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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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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UPDATE 2-Russia's central bank sees room for rate cut in coronavirus crisis

* Governor Nabiullina says rate cut possible in 2020

* Says lockdown to hit economy mostly in Q2

* Says unemployment rate seen rising

* Economists warn of deeper economic contraction

* Finance ministry mulls more borrowing – source (Adds details, quotes, background)

By Andrey Ostroukh, Elena Fabrichnaya and Darya Korsunskaya

MOSCOW, April 3 (Reuters) – Russia’s central bank sees scope for an interest rate cut in 2020 as it expects inflation to be subdued by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, its Governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Friday.

The central bank’s actions are in sharp focus as Russia’s economy slides into recession, the rouble trades near four-year lows and social discontent mounts.

President Vladimir Putin heightened concerns on Thursday by prolonging a paid non-working period across Russia, which is expected to hammer small and medium businesses.

This means the economy and individual sectors will operate at about 55% of capacity in April, which may translate into a 4.2% annual contraction of growth in 2020, Citibank said.

Nabiullina said at the first weekly briefing about the measures to protect financial markets from the coronavirus crisis that the experience of other countries showed that a month of quarantine may cost up to 2% of gross domestic product.

Analysts polled by Reuters in late March predicted that recession will start in the second quarter.

Nabiullina declined to give specific economic forecasts but said unemployment will rise, while inflation is still below the 4% target and could be limited by weaker demand.

“If the situation develops in line with this scenario and financial markets are stable, we see some potential for lowering the key rate during 2020,” Nabiullina said.

The central bank’s next rate-setting meeting is due on April 24 and Sergey Konygin, chief economist at Gazprombank, said the first cut to the key rate, which is now 6%, is possible in June after the impact of the weak rouble filters into inflation.

Nabiullina said the central bank will ease regulatory requirements for Russian banks, which will see their profit shrink in 2020, and is also ready to provide liquidity.

Even though it has more than $550 billion in gold and forex reserves, Russia is looking for new funds as the country scales up its crisis response to the coronavirus pandemic. The finance ministry has reserved 1.4 trillion roubles to fight coronavirus.

The budget revenue shortfall may reach 4 trillion roubles this year if the average oil price is at $20 per barrel, and a half of the gap could be covered by the National Wealth Fund, a source familiar with the finance ministry plans told Reuters.

The rest, or between 1-2 trillion roubles, could be raised in the domestic market, the source said. The finance ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Russian lawmakers this week approved the raising of state borrowing beyond budgeted limits. The finance ministry had planned to borrow 2.3 trillion roubles in OFZ rouble-denominated bonds. ($1 = 76.8435 roubles) (Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Maria Kiselyova, Elena Fabrichnya and Katya Golubkova; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Alexander Smith and Hugh Lawson)

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City of Kawartha Lakes working to get more services on track during coronavirus pandemic

While the coronavirus pandemic continues, roads still need repairs in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

But how to tackle the issue is still a major question mark as the municipality can’t send out teams together during a time where physical distancing is mandated and gatherings of five or more are prohibited.

“We are still focusing on essential services,” Mayor Andy Letham said on a teleconference with reporters Friday morning.

“We’re working with our managers and directors to start bringing some of the other businesses online, you know, landfills, roads and some regular maintenance that’s falling behind.”

But Letham stressed staff safety as the municipality brings the services back.

“We recognize as we feed these processes back, we need to lead by example and we need to keep our staff and the public safe in this process,” Letham said.

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“Traditionally we fill potholes with four guys in a truck.  We can’t do that anymore.  How do we do that and do it safely?”

Letham suggested sending more than one truck, but said that’s still up for discussion, noting that it will likely take longer to do the same work during this pandemic.

“We’re challenging our managers and directors over the next few weeks, as the weather clears up, and how do we do that and do it safely?  Does that involve two guys in two trucks?  It’s not going to happen as fast as it’s happened in the past, but we’re getting back to these services,” said Letham.

The mayor also touched on residents going out to enjoy the warmer weather saying to be mindful of physical distancing and not gathering in groups.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about people out and about, getting fresh air.  We need to stay home and listen to advice about gatherings.  We can’t have our police running around every time we see 5 or 6 people walking down a street.”

The mayor also said the city isn’t looking at closing its only municipally-owned 172-site seasonal trailer park near Kirkfield, Ont., yet.

He noted Centennial Trailer Park isn’t opened for the season until May.

On March 30, the city put out a call for more personal protective equipment (PPE) for its paramedics.

It’s appealing to manufacturers and health-care practitioners, such as veterinarians, dentists and other medical offices that may have the following items available to contact the municipality:

  • Surgical Gowns or Coveralls – disposable, elasticized cuffs, cover front and back with ties to fasten and be fluid resistant
  • N95 Masks – 3M1870+, 3M9210+ and 3M9211+
  • Surgical Masks
  • Face Shields – need to cover the entire face, manufactured of a clear, anti-fog material, disposable, adjustable, be capable of being worn over eyeglasses
  • Hand Sanitizer – be a minimum of 99.0 per cent effective against a broad range of bacteria, be alcohol-based with a minimum concentration 60 per cent, be available in personal-size containers
  • Cavi Wipes

Anyone with a supply of these items is asked to call Launa Macey, supervisor of procurement with the City of Kawartha Lakes at 705-324-9411, ext. 1875 or by email at [email protected]

“Donations from the public have greatly helped with our supply, but we continue to need additional support for the coming weeks as we endeavour to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” stated Patricia Bromfield, Deputy Chief of Operations, Kawartha Lakes Paramedics.


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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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Coronavirus: Struggling Debenhams to put administrators on standby

Shareholders in Debenhams are preparing to place the 242 year-old department store chain into administration as they seek to protect the business from creditors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sky News has learnt that the retailer, which employs about 22,000 people, could file a notice of intention to appoint administrators as early as next week.

KPMG, the accountancy firm, is understood to be among those on standby to handle the process.

The prospective appointment would be designed to shield the company from legal claims from creditors during the coronavirus outbreak.

A firm decision to appoint administrators has, however, not been taken and it remains possible that an alternative outcome could yet emerge.

The move would come just days after Debenhams put the vast majority of its workforce on “furlough”, following the closure of its 142 stores across the UK.

Employees’ wages will now be covered for three months by the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Its online operations would continue to trade during any period of insolvency, sources said on Friday.

Debenhams has hundreds of millions of pounds of inventory on order from suppliers that it no longer requires because of the UK being in lockdown and ministers’ order that all non-essential shops should shut.

One insider said there was a realistic prospect of suppliers taking legal action against the company for deferring the payment of invoices.

People close to the company pointed out, however, that the chain’s shareholders, which include the American hedge funds Silver Point Capital and GoldenTree Asset Management, remained confident that it has a viable future.

“This [appointing administrators] would not be the precursor to a planned closure,” said one.

“It would be a way of protecting the balance sheet during a period of vastly reduced revenue.”

In a statement issued to Sky News on Friday, a Debenhams spokesman said: “Like all retailers, Debenhams is making contingency plans reflecting the extraordinary current circumstances.

“Our owners and lenders remain highly supportive and whatever actions we may take will be with a view to protecting the business during the current situation.

“While our stores remain closed in line with government guidance, and the majority of our store-facing colleagues have been furloughed, our website continues to trade and we are accepting customer orders, gift cards and returns.”

If the filing for administration does take place, it would represent another turbulent chapter in Debenhams’ recent history.

The chain’s holding company entered insolvency proceedings almost exactly a year ago following a bitter public battle with the Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, whose Frasers Group had become its biggest shareholder.

It is unclear whether Mr Ashley, who is in the process of trying to sell Newcastle United FC, has any appetite to try to acquire Debenhams again.

The likeliest outcome of an administration process would be a pre-pack sale back to its current owners, with the company shed of its existing financial liabilities.

Debenhams has already written to landlords to inform them that it requires a five-month rent holiday, while this week it notified suppliers of a 31-day delay to some payments.

The department store operator, which traces its roots to 1778, has been working on a plan to permanently close 50 shops, leaving around 110 as its core estate.

Just over 20 have closed already, leaving 28 more locations to be identified.

For much of its history, Debenhams was highly profitable, becoming an established ‘anchor’ tenant on many high streets and in shopping centres around the UK.

It relisted on the London stock market in 2006 following a spell in private equity ownership that proved lucrative for CVC Capital Partners and TPG but which left its balance sheet saddled with what proved to be unsustainable debts.

Last April, it launched a Company Voluntary Arrangement to secure agreement for store closures and rent cuts.

Legal challenges to the CVA have now been overcome, prompting suggestions that it could turn to a second such .

That idea is said to have been discounted for the time being in favour of a filing for administration.

The potential decision to file for administration comes as Debenhams also seeks a new chief executive.

Sky News revealed last month that Stefaan Vansteenkiste is to step down this year, after taking over as chief executive last August.

The search could be put on hold while it undertakes the next phase of its restructuring efforts.

Mr Vansteenkiste had always been envisaged to be a temporary appointment by Debenhams’ owners.

If it survives, the chain is likely to want a new boss in place in time for the peak Christmas trading period – assuming high streets have resumed trading in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Regulators offer relief on banks' loan losses due to pandemic

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) – A global committee of banking regulators has offered lenders relief on topping up their capital buffers to cover for anticipated losses on loans due to companies struggling in the face of the epidemic.

The Basel Committee said it has agreed to amend its transitional arrangements for deciding how much capital must be set aside to cover anticipated losses on loans.

“The adjustments will provide jurisdictions with greater flexibility in deciding whether and how to phase in the impact of expected credit losses on regulatory capital,” the Committee said in a statement on Friday. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Italy looks to safeguard biomedical valley leading fight against COVID-19

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy plans to tighten health checks to ensure that work is not disrupted in a small northern town specialising in the production of medical supplies to tackle its coronavirus crisis.

The area snuggled around the medieval town of Mirandola has become a focus for desperate health authorities seeking to source equipment in the European country where COVID-19 has taken the most deadly toll.

Already home to a cluster of companies making high-end products for dialysis, heart surgery and transfusions, it has found itself on the front line of efforts to treat patients during the pandemic.

“This is a key strategic sector that we need to nurture and we’re going to make sure it stays open for business,” said Sergio Venturi, coronavirus czar for the northern region of Emilia Romagna where Mirandola is located.

The idea is to ask companies to carry out swab tests on their employees to help monitor the health of workers in an area deemed of national strategic interest. Faster tests being developed in a nearby laboratory could also come into play once validated.

“What we’re looking to do is ask for daily screening for all staff in the area so there’s no risk of the virus leading to a shutdown. We can’t afford that,” Venturi told Reuters.

The measures underline the importance of the hub, created around 50 years ago by the pharmacist and entrepreneur Mario Veronesi.

CLUSTER OF COMPANIES

Mirandola, which has a population of only around 24,000, plays host to about 100 high-tech medical companies including Germany’s Fresenius SE (FREG.DE), ventilator multinational Medtronic (MDT.N), and UK respiratory support group Intersurgical.

Companies have been working flat out on coronavirus-related production such as filters and circuits to help supply oxygen, and disposable medical items to hook patients up to ventilators.

Production in the area, badly damaged in a deadly earthquake eight years ago, has shot up by more than 20%.

Dimar, one of a handful of companies producing respiratory helmets, had police and staff from Italy’s Civil Protection unit knocking on its doors to take stock back to neighbouring Lombardy, one of Italy’s worst affected regions.

The company, which supplies emergency departments in around 125 hospitals, has ratcheted up output of its face-covering helmets that allow patients to be treated away from overwhelmed intensive care units.

“We wanted to double production but it’s just not possible since that would require building plant and that takes more than six months,” Dimar founder Maurizio Borsari said, adding that problems faced by suppliers, transport bottlenecks and a shortage of raw materials was also holding up work.

Borsari said police patrols in the district had risen sharply since the crisis started to protect businesses.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

A dearth of equipment such as surgical masks and ventilators has left hospitals and medical staff across the north struggling to cope, and concern is growing the spread of the virus to the poorer south could cause some health systems there to collapse.

It was another Mirandola company, UK-based Intersurgical, that in 72 hours last month built a prototype circuit developed by an Italian medical team allowing two patients to use the same ventilator – effectively doubling capacity at a stroke.

Giuliana Gavioli, regulatory director at German dialysis and blood product group B. Braun, points to the role of local expertise in underpinning broader efforts to fight COVID-19.

“They’re giving special status to this district because of its biomed pedigree and they want to get a task force in place to move on a series of fronts such as identifying product lines that can be converted to produce vital equipment and medical devices,” she said.

She points to the example of recent start-up Tecnopolo, which has around 20 researchers.

Set up in 2015 to provide biotech research services, it now concentrates on certifying the masks made by a legion of companies around the country that have switched from other product lines such as fashion.

“Work has ballooned. We’re in contact with around 250 companies across the country that want their production lines authorised,” says Tecnopolo coordinator Laura Aldrovandi.

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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”.

CASH IN HAND

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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