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One in five Canadians feels anxiety about COVID as economy re-opens – HalifaxToday.ca

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The Institute for Mental Health Policy Research has released the results of a new survey this week that asked Canadians about mental health, alcohol consumption, and anxiety about COVID-19.

Some of the things that stand out is that people are very worried about their finances. People are worried about getting COVID-19,” says Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Senior Scientist at the institute, a division of the Canadian Association of Mental Health.

Hamilton tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show that 20 per cent of Canadians reported feeling moderate to severe levels of anxiety, and the same amount reported experiencing loneliness.

“When we define loneliness we’re talking about those who experienced loneliness at least three out of the last seven days. That’s the basic definition,” she says.

The survey released this week is the second in a series the institute is conducting. Compared to the first survey, three weeks prior, generalized anxiety was down four points.

“In the first survey we did, it was about one in four, so the second survey shows a little bit of decline. But that’s high, as far as I’m concerned,” Hamilton says.

The researcher says the high number isn’t surprising, especially considering how many people’s jobs and families are still being impacted by the pandemic.

“I mean this is a challenging time, an unprecedented time,” Hamilton explains. “So it’s important for us to assess and monitor how Canadians are feeling during this time.”

Another area of concern is binge drinking, with 31.2 per cent of men 18 per cent of women reporting their drinking was at a high level in the past seven days.

“Sometimes when people are stressed they engage in heavy drinking. So again that is something that we would’ve expected,” says Hamilton.

Hamilton says that increased isolation, lack of family and friends and losing jobs can all be contributing factors to loneliness, anxiety and increased drinking. But she hopes that as things continue to re-open and more people return to work, the survey results will change.

The concern is that those things, to what extent those things are going to continue. Which is why we’re doing multiple surveys, to see if there’s going to be a reduction as things open up within provinces. Are people going to be returning to a more even keel? Or are these issues going to remain at a somewhat elevated level?” she says.

The research is available online to anyone who’s interested, and for government and industry officials to aid in their decision-making.

“We need to know, yes there is a great deal of concern about getting COVID, but there also are concerns with respect to the impact of the measures that have been imposed to reduce harm from it,” she says.

In the coming weeks, the CAMH will conduct a third survey to continue to assess the mental health of Canadians on an ongoing basis.

“It should be interesting to see whether that continues to drop as the provinces open up more and more,” says Hamilton.

“It’s not normalcy per se that people are returning to, but at least they’re able to go back on the patio, for example, and have dinner, or engage in conversations with their friends, see their friends in person. So that is encouraging and so we hope to see those figures continue to decline.”

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Long-term strategies to control COVID-19 must treat health and economy as equally important – EurekAlert

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Strategies for the safe reopening of low and middle-income countries (LMICs) from months of strict social distancing in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic must recognise that preserving people’s health is as important as reviving the economy, argue an international team of researchers.

The team also say that strategies need to be based on local epidemic growth rate at the time, social and economic costs, existing health systems capabilities and detailed plans to implement and sustain the strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for over half a million deaths globally. Many LMICs responded to the pandemic by introducing a number of measures from physical distancing to strict social distancing.

These measures have proved relatively successful in containing the disease and limiting the number of deaths in places where the risk of transmission is high, public health systems and usage are suboptimal and awareness of disease prevention practices is low. However, they have often come with tremendous negative social, economic and psychological effects.

To prevent further negative impacts of lockdown, many countries are now looking to ‘reopen’, risking population health, especially given shortcomings in surveillance infrastructure and poor diagnostic capabilities.

In a paper published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, a team of epidemiologists from the University of Cambridge, the University of Bern, BRAC University and the National Heart Foundation in Bangladesh, have examined three community-based exit strategies, and recommend their scopes, limitations and the appropriate application in the LMICs.

Dr Rajiv Chowdhury from the University of Cambridge, lead author of the paper, said: “Successfully re-opening a country requires consideration of both the economic and social costs. Governments should approach these options with a mind-set that health and economy both are equally important to protect – reviving the economy should not take priority over preserving people’s health.”

The three approaches considered are:

*Sustained mitigation

Sustained ‘mitigation-only’ approaches such as those adopted in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and other European countries, involve basic prevention measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing and the isolation of positive cases after testing.

However, the researchers point out that the relative success and ease of implementation of these approaches in high-income settings was aided by a number of factors. For example, high-income countries have the capacity to implement mass testing, population surveillance and case isolation to contain the epidemic, in addition to a high number of trained contact tracers operating in a relatively small and sparse population and high levels of adherence to the measures, including home quarantine and hygiene advice.

By contrast, in LMICs, a sustained mitigation-only approach may be unfeasible due to poor or absent nationwide population surveillance, contact tracing, testing infrastructure and critical care. For example, LMICs generally have limited supply of ventilators (around 48,000 for India’s 1.3 billion people), personal protective equipment, trained healthcare personnel and safe working conditions, compromising the healthcare system’s effectiveness.

*Zonal lockdowns

Zonal lockdowns involve identifying and ‘cordoning off’ new outbreak clusters with a high number of cases, keeping contact between zones low and containing the disease within a small geographic area.

However, the authors point out that any successful implementation of zonal lockdown requires regular data feedback operations in real time to identify hotspots, including information on newly confirmed cases, updated region-specific reproduction and growth rates, and deaths by age. This may be especially difficult to introduce in LMICs due to the absence of widespread population surveillance on random selections of the population and poor reporting and testing capabilities – for example, Pakistan conducts only 0.09 tests daily per 1,000 individuals compared to 0.52 in France.

Additionally, control of transmission within zones may be an enormous undertaking. In India, where this approach has been employed, the infection size within a cordoned zone can be as high as 100-200 times that outside the zone.

Countries seeking to introduce such measures should establish within the lockdown zone public health measures, including house-to-house surveillance and case-referral systems, and emergency services. They should also create buffer zones to reduce the rates of transmission from outside the zone. Such measures may only be effective when overall population transmission is relatively low and reducing.

*Rolling lockdowns

Intermittent rolling lockdowns are now advocated by the World Health Organization in various LMICs. These involve implementing strict social distancing for a set number of days before a period of relaxation. Rolling lockdowns may be particularly useful in LMICs with dense populations, where this is a high potential for contact, weak health systems and poor contact tracing.

A modelling study published by the team in May showed that a system involving 50 days of strict lockdown followed by 30 days of relaxation, enabling the economy to ‘breathe’ and recuperate, could reduce the reproduction number to 0.5, reduce the strain on health systems and considerably reduce the number of deaths compared to a situation with no lockdown.

Professor Oscar Franco, of the University of Bern and senior author of the paper, said: “Rolling lockdowns need be flexible and tailored to the specific country. The frequency and duration of the lockdowns or relaxed periods should be determined by the country based on local circumstances. They don’t necessarily need to be nationwide – they can also involve a large zone or province with very high incidence of COVID-19.”

Dr Shammi Luhar of the University of Cambridge and co-author of the paper, added: “These three strategies should not be considered as one or the other. A country should further adapt and could combine them as needed.”

###

Reference

Chowdhury, R et al. Long-term strategies to control COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries: an options overview of non-pharmacological interventions; 13 July 2020

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Jordan presses sweeping tax evasion crackdown to aid ailing economy – The Globe and Mail

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Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks to media during a news conference in Amman, Jordan on April 9, 2019.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz promised on Sunday to deepen a crackdown on tax evasion that officials say has deprived the country’s cash-strapped economy of billions of dollars in revenue in recent years.

The government has gone after senior businessmen and former politicians suspected of tax dodging, money laundering and customs evasion in a weeks-long campaign that has gained greater urgency with the hit to state finances from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Protecting public money and fighting corruption is a national duty,” Mr. al-Razzaz said in his weekly television address to the country.

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Tax authorities have raided around 650 companies so far, sometimes accompanied by security forces, according to officials who say this is the biggest campaign to combat tax evasion in decades.

The government said it had frozen the assets of dozens of companies and businessmen on suspected tax evasion charges. It added that it would track offshore havens where wealthy Jordanians have long parked cash to avoid taxes.

Some critics have accused the government of using the campaign to carry out a witch hunt against its political enemies, including some of Jordan’s leading business figures, including former ministers and senior politicians.

Officials deny that, saying the goal is to ensure justice and that no one is above the law.

The government has been using its wider powers under a state of emergency since March to give prosecutors and the main anti-corruption agency greater powers, and stiffen penalties.

A two-month coronavirus lockdown has crippled Jordanian businesses and slashed state revenues by tens of millions of dollars, leading to the sharpest economic contraction in two decades.

The government expects the economy to shrink by 3.5 per cent this year, a far cry from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate of 2-per-cent growth before the pandemic.

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The aid-dependent country, already undertaking a tough three-year IMF reform program, tapped international debt markets this month to borrow US$1.75-billion.

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Jordan presses sweeping tax evasion crackdown to aid ailing economy – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz promised on Sunday to deepen a crackdown on tax evasion that officials say has deprived the country’s cash-strapped economy of billions of dollars’ revenue in recent years.

The government has gone after senior businessmen and former politicians suspected of tax dodging, money laundering and customs evasion in a weeks-long campaign that has gained greater urgency with the hit to state finances from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Protecting public money and fighting corruption is a national duty,” Razzaz said in his weekly television address to the nation.

Tax authorities have raided around 650 companies so far, sometimes accompanied by security forces, according to officials who say this is the biggest campaign to combat tax evasion in decades.

The government said it had frozen the assets of dozens of companies and businessmen on suspected tax evasion charges. It added that it would track offshore havens where wealthy Jordanians have long parked cash to avoid taxes.

Some critics have accused the government of using the campaign to carry out a witch hunt against its political enemies, including some of Jordan’s leading business figures, including former ministers and senior politicians.

Officials deny that, saying the goal is to ensure justice and that no one is above the law.

The government has been using its wider powers under a state of emergency since March to give prosecutors and the main anti-corruption agency greater powers, and stiffen penalties.

A two-month coronavirus lockdown has crippled Jordanian businesses and slashed state revenues by tens of millions of dollars, leading to the sharpest economic contraction in two decades.

The government expects the economy to shrink by 3.5% this year, a far cry from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimate of 2% growth before the pandemic.

The aid-dependent country, already undertaking a tough three-year IMF reform programme, tapped international debt markets this month to borrow $1.75 billion.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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