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More COVID-19 supports and hospitals band together ; In The News for April 21

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Apr 21st, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 21 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

OTTAWA — The federal government is expected to unveil today more financial support for vulnerable Canadians struggling to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor, disabled, homeless and seniors are among those who have been particularly hard hit by the health, social and economic ravages of the deadly virus as Canadians abide by orders to keep physical distance from one another and all but essential businesses are shut down.

Today’s measures are on top of previously announced moves to provide financial support to the homeless, women’s shelters, children’s counselling and local organizations that provide practical support to seniors, such as delivering groceries or medication.

The government is also expected to provide more details today about the timing and roll-out of the massive $73-billion wage subsidy program.

Among other things, the government is expected to provide details to businesses on how to apply for the subsidy.

In other Canadian news …

HALIFAX — The death toll from a killing rampage in Nova Scotia could rise today.

Nineteen people were confirmed dead as of yesterday following Sunday’s tragedy, but police expect the number of victims to go up.

Police say the 16 crime scenes include five burned buildings where it is feared additional bodies will be found inside.

RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather said he expects the number of victims to increase in the days ahead.

The murder and arson rampage finally ended when active shooter Gabriel Wortman was shot dead Sunday by RCMP officers in Enfield, N.S., next to the gas pumps at a service station.

Also this …

TORONTO — Hospitals facing urgent COVID-19 needs are banding together to close funding “gaps” for their institutions and embattled health-care workers.

Dubbed “The Frontline Fund,” the national campaign seeks donations on behalf of more than 100 institutions across the country for supplies, staff support and research.

Organizers say the money would help hospitals source personal protective equipment and ventilators, fund drug trials and vaccine research, and provide mental-health support to exhausted staff.

Ten per cent of funds will also go towards the northern territories and Indigenous health.

Steering committee member Caroline Riseboro, also CEO of Trillium Health Partners Foundation, says COVID-19 has raised unique needs that “wouldn’t necessarily be addressed through government funding.”

Examples of how the money could be spent include extra scrubs so caregivers can change their clothes before going home, or hotel rooms for front-line staff with immune-compromised relatives so they don’t have to fear bringing the virus home with them.

Organizers say $8.5 million has already been promised by lead corporate partners.

That includes five million dollars from the Canadian Medical Association Foundation, $2.5 million from Maple Leaf Foods and $1 million from TD Bank Group.

Riseboro says the goal is to raise $50 million. Canadians can donate at www.frontlinefund.ca.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — Both Republican and Democratic governors say the White House must do more to help states carry out the coronavirus testing that’s needed before they can ease up on stay-at-home orders.

The governors pushed back Monday on U.S. President Donald Trump’s assertion that Democrats are playing what he called “a very dangerous political game” by insisting there is a shortage of tests for coronavirus.

Supply shortages have stymied U.S. testing for weeks. The needs range from basic supplies like swabs and protective gear to highly specialized laboratory chemicals for analyzing patient results.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration and congressional leaders are insisting a final deal is in reach on an aid package for small businesses that could exceed $450 billion, but both sides have been struggling for days to push an agreement across the finish line.

As small businesses suffer from a coronavirus-impaired economy, Trump says he hopes to see a Senate vote later today.

Most of the funding would go to replenish a payroll loan program that’s out of money.

Trump is also saying that he will sign an executive order “to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of COVID-19.

He is offering no details on what he is referring to and the White House did not immediately elaborate on Trump’s tweeted announcement.

COVID-19 around the world …

BANGKOK — The World Health Organization said today that rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions will likely lead to a resurgence of the illness, a warning that comes as governments start rolling out plans to get their economies up and running again.

“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.

Step-by-step reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain and Germany.

Australia said today that it will allow the resumption of non-urgent surgeries from next week as health authorities grow more confident that hospitals there won’t be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

The reopenings come as politicians grow weary of soaring unemployment numbers and the prospect of economic depression. Asian shares followed Wall Street lower today after U.S. oil futures plunged below zero because of a worldwide glut as factories, automobiles and airplanes sit idled.

In other international news …

SEOUL — The South Korean government says Kim Jong Un appears to be handling North Korea’s affairs as usual after rumoured surgery.

The presidential Blue House says it had no information about the rumours on Kim’s health.

Speculation often surfaces about North Korea’s leadership based on attendance at important state events.  Kim missed the celebration of his late grandfather Kim Il Sung on April 15, the country’s most important holiday.

His last public appearance was at a political meeting April 11 and state media reported he sent messages and gifts more recently.

A U.S. official said the White House was aware before the reports appeared late Monday that Kim’s health might be precarious. The official said the U.S. had information that Kim may have undergone surgery and that complications may have rendered him “incapacitated or worse.”

But, the official stressed that the U.S. had nothing to confirm the surgery had taken place or that any complications had occurred.

The U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, would not elaborate on where the information came from or when it had been received. The White House and State Department had no comment.

COVID-19 and Ramadan …

This week is usually when kids in the Muslim community get excited about an annual trip to see the full moon that marks the start of Ramadan.

But Cindy Jadayel, a member of the Mosque of Mercy in Ottawa, says it will be one of many community events that will be cancelled during Ramadan this year.

The month of Ramadan, in which Muslims go without food or drink from sunrise to sunset every day, often features gatherings where families and friends break fast and pray together.

It’s set to start on Thursday based on the Islamic lunar calendar, and will last until May 23.

The moon sighting trip follows an early tradition where religious leaders would declare the start of the new month when a full moon was spotted. Those events, as well as nightly congregational prayers and community events at the mosque, will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jadayel says not having the community aspect of Ramadan this year is going to be challenging.

She says people will have to work harder this year to have families happier in the home because we can’t go out and celebrate with others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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