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B.C. confirms province's first presumptive positive case of new coronavirus – CTV News

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VANCOUVER —
The first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus has been detected in British Columbia, health officials confirmed Tuesday.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said one patient appears to be infected with the newly discovered coronavirus and is currently in isolation at home.

The individual is a 40-year-old male who travels to China regularly and was in Wuhan city on his most recent trip, officials said. He lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“This is a gentleman who is well aware of what is going on in China and when he went home he voluntarily self-isolated,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry at a news conference Tuesday.

The man contacted a health-care provider on Jan. 26 to let them known he had travelled to Wuhan and was experiencing symptoms. 

That health-care provider gave a diagnostic test, which came back positive on Monday night. 

The man was monitoring his own symptoms carefully and his family is also being monitored by Vancouver Coastal Health. Henry said the man arrived back in Vancouver last week and his symptoms began showing more than 24 hours after arriving home.

“This person is currently doing well and does not need hospitalization,” Henry said. “This person was not symptomatic on his flight.” 

Henry said there is no evidence that the virus spreads when a person is asymptomatic.

“That’s reassuring to us and that’s certainly in line with other coronavirus infections that we’ve seen in the past like SARS and MERS,” Henry said. 

Right now the man’s case is considered “presumptive positive” because confirmation is done by a second test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. 

“The sample is on its way to Winnipeg,” Henry said. “But given the history of travel, the contact that this person had in Wuhan city and the symptoms they were showing, we are confident that this truly is a case of this novel coronavirus.”

Henry said NML’s test result is expected in about 48 hours, but that she is confident in the result found by the B.C. lab’s test. 

Case no surprise, officials say

Henry added that with the high amount of travel between Metro Vancouver and China, the presumptive positive case didn’t come as a surprise. 

“This first case is not unexpected to us,” she said. 

“This does not change what we are doing in British Columbia … I would have been surprised if we did not have one or two cases.”

Henry cautioned against listening to rumours of B.C. cases, saying that the provincial ministry will continue to update the public if more cases are confirmed. 

“There has been a small number of people around the province that have been tested for this novel coronavirus and we have a very low threshold for that testing,” Henry said. “There have been a number of tests that have been done; this is the first one that has been positive.” 

Prevention and screening measures

In a news release from the ministry of health, the province said the general public doesn’t necessarily need to take extra measures to protect themselves from the virus.

“It is not necessary for the general public to take special precautions beyond the usual measures recommended to prevent other common respiratory viruses during the winter period,” the news release said.

“Regular handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately and avoiding contact with sick people are important ways to prevent the spread of respiratory illness generally.” 

Previously, the BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus and health-care workers have been asked to record the travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms.

Travellers passing through Vancouver International Airport are also being screened when they arrive at the airport, particularly if they’ve visited Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Other cases in Canada

In Ontario, two cases have been recorded. One case has been confirmed while the second is considered presumptive positive.

Symptoms of the virus include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell.

“Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary-care provider, local public health office or call 811,” the province said. 

The outbreak of the virus began on Dec. 31 with what was initially believed to be a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province.

Officials have since confirmed the patients were actually infected with a virus never previously identified in humans, which has been dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.

Coronaviruses are a “large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases,” according to Health Canada. 

To date, the virus has infected more than 4,500 people and is blamed for over 100 deaths. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Andrew Weichel and the Associated Press  

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Egypt upholds death sentence for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures

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Egypt’s highest civilian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures over a 2013 sit-in which ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters, judicial sources said.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, means the 12 men could face execution pending approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. They include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the group’s mufti or top religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.

Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest that followed the military’s ousting of Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered retrials.

Rights groups have documented a sharp rise in the number of executions in Egypt, with at least 51 carried out so far this year according to Amnesty International.

“Instead of continuing to escalate their use of the death penalty by upholding death sentences following convictions in grossly unfair mass trials Egyptian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Monday’s ruling relates to a mass trial of hundreds of suspects accused of murder and incitement of violence during pro-Brotherhood protests at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo in the weeks after Mursi’s overthrow.

In September 2018, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced 75 people to death and issued varying jail terms for more than 600 others. Many defendants were tried in absentia.

Forty-four of those sentenced to death appealed to the Court of Cassation. Thirty-one had their sentences changed to life in prison, while death sentences were upheld for 12 others.

A final defendant, the senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian, died in prison in Cairo in August 2020. Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, died in prison in 2019.

The court also upheld jail terms for many other defendants including a life sentence for Mohamed Badie, leader of the outlawed Brotherhood, and a 10-year jail term for Mursi’s son Osama, the judicial sources said.

 

(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean and Grant McCool)

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