Coronavirus: City of Kelowna says bylaw officers will provide education, warnings during pandemic

The City of Kelowna says its bylaw officers will provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, but that when it comes to issuing tickets to public health order scofflaws, Interior Health will be the one doling out fines.

On Friday, the city issued a press release on the subject following last week’s announcement by the provincial government that it was enlisting the help of municipal bylaw officers in enforcing public health orders.

In the Okanagan, that news translated into bylaw officers providing education roles and giving warnings, but not handing out tickets to those ignoring public health orders.

“With further clarification from Interior Health this week, bylaw enforcement will focus first on educating members of the public,” David Gazley, bylaw services manager for Kelowna, said in Friday’s press release.

“They can also issue formal warnings when warranted and will contact Interior Health when ongoing non-compliance is occurring,” said the city.

“Officers will also accompany health officers to deliver orders or tickets to those who refuse to comply with public health orders, if that’s needed.”

Global News has reached out to Interior Health regarding health officers and tickets, including asking what the minimum and maximum fines are.

Meanwhile, the city says residents can report health-order scofflaws, be they businesses or members of the public, by calling 250-469-8686 between 6 a.m. and midnight, or by emailing [email protected]

The city added that significant and urgent concerns that arise beyond these hours can be directed to the RCMP non-emergency line at 250-762-3300.

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Putin ‘sees himself as irreplaceable’, experts warn, as Russia set to approve bold law

The country’s strongman President endorsed the legislation last month after it sailed through Russia’s parliament with only one politician opposing it. The law, which is due to go to a public vote once the coronavirus outbreak has eased, will allow President Putin to seek two further six-year terms when his current term ends in 2024. It would also give the President more say in how Moscow’s power ministries are run, explains Dr Rasmus Nilsson, an expert in Russian and post-Soviet politics.

Mr Putin would wield more power in the interior ministry, the foreign affairs ministry and the domestic security services, he said.

Dr Nilsson told “There’s a bit more to it than allowing the President to stay around for longer.

“He does not feel like he has a successor whom he can trust to come in and take over the ship at home and he’s worried. He is worried for the state as well as his personal worries.”

He added: “Of course he also sees himself as irreplaceable.

“It’s important when we talk about Putin we talk about him as a system.

“If Putin left not only could that endanger his safety, it could endanger the safety of the system.

“Anybody coming in would have their own power base and that would make everybody worried.”

Dr Nilsson, a teaching fellow in Russian foreign and security policy at University College London, said Mr Putin’s “main function is to be an arbiter”, balancing the interests and demands of those in his inner circle.

He said if a stranger were to suddenly appear on the scene and take up the post it would jolt members of the system.

As it stands, Mr Putin would not be able to run for president again in four years’ time because of the country’s term limits.

But he should have no worries about that as the new legislation is widely expected to pass in the constitutional plebiscite.

Dr Alexandra Smith, reader in Russian studies at the University of Edinburgh, said many Russian voters who may not necessarily be big Putin fans will back him as they do not believe anyone would represent their country so boldly on the international stage as he does.

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The lack of domestic media scrutiny of the President also means Russia’s 144.5million inhabitants are regularly fed one-sided stories unless they tune into foreign news, she explained.

Dr Smith told “Society is divided but they are still more supporting of Putin [than otherwise] because Putin has for a long time used a certain narrative which promoted Russia’s pride.

“He has a lot of control over the media and a lot of people really don’t see a different point of view.”

Dr Smith also cited Mr Putin’s “personal appeal” to millions of voters as one reason why they support him.

She said both young and old voters view favourably his strong links with the Russian Orthodox church and his desire to “keep Russian spirituality” a part of everyday life.

The recent law endorsed by Mr Putin would see a proclamation of a “belief in God” inserted into the revised constitution.

Dr Nilsson said they failure of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to put forward any credible arguments on how he would solve the country’s problems convinces many people President Putin is their only man.

“I am not a betting man but if I were I would bet almost all of my non-existent fortune on this,” Dr Nilsson said when asked about the chances of the public vote passing.

“I think it is extremely likely.

“The vast majority of Russians are not necessarily huge Putin fans but look at it from the point of view ‘what’s the alternative?’”

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UK ramps up coronavirus trials but results 'a few months away'

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it was launching the biggest clinical trial of possible treatments for coronavirus in the world but a leading health official cautioned that the results were likely a few months away.

Almost 1,000 patients from 132 hospitals had been recruited in 15 days and thousands more were expected to join in the coming weeks, the health department said.

The trial is testing medicines more commonly used to treat malaria and HIV, and is designed so that when further medicines are identified, they can be added to the study within days.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the next round of clinical trials should include new medicines, including those that might be in development for other diseases and might “have a role to play”.

But he was cautious on the timeline for results of the trials.

“I know that there’ll be a question about when are we going to get some results from these clinical trials, and my straight answer to you is: ‘I don’t know.’ I think it’s going to be a few months,” he told a news conference.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said that until possible treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were shown to be effective, the only protection against it was to stay at home.

He said that so far clinical trials had been focused on repurposing existing drugs and steroids for treatment of COVID-19.

“We’ve also set up an expert therapeutics taskforce to search for and shortlist other candidate medicines for trials,” Hancock said.

“We need more patients to volunteer to be part of these trials because the bigger the trials, the better the data and the faster we can roll out the treatments, if – and only if -it’s proven to work.”

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Guelph grocery store employee spit on by ‘impatient’ customer: police

Guelph police say a grocery store employee was allegedly spat on by a customer on Wednesday evening.

It happened at the Zehrs near the intersection of Eramosa Road and Stevenson Street at around 6:45 p.m, according to police.

Const. Kyle Grant said a customer was waiting in the checkout line and became impatient with the wait and ultimately spit on a woman.

“Spitting on someone is considered an assault,” he said.

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Guelph police have released photos of two people seen leaving the store, but Grant didn’t specify which person is alleged to have spit on the clerk.

He acknowledged that the measures implemented by grocery stores to stop the spread of COVID-19 have slowed things down a bit.

“It’s important that everyone has that patience and understands that this isn’t being done to inconvenience people, this is being done to keep everyone healthy, to keep everyone safe,” he said.

In a statement, parent company Loblaws Companies Limited said the incident is truly disturbing and they will not tolerate any sort of abuse against our colleagues.

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Fire on Quartz Drive last month deliberately set, investigation finds

A fire that razed the back of a Spryfield home last month was deliberately set, a Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) investigation has found.

Halifax Regional Police said crews responded to the fire at 32 Quartz Drive at around 1:15 a.m. on March 22.

Firefighters arrived to find the back side of the house engulfed in flames.

No one was hurt and the only person inside at the time was able to safely exit.

Neighbouring homes were evacuated while firefighters put out of the flames. They were able to extinguish the fire about 30 minutes after arriving.

In a fire investigation summary posted online Friday, HRFE said the cause of this fire is classified as incendiary – or having been deliberately set.

There’s no word on whether charges have been laid.

With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey. 

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EU to fly home another 250,000 nationals stranded by coronavirus

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – More than 250,000 European Union citizens are still trying to get home, as the number of people stranded by the coronavirus outbreak remains high even after the EU has repatriated some 350,000 people, its top diplomat said on Friday.

While the repatriation of EU nationals since mid-March was moving swiftly, the number of people abroad seeking help keeps rising as more of them seek assistance via their embassies, said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

“We have brought home 350,000 Europeans but there are still 250,000 remaining and many operations are under way,” Borrell told reporters after an EU foreign ministers’ videoconference.

The EU initially put the number of those in need of repatriation in mid-March at 80,000 and then said on March 20 the number was closer to 300,000.

“One could not imagine that there are so many Europeans stranded in the world: tourists, visitors, short-term workers. We are not talking about permanent residents,” Borrell said.

With French citizens stuck in Australia, Spaniards in Peru and Germans in India and South Africa, EU governments are relying on commercial airlines – many of which are scaling back flights due to the new coronavirus – to pick them up.

As a last resort, the bloc has used its crisis recovery aircraft programme when no commercial airlines are willing to fly, bringing some 10,000 EU citizens home, although many countries are too far away to be eligible.

With a mix of chartered and military planes, EU institutions help member governments cover the costs of repatriation on flights with passengers of more than one EU country.

“Our efforts will continue, but every day it is more difficult. Airlines are grounding their planes and airspaces are closing, becoming more difficult to use,” he said. But he added: “Little by little, all of them will go back home.”

The easiest citizens to repatriate were those on chartered or package holidays, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters, with individual travellers more difficult to help. He said Germany was also bringing back non-German EU citizens.

Up until Friday, Germany had repatriated 194,000 German tourists, Maas said, saying that for India, South Africa and New Zealand return flights had begun. France and Spain have also repatriated thousands of their citizens.

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U.S. big bucks turn global face mask hunt into 'Wild West'

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) – The global scramble to secure face masks to shield frontline workers from the coronavirus has turned the marketplace into the “Wild West”, with the United States often ready to outbid buyers who have already signed deals, European officials say.

In France and Germany, senior officials said the United States was paying far above the market price for masks from number one producer China, on occasion winning contracts through higher bids even after European buyers believed a deal was done.

“Money is irrelevant. They pay any price because they are desperate,” one high-level official in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU group told Reuters.

A German government source said: “Americans are on the move, carrying a lot of money.”

Since the virus was first recorded in China late last year, the pandemic has spread around the world. Governments in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere are desperately trying to build up supplies for medics, nursing home staff and the public.

Now, with global cases surpassing one million and the outbreak exploding in the United States, the competition for precious stocks is intensifying further.

The State Department and the agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) coordinating U.S. efforts to locate and procure protective equipment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, a DHS official told Reuters this week that U.S. companies and the government have been paying above market price for much of the gear purchased overseas.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said the United States would not stop buying “until we have way too much” and could still be searching out protective gear abroad through August.

Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder described the medical supplies marketplace as the “Wild West”.


A second German source employed by a company now helping Merkel’s government to order masks said the last weekend of March had been a turning point, and drew a link with the United States’ increased presence in the market.

Contracts no longer guaranteed delivery, the source said, adding: “Demand is much, much bigger than supply.”

And it may be about to soar again.

The Trump administration, which has wavered on the value of face masks for people showing no symptoms, looked set late on Thursday to advise all Americans to wear masks when venturing out.

In France, three regional leaders painted a similar picture. Jean Rottner said it was a constant fight to ensure mask orders arrived in his Grand Est region, where the outbreak first took hold before spreading west toward Paris.

He said consignments were changing hands at the last minute.

“On the (airport) tarmac, the Americans get out their cash and pay three or four times what we have offered,” Rottner told radio RTL France on Wednesday.

Rottner’s counterpart in the greater Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, said she had been beaten to an order by a country with deep pockets, although she did not name the United States.

“We found supplies a few days ago but failed to buy them after others outbid us,” Pecresse told Franceinfo radio on Friday. “They were prepared to pay three times the market price.”

The French Foreign Ministry said it was verifying the reports. But one official doubted that action would be taken.

“It boils down to market forces,” the official said. “The one who pays the most gets the prize.”

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Coronavirus clampdown: Frenchman jailed for one year for selling masks on streets of Paris

It was the first conviction in the capital after several people were charged when police discovered illicit stocks of masks in recent weeks, a legal source told French media. Police found some 20,000 of the highly-protective FFP1 and FFP2 masks during a raid on the man’s home in Paris’ 19th arrondissement after an investigation was launched last weekend. The source did not say how much the man was charging for the masks, which have become a precious commodity as the country scrambles to curb the virus’ spread.

France is racing to step up production of face masks for health workers, and Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Wednesday that the government had ordered 1.5 billion masks, mainly from Chinese producers.

But fierce demand from countries across the world also overwhelmed by the epidemic means France will probably not start receiving the bulk of those orders for several weeks.

Mr Véran said that health workers alone were using 40 million masks per week and that the country currently had three weeks’ worth of supplies. Domestic production is set to rise to 10 million a week over the next month, a threefold increase from before the crisis.

As the French health crisis escalates, a court in the eastern city of Mulhouse on Wednesday sentenced a 20-year-old man to two months in prison after he was caught three times in one day without the self-certified document all citizens are required to show police if they leave the house for critical business.

This can include shopping for food, going to the doctor, walking the dog, a quick jog and going to work for those in critical fields.

In Paris on Tuesday, a court sentenced a 22-year-old man to 105 hours of community service, also for violating the lockdown.

France’s full lockdown is likely to continue beyond the current deadline of April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a strict confinement order to try and stop the outbreak that began on March 17.

“I can understand the impatience, but de-confinement is not for tomorrow morning,” Mr Philippe said on TF1 television.

The coronavirus death count in France rose to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including retirement home fatalities in its data.

The flu-like infection had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12 percent on the previous day’s 4,032, health chief Jerome Salomon said.

A provisional tally showed that the novel coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added.

This makes for a total of 5,387 coronavirus deaths in France, an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total.

Since the deadly virus first emerged in China late last year, it has spread around the world at a dazzling pace, forcing governments to close businesses, ground airlines and order hundreds of millions of people to stay at home to try to slow the contagion.

Global coronavirus cases surpassed one million on Thursday with more than 52,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

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Students raise concerns over CERB qualifications: ‘I see it as a deliberate exclusion’

Kathleen O’Brien is completing her final year of studies with the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Her final exam is on April 17 and then she will officially graduate in May.

But in order to become a practicing lawyer, O’Brien must first complete an articling position, something she was set to start this summer.

“I was in the last stages of a competition for a position and that position was just put on hold indefinitely because of everything that’s going on,” said O’Brien.

Like many other law students, she was counting on the job to cover her finances after school, so when the government introduced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for those affected by COVID-19, she looked into if she would qualify to hold her over in the meantime.

When the benefit was first announced on March 25, it was unclear exactly who would qualify.

“I interpreted the benefit to say that I would apply,” said O’Brien. And she’s not the only one.

On Monday, a statement from Halifax MP Andy Fillmore confirmed that students who had made $5,000 in the past 12 months could apply.

“This includes students who, due to the impacts of COVID-19, have lost their job, are unable to find work, or who had a summer job opportunity fall through,” Fillmore said in the emailed statement.

But just two days later, final details released on the benefit contradicted that.

According to the government website, the benefit is only available to those who stop work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19.

“If you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit. For example if you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify for the benefit,” the website reads.

O’Brien says she was disappointed to see the government neglecting students.

“I was very hopeful it had been an oversight and unfortunately now I see it as a deliberate exclusion of students,” she said.

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“Most of us haven’t stopped working, but if our jobs have been cancelled or if our jobs have been postponed indefinitely, we’re not stopping working. We just don’t have a job to go to.”

On Thursday Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, was asked why students are being left out of CERB when many rely on summer jobs as a way to financially support themselves.

“The overall objective is to make sure that those currently going with no income, they have lost their job, they have lost the ability to pay for their expenses including to put food on the table, these are covered by the CERB.”

He also spoke about Ottawa’s wage subsidies program, but he did not address the unique needs of students specifically.

Universities providing some relief

Universities across the country are now providing some extra financial aid to students to help them throughout the pandemic.

All three universities in Halifax now have some supports in place.

Mount Saint Vincent University has established a new President’s Student Relief Fund. It will provide emergency bursaries to help impacted students cover costs associated with housing, food, tuition, technology, mental health services and transportation.

Students will have to be registered as a full or part-time student in the term during which they are applying.

Saint Mary’s University has a small number of Emergency Relief Bursary Funds available, and efforts are underway to add to these funds. Students are encouraged to reach out to the financial aid office if they need help.

Dalhousie University has already provided emergency bursary funding to over 400 students experiencing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 emergency bursary funding is intended to help assist students with immediate costs resulting from COVID-19 but not ongoing or longer-term costs.

In addition, the Schulich School of Law has its own emergency bursary for law students who have emergency needs related to COVID-19, which includes things like added rent, travel expenses or a lost summer internship.

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers 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. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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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