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COVID-19 quarantine exemption for Costco CEO shouldn't have happened, Ottawa says –



The American CEO of Costco was granted a special exemption from Canada’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine to attend the openings of the grocery chain’s newest outlets, a CBC News investigation has learned.

Craig Jelinek and another top company executive, Joe Portera, travelled to Canada aboard a private Gulfstream jet in late August for a three-day store inspection blitz that took them to Ontario, Quebec and Alberta — the epicentres of this country’s novel coronavirus outbreak.   

The pair first touched down at the Ottawa International Airport on Aug. 25 — the same day that the billionaire CEO of Wisconsin-based Uline Inc. and two of her senior executives were granted similar quarantine exemptions after arriving by private jet at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

In both cases, the business executives were allowed to enter the country and skip the two-week self-isolation period on the grounds that they were “essential” workers — decisions that the federal government now characterizes as mistakes made by front-line Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who oversees the CBSA, vowed to fix the problem after a Sept. 16 CBC News report documenting the quarantine-free visit that the Uline executives made to the company’s warehouse in Milton, Ont. He declined a request for an interview about the Costco exemptions and the steps that he has since taken.

After questions were raised about a quarantine-free visit that executives from U.S. company Uline Inc. made to the company’s warehouse in Milton, Ont., in August, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who oversees the Canada Border Services Agency, vowed to fix the problem. (Adiran Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“Their travel was deemed to be essential when it should not have been,” Blair’s office wrote in an email response to questions this week about the grocery store visits. 

“Decisions on admissibility are made by border services officers (BSOs) based on the information provided to them.” 

John Ossowski, president of the CBSA, also declined an interview request. 

A spokesperson for the agency confirmed that Jelinek and Portera, Costco’s executive vice-president, were not eligible for quarantine exemptions and should not have been allowed into Canada.

“A subsequent review of the information concluded that the travel of the Costco executives should have been categorized as discretionary and entry denied under the travel restrictions in place at the time,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

Opposition asks about other mistakes

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, the Opposition critic for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said Blair and the government need to be more transparent about what decisions are being made at the border and why — especially given that more than a million Canadians have been forced to self-isolate after returning home from abroad, according to the CBSA.

“There seems to be a double standard applied to billionaire, highly connected, wealthy, successful individuals, while other Canadians might not be able to do the same thing for their smaller businesses, or they can’t reunite with their family members when relatives are on their deathbeds,” she said.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, the Opposition critic for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, says the federal government needs to be more transparent about what decisions are being made at the Canada-U.S. border and why. (Parliament of Canada/Zoom)

Stubbs said she also wonders how many more business executives were mistakenly granted quarantine exemptions since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown in mid-March.

“The lack of transparency, the lack of clarity — and frankly, the minister refusing to actually answer questions — you know, makes Canadians wonder about the competence and the capacity and the consistency within the system,” she said.

Costco confirmed that Jelinek and Portera attended new store openings in Sherbrooke, Que., and Gloucester, Ont. — a suburb of Ottawa — on Aug. 26 and 27, and they visited the company’s Canadian head office in Ottawa for a meeting.

The company said the pair also travelled to Calgary on the afternoon of Aug. 27 but did not attend a local store opening the next morning, instead confining themselves to their hotel rooms. Both returned to the United States on Aug. 28, with Jelinek flying directly to the Seattle area, where Costco has its headquarters, and Portera returning to Ottawa aboard a different private jet with a number of Canadian executives before heading to his home near Washington, D.C. 

“Mr. Jelinek and Mr. Portera arrived in Canada prepared to return to the United States if they were not permitted to enter Canada,” Stuart Shamis, Costco’s Canadian corporate counsel, said in a written statement to CBC News.

“They responded to all questions asked of them by the governmental officials who were present. They reviewed their plans for the trip with those officials which included respecting all COVID-19 protocols during their time in Canada. This included social distancing and wearing face masks.” 

Both Costco and the Canada Border Services Agency said there were no prior discussions about, or approvals given for, the trip.

The company said Jelinek and Portera have tested negative for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and that neither will attend the opening of a new store in Niagara Falls, Ont., in mid-November. 

The Aug. 27 opening of a new Costco store in the Ottawa suburb of Gloucester, Ont., was attended by the American CEO and another company executive from the U.S., who flew into Ottawa for a tour of three stores in Canada and were given a special quarantine exemption. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Border rules tightening, but confusion remains

Both Blair’s office and the CBSA said procedures at the border have been tightened since news of the August exemptions came to light. New guidelines have been issued, and a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week “support line” has been established to allow agents to “flag any high-profile individuals attempting to cross into Canada,” Blair’s spokesperson said.

The minister’s spokesperson wrote that the new guidelines are working and that the agency has since “denied cases of intended entry by executives who were intending to enter Canada for similar discretionary travel” but declined to provide details.

The CBSA was unable to say just how many business executives have been turned back under the revised guidelines, telling CBC News that the agency “does not routinely record details on a traveller’s job title or description.”

The instructions for border agents have changed frequently since the beginning of the pandemic. CBC News obtained copies of several of the rapidly changing briefing notes, with “Version 7” being issued on Aug. 20 and  “Version 11” just 10 days later. A simplified “cheat sheet” for agents, based on those evolving directives, suggests that foreign owners of Canadian businesses could be allowed into the country and exempted from quarantine “depending on circumstances.”

Barbara Jo Caruso, a Toronto immigration lawyer who represents a number of U.S.-based companies, says federal rules around who qualifies for quarantine exemptions and why aren’t clear. (John Lesavage/CBC)

Barbara Jo Caruso, a Toronto immigration lawyer who represents a number of U.S.-based companies, said the federal government has set out 15 categories of quarantine exemptions but that trying to find out the specifics of how and when the rules apply has been next to impossible.

“There is on the website a link to essential industries, but it’s open for interpretation, and because [the] Public Health [Agency of Canada] hasn’t been responding to emails, it’s been left to CBSA at the border to make that determination,” Caruso said.

The rules appear to have been tightened in recent weeks, said Caruso, who has had one corporate client turned away at the border. But the confusion continues.

“We don’t know who the decision-maker is. Public Health is pointing to CBSA. CBSA is pointing to Public Health,” she said.

It’s a situation that shouldn’t be persisting, seven months into the pandemic, when businesses are still struggling to find their way, Caruso said. “The public needs to know what the criteria is. There needs to be some transparency, and we need to know what the process is.”

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Ontario reports 821 new cases of COVID-19, 2nd-most since resurgence began in August –



Ontario reported 821 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the second-most on a single day since a resurgence of the illness began in the province in mid-August.

Toronto once again saw the most with 327, while 136 were recorded Peel Region and 79 in Ottawa.

The new case count is the highest number the province has seen in the second wave, since 939 cases were reported on Oct. 9. The seven-day average of new daily cases, which had been slowly dropping over the last several days, ticked back up with today’s update and is now about 743. 

Notably, just over 24,000 tests were completed yesterday — the lowest number of tests Ontario has processed on  a single day since Sept. 9. The province previously said it aimed to be processing 50,000 tests per day by mid-October, and as many as 68,000 daily by mid-November. 

The number of confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus in Ontario is 6,237, an all-time high.

Hospitalizations, as well as the number of patients in intensive care and using ventilators, all went up. Hospitalizations rose from 252 yesterday to 274 today, ICU patients went from 69 yesterday to 72 today, and people in the ICU using ventilators went from 40 to 45. 

The province is also reporting three more deaths.

Premier appeals to people with symptoms to get tested

Asked Tuesday about the relatively low levels of testing in the last 24 hours, Premier Doug Ford said the province’s labs have now cleared through a backlog of tests that once ballooned to more than 90,000 and that there is capacity for as many as 50,000 daily, but that people can’t be forced to be tested.

Ford said the province has set up additional testing units in hotspots, but some people seem to be holding back from getting an assessment.

The province changed its testing guidelines last month, making COVID-19 tests available only to symptomatic people by appointment at its assessment centres.

The change came after the government was heavily criticized for hours-long lineups at walk-in testing centres that assessed people with or without symptoms.

Meanwhile, Ontario is extending most of its emergency orders until Nov. 21 as the province faces a resurgence of COVID-19.

In a news release Tuesday, the provincial government announced the extension will be in place for 30 days with exceptions for orders around pandemic pricing on electricity and electronic access to personal health records.

“With the cold and flu season upon us and the continuing high number of COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the province, it’s critical we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Ontarians,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.  

Masks not required in dance studios, province says

The province has also updated its pandemic rules to allow dance classes to resume in Ontario’s four hot spot areas.

Asked Tuesday why small fitness studios aren’t allowed to open under the current regulations but dance studios are, Ford drew a distinction between the two saying that unlike fitness studios, dance studios are cohorted.

The province announced this week that dance classes will be allowed to resume in hotspot areas as long as dances are pre-registered and physical distancing is observed.

Masks are not required inside the studios.

Asked why that is, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Tuesday, “It’s because of the distance and the separation between the dancers that can be maintained such that the masks aren’t necessarily required.”

Airborne transmission of COVID-19 however has not been ruled out, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its guidance this month to say infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. 

NDP bring motion to eliminate for-profit LTCs as some face insurance woes

Also Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would introduce a motion to remove for-profit companies from the long-term care system and replace them with an “all non-profit and public system.”

“We need to take action to protect seniors and fix the long-term care system for good, and we have to do it now,” Horwath said in a tweet.

A vote on the motion is expected this afternoon. 

Meanwhile, some of Ontario’s long-term care homes are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could force some of them to close, says a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province’s homes.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says its homes are being offered new policies without a key provision: coverage for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The association has now turned to the federal government for help, saying potential claims could place a burden on the homes’ finances, and that loans could be denied over the lack of coverage.

Previously, long-term care homes received $5-million to $10-million coverage for damages or claims related to infectious diseases, CEO Donna Duncan said.

Now, insurance companies are including a “contagious disease exclusion endorsement” in policies for the homes, she said.

Her association has pleaded its case to the federal government in a letter sent late last week, asking Ottawa to provide a “backstop” and essentially insure the insurance companies.

Ontario to provide COVID-19 liability protection to some workers, businesses

Also Tuesday, Attorney General Doug Downey introduced a new bill that would provide liability protection to some workers, businesses and non-profits against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits. 

Downey says the bill, if passed, would ensure anyone making an “honest effort” to follow public health guidelines while working or volunteering not be exposed to liability. The bill will not prevent lawsuits against those who willfully, or through “gross negligence”, endanger others, he said.

The government says health-care workers and institutions, front-line retail workers, and charities and non-profits would be covered by the bill.

The legislation would also cover coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations.

Outbreak at CAMH worsens   

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is reporting three more patients have tested positive for COVID-19 on a unit at its Queen Street site.

It follows confirmation Sunday of an outbreak at the unit, when it said two people had COVID-19.

Two other Toronto hospitals also confirmed outbreaks over the weekend. 

The centre says it has implemented standard infection prevention and control procedures for respiratory outbreaks, including closing the unit to admissions and transfers. 

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How Nigerian forces opened fire on Protest in Lagos



Protest in Lagos against police brutality  turned bloody on Tuesday despite a state-wide curfew, with eyewitnesses telling News Media that multiple demonstrators have been shot by soldiers.

Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit know as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Tuesday saw the state governor impose a 24-hour curfew and deploy anti-riot police to the city.
One witness at the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, said the shooting began after the lights were turned off at the Nigerian city’s Lekki tollgate. “Members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing,” he said. “They were shooting, they were firing straight, directly at us, and a lot of people got hit. I just survived, barely.”
Ogunsanya added that barricades on either side of the scene were blocking ambulances.
Another witness, Temple Onanugbo, said he heard what he believed were bullets being fired from his home nearby and that the sound lasted “for about 15 to 30 minutes.”
Speaking to News Media from the scene of the shooting, Onanugbo said he saw “multiple bodies laying on the ground,” when he arrived to help those injured.
The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident, according to the Lagos Governor’s spokesman, Gboyega Akosile. According to a tweet by Akosile, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also “advised security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.”
The protests at the Lekki toll gate have been mostly peaceful, with demonstrators singing the national anthem, staging sit-ins, and praying.
Earlier in the day, Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew, including the closure of all Lagos schools. Only essential service providers and first responders have permission to be on the streets of Lagos, which has an estimated population of more than 20 million people.
“Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted as he announced the 4 pm (local time) curfew.
SARS was disbanded on October 11 and a new police unit to replace it will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reuters reported Monday. Protest in Lagos are demanding further protections against the police, including independent oversight and psychological evaluation of officers.
Death and severe injuries amid the protests have been reported since the weekend.
Amnesty International said on its Twitter account Tuesday that it has received “credible but disturbing evidence” of “excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters.”
A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a city in the north of the country, after allegedly being tortured, according the human rights group. Many protestors and journalists were assaulted by police and thugs in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos on social media show dozens of cars belonging to protestors burning and Amnesty International said three people died.
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Canada sees 2,341 new coronavirus cases as deaths near 10,000



Canada added 2,341 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total case count to 203,476.

Health authorities in Canada’s provinces also said another 16 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

The new fatalities bring the country’s total death toll to 9,794.

News of the new infections comes as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus as Canada faces a second wave of the pandemic.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the fight against the virus is “far from over.”

“And to win it, we have to keep working together,” he said. “Canada is a big country, the pandemic is playing out differently in different provinces and territories.

“That’s why I’m asking everyone to keep following the guidelines of their local public health authorities.”

In Ontario, 821 new cases were reported, and health officials said three more fatalities had occurred.

The new infections bring the province’s total case count to 65,896, and its death toll to 3,053.

However, 56,606 people have recovered from the virus, while 4,714,326 tests have been administered in Ontario.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, 877 new cases of the respiratory illness were detected and health authorities confirmed 11 more people have died.

Since the pandemic began, 95,216 people have contracted the respiratory illness in the province.

Thus far, 80,468 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Quebec, while 2,839,254 people have been tested.

Forty-three new cases of the virus were reported in Saskatchewan on Tuesday, but the province’s death toll remained at 25.

A total of 233,017 tests for the novel coronavirus have been administered in Saskatchewan, while 1,987 people have recovered after falling ill.

Manitoba saw 109 new cases of the virus, but no new deaths.

Since the pandemic began, 1,703 people have recovered after contracting the illness, while 235,530 tests have been conducted.

Further west in Alberta, 323 new cases were reported, and health authorities said one more person had died, bringing the province’s death toll to 293.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Alberta has seen 22,996 COVID-19 infections, however, 19,500 people have recovered.

To date, 1,653,361 tests for the novel coronavirus have been administered.

British Columbia health officials said 166 new cases have been detected, and one more person has died.

The new infections bring the province’s total case load to 11,641.

One epidemiologically-linked case was also reported, meaning it has not yet been confirmed by a laboratory.

B.C. has seen 9,871 people recover from the respiratory illness and health officials have administered 736,637 tests.

No new infections or deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in New Brunswick, meaning the province’s total case count remained at 313.

So far, 215 people have recovered after becoming sick.

Provincial health authorities have administered 93,656 tests to date.

Nova Scotia did not report any new cases or deaths relating to the virus, either.

This means the province’s case count and death toll remained at 1,097 and 65, respectively.

A total of 106,748 tests for the virus have been conducted in Nova Scotia, while 1,027 have recovered after contracting COVID-19.

One new coronavirus case was detected in Prince Edward Island, bringing the province’s total case load to 64.

However, 61 of those cases are considered to be resolved.

The island, which has not yet seen a death associated with COVID-19, has conducted 42,377 tests.

Newfoundland did not detect any new infections or deaths on Tuesday.

The province, which has seen 287 confirmed cases, has not reported a new case since Thursday.

So far, 272 people have recovered from the virus, while 49,117 have been tested.

New case in the territories

One new case was reported in the Northwest Territories on Tuesday, bringing the total case count in the region to six.

However, five of those cases are considered to be resolved. The territory has tested 5,939 people to date.

In the Yukon, 17 cases of the virus have been confirmed, 15 of which are considered to be resolved.

The territory has not yet seen a COVID-19 related death, and has tested 3,785 people.

Nunavut has not yet seen a confirmed case of the virus.

Global cases approach 41 million

The number of novel coronavirus cases remained under 41 million on Tuesday.

According to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, by 7:20 p.m. ET there were a total of 40,652,097 COVID-19 cases around the world.

Since the virus was first detected in China late last year, it has claimed 1,122,036 lives.

The United States remained the country with the greatest amount of COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with more than 8.2 million infections.

So far, more than 220,000 people have died in the U.S. after testing positive for coronavirus.

India has reported the second-most cases at 7.5 million, and has seen over 115,000 fatalities.



Source:- Global News

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