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5 soldiers serving in Quebec, Ontario nursing homes test positive for COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Five Canadian Forces soldiers have been infected with the novel coronavirus while serving in Quebec and Ontario nursing homes — four in Quebec and one in Ontario — the Department of National Defence said today.

That word came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the news in response to questions from CBC News and Radio Canada journalists at his daily media availability this morning.

Watch | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacts to military cases of COVID-19:

Brigadier-General Gervais Carpentier speaks with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton about Canadian Armed Forces members serving in long term care facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19. 12:04

The department offered few details, other than a breakdown of the infections by province and a list of the protective measures the military was taking for the 1,675 service members taking part in the assistance operation. That operation was launched in response to pleas from both provinces for help in long-term care facilities overrun by COVID-19 cases.

A veteran’s advocate who has been tracking the pandemic deployment said one of the four service members infected in Quebec was performing duties at the Villa Val des Arbres in Laval, a suburb of Montreal.

That infected soldier, who has not been identified, was part of a team of military members who arrived at the seniors home on April 20 in response to an urgent request for assistance from the Quebec government, said Sylvain Chartrand of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

After the soldier tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the entire team was removed from the home. It’s not clear whether they were told to isolate themselves.

‘We’re proud of the work that we’re doing’

A second case is said to be a military dentist who also took up duties in one of the long-term care centres — possibly in the Montreal area, the current epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.

National Defence did not provide details about the other three confirmed cases, but pledged to release statistics every two weeks on the deployment in order to reassure military families and the public.

The highest-ranking officer in Quebec, Brig.-Gen. Gervais Carpentier, insisted the operation’s COVID-19 caseload is low, given the size of the deployment, and that the troops received medical checks and proper training prior to deployment.

“It’s a tough situation. We never wished for this kind of situation, but we’re proud of the work that we’re doing,” Carpentier told CBC News.

Carpentier would not discuss details of the service members’ cases or indicate how sick they are right now.

He said the risks were known going in and the troops were well-equipped and well-trained.

“The important part of our preparations was to make sure that we knew how to don and wear the personal protective equipment to ensure … max safety for personnel,” said Carpentier.

A ‘high contamination risk’

How much protective equipment the troops wear depends on the extent of the outbreaks in the homes where they’re deployed; Carpentier said the military is taking its cues from provincial health authorities.

Chartrand, however, has doubts.

He said he is not going to question the adequacy of the protective equipment but, with regards to the Laval case he was tracking, he was told the soldiers in the detachment were all changing in and out of their equipment in the same room, in violation of provincial health protocols.

That should be investigated, Chartrand said.

“That’s a contamination risk. A high contamination risk … So, I mean, do they have proper training?”

With so little known about COVID’s long-term health implications, Chartrand said, the federal government should declare the pandemic deployment a special duty operation. That would allow troops to claim veterans benefits — if they end up needing them.

He was supported in his call Friday by NDP defence critic Randall Garrison.

“Canada’s troops are always ready to step in when they’re needed in a crisis and they deserve to compensated for the important work they do on the front lines — overseas and here at home,” Garrison said in a statement. 

Watch | Brig.-Gen. Gervais Carpentier on Canadian Armed Forces members who have tested positive for COVID-19:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters on Friday. 1:22

“There are always risks in what they do and they go into that knowingly and willingly, and that is why we offer them our deepest gratitude every day,” Trudeau said.

“At the same time, we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect them, so we will look at the protocols in place and see if and how they can be strengthened … ensuring that cases of COVID-19 don’t spread throughout the [Canadian Armed Forces] and others who are serving their country.”

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Trudeau positions Canada as champion of co-ordinated global recovery plan – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly $8.5 trillion US from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

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Bank of Canada holds rate steady, saying COVID-19 economic impact 'appears to have peaked' – CBC.ca

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The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday and said it thinks the economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s economy “appears to have peaked.”

Canada’s central bank has dropped its rate dramatically since the pandemic began, cutting its rate from 1.75 per cent in late February to 0.25 per cent barely a month later.

The bank’s rate influences the rates that Canadian borrowers and savers get from their banks on things like mortgages and bank accounts. The central bank cut its rate in an attempt to encourage borrowing and investing to stimulate the economy, but those rate cuts weren’t the only thing it did to try to buttress the economy from the unprecedented hit of COVID-19.

The bank also started a number of bond and debt-buying programs in order to make sure there is enough cash in the system.

It announced on Wednesday it will tinker with two of them because things are starting to look up, but it is still buying up government bonds at a record-setting pace in order to make sure banks have enough cash on hand to lend to credit worthy borrowers.

“The Bank’s programs to improve market function are having their intended effect,” the bank said. “After significant strains in March, short-term funding conditions have improved. Therefore, the Bank is reducing the frequency of its term repo operations to once per week, and its program to purchase bankers’ acceptances to bi-weekly operations.”

Bond-buying

Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes noted that “both of these operations have seen much less take-up (or none at all) of late.”

“The bank stands ready to adjust these programs if market conditions warrant,” the central bank said. “Meanwhile, its other programs to purchase federal, provincial, and corporate debt are continuing at their present frequency and scope.”

In barely two months, the feverish pace of bond buying to buttress the economy has ballooned the bank’s balance sheet by $125 billion, Toronto-Dominion Bank economist James Orlando calculated. 

Slowing the frequency of new purchases is likely to bring that number down a little, but stimulus measures will remain in place for a while yet, CIBC economist Royce Mendes says.

“The bank had accumulated a large swath of short-term securities on its balance sheet, but now that those programs can wind down, the composition of the bank’s balance sheet is likely to change.”

Worst case scenario avoided for now

The reason for the bank’s cautious optimism is the bank’s belief that Canada has avoided the worst-case economic scenario that it painted in April.

The central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, less than the 15 to 30 per cent decline forecast in April. 

“Massive policy responses in advanced economies have helped to replace lost income and cushion the effect of economic shutdowns,” the bank said in explaining its rate decision. “Financial conditions have improved, and commodity prices have risen in recent weeks after falling sharply earlier this year.

The rate decision means that Canadians with variable rate mortgages shouldn’t expect any changes to their lending rate any time soon.

Mortgage rates

“The historically low mortgage rates currently in the market are here to stay until the economy approaches the level it was at before the pandemic started,” said James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.

“This means that anyone with a variable rate can expect prime to remain unchanged. Fixed rates will stay near historic lows.”

Wednesday’s decision is the last one under the leadership of Stephen Poloz. Tiff Macklem was named to replace him. Macklem “participated as an observer in governing council’s deliberations for this policy interest rate decision and endorses the rate decision and measures announced in this press release,” the bank said Tuesday.

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Trump decries ‘lowlifes’ and racism in Canada; In The News for June 3 – CityNews Toronto

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of June 3 …

American anti-racism protests …

Undeterred by curfews, protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

But most protests passed peacefully, and while there were scattered reports of looting in New York City, the country appeared calmer by late Tuesday than it did a day earlier, when violence swept through multiple cities.

The president, meanwhile, amplified his hard-line calls from Monday, when he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the protest lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations. The crowd Tuesday was peaceful, even polite. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today to make the case for a co-ordinated global response to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s poorest countries.

He’ll be among the leaders and heads of state to deliver remarks during a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

Among other things, he is expected to promise that Canada will partner with developing countries, which stand to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, and help to rally the world behind measures like debt relief to help them survive the crisis.

That is similar to the message Trudeau delivered last week while co-hosting a major United Nations summit, alongside UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Without a global co-ordinated recovery plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly US$8.5 trillion from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

While no country has escaped the economic ravages of the deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, developing countries, already in debt distress before the pandemic, cannot afford the kinds of emergency benefits and economic stimulus measures undertaken in wealthy, industrialized countries like Canada.

And this …

Nova Scotia’s largest nursing home is planning for a future of private rooms to keep residents safe, but it has taken a wrenching pandemic death toll to create the shift — and it remains unclear whether government will fund a long-term fix.

“We’re currently down to fewer than 25 rooms with shared accommodations at the Halifax campus,” Janet Simm, the Northwood facility’s chief executive, said in a recent interview.

That’s a huge shift from before the pandemic when more than 240 residents lived in two- or three-person units. Now, fewer than 50 people remain in the shared spaces, some of whom are couples or others who specifically request a roommate, Simm said.

But the facility’s desire to create more space, which its board sought for years before the pandemic, unfolded through tragedy rather than design.

COVID-19 illnesses spread among the 485 residents after asymptomatic workers brought the virus there in early April, and Simm says the bulk of the 53 who had died, as of Tuesday, and the 240 infected were in shared units.

COVID-19 in sports …

Khari Jones doesn’t have to look far for a reminder that racism exists in Canada.

The Montreal Alouettes head coach divulged during a teleconference Tuesday he received death threats while he was the quarterback of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers because of his interracial marriage. Jones is black and his wife, Justine, is white.

An emotional Jones — speaking just over a week after a white policeman kneeled on the neck of a black man, resulting in a tragic death in Minneapolis — said the threats came in the form of letters that remain in his possession.

“It’s just a reminder you always have to be on alert a little bit,” Jones said. “It could’ve been one person but one is still too many and to do that on the basis of a person’s skin colour is horrible.

“Every once in a while, every blue moon I take a look at them. They never found the person who wrote the letters — he used a fake name — but he’s still out there, people like him are still out there. That was 20-something years ago and it’s still happening.”

Interest rate announcement looms …

The Bank of Canada is expected to keep its key interest rate unchanged this morning on the first day of governor Tiff Macklem’s tenure.

Economists expect the central bank will maintain its target for the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent, which former governor Stephen Poloz has repeatedly said is as low as it can go.

Poloz and the bank’s governing council would have met over the past few days and finalized the rate decision last night.

Macklem likely would have been part of the meetings, but it’s unlikely that the language of the rate announcement will fully capture his views.

Instead of focusing on the rate itself, experts say they will be paying close attention to the language used in the rate announcement about the expected path for the economy in the coming weeks and months.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020

The Canadian Press

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