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Ontario university student fourth person in Canada to be diagnosed with coronavirus

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TORONTO —
Ontario health officials have confirmed the fourth case of coronavirus in Canada and the third in the province.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said that a woman in her 20s, who had a travel history to Wuhan, China, returned to Canada on Jan. 23 on a plane before travelling to London, Ont. in a vehicle.

“At the time, she was asymptomatic,” Dr. David Williams told reporters at a news conference held Friday afternoon. “During her time in her own location she noted some symptoms and did the correct thing.”

“Throughout this time, protocols and procedures were followed excellently in such a way that there has been no risk at all to Ontarians or the health system in this process.”

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Williams described the case as “very different” from the other three already confirmed in Canada, as the woman originally tested negative for the virus known as 2019-nCoV. A subsequent test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg showed she was “weakly positive” with the illness.

The woman recovered in a few days, officials said, and remains in self-isolation in her home.

According to the Medical Officer of Health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, the woman went “above and beyond” to prevent the spread of the illness. She wore the equivalent of a surgical mask on the flight and then went into self-isolation, leaving her home only to go to the hospital the following day.

“Because of her awareness of the risks associated with travel to Wuhan, she went straight into isolation in her home,” Dr. Christopher Mackie said. “Every time she had contact with someone in Canada she was wearing a mask.”

Mackie described the illness as “very mild” and said there were low levels of the virus in her sample.

First test was done ‘properly,’ officials say

The first test for 2019-nCoV was conducted a week ago, the chief of medical microbiology with the Public Health Ontario Laboratory said.

“At the time, it was the very best test, it was the original test that we had all been working on collectively,” Dr. Vanessa Allen. “The original test was done well, it was done properly, it was appropriate.”

The second test was conducted a few days later, she said.

The provincial laboratory is using two tests to determine presumptive cases of 2019-nCoV and then a few days later five more tests are applied to the samples at the National Microbiology Laboratory.

“They actually look at slightly different parts of the virus and making sure that it is there and it wasn’t positive on all of their tests, so again validating that we are really trying to move together to get the right answer,” Allen said.

Officials say that all other people who previously tested negative in Ontario have been retested. No further positive cases have been reported.

Patient is student in London, Ont.

The coronavirus patient is a student at Western University, although health officials say she has not been to the campus since she arrived back in Canada.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, a spokesperson said that the individual is being monitored both by public health officials and the university.

“Since returning to London, Ont. from Wuhan, China on January 23, and before showing any symptoms, the student took great care and responsibility by self-isolating at home and seeking appropriate medical attention,” the statement reads.

“The student has not been on Western’s campus since returning to London, and Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) officials have confirmed there is very low risk to the campus community.”

First Canadian coronavirus patient discharged from hospital

Earlier in the day, the first Canadian hospitalized with 2019-nCoV was discharged from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

“In discussion and collaboration with our local public health unit, the decision was made to discharge him home to be with his wife. We are not anticipating his condition to worsen,” Dr. Jerome Leis, medical director of infection prevention and control at Sunnybrook, told reporters earlier in the day. “I think we have been very cautious throughout the process and he seems to be on a clear trajectory of improvement.”

Sunnybrook Hospital

The patient, a man in his 50s, was hospitalized on Jan. 23 the day after he returned from a trip to Wuhan, China. His wife, who travelled with him on China Southern Airlines Flight CZ311, is Canada’s second coronavirus patient.

The woman has been self-isolated in her home and both patients are being monitored by Toronto Public Health.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health said in a statement she was not surprised to learn of a third case of 2019-nCoV in the province, but it “does not change the situation in Toronto.”

“We have a very mobile population, with a lot of travel between Canada and China, so it is not surprising to learn of this news today. Local public health officials in London are following up directly on their case. This news does not change our situation in Toronto as we have no new cases here in our city. I will let you know directly if this changes. I want to remind Toronto residents that, at this time, the risk to our community remains low.”

The third Canadian case of 2019-nCoV was confirmed in British Columbia.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency. Close to 10,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide amore than 200 people have died in China.

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Liberals pledge $15 million to remove Ukraine mines on anniversary of Ottawa Treaty

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Liberals pledge $15 million to remove Ukraine mines on anniversary of Ottawa Treaty

The Trudeau government is pledging to spend $15 million to remove mines in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says the funding is meant to make the country safer after Russia has laid hundreds of the indiscriminate weapons.

Human Rights Watch says Ukrainian forces have also been laying anti-tank mines across the country.

Joly made the announcement on Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans landmines in most countries.

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Ottawa has so far provided Canadian-made bomb suits to help protect Ukrainian deminers and has plans to help fund remote-control systems to clear large areas such as farmlands.

Last month, Canada unveiled funding to remove both landmines and cluster bombs from parts of Southeast Asia that remain inaccessible decades after conflicts like the Vietnam War.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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B.C.’s Julia Levy is Canada’s first trans woman Rhodes Scholar

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British Columbia’s newest Rhodes Scholar will pursue a master’s degree in computational chemistry, but she says it’s also an “incredible opportunity” as a trans woman to give back to her community.

University of Victoria graduate Julia Levy said she was “blown away” when she learned she was among 11 Canadians selected for this year’s Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious such awards.

Levy, 24, will head to Oxford University in England next October for the fully funded scholarship, a prize she said carries a special meaning because she is the country’s first trans woman Rhodes Scholar.

“I feel I am very, very proud being the first trans woman in Canada (to become a Rhodes Scholar),” said Levy, who made the transition from he to she three years ago.

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While the transition was a tough journey, Levy said she is aware of the many advantages she’s had.

“I think it’s really interesting to note that I am privileged in literally every other way, like my parents being supportive of my transition. I have always had financial stability and I grew up in a good part of Vancouver … maybe that’s the advantages that you need to equal out the trans part of it,” said Levy.

Levy, who graduated from the University of Victoria with a chemistry major and a minor in visual arts, described the scholarship as an “incredible opportunity and a gift,” equipping her with more knowledge and power to give back to the trans community.

“I feel my experiences of being trans and the ways that I have had to navigate the world being trans … has given me a lot of empathy for people in crisis and people who have difficulties in their lives,” said Levy.

“I know what it is to be at the bottom in some ways and my interest in harm reduction and trans care really all comes from that place of knowing what it’s like and wanting to reach out and help out where that’s possible.”

Levy is also a scientist, artist, activist, programmer, friend and daughter, she said.

“There are many parts of me that are equally important to who I am.”

University of Victoria chemistry professor Jeremy Wulff supervised Levy and said she was “destined for greatness,” bringing insights to projects that led to their success.

“I’m always excited when my students are recognized with awards and fellowships, but the Rhodes award is at a whole other level,” he said. “Julia is in excellent company amongst this group, and it’s absolutely where she belongs.”

Levy said magic can happen when you mix computation with chemistry.

In her second year at the University of Victoria, she found some classmates were struggling to picture molecules in their heads while doing peer teaching.

To help them visualize complex molecules, Levy created an augmented-reality app.

The app is a QR code in the workbook and allows the learner to see the molecule on their phone in three dimensions.

“You can work it with your phone and spin it around and zoom in and out,” said Levy.

She also worked as a technician with the university’s Vancouver Island Drug-Checking Project, a drop-in service where people can bring street drugs in for chemical analysis.

Levy said the experience used her chemistry skills in a “practical and socially active way” to help more people.

“It’s an excellent example of the social use of chemistry,” said Levy.

Levy, who was travelling in Germany during the interview, said she looks forward to being surrounded by the Rhodes community and “being challenged and pushed to new heights.”

“I hope I bring what makes me unique to Oxford, and that I am able to find a group of people, both personally and professionally, that celebrate that uniqueness,” said Levy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Major biodiversity conference opens in Montreal amid hope of hard conservation target

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A major international conference on preserving the world’s biodiversity is to open Tuesday with speakers including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

COP15 in Montreal brings together 196 countries to refresh the Convention on Biological Diversity and is seen as a crucial attempt to reach a global deal on saving the world’s ecosystems and the plants and animals that depend on them.

Mary MacDonald of the World Wildlife Fund Canada said COP15 could provide for biodiversity what the Paris Agreement created for climate change: hard targets for preserving nature.

“What we’re looking for is something like an acknowledgment by all countries in the world that we need to have a nature-positive 2030,” MacDonald said. “That means there’s more healthy nature on this planet by 2030 than there is now.”

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Diplomats have hammered out 22 targets for the negotiations, which include halting the spread of invasive species and reducing the use of pesticides and plastics.

But the main objective will be to agree on a minimum amount of how much of the world’s ecosystems should be protected and conserved.

Scientists suggest preserving 30 per cent of the globe’s remaining lands and oceans is vital to stop increasing threats of extinction and achieving international targets for reducing greenhouse gases. They say biodiversity and climate change are closely linked.

A 2019 paper in the journal Science concluded: “If current trends in habitat conversion and emissions do not peak by 2030, then it will become impossible to remain below 1.5 (degrees Celsius).”

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says Canada has four main goals for the final agreement: meeting the 30 per cent threshold, reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, providing money to developing nations to allow them to meet those targets and ensuring Indigenous people are fully involved.

Guilbeault acknowledges meeting those goals won’t be easy. He said the last draft of the convention he saw contained 1,200 places where the final text hasn’t been agreed on.

The event will create a small city within Montreal for the next two weeks, with 17,000 registered attendees and 900 reporters accredited to cover their deliberations.

The COP15 conference lasts until Dec. 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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