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Voluntary nationwide contact tracing app coming soon, says Trudeau – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he hopes Canadians will download a new app on their cellphones that will alert them if they’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“It will be up to individual Canadians to decide whether to download the app or not, but the app will be most effective when as many people as possible have it,” Trudeau said during his daily briefing this morning.

“There are over 30 million smartphones that could take this app in Canada, so we can talk about a significant portion of the Canadian population that could be protected by this app.”

The federally-backed project has been spearheaded by the Canadian Digital Service, a federal initiative, and the Ontario Digital Service, with help from volunteers from the tech firm Shopify. It incorporates Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google. The app will undergo a security review by BlackBerry.

The technology works by having people who test positive upload their results anonymously to the app, called COVID Alert, using a temporary code given to them by a health care provider, said a federal media release.

Watch: Trudeau describes how the new COVID-19 contact tracing app will work

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils a new smart phone application designed to warn people when they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 2:39

Other users who have the app and who have been near someone who has tested positive will then be alerted that they’ve been exposed and a notification will encourage them to reach out to their local public health authorities.

Ontario will roll out the app first. Officials in that province said they hope to have the app available for download on July 2 for iPhones running iOS 5.0 or later versions, and for Android phones running Android 6.0 or later versions.

The federal government said it wants to eventually have it in use across Canada in the coming weeks and months, with the risk of a second wave on the horizon.

Public health officials have been championing the practice of tracking people who may have come in contact with an infected person in order to get them tested and isolated. Contact tracing is widely seen as vital to a country’s pandemic recovery.

While most provinces are doing that laborious work with volunteers, conversations and negotiations have continued with technology companies for weeks about the development of smartphone apps to speed up the effort.

Last month, Trudeau said the government is hoping to publicly endorse one app to encourage its use across the country.

App use is voluntary, says PM

In a rare collaboration, Apple and Google have teamed up on software that notifies people automatically if they may have been exposed to the coronavirus. It uses Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tested positive for the virus.

Trudeau said that will allow the app to run in the background without rapidly draining a phone’s battery.

 “It’s something you can just download and forget about,” he said.

“Because it’s completely anonymous, because it’s low maintenance, because it is completely respectful of your privacy, — including no location services or geotagging of any sort — people can be confident that this is an easy measure that they can have to continue to keep us all safe as we reopen, as we get more active.”

The tech giants are providing the software, but public health agencies around the world will have to develop their own contact tracing apps. In an attempt to promote use, Apple and Google are restricting use of their technology to one app per country.

Alberta has been using its own app called ABTraceTogether for weeks now. That has some people worrying about a patchwork of apps across the country that could lead to confusing messaging, low uptake numbers and inconsistent data.

The government-backed national contact tracing app is built on COVID Shield, seen here, an open sourced tool developed by a group of volunteers from Shopify. (COVID Shield)

“I think any amount of people that download it will be useful for that person and for our society,” said Trudeau.

“But it’s certain that if we can talk about a 50 per cent uptake, for example, or more, then it becomes extraordinarily useful.”

Trudeau stressed that the new app will be completely voluntary and the federal privacy commissioner has weighed in on its development.

“At no time will personal information be collected or shared, and no location services will be used,” he said.

“The privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.”

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about contact tracing apps — about the data they collect and how that information is stored.

Teresa Scassa, the Canada research chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa, said the Bluetooth model is the most “privacy-protective”, but it’s also the least ambitious.

“I think in the current climate it would have been difficult to go with with a different solution other than [the] most privacy-protective one, because I do think that there is a trust deficit,” she said.

Scassa said she’s also not certain Canadians will rush to the app store to download it.

“I’m not convinced that this is going to be a success and I think the important thing to remember is that contact tracing apps have now been launched in many different countries and it’s not clear that they’ve been a success anywhere that they’ve been launched,” she said.

“The level of uptake has been relatively low wherever they’ve been launched.”

Claudiu Popa, a cybersecurity expert with Datarisk Canada, said he’s still waiting to see more information about how the anonymous data is to be stored.

“We’ve seen the use of artificial intelligence and and big data being used around the world, and of course the PR movement towards just how beneficial this is,” he said. “That is not what we should be after. We should be after helping individuals and increasing public health while balancing and maximizing public trust.”

(CBC)

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Trudeau unsure about Washington trip, cites concern over tariffs

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday he was still unsure whether he would go to Washington D.C. next week to mark a new North American trade treaty, citing concern about possible U.S. tariffs on aluminum.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump next week, has said he would like Trudeau to attend.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Today's coronavirus news: Wasaga Beach to close main beach area after huge Canada Day crowds; WE group to stop running federal volunteer program – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 8:25 a.m.: Wasaga Beach to close main beach area after huge Canada Day crowds.

  • 5 a.m.: Atlantic provinces lifting travel restrictions within region today.

  • 4 a.m.: Farm shutdown escalates migrant fears over testing, group says.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

11 a.m.: When COVID-19 hit, Paintbox Bistro, a restaurant located in Regent Park, quickly transformed into a store. Why? The goal was to keep her staff employed and continue providing a resource to feed lower-income residents.

The Star’s Karon Liu has the full story.

10:20 a.m. (updated): Youth Minister Bardish Chagger says the WE organization won’t manage the federal government’s $900-million program to pay students and fresh graduates for volunteer work this summer.

In a statement this morning, Chagger says it’s a “mutually agreed upon decision.”

Since the charity founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger was announced as the manager of the program last week, the sole-sourced deal has been criticized because of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s close relationship with the group.

Trudeau and Chagger have said repeatedly that the recommendation to use WE for the work came from the public service, not politicians.

10 a.m.: All those warnings from small cottage country mayors to stay away this spring haven’t discouraged Torontonians from hunting for vacation homes, realtors say. In fact, the pandemic is boosting those real estate numbers.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski.

9 a.m.: Outdoor patios at restaurants and bars have been given the green light to grow, allowing more people to dine or have a drink in the open air as summer gets into full swing.

Premier Doug Ford said the government has amended emergency orders to cut red tape and allow municipalities to quickly pass temporary bylaws clearing the way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure follows consultations with chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and a push from Progressive Conservative MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill), who proposed the idea in May to help restaurants and bars struggling to stay afloat selling take-away food, beer, wine and spirits.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.

8:25 a.m.: The public’s “blatant disregard” for the rules of social distancing has resulted in Wasaga Beach laying out a plan to shut down the majority of the main beach area by July 9.

The only access permitted would be three walkways to reach the water, and so the public can access businesses along what was Beach Drive.

Anyone who chooses to flout the new rules by walking on the municipal portion of the beach will also face a hefty fine: $750.

The town’s emergency management co-ordinator and deputy fire chief, Craig Williams, called the disregard for social distancing and gathering recommendations on Canada Day, and the previous two weekends, “human behaviour at its worst.”

The beach area would be closed to the public by July 9 and “for the foreseeable future.”

The municipal lots would be reduced in capacity by half.

Mayor Nina Bifolchi said while the previous two weekends on the beach had been busy, the crowds on Canada Day “took it to a whole new level.”

7:18 a.m. The scale of coronavirus infections in English care homes was laid bare on Friday, adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his handling of the pandemic.

A survey of more than 9,000 institutions found that 56 per cent had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, according to the Office for National Statistics. In total, 11 per cent of all care-home residents tested positive for the disease, almost double the rate in the community as a whole.

The government has come under fire for its failure to shield vulnerable people in care homes, with the ONS now estimating that over 19,000 residents in England and Wales died from the virus as of June 12. In the initial stages of the outbreak, some hospitalized residents were discharged into the facilities without a negative test to show they weren’t carrying the disease.

Speaking on LBC Radio on Friday, Johnson described the significant loss of life in care homes as “absolutely tragic” and promised a “proper examination.”

“Far too many lives were lost in care homes and we mourn for everyone,” he said. “I bitterly, bitterly regret every single loss of life that we’ve had. Whether an earlier lockdown would have made the crucial difference is something we will have to look at.”

Staff working arrangements also influenced levels of infection. Those that employed more workers from agencies, or had staff working across multiple sites, showed a greater spread of the virus. There was also evidence that care homes that provide sick pay had lower levels of infection, as staff were more likely to take time off work.

7 a.m.: The pandemic has dinged the auto sector, but one part of the industry is faring better than it was before the crisis: used cars.

Sales of used vehicles in the U.S. have roared back after dropping 38 per cent in April, when states were shut down and some dealerships were forced to close. In June, used-vehicle sales rose 17 per cent above the pre-pandemic forecasts, according to research firm J.D. Power.

A confluence of factors is drawing buyers to the used-car lot. Some have used federal stimulus checks on their purchases, dealers and analysts say. Interest rates have fallen during the pandemic, to about 4.73 per cent on average for a 36-month used-car loan, from about 5 per cent in early March, according to Bankrate.com.

Meanwhile, many dealers are having trouble getting new vehicles from the factory, after the health crisis forced auto makers to close their plants for nearly two months this spring. That has led salespeople to more readily redirect customers to the used-car lot, dealers say.

The used-vehicle market’s swift recovery is a relief for dealers and auto makers, which have seen other areas of their businesses upended by the pandemic.

6:10 a.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.

Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.

Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and close trade and travel ties to China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with similar symptoms to the disease.

Experts say the country’s self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.

The Korean Central News Agency said Kim during the politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party “stressed the need to maintain maximum alert without a slight self-complacence or relaxation” as the virus continues to spread in neighbouring countries.

The agency said Kim sharply criticized inattentiveness among officials and violations of emergency anti-virus rules and warned that a “hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim at the meeting, which were the first state media images of him in weeks. Neither Kim nor the ruling party officials who participated were wearing masks.

5:01 a.m.: Toronto’s northwest corner — which has been hardest hit by COVID-19 — is part of a larger hot spot of vulnerability that extends beyond the edges of the city, suggesting a broader regional cluster of high infection rates that defies boundaries and is exploiting socioeconomic inequalities, according to experts and public health data.

Officials are still trying to puzzle out why Toronto’s northwest corner has seen the city’s highest infection rates, and who, exactly, has been impacted most.

Recent reporting from the Star found that these neighbourhoods have some of the highest concentrations of residents who are low-income, racialized and living in cramped housing while working in higher-risk sectors like manufacturing. These findings were echoed Thursday by newly released data from Toronto Public Health showing that neighbourhoods with these characteristics were correlated with higher case counts.

Read more of the Star’s reporting here.

5 a.m.: The four Atlantic provinces are lifting travel restrictions within the region today, with an agreement that’s causing a mix of anxiety and excitement among people in the region.

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Residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island can now travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.

The premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick have hinted restrictions could soon be lifted for visitors from the rest of Canada if all goes well.

Some residents have criticized the so-called “Atlantic bubble” over fears the novel coronavirus could re-emerge in the region, but health officials are encouraging people to trust the science behind the decision and keep following health measures.

Read more of the Star’s reporting here

4:16 a.m.: South Africa’s reported coronavirus cases are surging.

Its hospitals are now bracing for an onslaught of patients, setting up temporary wards and hoping advances in treatment will help the country’s health facilities from becoming overwhelmed.

The spike comes as the country has allowed businesses to reopen in recent weeks to stave off economic disaster after a strict two-month stay-at-home order worsened already high unemployment and drastically increased hunger.

In Johannesburg, the largest city, health officials said they are considering reimposing some restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus.

4 a.m.: A group representing greenhouse growers in Ontario’s Windsor-Essex region says a work stoppage at a local farm due to a COVID-19 outbreak has escalated fears about testing for the virus.

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers says in a statement that the public health order has contributed to anxiety among both farmers and workers.

On Wednesday, the region’s medical officer of health issued an order that required an unnamed farmer whose greenhouse has an active outbreak involving 191 workers to isolate those employees and stop work.

The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex issued the order after a rash of positive tests over the weekend.

The growers group says it is working with the sector and the provincial government to address those fears as on-farm testing continues.

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the work stoppage will not encourage local farmers to participate in efforts to combat the virus.

6 p.m.: Interest payments were already draining the bottom line at Cirque du Soleil Holdings LP before the pandemic froze its revenues, according to a report by the monitor in its bankruptcy protection case.

Ernst & Young, the firm overseeing Cirque’s restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada, said its net loss increased to $80 million last year from $10.2 million in 2017.

“During that period, the applicant’s financial position deteriorated as a result of the losses sustained and the increasingly debt heavy capital structure,” the monitor said in a report.

The pandemic hit the 36-year-old company just as it emerged from a string of acquisitions that helped it diversify from its original acrobat-based shows. The deals, which included Blue Man Productions Inc., help Cirque increase revenue to $1.04 billion last year from $882 million in 2017, but also put it deeper into debt.

As of March 31, Cirque owed its first lien creditors $901 million and its second lien creditors $154 million. It also owed $32 million to shareholder Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and an equal amount to Fonds de solidarite des travailleurs du Quebec, the monitor’s report said.

Montreal-based Cirque filed for protection from creditors on Monday after the coronavirus forced it to close shows around the world. A creditors’ group has said a proposal by existing shareholders — TPG, the Caisse and China’s Fosun International Ltd. — to restructure the live performance company is “doomed to fail” and there is no chance they will accept it.

The shareholders’ group proposed refinancing the company with new capital and giving creditors a 45% equity stake in exchange for wiping out most of its debt. Now the company will go through a process to see if another investor can improve on that offer.

Cirque had $1.47 billion in liabilities at the end of 2019, about five times shareholders’ equity.

Thursday 5 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 37,389 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,728 deaths, up a total of 154 new cases since Wednesday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.

As has been the case in recent weeks, the vast majority of new cases reported Thursday came in a small handful of health units. Just Toronto (77 new cases), Peel Region (23 cases) and York Region (21 cases) reported increases in the double digits.

New infections are down sharply, even in these regions. In Toronto, for example, the long-term average rate of new infections has fallen from 196 per day in early June to just 53 daily as of Thursday.

Four more fatal cases were reported Thursday, all in Toronto.

The daily rate of deaths has also fallen sharply since peaking in early May when the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.

Earlier, the province reported the Canada Day holiday meant it had incomplete information on the number of Ontarians currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The most recent totals of patients hospitalized, in the ICU or ventilated in Ontario hospitals were near the lowest levels in records that were first made public in early April.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths, 2,680, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

Thursday 2:45 p.m.: More than three million Canadians either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced due to COVID-19, according to Statistics Canada.

And now that economies across the country are reopening, some people are looking to change course, having realized their careers aren’t as viable as they may have been pre-pandemic.

Many are going back to school to pursue an entirely new profession — for example, Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education saw a 15 per cent jump in its spring enrolment, according to dean Gary Hepburn, even after the school’s in-person courses had to be cancelled.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

Click here to read more of Thursday’s coverage.

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What we know so far about the Rideau Hall intruder – CBC.ca

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Details are beginning to emerge about the armed man from rural Manitoba who gained entry to the grounds of Rideau Hall Thursday morning.

On Thursday, several police vehicles swarmed Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence and the prime minister’s temporary home, after RCMP said Corey Hurren breached the Thomas Gate at around 6:30 a.m. 

CBC has confirmed Hurren is a member of the Canadian Rangers, a component of the Canadian Army Reserve that serves in the remote and coastal regions, typically offering help with national security and public safety operations.

Hurren allegedly got out of his pickup truck and proceeded on foot to the greenhouse where patrolling RCMP officers stopped him. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family live at Rideau Cottage close to the greenhouse; however, they and Governor General Julie Payette were away at the time.

The RCMP said the National Division Emergency Response Team arrived shortly after 7 a.m., and Hurren was arrested “without any incident” and brought into police custody at about 8:30 a.m.

As a precaution, hazardous materials experts searched and secured Hurren’s truck, police said. The RCMP said it is collaborating closely with the Canadian Armed Forces in the investigation and charges are pending.

A satellite image shows the grounds of Rideau Hall. An armed man was arrested July 2, 2020, after he drove a truck through the gates near 24 Sussex Drive and then proceeded on foot to Rideau Hall, not far from Rideau Cottage, where the prime minister lives with his family. Neither the Trudeaus nor Gov. Gen. Julie Payette were on the premises. (Google, CBC News)

According to his LinkedIn page, Hurren lives in Bowsman, Man., about 390 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near the Saskatchewan border, and is the owner of the small business, GrindHouse Fine Foods, which makes sausages.

According to a Bowsman Lions Club Facebook post, Hurren served with the Royal Canadian Artillery in the late 1990s out of Yorkton, Sask. A member told CBC News Manitoba that Hurren belonged to the club.

CBC News Manitoba also reported that roughly an hour before Hurren entered the Rideau Hall grounds, a Facebook page associated with his Grindhouse Fine Foods business posted a meme of a big outdoor party that would supposedly occur after the lockdown.

The post also directed people to look up “Event 201,” a conspiracy theory that suggests Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is behind COVID-19.

Other posts from Hurren’s business poke fun at the hardships and fears spawned by the pandemic. Some mention the work of the Rangers and the Canadian military.

Rangers serve as helpers in communities

Whitney Lackenbauer, a Canada Research Chair and professor at Trent University and author of The Canadian Rangers, A Living History, says he was startled to learn a member of the Canadian Rangers was arrested.

“I definitely am surprised because all the rangers who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last 20 years have not struck me as the type of people who would take this kind of action,” he said.

Rangers are more likely to be at Rideau Hall accepting awards for heroism, he said, not being arrested there as alleged intruders. He said Canadian Rangers come from all walks of life but tend to be respected members of their communities with deep knowledge of the geographies where they serve. 

“You’ll have everything from civil servants to fishers to lumberjacks to subsistence hunters to electrical engineers,” he said.

A key function of Rangers is supporting isolated coastal and northern communities by helping in search and rescue operations, serving as guides for visiting members of the military, and, on occasion, providing intelligence to the military about any unusual vessels or aircraft they see in remote areas.

Canadian Rangers are issued a C19, which is a firearm patterned after a hunting rifle, along with rounds of ammunition each year. The rifle is used mainly to help protect communities from bears and for hunting if food is scarce.

They are not provided basic training, like other members of the military, and are not expected to serve overseas, said Lackenbauer.

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