Parents concerned about New Brunswick’s plans for home learning

With New Brunswick schools closed for the rest of the school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents in the province are bracing themselves for a new challenge: home learning.

“I have an education degree but I don’t really think that actually is going to help me in this situation, I mean teaching your own children is a whole different animal,” said Julie Little, a mom of three in Fredericton.

Education minister Dominic Cardy announced on Thursday that the province is opting to keep schools closed out of an abundance of caution.

That means teaching from home.

During his announcement, Cardy recommended students spend a minimum of one to two-and-a-half hours of learning time per day, depending on their grade level.

Marsha Collicott, also a mother of three in the Fredericton-area, had to close down her cleaning business as a result of the pandemic and has already started home learning.

When the details of the lesson plans are released, the pair of mothers hope there is support for parents included.

“Situations where they’re doing Grade 12 calculus or whatever I think that’s going to be when it’s important for these programs that the district doles out they are going to have to be well designed,” said Little.

New Brunswick has confirmed that information about home learning will be posted online and that parents will be contacted by schools in the coming days.

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Ontario returns to bargaining table with last teachers’ union as backdrop for talks changes

TORONTO – The Ontario government is attempting to close an ugly round of bargaining as it restarts talks with the only remaining teachers’ union without a contract, and an expert says the COVID-19 pandemic may create a path to labour peace.

University of Toronto professor and former deputy education minister Charles Pascal says the unprecedented crisis, and the dramatic response that has altered daily life, have also changed the tone coming from the government.

Pascal said Premier Doug Ford’s government has abandoned the inflammatory rhetoric and divisive public bargaining it had engaged in with the province’s teachers’ unions since last summer, focusing instead on calm, clear pandemic response.

That new approach appears to have had an effect on the once-turbulent talks that led to near-daily walkouts and strikes, closing schools just weeks ago.

“It takes the pressure off so that people can sit at the table, quietly, while attention is being paid elsewhere,” he said. “All of a sudden the government wants to appear genuine about being fair in every direction.”

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In recent weeks, the province has secured tentative agreements with three of four teachers’ unions that had been without contracts since August.

On Thursday, the government returned to the bargaining table with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which is the last union without a deal.

But with schools now shuttered until at least May because of the pandemic, and the government and teachers working together to help students learn from home, Pascal said the tension built up between all parties appears to have diminished.

“There’s a kind of fairness that’s arisen on the scene that’s led to deals with the other federations,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday the government is ready to work with the OSSTF to reach an agreement.

“The time is now to drive deals with all remaining union partners,” Lecce said in a statement. “We will remain a positive and driving force at the bargaining table, advancing the priorities of parents and students.”

OSSTF president Harvey Bischof said the union, which has been engaged in only informal discussions with the government since December, is also ready to get back to the bargaining table.

He acknowledged that the pandemic has affected talks, even on a logistical level, with all future bargaining taking place via teleconference.

“Negotiations never happen in a vacuum, they happen in an environment,” Bischof said. “The environment has an effect on bargaining. What exactly that will be isn’t something I’m prepared to pre-judge.”

Bischof said he’s not concerned that the public support he felt the teachers had built over the past few months has disappeared.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “I’m cognizant of the reality within which we find ourselves. I have to tell you, it’s the reality in which my members are … doing their very best to provide continuity of learning for students, have reached out to students and are worried for them and their well-being.”

In recent weeks, the province has reached agreements with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens.

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United Way Regina creates community fund for COVID-19 pandemic, helping city’s most vulnerable

United Way Regina is reaching to out the public to help provide essentials to the city’s most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization launched its COVID-19 Community Response Fund on Friday. Money raised will go towards supplying basic needs including food, mental health support and financial security.

“We will work with key partners to fill gaps and remove barriers in the communities we serve in this time of great need,” said Robyn Edwards-Bentz, United Way Regina CEO.

“We’re calling on our community to demonstrate their local love in a global crisis.”

United Way Regina is working in collaboration with Regina Education and Action on Child Hunger, both on board to ensure those in need have that extra help during COVID-19.

“Many of our clients experience financial barriers. But we are also getting healthy food to the extremely immune compromised at what I’m sure is a terrifying time for them and their families” said Dana Folkersen, REACH executive director.

“REACH has had to modify and expand virtually all of their programs including the Good Food Box, Convenience Meals and their lunch programs, traditionally offered to children over the summer months, to help address urgent needs for children and families with school closures due to COVID-19.”

For more information or to donate visit the United Way Regina website.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Ottawa police concerned by increased stunt driving during COVID-19 pandemic

Ottawa police say they are concerned over the number of stunt driving incidents they’ve responded to over the last week during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday alone, police seized eight vehicles driven at least 50 km/h over the speed limit.

One of those vehicles was a motorcycle the driver was using to do “wheelies.”

Two other drivers were speeding in a construction zone, police say. Both received fines and demerit points.

Over the last week, police have seized 15 total vehicles for stunt driving offences.

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“Practicing physical distancing during the pandemic does not stop us from enforcing the law with drivers who fail to respect the rules of the road. We are in this together, please drive carefully,” said traffic unit Staff Sgt. Marc-Andre Sheehy.

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14 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, total reaches 86

The number of new COVID-19 cases, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has edged up in Saskatchewan.

The province reported 14 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 86 since the first presumptive case was reported on March 12.

Four people have now been hospitalized.

Officials said four of the new cases are the result of local transmission, with the remaining new cases travel-related.

Two of the newest cases involve patients 19 years of age and under, bringing the total in that age group to four.

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Public health officials confirm 1st COVID-19 case in Wellington County

Public health officials say a 66-year-old man has become the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in Wellington County.

According to a news release on Sunday, the man who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is recovering in the Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest, and health workers are taking all appropriate precautions.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said the man did not have a travel history or contact with another known COVID-19 case.

Wellington County’s medical officer of health, Dr. Nicola Mercer, said this is evidence the novel coronavirus is circulating in the community.

“You can get it from another person,” she said. “It is very important for individuals to maintain social distancing. That means staying two arms lengths, or six feet, from anyone except immediate family.”

Public health officials said they follow up with any contacts of known or presumed cases.

This is the second confirmed case of the novel coronavirus within the jurisdiction of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

A man in his 40s tested positive at an Orangeville hospital on March 16 after returning from Atlanta, Ga. He is self-isolating at home.

Public health officials are reminding residents to limit their trips outside the home to only what is necessary, such as buying groceries or seeking medical care.

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Lethbridge residents find ways to get outdoors during COVID-19 pandemic

A beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon brought out several Lethbridge residents to Henderson Park as they got their bodies moving to take their minds off of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve definitely been trying to stick to some normal routine, so yeah, getting out for fresh air,” said Sophia Larney, a student at the University of Lethbridge.

“We have been sort of isolating and distancing ourselves, not seeing any friends, but lots of phone calls, Skype and stuff like that, which has been good.”

Larney’s sister was with her as they both exercised around the lake.

“I work at a cafe downtown, which is closed for the foreseeable future, and so there’s a lot of uncertainty… but I think we’ve just been making the most of time together and trying not to go too stir crazy in our house,” said Anna Larney, who works at the Penny House Cafe.

“You know, just making sure to get out, even to the backyard and front yard and move around the neighbourhood a little bit,” she said.

Cara Picton, who lives near the lake, was also out enjoying the weather.

As she walked her three dogs, Picton was thinking about her friend in the U.S. who recently contracted the novel coronavirus.

“He is the epitome of health and fitness. He’s on no medications. He’s 53 years old as well,” she said.

“He has no previous health concerns and he’s on Day 19 of this virus and he has made it clear to everyone, saying, ‘This virus takes everything and anything out of you.’”

Picton said her friend shared a message about what keeps him going through these tough times.

“It’s the love and connection that he’s felt from everybody,” Picton said.

“He hopes that in light of this virus, people really need to reconnect and discover the important things in life again and not the brand names and the appearances and all of that.”

John Nightingale, a volunteer at the Helen Schuler Conservation Centre, was at the park walking and doing a little bird watching.

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Coronavirus: Australia deploys $56b to support economy, pledges yet more stimulus

CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) – Australia unleashed an additional A$66 billion (S$55.8 billion) in stimulus for the coronavirus-stricken economy, including cash payments of as much as A$100,000 to small businesses, in a second package aimed at averting recession and saving jobs.

The plan will provide A$25.2 billion in support to businesses and not-for-profit charities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday (March 22).

It will also partially guarantee loans to support A$40 billion in lending to small and medium-sized firms.

Unemployment benefits will double and the worst-hit workers will be allowed to access pension savings early.

The new measures dwarf the government’s initial A$17.6 billion stimulus package announced on March 12.

As the crisis continues and the economic impact becomes clearer, the government also expects to announce a third fiscal injection as Australia’s economy spirals toward its first recession since 1991.

“There will be more packages, there will be more support,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference at the parliament in Canberra.

“We’ll be supercharging our safety net, we’ll be supporting our most vulnerable.”

All told – including support for the banking system from Australia’s central bank – some A$189 billion is being injected into the domestic economy in an unprecedented release of funds to get through the crisis.

That’s the equivalent of about 10 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

Preparing the country for at least six months of hardship, Mr Morrison said all non-essential travel in Australia should now be canceled.

He urged the country to heed social-distancing advice and warned “more draconian” restrictions were on the way.

“The next few months are going to be a difficult journey,” Mr Morrison said.

“But we all have a role to play to adapt to the changes we’re facing, to cushion the impact of what is happening and to pull together so we can bounce back when we get to the other side.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a record 0.25 per cent on Thursday and will aim to keep three-year government bond yields at the same level.

The central bank has also announced a term funding facility of at least A$90 billion for the banking system to support business credit.

In a complementary program, the government is investing up to A$15 billion to help smaller lenders support consumers and businesses.

The new package announced Sunday will be available to businesses with revenue under A$50 million and also some not-for-profit charities.

Firms will get 100 per cent of the tax they withhold from their employees’ salary and wages, with a minimum payment of A$20,000 and maximum support of A$100,000.

The government will also guarantee 50 per cent of loans taken out by firms affected by the outbreak, to be used for working capital.

For the next six months, those eligible to receive income support will receive an extra A$550 each fortnight, on top of their normal payment.

The early release of pension savings will put as much as A$27 billion back into the pockets of working Australians.

Mr Morrison, who has described the coronavirus as a “once in a 100-year type of event,” closed the nation’s borders to non-residents on Friday and has banned indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Cases of coronavirus in Australia reached at least 1,098 as of Sunday morning, up 224 from a day earlier.

Mr Morrison’s conservative government is seeking to legislate both its fiscal packages during a unique sitting week in Canberra’s Parliament House from Monday.

Just 90 of the 151 lower-house lawmakers will convene, with support staff stripped back, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

The opposition Labour party has indicated it will support the measures, meaning they should become law in the coming week.

When parliament will sit again after that isn’t clear. On Friday, Mr Morrison announced that the annual budget, originally due on May 12, is now scheduled for Oct 6.

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Philippines Inc. seeks 'massive' stimulus to stem virus hit

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) – About a week into the month-long lockdown of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, businessmen are calling for a 281 billion peso (S$8 billion) fiscal stimulus to soften the economic blow of the spreading coronavirus outbreak that has displaced millions of workers.

More than 700 factories and 400 economic zones have been shut, while doctors are warning of a possible collapse in the healthcare system as infections rise.

A recession is possible because consumption, the main Philippine economic engine, is set to slump as the lockdown could be extended nationwide and run longer, Capital Economics said.

A “massive stimulus” and “forceful action” are needed to counter the effects of the pandemic, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries and 31 other business groups said in a statement.

The lockdown is “literally a matter of life and death” for millions of workers and their families that “may trigger violence and longer-term social tensions,” they said.

The Philippines has scrambled this week to contain the outbreak, starting with a lockdown of Luzon, the home to almost 60 million people that accounts for at least 70 per cent of its economy.

To mitigate the damage, the central bank cut interest rates by 50 basis points on Thursday(March 19) while President Rodrigo Duterte, who put the country under state of calamity, wants Congress to add to his 4.1 trillion peso budget this year.

“You don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” said BDO Unibank Inc economistJonathan Ravelas.

“Consumers are hurting. It’s bigger trouble for government and businesses if the hit on households is wider.”

ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN

Even with the latest rate cut, economic growth could slow to a range of 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said Friday.

Capital Economics predicts the economy will barely grow in 2020 as a “sharp contraction” could set in during the second quarter, followed by a less severe decline in the third before a rebound in the fourth.

The Philippines has a chance of avoiding a slowdown if it moves quickly with fiscal policies to compliment the central bank’s rate cut, says Congresswoman Stella Quimbo, who is crafting a 173 billion peso stimulus bill.

She estimates about 65 billion pesos is needed to assist Luzon’s 7 million “no-work no-pay” workers who were hit by the lockdown, including 1.5 million in the capital region.

About 108 billion pesos in subsidies is required for small and medium enterprises, of which at least 43 billion pesos should be allocated to the tourism sector, which has been the hardest hit, she said.

Ms Quimbo estimates the epidemic’s economic damage at 270 billion pesos, or about a 1.5 percentage point reduction in GDP growth, compared with 187 billion pesos, or a 1 percentage point reduction prior to the lockdown.

Congress, which postponed a special session Saturday for a meeting between Duterte and some lawmakers, will sit Monday to hammer out a supplemental budget for not less than 200 billion pesos, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said it will be funded by “non-budgetary” sources, and won’t affect taxes or infrastructure and poverty reduction programs.

CORPORATE MOVES

At Duterte’s request, the nation’s biggest companies are taking steps to help contain the lockdown’s economic toll.

Property developers such as SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Ayala Land Inc. have waived rentals in their shopping malls for the duration of the lockdown, while lenders including BDO Unibank Inc. and Security Bank Corp. are granting payment extensions to borrowers.

Some companies have committed to continue salary payments, while others are providing funds to help employees.

“With or without these measures, consumption, your biggest economic driver, has already taken a hit,” said Papa Securities Corp analyst Manny Cruz.

“These, hopefully, could lessen the damage.”

The country’s virus cases have risen to 380 with 25 deaths, Reuters reported Sunday, citing Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire.

Hospitals are strained from rising infections, blamed in part by Duterte’s critics on his reluctance to slam the doors on travelers from China when the virus first broke out.

While containment of affected areas will slow the spread of the virus, the government should set up centres for infected patients, according to a joint statement by 11 of Manila’s biggest private hospitals.

“The prospect of the healthcare delivery systems crashing down is imminent and real,” they said.

“It is already happening.”

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Edmonton police encourage handwashing with viral video

A handwashing video from the Edmonton Police and Community Engagement Program (PACE) is gaining traction online for its upbeat tone and catchy moves in dealing with the novel coronavirus.

Washing your hands regularly has been recommended by Canadian health officials and the World Health Organization as a preventative measure against COVID-19.

The video was posted on the official PACE Instagram account, featuring a parody version of the “Cha-Cha Slide.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B98CqthgI75/

Hello community friends! We miss you and we’re hoping that you are all doing your best to stay healthy in these complicated times. We want to share positive vibes with you all and thought we’d start with this little video of our PACE member – Cst.Kulmiye giving is a little demo on how he washes his hands! Instead of singing 2 rounds of Happy Birthday you could try these sweet moves while you scrub!! . We hope you enjoy!!! . . Please send us your happy dances! @edmontonpoliceservice @dmmcfee @eps_pace @mike_elliottepa #yeg #yegpolice #edmontonpolice #washyourhands #weareinthistogether

A post shared by EPS Community Engagement Team (@eps_pace) on

It shows Cst. Kulmiye demonstrating a handwashing move as the lyrics tell him to pump soap, scrub his hands, rinse off, and “dry off real smooth.”

While his technique isn’t the method recommended by the World Health Organization, the post says it is meant to “share positive vibes.”

The WHO’s recommendations for handwashing say that it should take about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Experts say that the novel coronavirus is “enveloped,” meaning that it has an outermost wrapper  — a greasy outer covering — that requires soap to dissolve.

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