‘For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death’
One was a burger-joint chef who loved to skateboard when he was growing up. One was a big truck driver with striking blue eyes. Another was the father of four kids. Another was famous for his devotion to his dog, Rocco.
These four men all died of drug overdoses on a grey Friday this month in Brantford, the small city in Southwestern Ontario where Wayne Gretzky was raised. It is the most overdose deaths the city has had in one day, the equivalent – when compared to the size of its population – to 120 deaths in one day in Toronto.
Like other Ontario cities that have seen overdose rates rise as the opioid crisis moves from west to east across the country, Brantford is struggling with the loss. Mayor Kevin Davis had to pause to get control of his emotions when asked about the impact on his city. “It’s tragic, it’s devastating,” he said. “You feel almost a sense of hopelessness.” It is easy to “categorize and stigmatize” drug users, he said, but “these are real people.”
Just a year ago, the community of 100,000 seemed to be making some modest progress in its fight to prevent drug overdoses. A new addiction-medicine clinic had just opened up. Authorities were implementing a new drug strategy that aimed to spread the word about the dangers of drug use and get the overdose-reversing drug naloxone onto the streets.
But the area had 35 fatal overdoses last year, preliminary figures show. That is up from 22 in 2018 and 25 in 2017. Visits to the hospital emergency department for overdoses were also up in 2019, though the number of overdoses that emergency services were called to was down slightly. Now this – four deaths in a single day.
The deaths are part of a wave of overdoses that hit the community at the start of the new decade. A special alert from the Brant County Health Unit said that, including the four fatal ones, there were 17 in the first 12 days of January, more than in an average full month in 2019.
Other Ontario cities are also seeing higher numbers as the overdose epidemic that crested first in British Columbia and Alberta rolls through Canada’s most populous province. Public Health Ontario reports that 435 people died from overdoses in the first quarter of last year, an increase of 42 per cent from the same period in 2018.
“It’s been a bad couple of months,” said Stephanie Rochon, co-ordinator of Brantford’s addiction medicine clinic. She said testing of patients is showing stronger strains of fentanyl, as well as the even more potent carfentanil and other fentanyl analogs. Users often don’t know what drugs they are using, she said, putting them at high risk of getting a bad dose.
The four men in Brantford died on Friday, Jan. 10. The youngest was 26, the oldest 38. Police aren’t saying what drugs they may have used or where and how they died, pending the results of post mortems and further investigation. But Justine Radcliffe, a cousin of one of the men, Grant York, said she saw authorities removing two bodies from a house next to her place on Murray Street, a few minutes from the city core.
Ms. Radcliffe said her cousin’s wasn’t one of them. He died at home, she said. She called him a quiet person who cooked at the Works Gourmet Burger Bistro. The restaurant closed its doors for that evening, saying on Facebook that it had just received “some devastating news.”
Staff at the head shop next door, Crazy Bill’s, said Mr. York was a “sweet guy” who often came in for cigarettes or energy drinks. To help prevent more deaths, they have given away dozens of drug-testing kits since the overdoses this month.
A death notice called Mr. York an “amazing soul” whose “humour, laughter, loyalty, love for life and impact on others will be missed.” His mother, Jennifer York, posted on a local news social-media page that “he was not an addict, purely recreational.” She warned others to know their neighbours and learn to recognize drug houses, with lots of people coming and going and expensive vehicles outside. “Watch your surroundings. I can not stress this enough!” she said.
Two of the other men, Kevin Waring and Richie Britton, were good friends. Mr. Waring was a long-haul trucker. His Facebook feed includes pictures of a gleaming white transport truck and a sign that reads, “Beer is the perfection of water.” His nickname was Bundy, after the gargantuan professional wrestler King Kong Bundy.
His pal, Mr. Britton, liked soccer and played pool in a league that had weekly games at local bars. His “fur baby,” Rocco, a boxer, was like family to him, friends said.
One friend, Cody Henry, organized drinks at a downtown pub to mark the passing of the two men. He said they were “the type of guys who, if they were your friends, would do anything for you. There should have been more people in the world like them.” Mr. Britton was always helping friends move. Mr. Waring was supposed to give Mr. Henry some tips on driving a truck for a living the day that he died.
Mr. Henry’s girlfriend, Kristen Ferguson, said Mr. Britton would hang out with her when Mr. Henry was away on motorcycle trips. The two would talk and watch videos on YouTube. “I lost a brother” when he died, she said, wiping away tears as she stood outside the pub.
The fourth man, Cody Annis, was remembered in his death notice as the “beloved dad of Aliyah, Shyvon, James ‘Devon’ and Zayden.” The notice said, “Cody was happiest when he was outdoors and in nature, fishing pole in hand and kids beside him.”
Europe ramps up spending to contain coronavirus epidemic – Chinadaily USA
The European Union is spending 232 million euros ($251 million) on efforts to stop the spread of the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Monday morning’s announcement followed a difficult weekend in Europe, during which authorities restricted travel in some areas in the face of a dramatic hastening of the spread of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.
As it announced the extra funding, the European Commission said it was working “around the clock” to support EU member states in their fight to stop the outbreak becoming a pandemic.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the money will boost global preparedness, prevention, and containment of the virus.
“As cases continue to rise, public health is the number one priority,” she said. “Whether it be boosting preparedness in Europe, in China, or elsewhere, the international community must work together. Europe is here to play a leading role.”
The announcement of the new money followed Austria suspending train services on Sunday that link the nation with Italy. The move followed suspicions that two passengers who had traveled to the country by train from Italy had contracted the virus. They were later found to be virus-free and train services were resumed following a four-hour hiatus.
“We can give the all-clear,” the Reuters news agency quoted Karl Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister, as saying. But he added that Austria’s coronavirus task force was considering border controls along the frontier with Italy following a spike in cases on the other side of the border, where only three were confirmed on Friday and more than 220 were infected by Monday. The infections in Italy had led to seven deaths, as of Monday afternoon.
As a result of the outbreak, the Italian government locked down several small towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. In addition, many businesses and schools in the wider region closed their doors, as did some professional soccer teams, all in attempts to avoid people congregating in crowds. Museums and cinemas in the region have also been shuttered, along with cultural events, such as activities at nearby Milan’s famous La Scala opera house.
Italy’s leading news agency, Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata, said the deteriorating situation there put the country in the company of South Korea, Japan, and Iran as locations outside China where the virus may have gained a foothold.
The situation prompted China’s embassy in Italy to issue a warning on Sunday, advising visiting Chinese people to enhance their awareness of epidemic prevention and control, and to abide by the health regulations issued by the Italian Ministry of Health and by other relevant regional governments.
The BBC reported on Monday that the outbreak had grown globally to such an extent that it was close to being declared a pandemic. The World Health Organization has previously declared outbreaks as pandemics when a virus has started spreading easily from person to person in multiple parts of the world.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,200 cases of the virus had been confirmed in around 30 countries and territories outside the Chinese mainland and there had been at least 23 deaths.
Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC the growth in the number of cases outside China was “extremely concerning”.
“The tipping point, after which (we lose) our ability to prevent a global pandemic, seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours,” he said on Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, also said on Monday that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”.
The Financial Times noted the acceleration of the spread of the virus had hit global stock markets.
Italian stocks led declines in Europe, with the country’s FTSE Mib index dropping 4.5 percent on Monday. The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 tumbled 3.5 percent, and the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 also slid, by almost 4 percent.
Marketwatch reported United States stocks tumbled in early trading on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 997 points at its session low.
“Markets (are) likely to show extreme caution in the face of global spread of the coronavirus,” said Robert Carnell, chief Asia-Pacific economist at ING. “This is no longer solely an Asia issue.”
In addition to the sudden accelerated spread of the virus in Italy, other nations outside the Chinese mainland have joined the ranks of countries that now have the virus. Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Kuwait all reported their first novel coronavirus cases on Monday. All said the virus appears to have entered their populations via someone with links to Iran, which has become a virus hotspot. They join a growing list of countries and territories that are dealing with outbreaks, including South Korea, which reported 231 cases on Monday, taking its total to more than 830, which is the largest number of confirmed cases outside China. Eight people with the disease have died in South Korea. Many people testing positive for the virus there had been members of a religious group that was located near the southeastern city of Daegu. Many others have links to Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Sunday it had 61 confirmed cases, of which 12 resulted in fatalities, making it the nation with the most fatalities outside China.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan have all now imposed travel and immigration restrictions on Iran.
Washington pledges $1 billion for coronavirus vaccine as pandemic risks grow – The Journal Pioneer
By Hyonhee Shin and Ryan Woo
SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) – South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases, as countries stepped up efforts to stop a pandemic of the virus that emerged in China and is now spreading in Europe and the Middle East.
More than 80,000 people have been infected in China since the outbreak began, apparently in an illegal wildlife market in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
China’s death toll was 2,663 by the end of Monday, up 71 from the previous day. But the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the epidemic in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been declining since.
However, fast-spreading outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea, and first cases in several Middle East countries, have fed worries of a pandemic, or worldwide spread of the virus.
“We are close to a pandemic, but there is still hope the epidemics in Iran, Italy, South Korea, etc. can be controlled,” said Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.
South Korea has the most virus cases outside China and reported its tenth death and 144 new cases, for a total of 977. President Moon Jae-in said the situation was “very grave”.
In Europe, Italy has become a new front line, with 220 cases reported on Monday, up from just three on Friday. The death toll in Italy is seven.
Global stock markets stabilized on Tuesday after a wave of early selling petered out and Wall Street futures managed a solid bounce after a sharp selloff the previous day on fears about the spreading coronavirus.
“If travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions spread, the impact on global growth could be more widespread and longer lasting,” said Jonas Goltermann, senior economist at research consultancy Capital Economics in London.
(Live blog: Online site for coronavirus news – https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484)
About 68% of South Korea’s cases are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where the outbreak is believed to have begun with a 61-year-old woman. It is not known how she became infected.
The church said it would provide authorities the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people. The government would test them all as soon as possible, the prime minister’s office said.
“It is essential to test all of the church members,” it said in a statement. Authorities said they were testing up to 13,000 people a day.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries have said they may cut back joint training due to the virus, in one of the first concrete signs of its fallout on global U.S. military activities.
The disclosure came during a visit to the Pentagon on Monday by South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who said 13 South Korean troops had the virus. (Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html)
The U.S. military said a woman who tested positive for the virus had visited one of its bases in the hard-hit city of Daegu. It was the first infection connected to U.S. Forces Korea, which has about 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.
The U.S. military urged troops to “use extreme caution” off base, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should avoid non-essential travel to South Korea.
Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to about 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of about three dozen, according to a Reuters tally.
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman reported their first new coronavirus cases, all in people who had been to Iran where the toll was 14 dead, media said, and 61 infected.
The outbreak threatens to isolate Iran further. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 virus cases, suspended all flights with Iran for at least a week, state media said.
Iraq extended an entry ban on travelers from China and Iran to those from five other countries over virus fears, its health ministry said. (Reuters graphics on the new coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-GRAPHICS/0100B5CD3DP/index.html)
In Japan, which has reported four deaths and 850 cases mostly linked to a cruise ship, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said it was too early to talk about cancelling the Tokyo Olympics due to start on July 24.
The United States pledged $2.5 billion to fight the disease, with more than $1 billion going toward developing a vaccine, with other funds earmarked for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.
China reported a rise in new cases in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. But excluding those, China had just nine new infections on Monday, its fewest since Jan. 20.
With the pace of new infections slowing, Beijing said restrictions on travel and movement that have paralyzed economic activity should begin to be lifted.
“Low-risk areas … are to restore order in production and life, cancel transport restrictions and help enterprises,” state planner official Ou Xiaoli told a briefing.
[Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html]
(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing; Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul; Jeff Mason and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel; Editing by Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore)
WHO says COVID-19 coronavirus 'not yet' a pandemic, while Canada diagnoses 11th case – Calgary Herald
Canada has done a decent job of detecting patients arriving with the novel coronavirus, but COVID-19 is going to become more difficult to contain as it spreads globally, the country’s chief medical officer said.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization said that while it’s still too early to declare COVID-19 a pandemic, the sudden outbreaks in Italy, Iran and South Korea “are deeply concerning.”
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death,” WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a briefing. “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
As of Monday, China had reported about 77,362 cases of COVID-19 and 2,618 deaths. China’s unprecedented lockdown and restrictions may have blunted the coronavirus and averted hundreds of thousands of cases, according to a team of medical experts that visited the outbreak’s epicentre last week. However, the virus continues to spread, with Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait reporting their first cases.
Speaking of the escalating number of cases, Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said countries need to be prepared.
“These signs are concerning, and they mean that the window of opportunity for containment, that is for stopping the global spread of the virus, is closing,” Tam told media.
In Italy, six people have died after the country’s cases jumped to more than 200. South Korea has identified 763 cases, with 605 of them being transmitted within the country; seven people had died as of Monday morning. Iran has reported 43 cases and eight deaths.
South Korea declared the first red alert in the country since the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic.
Kuwait’s civil aviation authority announced it suspended all flights to and from South Korea, Thailand and Italy.
And Air Canada said it would allow travellers to rebook flights to parts of Italy at no charge following the spike in coronavirus cases, making the country home to the biggest outbreak in Europe.
The Canadian government has updated its advice to travellers returning from abroad, asking them to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for two weeks after they return, no matter where they travelled.
British Columbia has confirmed its seventh case of the coronavirus in a man in his 40s who had close contact with the woman diagnosed as the sixth case last week after she returned from Iran. The man had symptoms before the woman’s diagnosis and additional people who had contact with them are currently in isolation and being monitored, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
The total number of cases in Canada is now 11, with Ontario announcing its fourth case on Sunday. A Toronto woman in her 20s contracted a mild case while travelling in China. The woman had travelled to Wuhan — the centre of the outbreak — before it was quarantined, then went elsewhere in the country before returning to Canada on Feb. 21. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said given the limited contact with others and the woman’s mild illness, she likely presents a low risk.
WHO executive director Dr. Michael J. Ryan said it’s impossible to tell if COVID-19 will eventually be contained, develop into a full-blown global pandemic, or settle down into a seasonal pattern of transmission, much like the flu. But now is the time for countries to prepare for the worst.
“We believe that all countries are vulnerable,” Ryan said. “It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic.”
The window of opportunity for containment is closing
That means preparing to take and treat cases and putting in place adequate containment measures, he said, warning that healthcare systems in even the most developed countries are already strained.
The goal is to hold the virus off for as long as possible before it starts spreading from person to person within the country, Tam said. Getting past the flu season without a major outbreak would seriously ease the burden on hospitals.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Canadians remain in mandatory quarantine after being repatriated from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship near Japan, on which many people were stricken with the virus earlier this month.
All of the evacuees who returned to Canada are in good health and show no signs of the virus, Tam said. Those from Wuhan who have been isolated in the Canadian Forces Base Trenton for two weeks are expected to be released Tuesday, the second largest group of evacuees to be allowed to go home.
— With files from the Canadian Press, Bloomberg and Reuters
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