, who was working as nurse, tests positive for COVID-19

Liberal MP Kamal Khera announced Wednesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19.

The member for Brampton-West, who is also a registered nurse, said she began experiencing flu-like symptoms Saturday night and immediately self-isolated. She found out she was positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Khera said she is still experiencing symptoms but is in “good spirits.”

“I know that many Canadians are in much worse circumstances,” she wrote.

Earlier this month, Khera wrote that she had registered to help ease nurse shortages amid the new coronavirus outbreak. She said she hoped it would help reduce wait times.

The news of her diagnosis prompted well-wishes from many of her colleagues, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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“Take care of yourself, Kamal. We’re all thinking of you — and hoping you get well soon,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

Khera is the first MP to test positive for the new coronavirus. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne was tested for the virus last week after experiencing flu-like symptoms, but his tests were negative.

The prime minister himself has not been tested, however he is completing 14 days of self-isolation this week after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

There are currently nearly 3,000 cases of the illness in Canada, and 29 people have died while 185 have recovered.

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Child sexual abuse expected to rise amid COVID-19 pandemic, experts say

Alberta experts in child sexual abuse prevention are predicting an increase in incidents over the coming months.

COVID-19 forced the closure of the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch — a non-profit treatment centre near Edmonton for survivors of child sexual abuse. Staff members will continue therapies online and by phone for 25 children and teens who were staying at the facility, along with about 75 more families across Canada.

Clinical director Dr. Wanda Polzin is concerned about how the pandemic will affect all vulnerable children. Global News asked her what she feels we need to know.

The following interview has been edited for brevity.

Q: Why might children be more at risk for abuse during this time?

Q: Are there any warning signs that friends or even neighbours could watch for?

A: There are signs such as a child/teen speaking out about being harmed in some way (this should always be taken seriously), journalling/writing about negative experiences, changes in mental health (increased anxiety, depressed mood, increased behavioural acting out, sleep issues, etc.).

Although we need to socially distance ourselves, it is important that we come together and safely reach out within our immediate family circles as well as within our communities.

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Coronavirus: Growing concern over increase in curbside garbage, Okanagan landfill activity

The Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton is a hive of activity.

A national stay-at-home order to curtail the spread of COVID-19 HAS prompted some to utilize their spare time to catch up on household cleaning.

But regional district officials are concerned too many people are making the trek to the landfill, potentially jeopardizing social distancing guidelines and putting staff at-risk.

WildSafe BC coordinator Zoe Kirk says it’s not just the influx of waste at the dump that has them worried.

With people now bulk buying, along with an increase in single-use containers at food outlets, the end result means more curbside garbage.

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“Our concern is that people are going to have an extraordinary amount of more garbage going out to the curb,” said Kirk, “and they may be following some unsafe practices.”

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Art Gallery of Peterborough seeks children’s art to salute heroes during coronavirus pandemic

The Art Gallery of Peterborough is inviting youth and families to submit artwork that shows appreciation of the “countless heroes” in Peterborough during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The gallery is asking children and their families to make and share artwork to thank their heroes. Submissions will be shared on the gallery’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

“At the Art Galley of Peterborough, we have many heroes but wanted to especially thank those who are working tirelessly to keep our community safe and healthy,” said the gallery’s director, Celeste Scopelites.

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“To all our first responders, medical professionals, city services and all the citizens of Peterborough who work to keep our shelves stocked and the community running — thank you.”

The submitted artwork can be a drawing, a painting or even a sculpture, as long as it is creative. The gallery says the heroes can be anyone, as long as the artist explains what makes them a hero in a brief description (maximum 150 words) with the submission.

“Join us as we share some love and show our appreciation for the many amazing people who make Peterborough such a wonderful community to live in,” said Scopelites.

Participants are asked to email pictures of their artwork to [email protected] or post them to their own Facebook or Instagram pages and tag @AGPtbo_ and #AGPtbo.

Do not mail any physical artwork to the gallery, which is currently closed. For more information, visit the gallery’s website.

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Cardi B takes down celebrities, Trump for coronavirus response in profanity-laden video

WARNING: This story contains explicit language.

Days after Cardi B took to Instagram to talk about a possible celebrity coronavirus conspiracy theory, the Bodak Yellow rapper returned to call out the inequalities among those who are permitted tests for COVID-19.

Cardi B posted the Instagram TV video to her page in which she wears a surgical mask to cover her face and sunglasses, captioning it, “I said what I said.”

“The coronavirus is very much real,” the 27-year-old rapper said.

Cardi B addressed the confusion and frustration that many people have towards the mixed messages around the novel coronavirus. She also spoke about U.S. President Donald Trump and celebrities who are getting tested for the illness with few to no symptoms.

“But If a celebrity is saying, ‘Hey listen, I don’t have no symptoms, I’m feeling good, I feel healthy, I don’t feel like nothing, but I went and got tested and I’m positive for the coronavirus,’ that causes confusion.

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