Coronavirus: Canada investigates reports medical supplies shipment ‘diverted to US’

Canada is investigating reports a shipment of medical supplies the country had ordered was diverted to the US.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “very concerned”, adding that “we need to make sure that [coronavirus] equipment that is destined for Canada gets to and stays in Canada.

“And I’ve asked ministers to follow up on these particular reports.

“We are working not just here at home but overseas; as well, to ensure that the equipment that Canada has ordered makes its way to Canada.”

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 125 Canadians, while more than 10,000 have fallen ill.

Mr Trudeau told reporters on Thursday he has asked his public safety minister and transport minister to investigate, but stressed the country’s relationship with its neighbour to the south has not changed.

“We are working together [with US officials]. We understand that the needs of the United States are real, but the needs of Canada are also real. And we need to work together to that end,” he added.

A top health official in France’s hard-hit eastern region pointed the finger at Washington.

Dr Jean Rottner, an emergency room doctor in Mulhouse, told RTL radio American officials swooped on a Chinese airport to take away a planeload of masks that France had ordered.

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CANADA FX DEBT-Loonie rises in volatile month-end trading; down 4.6% in March

 (Adds dealer quotes and details on activity; updates prices)
    * Canadian dollar rises 0.9% against the greenback
    * Price of U.S. oil increases 1.9%
    * The loonie ends down 7.5% for the first quarter
    * Canadian bond yields fall across a flatter curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar rose
against the greenback on Tuesday in  volatile trading to end the
first quarter as oil prices rose and data showed the domestic
economy grew in January, but the loonie still posted its biggest
monthly decline in five years.
    The currency strengthened 0.9% to 1.4040 per U.S. dollar, or
71.23 U.S. cents on Tuesday. It traded in a range of 1.4015 to
1.4350.
    "We've got big month-end and quarter-end flows going through
thin markets in the midst of a crisis," said Michael Goshko,
corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions.     
    Under the circumstances, it was not surprising to see such
big swings, he said.
    For the month, the loonie weakened 4.6%, its biggest decline
since January 2015, and it was down 7.5% for the first quarter.
    Canada's economy gained 0.1% in January, driven largely by
higher manufacturing, Statistics Canada data showed on Tuesday.
            
    Still, the economy could be hit particularly hard over the
coming months by the coronavirus outbreak. Household debt is at
record levels and the price of oil       , one of the country's
major exports, has collapsed since January.
    In an effort to support the economy, the Bank of Canada has
slashed interest rates in a series of emergency moves this
month, to 0.25%. It is likely to buy about C$200 billion of
government debt after announcing its first quantitative easing
program, bond strategists estimate.             
    U.S. crude oil futures        settled 1.9% higher at $20.48
a barrel on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump and
Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to talks on
stabilizing energy markets. Still, oil fell 66% in the first
quarter.             
    The U.S. dollar        gave up its early gains on Tuesday
after initially being supported by quarterly and fiscal year-end
demand from portfolio managers and Japanese firms.             
    Canadian government bond yields fell across a flatter yield
curve. The 10-year             was down 7.2 basis points at
0.697%.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith;
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)
  

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Dyson to produce 15,000 ventilators to help with coronavirus fight

Dyson has stepped up to create thousands of ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic, after designing a new product in 10 days.

The company, which typically produces household products such as vacuums and fans, will now build 15,000 ventilators, according to an email sent to Dyson employees.

Of those ventilators, 10,000 have been ordered by the U.K. government. Dyson pledged to donate 5,000 to global relief efforts, according to the Guardian. 

James Dyson, the founder of the company, said in the email that he received a request from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to look into the matter 10 days ago.

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The company, working with Cambridge-based Technology Partnership, has now created a product that will be easy to produce quickly.

“This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume,” Dyson wrote of the new ventilators, called CoVent.

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Halifax to hold virtual council meetings starting in April

Halifax has announced its first regional council meeting since it was ordered to go digital by Nova Scotia in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The provincial government declared a state of emergency on March 22, 2020. Part of that declaration saw Chuck Porter, Nova Scotia’s minister of municipal affairs, direct “all municipalities and villages in the province” to discontinue holding their in-person meetings.

Instead, municipalities have been told to hold virtual meetings by video or telephone.

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) announced on Thursday that council will hold virtual meetings on April 2, April 14 and April 28.

Each meeting will begin at 1 p.m., and deal with issues determined by the CAO and Mayor Mike Savage, a press release from the HRM read.

The municipality is still testing various technologies to explore whether residents and media are able to access the meeting in real-time.

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But if they are unable to make that work, the municipality has confirmed they will post the meeting’s minutes within 24 hours.

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CANADA FX DEBT-Canadian dollar rallies 1% as legislators approve economic stimulus

 (Adds strategist quotes and details throughout; updates prices)
    * Canadian dollar rises 1% against the greenback
    * Loonie touches its strongest since last Friday at 1.4298
    * Canada's House of Commons agrees to approve stimulus bill
    * Canadian bond yields fall across a flatter curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar climbed to
a five-day high on Wednesday as the country's legislators
approved a stimulus package to help ease the economic impact of
the coronavirus outbreak.
    Canada's C$27 billion aid package will give people affected
by the outbreak C$2,000 a month and delay student loan
repayments, among other measures, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
said.             
    "The Canadian government wrote itself a blank cheque to
fight the coronavirus and that is an incredibly powerful tool,"
said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at ForexLive. "At some
point the markets are going to focus on which countries can
weather this storm best."
    At 31%, Canada's federal debt as a share of the economy is
low compared to some other major countries.
    At 12:27 p.m. (1627 GMT), the Canadian dollar          was
trading 1% higher at 1.4314 to the greenback, or 69.86 U.S.
cents. 
    The currency touched its strongest intraday level since last
Friday at 1.4298. It was the second best G10 currency after 
Norway's crown       .
    U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion
bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating
economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. dollar
       fell as the U.S. package steadied money market nerves and
prompted investors to buy back into 'riskier' currencies.
                        
    Canada is a major exporter of commodities, including oil,
which has been pummeled by demand destruction related to the
virus and a price war between major producers. U.S. crude       
prices were flat at about $24 a barrel.             
    "I think the drama for the Canadian dollar remains in oil,"
Button said." "Crude is barely hanging on as are Canadian
producers."    
    Canadian bond yields fell across a flatter curve. The
10-year was down 7.6 basis points at 0.795%.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom
Brown)
  

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Canada to pull out of 2020 Olympics if Games go ahead this year

Canada will not have a team at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer unless the Games are postponed because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The news came in a joint statement from the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the statement said.

“This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health. With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games.”

Canada joins a number of countries – including Norway, Brazil and Slovenia – that have pressed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on a possible postponement.

But none had said they would not go if the 2020 Games start as scheduled on 24 July.

On Sunday, the IOC announced that it is considering the possibility of postponing the Tokyo Olympics but said cancelling the event would not solve problems or help anybody.

“The IOC will, in full coordination and partnership with the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, the Japanese authorities and the Tokyo metropolitan government, start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” it said in a statement.

A final decision will be made over the next four weeks.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded to the IOC’s statement by telling his parliament on Monday that postponing the Olympics may become an option if holding the Games in its “complete form” became impossible.

The IOC’s announcement has been welcomed by sports governing bodies and institutions around the world but the time frame for any decisions is still likely to affect athletes’ training schedules.

Teams and individual competitors have been severely hampered by sporting shutdowns and social distancing measures and the situation could get worse.

Britain’s 200 metres world champion Dina Asher-Smith tweeted: “So wait… does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training – whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway!!”

The British Olympic Association has urged the IOC to act quickly and decisively.

Chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said: “We welcome the IOC executive board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty.”

Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport, believes the IOC is correct to consider a delay.

“Given the circumstances, today’s news that the IOC are looking at options to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was inevitable, and the correct decision for the safety of athletes, staff and fans,” she said.

World Athletics said it would “work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date” and the International Paralympic Committee said it would “support the IOC every step of the way”.

More than 13,000 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began.

As of Sunday morning, Japan had 37 deaths and 1,055 coronavirus cases, excluding those from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month and returnees on chartered flights from China.

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Canada coronavirus death toll jumps, officials could punish those ignoring precautions

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped almost 50% percent to 19 in less than a day on Sunday, and impatient officials threatened to punish people refusing to take precautions to fight the spread of the highly contagious illness.

Ottawa said late on Saturday that 13 people had died from the respiratory illness caused by the virus, but by 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT) on Sunday that had grown to 19. The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,388 from 1,099.

Canada has already closed its borders to all but essential travel and announced a C$27 billion ($19 billion) aid package for people and businesses most affected by the crisis. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more measures would be needed.

“We’re looking now at what those next steps are to ensure that our economy is able to pick up again once we’re through this. It is likely to take months,” he told reporters, but did not give details.

The House of Commons will return on Tuesday to approve the stimulus package. A handful of legislators will be present, since only 20 Parliamentarians are needed to conduct business.

Ottawa says people who have returned from abroad must isolate themselves for 14 days and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she could use the federal Quarantine Act to sanction those ignoring this requirement.

“We will use every measure … to ensure compliance,” she told a briefing. “(This) could include monetary penalties up to, and including, criminal penalties.”

Nova Scotia on Sunday became the latest of Canada’s 10 provinces to declare a state of emergency, closing borders to non-residents and threatening to arrest those who do not practice self-distancing.

Premier Stephen McNeil told a news conference that despite warnings to avoid meeting in large groups, people were flocking to provincial parks and other common areas.

“We are dealing with a deadly virus and this behavior is unacceptable,” he said. His Atlantic province is banning gatherings of more than five people, a much stricter limit than other jurisdictions.

In Quebec, the second most populous province, premier Francois Legault tightened existing restrictions to force the closure of all shopping malls. Only food and liquor stores and pharmacies can stay open.

“Right now there are still too many people in shopping malls,” he told a briefing, saying restaurants would only be able to offer takeout service. All schools will be shut until May 1.

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Canada's First Nations close borders over coronavirus, using 'isolation as a strength'

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian indigenous communities, already facing poor healthcare options, are closing their own lands’ borders to limit coronavirus exposure as Ottawa dispatches funds and tents to house and isolate sick patients in the country’s chilly north.

The communities are considered at heightened risk in the coronavirus outbreak because of difficult living conditions. The country’s 1.4 million indigenous people have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.

Canada has reported 772 coronavirus cases and nine deaths.

“We’ve closed the community border to outsiders. It means that only essential travelers, emergency personnel, are allowed in and out,” Chief David Monias of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba told Reuters.   

He said other First Nations, including Manitoba’s Sayisi-Dene, had done the same.

“Many communities are closing their borders, using their isolation as a strength. Everybody’s scared. The threat is very real.”

In British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Council of the Haida Nation said it was discouraging all non-resident travel to the islands “for the time being.”

Indigenous nations maintain rights over the land occupied by their communities, allowing them to control who enters under certain treaties, but it is not universal.   

For years, indigenous communities have complained about poor health treatments on remote reserves, which are often hundreds of miles from top-tier or specialized medical services in major cities.

Canada has said it would offer indigenous communities assistance, including personal protective equipment and additional nursing personnel.   

A C$305 million ($210 million) fund announced this week is aimed at helping the communities deal with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Ottawa is also sending remote communities “temporary portable structures” to facilitate disease screening in places with housing shortages.

“We recognize that indigenous Canadians are faced with greater health vulnerabilities … than most Canadians at the best of times,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday outside his house, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We’re asking for basic supplies like hand sanitizers to be made available to our communities,” said Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Ontario.

Fiddler represents 49 communities, 18 of which have boil- water advisories, which means they lack clean drinking water at a time when governments are emphasizing the need for people to wash their hands regularly. Many of the communities are also overcrowded and lack adequate housing.

“Saying ‘Wash your hands thoroughly and self-isolate’ is completely disconnected from remote First Nations that don’t have access to running water, and the housing crisis means they can’t self-isolate,” said New Democratic Party legislator Niki Ashton, who represents rural Manitoba.

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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan doctors beg businesses to shut down to prevent spread of COVID-19

Nearly 200 doctors from across Saskatchewan are asking businesses to voluntarily shut down or consider ways of delivering service without in-person interaction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The practitioners  —  from Swift Current to Saskatoon, Regina to Humboldt — signed an open letter addressed to the “business community” quite literally begging operators to close their doors to prevent community transmission.

“Please, we beg you, join us in battling this disease,” states the letter, being shared online.

“The downstream impact of early action by our business community will save lives and give our healthcare system a fighting chance. We would not ask this of you if we thought there was any other way.”

As of Wednesday, there were 16 COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan. The figure is twice what was recorded on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan has declared a state of emergency.

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