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Canada’s Trudeau hammers main election rival’s COVID-19 approach

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seeking to carve out a lead ahead of a Sept. 20 election. On Thursday he accused his main rival of showing weak leadership in the fight against COVID-19.

Opinion polls show Trudeau’s center-left Liberals are tied with the right-of-center Conservatives led by Erin O’Toole and appear set to fail in their bid to win a parliamentary majority in Monday’s vote.

Trudeau, 49, noted that O’Toole, 48, had praised Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s decision earlier this year to quickly lift public health restrictions in the Western Canadian province.

Kenney, who was a minister in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government before the Liberals took power in 2015, backtracked this week after a surge in COVID-19 cases threatened to overload the provincial healthcare system. Kenney apologized and said he would introduce vaccine passports.

“The choices that leaders make in a crisis matter … just a few days ago Mr. O’Toole was still applauding Mr. Kenney for his management of the pandemic,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.

“That’s not the leadership we need in Ottawa to end this pandemic for good,” added Trudeau, who backs mandatory vaccine mandates. The Liberal leader heads a minority government that depends on the opposition to pass legislation.

A central element of Trudeau’s campaign pitch is that Canada needs a leader who is clear on the need for vaccinations to get through the pandemic.

O’Toole has repeatedly sidestepped questions about his earlier support for Kenney’s approach to COVID-19.

“As prime minister, I will work with all premiers, regardless of stripe, to fight against the pandemic,” he told reporters in Saint John, New Brunswick, saying Trudeau should not have triggered an election during a pandemic.

A fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, is continuing to surge mainly among the unvaccinated, Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said in a briefing in Ottawa.

“Hospitalizations could exceed healthcare capacities in impacted areas,” she said.

Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan have among the worst rates of COVID-19 cases per capita in Canada.

Trudeau said his government would send ventilators to Alberta. Liberal campaign organizers, citing unhappiness with Kenney, say their party could pick up three of Alberta’s 34 federal seats after being shut out in the traditionally right-leaning province.

With Saskatchewan hospitals nearing capacity, Premier Scott Moe imposed a mask requirement for indoor public spaces starting on Friday. By Oct. 1, provincial government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, and people must be inoculated or test negative to dine in restaurants.

OBAMA WEIGHS IN

How to handle COVID-19 has become a challenge for O’Toole. He supports inoculations, but says he prefers rapid testing to detect the virus rather than vaccination mandates.

The Conservatives are at risk of seeing some support leak to the right-wing People’s Party of Canada (PPC), which is feeding into public anger https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-mad-max-stokes-anti-vax-rage-could-help-trudeau-2021-09-14 over vaccinations and lockdowns.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier, who also was a minister in Harper’s government, attacked Kenney over his vaccine passport announcement. Bernier tweeted that he would go to the province “to join Albertans in their fight against this despot.”

A rolling Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians for CTV on Thursday put public support for the Liberals at 31.9%, the Conservatives at 30.3% and the left-leaning New Democrats at 22.4%.

Such a result could produce deadlock in which no party is able to form even a stable minority government. Trudeau triggered the election two years early, seeking to benefit from his handling of the pandemic, but the Liberals have not so far been able to shrug off voter fatigue.

Trudeau, however, got a big endorsement on Thursday from former U.S. President Barack Obama, who wished his “friend” all the best in the election.

“Justin has been an effective leader and strong voice for democratic values, and I’m proud of the work we did together,” Obama wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Writing by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

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Biden says he’s concerned about Chinese hypersonic missiles

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he is concerned about Chinese hypersonic  missiles, days after a media report that Beijing had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide weapon.

Asked by reporters as he was boarding Air Force One for a trip to Pennsylvania whether he was concerned about Chinese hypersonic missiles, Biden said, “Yes.”

The Financial Times said at the weekend that China had tested a weapon in August that flew through space and circled the globe before cruising down toward a target that it missed. China’s foreign ministry denied the report.

 

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Ethiopia conducts two air strikes on Tigray within hours, war escalates

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The  Ethiopian government carried out a second air strike within hours on the Tigray region on Wednesday, significantly escalating a campaign to weaken rebellious Tigrayan forces in an almost one-year-old war.

The second strike was in Agbe in the Temben region some 80 km (50 miles) west of the regional capital Mekelle, targeting a military training centre and heavy artillery depot, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said.

That came after a morning air strike in Mekelle, the third this week. Tigrai Television said the attack targeted the centre of the city while the Addis Ababa government said it targeted buildings where Tigrayan forces were repairing armaments.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has “been adept at hiding munitions and heavy artillery in places of worship and using ordinary Tigrayans as a human shield”, Legesse said.

Two witnesses and a humanitarian source in Mekelle told Reuters that the morning strike appeared to have targeted Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC, a factory complex which the government believes supports the TPLF.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, referring to government forces, said: “They are desperate on the war front. My interpretation is they are bombing us because they are losing on the ground and it’s their reprisal. The fact that they are bombing shows they don’t care about Tigrayan civilians.”

Speaking to Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location, Gebremichael said the strike did not hit the engineering complex, rather another private company compound, but he had no further details.

Nine civilians, including a five-year-old child, were being treated at Ayder Referral Hospital for injuries sustained in the strike, according to TPLF-run Tigrai Television.

The blast shattered the windows of Mekelle General Hospital, about one kilometre away from Mesfin Industrial, and damaged nearby homes, said a doctor at the hospital. It had received five wounded people, he said.

“Four of them were factory employees and the fifth one is a lady whose lives near the factory. Her house was destroyed by the air strike,” the doctor said.

Tigrai Television posted photographs of what appeared to be plumes of billowing smoke. Reuters geolocated the images to Mekelle.

The two sides have been fighting for almost a year in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million amid a power struggle between the TPLF, which controls the northern region, and the central government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.

The TPLF dominated the Horn of Africa country’s ruling party for decades before Abiy, who is not a Tigrayan, took office in 2018.

CONTROL OF THE SKIES

Mesfin Industrial Engineering is an equipment manufacturer and car and truck assembly plant that was part of EFFORT, a TPLF-owned conglomerate.

After war broke out last November, the government froze the company’s bank accounts, saying there was evidence that it was supporting the TPLF. The company could not be reached for comment. Most communications in Mekelle are down.

Mekelle was also hit by two air strikes on Monday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/mekelle-capital-ethiopias-tigray-hit-by-air-strikes-regional-tv-2021-10-18. The TPLF accused the government of launching the attacks. A government official initially denied the accusation but state media later reported the air force had conducted a strike.

The attacks follow intensified fighting in two other northern regions where the military is trying to recover territory taken by the TPLF, which recaptured Mekelle and most of the rest of Tigray several months ago.

In July, the TPLF pushed into the two other regions, Amhara and Afar, and several hundred thousand more people fled their homes, according to the United Nations.

Last week, after the TPLF said the military had started an offensive in Amhara, the military said that the TPLF had “opened war on all fronts”, and that government forces were inflicting heavy casualties.

“The federal air strikes on Mekelle appear to be part of efforts to weaken Tigray’s armed resistance, which has recently made further gains in eastern Amhara region, with fighting ongoing in some areas,” said Will Davison, a senior analyst on Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“Along with superior manpower, control of the skies is one of the few remaining areas of military advantage for the federal government,” Davison said.

 

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom with additional reporting by George Sargent in London and Nairobi newsroom; writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Nick Macfie, Angus MacSwan and Mark Heinrich)

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Doctor, NDP say politics guide Saskatchewan government’s COVID-19 response – Global News

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An infectious disease physician and the official opposition both believe politics guide the Saskatchewan government’s response to COVID-19.

Both spoke a day after Premier Scott Moe announced the province is transferring six COVID patients to Ontario to help ease the burden on the overcrowded ICUs.

Both said the province must to do more to protect residents from the disease.

Read more:
Saskatchewan premier apologizes to those left without health care due to COVID-19

Dr. Alex Wong, in Regina, stated he believes the government uses “some reasoning, that is political in nature, that keeps our elected officials, specifically our minister of health and our premier, from implementing clear public health… interventions.”

NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said the government is ignoring advice from the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.

“We’re asking that, moving forward, all of Dr. Shahab’s recommendations be made publicly available,” she told reporters.

“Enough of the behind-the-scene politics,” Mowat said, saying health minister Paul Merriman should be as forthright as possible.

Read more:
Saskatchewan premier says province could have acted sooner on renewed COVID-19 rules

During a press conference with the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) leadership team on Monday, Dr. Shahab said he recommended strongly that people limit themselves to two or three households for private gatherings.

Shahab’s advice remains just that — a recommendation. Saskatchewan is the sole province or territory without any form of government restrictions or guidance on gathering size restrictions.

The province also had the highest death rate per capita in the past two weeks, with 5.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the federal government.

Read more:
Saskatchewan’s top doctor named in alleged email threat

“There’s a reason why (gathering size restrictions have) literally been implemented every single place in the country, except us,” Wong said from his office in Regina, stating that even vaccinated people can transmit the virus.

The situation in the province’s ICUs, he said, was dire.

“We know informal triage is happening at the bedside, (doctors are) having to make hard decisions again about who gets access to resources and who does not.”

And things could still get worse.

Read more:
COVID-19: Saskatchewan to ask federal government for help easing burden on ICUs

The University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Safety, which tracks COVID-19 virus load in the water for several cities, recorded a 109-per cent increase in Saskatoon from Oct. 7-13 over the prior week.

Toxicologist John Giesy, a member of the team and a former Canada research chair holder, said Thanksgiving celebrations helped spread the virus.

Giesy said the fact the virus load doubled doesn’t mean new cases will double, but told Global News the figure can offer a hint about what the city will soon experience.

“Hospitalizations lag a week to two weeks behind our numbers,” he said.

“So by the time people get sick, end up sick enough to be in the hospital and get diagnosed, (it) takes some time.”

“What we don’t know now,” he went on to say, “is what’s going to happen when the weather turns cold. That’s the next big unknown.”

Global News reached out to Moe’s and Merriman’s offices to ask what health measures Shahab had recommended since July 11 and which of them the government had enacted.

Read more:
Saskatchewan sending 6 intensive care patients to Ontario as ICU challenges continue

Global News also asked the premier and health minister if they would implement gathering size restrictions in light of the post-Thanksgiving doubling of the virus load.

The Saskatoon Public Safety Agency, which coordinates the PEOC, responded.

A statement said the PEOC, “is taking a strategic approach when it comes to resource requests, to ensure that requests meet the needs of the province at any given time.”

“There doesn’t appear to be any clear end in sight at this point,” Wong said, referring to the pandemic, saying he and other front-line workers will struggle in the next few weeks.

“If there’s no further action, then we’re just kind of going to see how it goes. We’re going to be on our own.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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