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Passenger with nose questions Canada’s coronavirus screening

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A man who said he developed what felt like “a nasty cold with a cough and runny nose” while on a flight from Hong Kong to Toronto is questioning whether there are adequate safeguards to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Canada.

Massie Beveridge, a retired general surgeon, said he was “waved” through Pearson International Airport even after reporting his symptoms to a border services agent.

“My nose is running like Niagara Falls, I’m coughing and feeling pretty miserable,” Beveridge told CBC News.

“So, when I came to the immigration agent, I explained this and he took me aside to a little screened-off area where there was a table and some masks and some hand wash and stuff and [the agent] asked me to sit there,” he said.

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“I figured there’d be some kind of public health person coming to interview me. As it was, there wasn’t, and the immigration officer came back a few minutes later and said, ‘Here’s a handout. You can call public health if you like,’ and waved me on through,” Beveridge added.

Beveridge was returning to Canada from Cambodia but changed planes in Hong Kong after flying from Phnom Penh.

He said he was anxious, even though he had not been anywhere near Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak started, and Cambodia has so far reported only one case of the coronavirus.

Additionally, given the concerns over the coronavirus in China and other Southeast Asian countries, he figured he’d better do something on his return to make sure he didn’t spread whatever he had.

Nobody even took my temperature.– Massie Beveridge.

“Nobody even took my temperature. And you know if we’re really trying to keep this out of Canada, it seems that that was not a very thorough screening process,” Beveridge said.

“I could have walked through there sniffling and sneezing and said nothing and nobody would be any the wiser.”

The outbreak of the new coronavirus began last month in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province.

On Thursday, a World Health Organization (WHO) panel declared the outbreak that has killed 213 people a public health emergency of international concern.

Canada currently has three confirmed cases — two in Toronto and a third in British Columbia.

 

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer of Dr. Theresa Tam participates in a news conference following the announcement by the Government of Ontario of the first presumptive confirmed case of a novel coronavirus in Canada, in Ottawa, on Jan. 26, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

 

CBC News reached out to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) for comment, but a spokesperson told us the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is the lead agency responsible for determining the response to the coronavirus.

“We continue to work in close collaboration with PHAC and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to ensure that all proper measures are taken for international arriving passengers,” the GTAA’s Tori Gass wrote in an email.

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, says there are enhanced screening measures in place, but says it’s likely Beveridge was not screened using those measures because he was in Hong Kong only briefly, and hadn’t actually been in China or any of the affected areas.

“For the coronavirus, the enhanced border measures, on top of what we have as a foundation, is essentially providing the information on the screen and the kiosk questions and the referral to Canadian border service agents,” Tam told CBC News.

“The entry screening is but one layer of a multilayer strategy … it is not sufficient ever, and it is really important to make sure that our health-care system is alerted in order to diagnose and manage cases. So, that’s how the system works currently.”

Tam said anyone who is sick should declare this to border service agents.

Call for enhanced screening at all Canadian airports

Frank Scarpitti, the mayor of Markham, 30 kilometres northeast of Toronto, says while he has great confidence in public health officials at the federal, provincial and local levels, he continues to press for the federal government to put in more enhanced screening at all Canadian airports.

“I think it would just give Canadians a greater sense of confidence that that additional step is being taken,” Scarpitti told CBC News.

“It’s not going to catch everyone but it’s just another layer of screening, rather than just voluntary screening, and indicating where someone may have travelled.”

 

Frank Scarpitti, the mayor of Markham, 30 kilometres northeast of Toronto, says he’s calling on the federal government to put in enhanced screening at all Canadian airports. (CBC)

 

Scarpitti also pointed to measures introduced at other major airports in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles that involve passengers from China being screened for symptoms.

“You just have to look south of the border, the U.S. airports instituted that,” he said.

“Not only have they put in place enhanced screening, but because of the number of airports that they have, they’re actually redirecting passengers to the airports that have that technology,” Scarpitti said.

Global Affairs Canada said there are 196 Canadians currently seeking consular help to leave China, and Canada has secured a charter aircraft to bring home Canadians stranded in the affected region.

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COVID-19 benefits helped economy rebound, but post-payment verification lacking: AG

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Canada’s auditor general says COVID-19 benefits were delivered quickly and helped mitigate economic suffering, however, the federal government hasn’t done enough to recover overpayments.

In a new report looking into the federal government’s delivery of pandemic benefits, Karen Hogan said the programs provided relief to workers and employers affected by the pandemic and helped the economy rebound.

At the same time, the auditor general says the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada have not followed up by verifying payments.

Hogan estimates $4.6 billion was paid to people who were not eligible, while another $27.4 billion in payments to individuals and businesses should be further investigated.

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“I am concerned about the lack of rigour on post-payment verifications and collection activities,” Hogan said in a news release.

The audit found that efforts to recover overpayments have been limited, with the Canada Revenue Agency collecting $2.3 billion through voluntary repayments.

Pre-payment controls were also lacking, though the report said the federal government made some changes to those controls for individual benefits.

However, the CRA made few changes to improve prepayment controls for businesses to mitigate risks of overpayment.

Hogan also flagged that there was a lack of sufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

Although the subsidy did go to businesses in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, the report said the effect of the subsidy on business resilience is unclear because the agency collected limited data from businesses.

The auditor general has made a set of recommendations to the government to improve the collection of overpayments and to fix data gaps relating to businesses.

Government organizations reviewed in the audit say they have accepted the recommendations, though only partially accepted a recommendation related to recuperating overpayments.

The federal government said it would prioritize which to pursue by weighing the resources necessary with the amount owed.

“It would not be cost effective nor in keeping with international and industry best practices to pursue 100 per cent of all potentially ineligible claims,” the response said.

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

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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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