Surrey Hospital Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund garners ‘overwhelming’ support

There has been overwhelming response in support of frontline health-care workers and COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

Last week, the Surrey Hospital Foundation set up a COVID-19 Response Fund,and since then it has received more than $70,000 in cash and even more in donations.

The money gathered so far will be put to use beginning Thursday, according to Surrey Hospital Foundation president and CEO Jane Adams.

“We’re bringing about 850 of 900 meals to the site and every employee in our critical care is going to receive a free meal,” said Adams.

This includes several sites in the city, including Surrey Memorial Hospital, Jim Pattison Outpatient Clinic and Surgery Centre, among others.

Adams said she hopes the generosity will continue, and they’ll be able to keep that up through the month, with meals and free coffee for health-care workers as well.

“In the month of April we anticipate we are going to pour, I don’t know, 15,000 cups of coffee and we’ll deliver more than 25,000 meals. So that would be one of our initiatives, for example,” said Adams.”

COVID-19 patients will also benefit from the funds raised.

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“We do have patients with COVID-19. For those who are not on ventilators and severely ill, they can’t have visitors, quarantining is important and hospital stays can be very boring,” said Adams.

“We’ve been asked if we can pay to turn the TV’s on in the rooms for people with COVID-19, so at least they can remain connected to the outside world and know what’s going on and when their loved ones call them they can talk about something they’ve both seen on TV together.”

“We’re also looking at ways that can we provide iPads to people that are in quarantine so they can stay in touch with their loved ones or FaceTime with them,” Adams added.

She said they’re also looking into ways of providing virtual health solutions to COVID-19 patients once they’ve been discharged from the hospital and go home.

Overall, Adams said the response from the community to allow them to even discuss these options and provide support is insurmountable.

“The outpouring is… you know, people are being creative, resilient and most of all, they’re being generous and we are just so grateful. This city has so much heart.”

You can visit: The Surrey Hospital Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund to donate, or to even write messages of support for frontline healthcare workers.

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Man attending Shubie Park ticketed $697.50 by Halifax police

Police have issued another summary offence ticket to a person attending a park that’s closed due to the state of emergency.

Halifax Regional Police say officers were patrolling Shubie Park in Dartmouth at around 4:45 p.m. Monday when they located a vehicle in a no parking zone.

The owner of the vehicle was located inside the park by officers.

The 57-year-old man was fined $697.50 for failing to comply with direction, order or requirement made under act/regulations.

Shubie Park is one of the parks closed to the public as a precautionary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, Halifax Regional Police seized a 44-year-old woman’s vehicle and ticketed her $697.50 for attending Point Pleasant Park.

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HRP are reminding residents to educate themselves on the restrictions under the act and to be mindful of the “unprecedented COVID-19 crisis we are facing as a community.”

They are thanking the “vast majority” of citizens who are complying with the rules.

With files from Alexander Quon.

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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NYC man uses drone to ask out neighbour, goes on date in bubble

Love in the time of coronavirus.

Brooklyn-based photographer Jeremy Cohen isn’t usually smooth when it comes to talking to women, but when he spotted his cute neighbour dancing on her rooftop, he decided he had to make a move.

At a distance, of course, considering New York City is enforcing social distancing amid the COVID-19 crisis.

All hope wasn’t lost.

In video footage shared to his TikTok, Twitter and Instagram accounts, the two shared a wave and he taped his phone number to a drone and, clicking the record button for his TikTok account, flew it over to her.

“I can’t believe this actually works and yes this is a real story,” the 28-year-old wrote in a March 22 tweet, which has been viewed more than six million times.

“Flirting was normally daunting for me, but since I’ve been quarantining in my apartment for a week now, I was craving some social interaction,” Cohen said in the video. He added, “2020 has been off to a terrible start, but I still needed to shoot my shot.”

 

He revealed that she texted him an hour later.

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In his second TikTok of the meet-cute series, Cohen and the mystery woman went on a dinner date from their respective rooftops.

He revealed he got her roommate to help him set up a romantic table for her, from which she FaceTimed him while eating.

“It’s very Gen Z,” he told Insider, adding that he’d paid for dinner via a mobile payment service.  “I Venmo’ed her roommate for everything she did, because cause I wanted to treat her to dinner.”

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-Kl0RfD3Cz/

Quarantine Cutie, part 2. Her name is Tori (@toricigs) and she’s cute and kind 😌

A post shared by JEREMY COHEN (@jermcohen) on

Finally, he asked Tori Cignarella — who eventually revealed her name — on a “real” date, rolling over to her home inside a plastic bubble to take a walk side-by-side.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-Pj59zj36R/

How to date a Quarantined Cutie, Part 3.

A post shared by JEREMY COHEN (@jermcohen) on

Cohen first spotted Cignarella when he was photographing people on their balconies for a magazine.

“It was the first time I saw someone dancing on the roof,” he told the publication. “She just kept dancing and I was just attracted to her energy.”

While he’s not sure where their relationship will go, he plans on meeting her for real once the outbreak is all over.

“If this doesn’t work out, which also is a possibility, I’m sure we will be close in some way, just because she’s so cool and chill,” he said.

“We’ve had this crazy experience together.”

As for Cignarella, who has been in isolation for over a week now, their developing romance is a light at the end of the tunnel, she told NBC New York.

“He’s definitely set the bar pretty high,” Cignarella said. “No one knows what day it is anymore, it doesn’t matter because we’re all just at home, so it’s kind of nice to look forward to something.”

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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A global consumer default wave from the coronavirus is just getting started

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) – Like millions of people around the world, Zhang Chunzi borrowed money she thought she’d be able to repay before the coronavirus changed everything.

Now laid off from her job at an apparel exporter in Hangzhou – one of China’s most prosperous cities – the 23-year-old is missing payments on 12,000 yuan (S$2,411) of debt from her credit card and an online lending platform operated by Jack Ma’s Ant Financial. “I’m late on all the bills and there’s no way I can pay my debt in full,” Zhang said.

Her story is playing out in similar ways across China, where the virus outbreak has been taking lives and ravaging the economy for more than three months. As Covid-19 works its way through the rest of Asia, Europe and the Americas – forcing countries into lockdown, driving up unemployment and pummeling small-business owners – analysts say it’s only a matter of time before defaults start spreading within the record US$47 trillion (S$67 trillion) pile of household debt globally.

The early indicators from China aren’t pretty. Overdue credit-card debt swelled last month by about 50 per cent from a year earlier, according to executives at two banks who asked not to be named discussing internal figures. Qudian, a Beijing-based online lender, said its delinquency ratio jumped to 20 per cent in February from 13 per cent at the end of last year. China Merchants Bank, one of the country’s biggest providers of consumer credit, said this month that it “pressed the pause button” on its credit-card business after a “significant” increase in past-due loans. An estimated 8 million people in China lost their jobs in February.

“These issues in China are a preview of what we should expect throughout the world,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

While the extent of the squeeze on consumers and their lenders will depend on the effectiveness of government efforts to contain the virus and shore up economies, the scope for pain is immense.

Households around the world now have US$12 trillion more debt than they did during the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, the Institute of International Finance said in a report this month. Household debt-to-GDP ratios in countries including France, Switzerland, New Zealand and Nigeria have never been higher.

In Australia, which has the highest household debt levels among G20 nations, the country’s largest lender said on Thursday (March 26) that its financial assistance lines are receiving eight times the normal call volume. A similar surge in queries has flooded lenders in the US, where credit-card balances swelled to an unprecedented US$930 billion last year and 3.28 million people filed for jobless benefits during the week ended March 21 – quadruple the previous record.

Few places have seen a bigger jump in consumer borrowing in recent years than China, where household debt including mortgages soared to a record 55 trillion yuan in 2019.

That figure has nearly doubled since 2015, thanks to a housing boom and the rise of online lenders like Ant Financial. While the firm’s risk models rely on reams of payments data, they’ve yet to be tested by a major economic downturn. Many consumers who take out these short-term, high-interest loans – typically funded by banks through Ant’s Alipay smartphone app – have minimal income and virtually no credit history.

“Since 2015, banks have kept lowering their criteria to compete,” said Zhang Shuaishuai, an analyst at China International Capital Corp. “The virus outbreak accelerated their exposure to risks. It will only get worse if unemployment climbs further.”

Ant declined to comment.

Consumer default rates at some banks have already increased to as high as 4 per cent from about 1 per cent before the outbreak, according to Zhao Jian, head of Atlantis Financial Research, who cited a survey of lenders. An executive at one major Chinese bank said his firm is taking steps to tighten credit card loans or even drop some clients after seeing a rapid increase in overdue payments.

With corporate delinquencies rising as well, Chinese banks could face a 5.2 trillion yuan surge in total nonperforming loans and an unprecedented 39 per cent slump in profits this year, according to a worst-case scenario outlined by UBS Group AG analysts this month.

Massive government stimulus will help ease the blow. Most countries have announced plans for economic support measures in recent months, including a US$2 trillion package in the US that will provide direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans. Some of the biggest US lenders have pledged to offer grace periods for mortgage borrowers affected by the crisis.

In China, authorities have flooded the financial system with liquidity and encouraged banks to step up their lending to small businesses that employ about 80 per cent of the nation’s workforce.

While most banks have yet to offer debt relief to consumers outside those living in cities like Wuhan that were hit especially hard by the virus, UBS predicts China’s government will do more if needed to help people find jobs and pay their bills. Bloomberg Economics estimates that about 85 per cent of the economy was back online in the week ending March 20, excluding the original virus epicenter in Hubei province.

“A large scale increase in unemployment, and resulting high delinquencies on retail loans won’t be tolerated by authorities as social stability is their bottom line,” said May Yan, a Hong Kong-based analyst at UBS.

Yet stimulus is unlikely to tide over everyone, particularly in places like China where household finances are stretched like never before. The country’s consumer debt-to-income ratio surged to 92 per cent at the end of 2018 from 30 per cent a decade ago, surpassing Germany and closing in on levels in the US and Japan, according to IIF. The risk is that a prolonged economic slump and weak real estate market will force more people to renege on their loans.

That moment has already arrived for Yin Weijun, a 27-year-old who recently lost his job as a hotel chef in Wenzhou, a city in China’s southeast.

“I’m like a refugee from debt,” he said. “I had never missed a payment in my life, but the virus left me with no choice. Even if they give me an extra one or two months, I still can’t pay.”

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In Italy, death bells stop tolling to spare residents the anguish

On March 7, in the small Italian town of Nembro, the death bells stopped tolling. Its curate, Don Matteo Cella, tells me: “We decided not to ring them any more since that Saturday, the day of the four funerals. The whole day would have been filled with the sound of the death knell, and this would have caused untold anguish for the entire community.”

Nembro, with its 11,500 residents and numerous churches, all under a single parish, is tended by five priests. Four were taken ill, only one was left standing: the youngest – the curate, 40-year-old Don Matteo.

A small village east of Bergamo in the Lombardy region, Nembro is the gateway to the Seriana Valley and where Italy’s America’s Cup Luna Rossa sailboat hull was built.

It now risks going from being an America’s Cup headline to going down in history as the Italian town with the highest percentage of victims in the coronavirus epidemic.

History has a tendency to repeat itself – the 1630 plague wiped out nearly three-quarters of the town’s 2,700 inhabitants; only 744 lived to tell the tale.

Last year, 120 people died in Nembro – 10 a month; now, 70 have died in the space of just 12 days.

I went in search of the parish priest, but I found Don Matteo, who usually tends to the younger members of the flock. He gave me an account of the terrible events: “From the beginning of the epidemic, according to the parish statistics, we held 39 funerals in the church, 26 at the cemetery, and we have 26 deceased waiting to be laid to rest. That is without counting anyone who may have died in the past few days that we have not heard about yet, or even non-Catholics.”

The village is like a surreal vision: nobody in the streets, the shops are all closed, and the grocery stores and the pharmacy only make home deliveries.

Until a fortnight ago, the town hall square was full of children; now, there is not a soul in sight.

Everything is as if frozen where it was on that Saturday at the beginning of March, when the government decided to close the whole region of Lombardy.

Don Matteo – underlining that he is not a doctor and that he does not wish to overstep the mark – limits himself to chronicling the facts that have devastated his community. “We believe this thing has been around since the beginning of the year or even since Christmas, without being identified. For a start, the nursing home in Nembro had a peak of anomalous deaths: In January, 20 people died of pneumonia.

ITALY

86,498

CASES

9,134

DEATHS

“The whole of last year, there were only seven deaths there. And so, the number of funerals began to swell, week in, week out, with everyone talking about this severe pneumonia. Before Mardi Gras, half the town was in bed with fever.

“I remember that while we were discussing whether to hold the celebrations and the parade with the children, we had to close down the ‘homework space’ because most of the volunteers who supervised the kids were sick.

“But there was no talk of coronavirus back then in Italy; who knows how many of us were already sick and then got better.

“Gradually, everything ground to a halt; we started off by suspending mass in church, but we kept tending to the sick, meeting their families, for as long as possible, because you cannot refuse them comfort. We tried to exercise as much caution as possible, but today, I am the only priest who is still healthy, the others are all down with fever. Don Giuseppe is in hospital, and Don Antonio, the parish priest, was taken ill but has now recovered.

“Then we started holding the first funerals of those taken by Covid-19, in the presence of close family only. In the week of March 2, we buried 14 people, when usually there are only two at most.”

TALK OF THE TOWN

The whole of last year, there were only seven deaths there. And so, the number of funerals began to swell, week in, week out, with everyone talking about this severe pneumonia. Before Mardi Gras, half the town was in bed with fever.

DON MATTEO CELLA, curate of Italian town Nembro, on how the number of deaths from pneumonia at a nursing home inexplicably started to climb in January.

The last funeral rites to be celebrated before the government put a stop to them were for Massimo, a 52-year-old who worked in graphics and printing. He was a volleyball enthusiast, the sport played by his three daughters, aged 25, 15 and 12.

Don Matteo officiated the last rites on the afternoon of March 7, a Saturday. “Only his wife and daughters were present, a few friends waited at a safe distance in the main square for the passing of the hearse. Massimo was never tested, he died at home in the days when panic was skyrocketing and the emergency was at its peak; our family doctors were the first to get sick or to end up in quarantine, it was havoc.

“He had a high temperature for a week, then he began experiencing respiratory problems. They called for help, but when the paramedics arrived, there was nothing more that could be done.”

Since that week, not only has the death knell been silenced, but when possible, the ambulances go about their business in silence to reduce the fretfulness that the constant sound of the siren can trigger.

FUNERALS CAN’T BE HELD

Now that funerals can no longer be held, Don Matteo can only accompany the dead to the cemetery.

“The families notify us, and we go to bless the coffins or the urns before the remains are buried. It’s very sad, detached, I do my best to bestow a minimum of humanity.

“They are people who died in hospital in exceptional circumstances, in complete solitude, with relatives who saw an ambulance leave with their loved ones, then never heard anything until the announcement of their death, and the call to collect their personal belongings. And I’m not talking about one isolated incident.”

As soon as he felt well enough, the parish priest, Don Antonio, started calling all the families in mourning to comfort them.

When the shops closed, the town council asked the parish to help spread the word that groceries could be delivered; the shops got organised, and Don Matteo put together a team of 40 youngsters, between the ages of 15 and 17, who went door to door to put fliers in all the mailboxes.

“Another incredible thing,” he tells me, “are the volunteers who bring medicine to the sick, the elderly and those in quarantine. A strong sense of community has been rediscovered, and the territory has shown a deeply moving sense of human kindness.”

The town tries to keep updated, people want to know who has died, who has been hospitalised; but sometimes, in this constant back and forth of messaging on WhatsApp, some colossal misinformation gets passed on, often due to confusing people of the same name.

Don Matteo says: “Yesterday morning, there were reports that the former parish priest, who was with us until last year and who is hospitalised, had died.

“A lot of people got in touch with me to express their condolences, but between one call and another, he also phoned to tell me that he was better and that he could finally speak again. I didn’t have the courage to tell him that the town was already mourning his passing.”

Amid this sadness, Don Matteo uses technology to celebrate mass in the vacant church and uploads it to YouTube. Parish groups meet in video chat rooms or via video conferencing platform Zoom.

Every morning, he records a podcast with his observations on the day’s Gospel; parishioners find it on every platform, from Spotify to Apple, from Facebook to Twitter, and they share it. Five hundred people download it every day.

He says: “Now I have to go and finish editing tomorrow’s one, it’s the Gospel of Matthew that talks about debt, numbers and forgiveness.”

I listened to it, and one sentence stuck in my mind: “The cold, hard precision of numbers often transforms them into ruthless cages, but we have to forgive until we lose count.”

• The writer is the former editor-in-chief of La Repubblica and a former board member of the World Editors Forum.

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European airlines resist mounting coronavirus refund claims

PARIS (REUTERS) – European airlines waiting in line for coronavirus bailouts want to tap another source of interest-free loans: their customers.

Cash-strapped carriers are seeking to suspend European Union rules requiring refunds for cancellations and instead issue vouchers to clients left out of pocket as hundreds of thousands of flights are grounded by the pandemic.

Refund claims, if honoured, would be a big additional cash drain on many airlines already in need of government aid to survive a sustained travel slump.

Consumer organisations say some major airlines are already flouting the refund rules and condemn what they describe as an attempt to force consumers to lend them cash.

“We’ve been absolutely inundated with passengers complaining they can’t get a refund from their airlines,” Mr Rory Boland of British consumer group Which? said on Friday (March 27).

The European Commission has rejected industry calls to relax the requirement in EU regulations to refund cancellations within a week, but the airlines say they are unable to comply.

“Faced with a cashflow catastrophe, many airlines can only offer vouchers in lieu of immediate cash refunds for cancelled flights,” their lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E) said.

A prolonged shutdown would make about 3.5 billion euros (S$5.6 billion) of Lufthansa revenue eligible for refund in the second quarter, Citi estimates – ahead of the 3 billion euros at British Airways parent IAG or Air France-KLM, 770 million euros at easyJet and 760 million at Ryanair.

“Basically, we are trying to push as many vouchers as possible, and not allow for cancellations just to be refunded immediately,” Lufthansa’s finance chief Ulrik Svensson told investors last week.

A Lufthansa spokesman said on Friday that refunds remain”possible in principle,” but not “within the usual time limits.”

EasyJet and British Airways are among airlines that have made it harder to obtain refunds, by disabling them online and offering only vouchers.

Twitter on Friday was aflame with customers who had been referred to swamped call centres.

BA and easyJet said cash reimbursements remained available through their contact centres.

Air France-KLM, which like Lufthansa has grounded the vast majority of its flights, is telling clients it no longer offers the immediate refunds required under European law. Instead it is issuing a customer credit valid for one year that can be refunded only at the end of that period.

“Air France recognises clients would normally receive immediate reimbursement,” its website says, blaming exceptional circumstances and “a very high number of refund requests.”

Airlines are now asking European authorities to waive refund requirements on condition that vouchers are reimbursable after a minimum of 12 months, an A4E spokeswoman said.

The EU has already relaxed airport slot rules and passenger compensation and will offer airlines more help, Transport Commissioner Adina Valean told Reuters. “But people have to receive their money back if that is what they want.”

Consumer groups remain unmoved by the industry’s pleas. “It isn’t fair to people who have been left out-of-pocket and may be in financial difficulties themselves,” said Boland at Which? – who cited the example of a family denied a refund on their annual holiday booking to Florida.

“The airlines should not be asking to keep that family’s 2,000 pounds (S$3,556),” he said.

Citi analyst Mark Manduca said airlines must do everything they can to ensure that “fees and taxes and anything that involves complaint money can be held to an absolute minimum during this tough time.”

But he added: “As a voucher holder, you end up effectively becoming an unsecured creditor of an airline.”

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Govt to subsidise wages of all local workers by at least 25% amid Covid-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE – Firms will receive wage subsidies of between 25 per cent and 75 per cent for all local workers as the Government makes “bolder and more aggressive moves” to save jobs and keep locals employed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This is up from the 8 per cent wage subsidy in the Jobs Support Scheme announced in the Budget statement in February. The help will also last for nine months, instead of three, up to the end of this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (March 26) that a total of $15.1 billion will now be allocated to the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme, up from the original $1.3 billion package.

This is more than twice the level of support provided during the global financial crisis in 2009, he told Parliament.

“We cannot prevent an economic recession as the external health and economic situation will evolve beyond our control. But it will help us mitigate the extent of the downturn and more importantly, help save jobs, and protect livelihoods,” said DPM Heng in announcing the Supplementary Budget.

“With this support from the Government, I urge employers to do your part to hold on to your workers.”

DPM Heng announced a slew of measures to support the immediate priority of saving jobs, supporting workers and protecting livelihoods, including help for the self-employed, lower-income workers and the unemployed – measures that account for over one-third of the $48 billion Supplementary Budget.

For employed workers, the top priority is to help them stay in their jobs, said DPM Heng. While his Budget statement last month introduced the Jobs Support Scheme and enhanced the Wage Credit Scheme to preserve and enhance jobs, “the situation now calls for bolder and more aggressive moves to save jobs and keep workers in employment”, he said.

The basic cash grant of 25 per cent applies to all Singaporean and permanent resident employees, who number more than 1.9 million.

Firms in the food services sector, including hawker stalls, will receive higher support, at 50 per cent of wages. Firms in the aviation and tourism sectors – which are the worst hit by the Covid-19 outbreak – will receive 75 per cent of wages. These include airlines, hotels and operators of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions venues.

The support will apply to the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages per local employee, which is the median wage in Singapore. Gross monthly wages include employee contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

Business owners will not receive subsidies for their own wages.

The qualifying salary was raised from the original $3,600 level to provide greater support for middle-income workers.

Employers will receive payouts in three tranches, at the end of May, July and October.

They do not need to apply for the scheme as it will be computed based on their CPF contribution data. Those eligible for higher tiers of support will be informed closer to the date of the first payout.

Enhancements to the Wage Credit Scheme, which co-funds wage increases for Singaporean employees, were announced in last month’s Budget statement

The Government’s contributions for qualifying wage increases for last year and this year were raised by five percentage points. It will pay 20 per cent of increases given last year, and 15 per cent of those given this year.

The monthly wage ceiling was also raised to $5,000, up from $4,000, for qualifying wage increases given last year and this year.

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Coronavirus: Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre to be used as an emergency shelter

The Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre will be used as an emergency shelter space to improve social distancing for the city’s homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the City of Peterborough announced the west-end facility will be used to provide more space in the existing emergency shelter network.

As a result, the Brock Mission and the overflow shelter bed program on Murray Street will be temporarily re-located to identified areas in the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre.

The city says Cameron House and the YES Shelter for Youth and Families may also use the centre as secondary shelter space.

Up to 45 to 50 beds will be made available, but more can be added if necessary.

“We are urging people in our community to stay home as much as possible to practise social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. For people who don’t have a home, that’s not possible,” said Mayor Diane Therrien.

“We’re providing more shelter space to spread out the existing beds in our shelter network to help protect the health of some of the most vulnerable people in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Peterborough Public Health on Tuesday says there are now five confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the area.

The city says the centre’s numerous rooms and washroom amenities provide much-needed flexibility for the shelter network as the coronavirus pandemic progresses.

The city, Peterborough Public Health, the existing shelter operators — Brock Mission, YES Shelter for Youth and Families — as well as Fourcast, which delivers homelessness services, are working together to continue to provide services for people who are homeless.

The city hopes those who use the downtown-area shelters can utilize Peterborough Transit to relocate to the centre.

Therrien noted Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith was also involved, offering provincial facilities to support the community’s efforts.

“Our community is working together. It’s taking action for the health and safety of people during this difficult time,” Therrien said.

Housing is the preferred option when assisting people who need shelter, the city said.

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WestJet announces layoffs for nearly 50% of staff due to COVID-19, Air Canada reduces pilots

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says roughly half of its 14,000 employees will leave the company — some temporarily — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 6,900 departures comprise early retirements, resignations and both voluntary and involuntary leaves after WestJet asked staff to choose one of those options or reduce their hours or pay, said CEO Ed Sims.

“This is devastating news for all WestJetters,” Sims said in a video statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The fact that we avoided a potentially worse outcome is testament to the spirit and selfless attitude demonstrated by our people, who have enabled WestJet to continue operating with a collective remaining workforce of 7,100.”

The first wave of departures is set for Wednesday and the second for April 1.

In a Tuesday video announcement posted to YouTube, Sims said that 120 of the company’s aircraft had been grounded.

“We’re now operating at the same size we were back in 2003,” Sims said. “We simply do not have enough demand to support our workforce at our current numbers.”

The Calgary-based company has cancelled all international flights for 30 days and, like Air Canada, severely scaled back domestic capacity.

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Captain Michael McKay, head of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said the union agreed to a plan late Monday for a maximum of 600 pilots on furlough.

The pilots have also agreed to reduced pay across the board and “simplified contract language” to allow them to retire earlier, he said.

“Like all Canadians, the more than 4,400 pilots of Air Canada and Air Canada rouge have been deeply affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, personally and professionally, with the precipitous drop in passenger demand and the challenging operating environment,” McKay said.

He is joining other unions in calling on Ottawa for financial relief for the aviation industry.

Due to the complexity of pilot training, the precise number of positions immediately affected at the country’s largest airline remains unclear, he added.

On Thursday, the union representing Air Canada’s flight attendants said the company will temporarily lay off more than 5,100 members.

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Coronavirus: NB Power requests rate application delay, commits to no disconnections

NB Power says it has requested a pause on its rate application and committed to not disconnecting any customers for lack of payment until further notice.

The Crown corporation announced the decision in a message to customers on Tuesday in which the company sought to provide clarity in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The situation has been changing by the minute and has led to a lot of uncertainty on how we move forward in these unprecedented times,” reads a release from NB Power.

“The company acknowledges that the province’s residents may have difficulty paying their bills as a result of illness, job loss or requirements to self-isolate.”

As a result, NB Power says it has asked the province’s energy and utilities board to delay rendering a decision on its general rate application and the implementation of smart meters.

If it was fully accepted, the application would have seen a 1.9 per cent rate increase beginning April 1.

The Crown corporation says it will “not be disconnecting customers for non-payment until further notice” and that it has cancelled all planned power outages.

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