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Canada’s first coronavirus case

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A case of novel coronavirus was presumptively confirmed in Toronto on Jan. 25.

Here’s what we know so far:

What do we know so far about this case?

A man in his 50s travelled from Wuhan to Guangzhou, China before arriving in Toronto on Jan. 22. Public health officials say he became ill within a day and self-reported by having a family member call 911.

“The emergency service was aware of his travel history. They used full precautions,” said Dr. Barbare Yaffe of Toronto Public Health at a Saturday press conference.

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The man was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital with fever and respiratory symptoms, and is currently in stable condition in a negative-pressure room, with staff taking precautions.

 

A test from the Public Health Ontario Laboratory confirmed the diagnosis. Toronto Public Health has been speaking with the man to determine exactly who he’s had contact with.

“The last word I heard was there was very little by way of contact,” says Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health.

She added that their understanding is that the man took “private transportation” home, not mass transportation.

“But we are absolutely making sure that we get the history of all the places the individual has been. That’s part of regular public health practice, in order that we can then determine who needs to be informed and what sorts of measures they need to take,” she said.

Yaffe says it’s important to keep the situation in context.

“The evidence to date is that this is not easily transmitted between people,” she says. Transmission, she said, is “mostly to very close household contacts.”

This man’s household contacts are a “very small number of people” who have already been put into self-isolation and are being monitored.

What does a presumptive confirmed or presumptive positive case mean?

The presumptive positive result comes from a local “rapid” test that gives health authorities a head-start on their work, according to Dr. Peter Donnelly from Public Health Ontario.

Public Health Ontario developed a “specific accurate and rapid test” for the novel coronavirus, he said. The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg also has a test, albeit slightly different.

The laboratories collaborate with each other, he explained.

“What we’ve agreed is that because we know our test is rapid and reliable, we can actually make a positive result from one of our tests actionable,” he said.

“So in other words, we don’t wait.”

The presumptive positive result becomes a confirmed case once the Winnipeg laboratory provides its result.

 

The risk is ‘still low’

Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer for Ontario, says the risk to Ontarians “is still low.”

“The system we’d hoped would work as it is, and it did,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hadju too said the risk remains low. In a statement Saturday, she said,”While the risk of an outbreak of novel coronavirus in Canada remains low, I encourage Canadians to tell your health care professional if you have travelled to an affected area of China, and develop flu-like symptoms.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province has been “actively monitoring” to swiftly detect any potential cases and contain them.

“I want to assure all Ontarians that this is exactly what transpired,” she said.

She stressed that the patient was detected and “immediately put in isolation,” with lab tests ordered and Toronto Public Health launching “extensive case and contact management” to prevent any further spread.

“The system is working,” Elliott said. “These protocols and procedures have been in place for some time.

“To be clear, health officials are actively working to ensure that we identify everyone this person was in contact with in order to contain this virus.”

Canada’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Theresa Tam, tweeted that “systems have been and remain vigilant across the country” and that the risk of an outbreak in Canada “remains low.”

The province is in a “very different place” than it was during SARS in the early 2000s, according to Donnelly.

“We know what the virus is,” he said. “We have a fast, reliable test for it. That really is a game-changer.”

Having the local fast testing means “you can very quickly find out whether people have this or not.”

“You can follow up their contacts,” Donnelly said. “Where its appropriate, you can test them.

“These are the tools that you need in order to control this and to stop its spread.”

Donnelly also said it’s important to bear in mind that most people will likely have a mild form of the virus.

“Many people in China probably don’t even know they’ve had it, haven’t sought medical care, or if they have sought medical care, they’ve recovered quite quickly,” he said.

 

What can people do?

Here’s the advice on how to protect yourself that Ontario has put out via a webpage that will be updated every weekday:

Provincial health officials say that reducing exposure and transmission to a number of illnesses, including coronaviruses, can be done by:

 

  • washing hands often
  • avoiding contact with people who are unwell
  • practicing proper cough and sneeze etiquette

The province also says that anyone travelling to an area with known cases of coronavirus should avoid the following:

  • high-risk areas such as farms, live animal markets and areas where animals may be slaughtered
  • contact with animals (alive or dead), including pigs, chickens, ducks and wild birds
  • surfaces with animal secretions or feces

Federal health officials echo similar advice, with Minister Hadju reminding those who have travelled to an affected area of China and subsequently developed flu-like symptoms to reach out to their health care professional.

Can we expect more cases?

Possibly. Provincial and federal health officials have indicated they would not be surprised to see more confirmed cases.

Williams said that Ontario has been waiting for its first case.

“I would think with the amount of flow and traffic and stuff, we might see some others,” he said. Health officials remain vigilant in their monitoring, he added.

“I would be very surprised if this is our last case,” Williams said. “But we have to wait to see.”

In a tweet Saturday evening, Dr. Tam from the Public Health Agency of Canada said: “While additional confirmed #2019nCoV cases would not be unexpected, the risk of an outbreak in Canada remains low.”

As of Saturday, the World Health Organization said there were 23 confirmed cases outside of China, with 21 of them having travel history to Wuhan City.

The international organization has not changed its risk assessment of the situation since Jan. 22, deeming it “very high in China, high at the regional level and moderate at the global level.”

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Afghan refugees: Government delays increasing financial pressure – CTV News

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Refugee advocates are raising concerns that Afghan refugees granted asylum in Canada are being burdened by escalating costs stemming from the government’s delay in processing their claims.

Before they board their flight to Canada, all refugees are required to sign a loan agreement to pay back the cost of their transportation and pre-arrival expenses which can include hotel stays.

Some Afghans identified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as eligible for resettlement have been waiting months for exit permits while living in hotels arranged by the government. The hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their debt.

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The Canadian Council for Refugees says Afghans are being forced to pay for an inefficient bureaucracy.

“It seems like the Canadian government is taking advantage of the vulnerability of people,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. Hotel bills can add thousands of dollars to their government debt.

Dench says refugees have no choice but to accept a “legally dubious” contract that doesn’t stipulate a precise loan amount.

“If they want a permanent home they have to sign on to whatever the terms of the agreement are. There’s no negotiation room, so people are forced into this situation.”

LONG WAITS AND BIG BILLS

Because Canada doesn’t recognize the Taliban government Afghans must get to a third country with consular support to complete their refugee applications. Many flee to neighboring Pakistan where Canada has a High Commission in the capital of Islamabad.

Nearly all Afghan refugees deemed eligible for resettlement are placed in the care of the International Organization for Migration while they are overseas.

The IOM organizes both charter and commercial flights to Canada and coordinates hotel stays for refugees as they wait for their exit permits. IOM doesn’t book flights until after IRCC has completed security and medical checks of its applicants. The organization bills the Canadian government approximately $150 per day to house and provide three meals a day for one family.

Of the 25,400 Afghans who have arrived in Canada since August 2021, IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon told CTV News in an emailed statement Friday the organizations has arranged travel for more than 22,000 of those refugees.

The claims of another 15,000 Afghans Canada committed to accepting after the Taliban took over the country have been delayed.

Irfanullah Noori, 28 and his family of five stepped off a plane at Pearson International Airport less than two months ago at the end of October. Before the Taliban took over his homeland in Noori worked as a logistics coordinator at the Kabul International Airport. He qualified for asylum because his brother served as an interpreter for Canadian soldiers.

Before being issued travel documents to Canada, Nouri, his wife and their three children, all under the age of five – stayed in an Islamabad hotel arranged by IOM for three months.

Irfanullah Noori poses with his youngest daughter on October 25, 2022 at the Pakistan International Airport before he boarded plane bound for Canada.

Before boarding his flight he signed a loan agreement. Nouri says IOM staff told him he would need to repay hotel expenses that added up to more than $13,000. That amount does not factor in the cost of flights for his family that he will also have to repay.

MISLEADING COSTS

IRCC says 96 per cent of refugees are able to pay back the loans. Monthly payments on the interest free loans are scheduled to begin one year after refugees arrive in Canada and costs can be spread out over nine years.

The federal government puts a cap of $15,000 on each loan per family, but the Canadian Council for Refugees says this is a misleading number.

Refugee families who have older dependents may have to pay back more than the cap. That’s because dependents over the age of 22 years old, can be considered a separate family unit and required to take on a new loan. Dench says this policy puts refugees in a precarious economic position. She’s seen families fight over finances and hopes and dreams put on hold.

“You have young people who should normally be going to university and pursuing their education but they feel that they’re morally obliged to get down to work, even at a minimum wage job in order to pay off the family debt,” said Dench. She argues the Canadian government should stop requiring refugees to repay the costs of getting them to safety, no matter where they come from.

SIMILAR CLAIMS, DIFFERENT TIME FRAMES

Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Veterans Transition Network has helped raise funds to get interpreters and others out of Afghanistan. Oliver Thorne, VTN’s executive director says he’s frustrated that there are huge variations how long it takes for claims to be approved between applicants with similar profiles

“Some migrants are left in the dark. They don’t know why it’s taking them an additional two, four or six months compared to another interpreter who worked with the Canadian armed forces.” Thorne says IRCC needs to hire and train more staff to speed up the processing of claims.

He’s also calling for the removal of loan requirements, especially for Afghans who assisted the Canadian armed forces.

“They protected our men and women in uniform at great risk to themselves and their families. And secondly, these are going to be Canadians. They’re going to live here in our society down the street from us, and we have nothing to gain by making their transition more difficult,” Thorne said in an interview from Vancouver.

NO DEBT RELIEF

CTV News asked the Immigration Minister if it was fair that the Canadian government was burdening Afghans with additional costs due to the government backlog.

On Friday, Sean Fraser blamed a complicated process, but acknowledged that some refugees had been stuck “for a significant period of time.’ But the minister offered few solutions other than a vague reassurance that his department was “working with Pakistani officials to make sure we’re facilitating the smooth transportation of people to Canada.”

Meanwhile Noori is struggling to make ends meet in his new Ontario home, despite finding a job a few weeks ago at the General Motors plant in Oshawa.

Hired as a data-entry clerk, Noori earns $19/hour and is trying to pick up extra shifts on the weekend so he can make his $2,000 monthly rent on a one bedroom apartment.

Even though he won’t have to start paying back his refugee loan until next year, he’s daunted by the impending bill.

“It’s expensive (here.) I work 8 hours a day and six days a week. It will be very hard for me to pay back.”

After surviving the Taliban, Noori now faces subsistence in Canada.

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Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries

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A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.

It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.

Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.

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Slain RCMP Const. Yang cleared of wrongdoing in shooting: B.C. police watchdog

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Slain RCMP Const. Yang cleared of wrongdoing in shooting: B.C. police watchdog

British Columbia‘s police watchdog has cleared a slain Burnaby RCMP constable of wrongdoing after she shot a man in the altercation that led to her death.

The Independent Investigations Office says after a review of all available evidence its chief civilian director determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe Const. Shaelyn Yang committed an offence.

It says the matter will not be referred to the Crown for consideration of charges.

Yang, a 31-year-old mental health and homeless outreach officer, was stabbed to death on Oct. 18 while she and a City of Burnaby employee attempted to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.

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Yang shot the suspect before she died, and the IIO later said Jongwon Ham underwent surgery for his injuries.

Ham has since been charged with first-degree murder in Yang’s death.

“Due to concurrent court proceedings related to the incident, the IIO’s public report will not be released on the IIO website until that process has concluded,” the IIO said in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.

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