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Federal support for students and kids’ vaccines; In The News for April 22

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 22nd, 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 22 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

OTTAWA — The federal government is expected to announce today more significant financial support for students and other young Canadians struggling to stay afloat and find jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new measures are intended to target support at young people who have fallen through the cracks of other emergency financial assistance.

Some students, for instance, have complained that they don’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

It provides $500 a week for up to 16 weeks to Canadians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and had an income of at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months — criteria that doesn’t apply to many students.

Today’s measures are in addition to some steps the federal government has already taken to specifically help young people weather the health crisis.

It has put a six-month, interest-free moratorium on student loan repayments.

It has also bolstered the Canada Summer Jobs program in a bid to encourage employers to hire young workers for essential jobs.

In other Canadian news …

HALIFAX — As family and friends try to figure out how to mourn their loved ones in the aftermath of Sunday’s rampage in Nova Scotia, more questions are emerging about the way police issued warnings during the killings.

The RCMP provided Twitter updates with the active shooter on the loose.

However, no public agency issued an emergency alert that automatically pops up on all smart phones and televisions — even though the provincial alert system had recently been used to advise people to maintain physical distancing because of COVID-19.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said the system wasn’t used because no request was received at the Emergency Management Office from the RCMP.

Last night, McNeil acknowledged more could have been done, telling CTV Atlantic that he wished the details could have been communicated with more agencies in hindsight.

At least 22 people died because of the shooter.

Also this …

TORONTO — Pediatricians are urging parents to maintain their children’s vaccination schedule amid the COVID-19 scare.

They’re worried a dip in inoculation rates could jeopardize herd immunity for a host of other ailments.

Doctor Shaun Morris, staff physician in infectious diseases at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital, says many children and young people are almost certainly behind on their shots as some families avoid medical facilities for fear of catching COVID-19.

At the same time, he notes that opportunities to inoculate have dwindled as family clinics scale down hours, switch to virtual care or shutter their offices completely.

Meanwhile, school-based immunization clinics have been postponed indefinitely along with the school closures.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Paediatric Society says school and daycare closures remove one of the most powerful motivators parents have to keep their kids up-to-date.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — Congress is sprinting to approve a $483 billion coronavirus aid package.

The deal backed by the White House would replenish a small-business payroll fund and pump more money into hospitals and testing programs.

U.S. President Donald Trump is urging swift passage this week.

The bill is Washington’s fourth in response to the crisis, but it’s not expected to be the last.

Lawmakers are taking unprecedented steps to confront the virus and prop up communities nationwide during the health crisis.

The Senate approved the package Tuesday. The House is asking lawmakers to return for a Thursday vote.

COVID-19 around the world …

There are over 70 million people worldwide who have been driven from their homes by war and unrest. Up to 10 million are packed into refugee camps and informal settlements.

Almost none have been tested for the coronavirus.

In Syria’s war-ravaged Idlib, there’s only one small health facility to receive suspected cases.

In Bangladesh, aid workers are racing to build isolation facilities in the world’s largest refugee camp.

In two camps in Kenya, Somalis who survived decades of famine and war fear the worst is yet to come.

With little testing in camps, the virus can spread unchecked until people start showing symptoms. An outbreak would be catastrophic — and could prolong the pandemic.

COVID-19 and grocery-store employees …

DELTA, B.C. — Grocery-store employees are recognized as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts say the virus has highlighted their low pay and lack of protections.

Rafael Gomez, with the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at University of Toronto, says unionized employees make more, but there’s pressure from big-box stores to keep the wages lower.

Sobeys, which operates FreshCo and other stores including IGA and Thrifty Foods, is among employers including Loblaw that are offering the temporary extra pay.

Sobeys spokeswoman Jacquelin Weatherbee says all employees are also receiving a bonus of $50 a week as part of their essential work.

While employees are now behind plexiglass shields at checkouts, Paul Meinema, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, says masks, gloves and face shields are also needed to protect other workers.

He says one of the union’s biggest concerns is the number of customers allowed into the stores a one time, leaving too many customers in aisles as employees stock shelves.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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