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Coronavirus: CHL, WHL ‘evaluate next steps’

The junior hockey world is waiting to see if any changes are coming in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and Western Hockey League both put out brief statements Thursday saying their leadership groups are meeting to “evaluate next steps.”

The news comes as the NHL announced Thursday it is suspending its season.

Their decisions will be watched closely in Kelowna, B.C., which is scheduled to host the 2020 Memorial Cup in May.

The tournament brings together the winning teams from the CHL’s three member leagues — the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League — and the host city’s team.

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Juno florists sell flowers, donate money to charity after Junos cancelled

Quinn and Kim Flowers is making the best of a bad situation.

The company has been working since the weekend on 168 flower arrangements for the 2020 Juno Awards, but with Thursday’s cancellation following coronavirus concerns, their hard work seemed for nothing.

The store was supplying the flowers for free, seeing the Junos as a good advertising opportunity.

Between table centrepieces, large standing pieces and smaller arrangements, co-owner Quinn Brown estimates they would have made between $14- and $15,000 — had they been paid.

“It’s a bit of a punch in the gut,” Brown said.

Amid the news, Brown and his wife decided they wouldn’t let their flowers go to waste.

Following the announcement, they decided to sell their Juno inventory, with the money going to Teen Challenge Saskatchewan. Within two hours of posting on Facebook, they had sold all but eight large pieces.

“We try and look at making lemonade out of lemons,” Brown said.

“We wanted to make something positive out of something that was a bummer for everybody.”

Brown says his business will be donating over $3,200 to the charity.

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Coronavirus fury: Tunisia kicks out Italian tourists after they refused to self-isolate

The coronavirus death toll in Italy – the bloc’s worst-hit country – jumped by 196 in 24 hours to 827 on Wednesday; while confirmed infections rose to 12,462 from 10,149. Tunisian authorities earlier this week deported 30 Italian holidaymakers who refused to self-isolate despite the worsening coronavirus outbreak, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP said on Tuesday.

“Tunisia: 30 Italian tourists, who arrived Monday in Kairouan from Tabarka, were brought back home Tuesday, after coordination with their embassy, in prevention against COVID19,” TAP said in a Twitter post, citing local governor Mohamed Bourguiba.

The Italians, who arrived in Tunisia by sea on March 5, refused to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on all visitors and were therefore banned from checking into their hotel in the central city of Kairouan.

They slept on their tour bus before being driven back to the airport on Tuesday morning, according to local media reports.

Tunisia has so far reported six cases of the flu-like disease, most of which were imported from Italy.

Its first case, confirmed on March 4, was a Tunisian national who had recently arrived from Italy by sea.

Last week, Tunisia’s Health Minister Abdelatif el-Mekki said the north African country would suspend passenger ferry services to northern Italy because of the deadly infection.

It has also suspended all flights and shipping to Italy except to Rome.

The number of cases outside China – the epicentre of the epidemic – has risen 13-fold in the past two weeks, and the number of countries affected tripled, with Italy becoming the worst-hit country in Europe.

The Italian government has enacted the most severe controls on a Western nation since World War Two in an effort to contain the outbreak, shutting bars, hairdressers and restaurants along with other restrictions already in place.

The new measures came into force as the number of confirmed infections rose to 12,462 on Wednesday, from a previous 10,149, with the death toll jumping by 196 in 24 hours to 827.

Rome has pledged to spend up to €25 billion (£22billion) to help cushion the economic blow from the epidemic, including cash injections for hard-hit hotels and restaurants and allowing families to suspend some mortgage payments.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Wednesday: “Italy … [is] in the frontline and suffering…but other countries will be in that situation very soon”, as it called the outbreak a pandemic for the first time.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference, as he urged the international community to take “urgent and aggressive action” to contain the virus.

The novel coronavirus, which emerged from central China in December, has spread around the world, paralysing industry, grounding flights, closing schools and forcing the postponement of sporting events and concerts.

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and over 4,500 people have died, Mr Tedros said, adding that the numbers would continue to climb.

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Ontario confirms 17 new COVID-19 cases, including baby boy

TORONTO – Ontario has announced 17 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the province to 59.

The new cases include a baby boy.

More to come.


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Donald Trump coronavirus fears: Brazilian official who met US president tests positive

Fábio Wajngarten, the press secretary for Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, met the US president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last weekend as part of a Brazilian delegation.

He has since tested positive for coronavirus, Brazilian media is reporting.

Mr Wajngarten underwent a test for COVID-19 at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paolo after returning to the country, where the test result was positive. 

He had travelled to the United States with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro earlier this week who is being closely monitored by medical teams.

The government officials met with Donald Trump and businessmen between between March 7 and 10 that included a dinner with the US president, vice president Mike Pence and his daughter Ivanka.

During the trip, Mr Wajngarten is believed to have had breakfast with Mr Bolsonaro in a private room, but the pair travelled in separate vehicles in the United States, Brazilian media reports.

Mr Bolsonaro has cancelled a scheduled trip to Rio Grande do Norte, a state in the northeastern tip of Brazil, and while the reason for the suspension remains unclear, media reports say it is over fears of his health amid the pandemic. 

The White House said on Monday that Mr Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus despite being in contact with multiple lawmakers in self-quarantine.

Following news of Mr Wajngarten, Mr Trump said he sees no reason to test himself. “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said.

This is a breaking news story, more to follow…

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Brit seafront collapses as huge sinkhole opens up and sea floods in

A gigantic sinkhole has opened up on the Welsh coast, causing part of a seafront to collapse.

The huge hole cuts off a sizeable part of Barmouth seafront, but the local council are apparently hoping to just fence the damaged section off so that walkers "can still turn around and visit Sean's kiosk for tea and ice cream."

Jessica Cotterill commented "gonna kiss my things goodbye at this rate" after video of the deep pit was posted to Facebook.

Local councillor Rob Triggs blamed Storm Ciara for the uncanny-looking pit, saying that the stone wall that protects the seafront is washed away most years.

However, years of underfunding for maintenance supposedly means that much of the walkway along the coast has been undermined by strong tides.

  • Family may lose home after Storm Ciara leaves 20ft sinkhole appears outside

  • Driver in miracle escape after vehicle falls into sinkhole during Storm Ciara

Barmouth resident David Owen told Cambrian News how he discovered the pit, saying: "We noticed a small opening in the concrete a few months ago where water was pouring into.

“It seems with the recent high water the earth and rubble it was built on has washed away leaving a three-metre deep cavity that extends for metres in every direction.”

"We were extremely concerned about our home being flooded as the water was washing over the track into our property.”

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Another dangerous sinkhole opened up in the Brecon Beacons at the end of last month.

Brecon Beacons Mountain Rescue Team uploaded a picture of a huge circular hole in the middle of a bridge to its social media accounts, with a message warning ramblers and cyclists to avoid the popular route between Heol Senni and Ysdradfellte in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

They blamed the sudden appearance of the sinkhole on Storm Dennis and said the hole could be particularly dangerous for cyclists: "This bridge collapse is particularly unpleasant in that a mountain biker travelling at speed wouldn’t see it until they were on top of it."

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Juno Awards 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus concerns

The 2020 Juno Awards have been cancelled as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Canada.

The biggest night for Canadian music was scheduled to hit the SaskTel Centre stage in Saksatoon, Sask. on March 15.

“Through our collaborative discussions and with input and guidance and the full support of our trusted partners, including the Province of Saskatchewan, the City of Saskatoon, Tourism Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Health Authority and Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, it is with an incredibly heavy heart that we collectively confirm the cancellation of the 49th Annual Juno Awards and Juno Week activities in Saskatoon due to concerns surrounding COVID-19,” said a spokesperson in a statement on Thursday.

“We salute and appreciate all the 2020 nominees. CARAS will continue to explore options to coordinate an alternative way to honour this year’s JUNO Award winners and Special Award Recipients and support the creators and participants that so greatly benefit from the work done by CARAS and the JUNOS.”

Along with first-time host Alessia Cara, a number of beloved Canadian musicians were slated to perform, including nominees Daniel Caeser, Lennon Stella, The Glorious Sons and Tory Lanez.

The cancellation comes in the wake of Canada’s first death from the disease in B.C., and other event cancellations in the country and around the globe.

There have been no cases of COVID-19 reported in Saskatchewan. However, inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre being quarantined Wednesday after an offender said he had previously come into contact with someone with the disease.

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Germany must do its utmost to avert economic crisis over coronavirus: Merkel ally

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany must do all it can to avoid an economic crisis over the coronavirus and should emulate an ex-European Central Bank president who was key in containing the euro zone debt crisis, a senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

At the height of the euro zone crisis in 2012, ECB chief Mario Draghi vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, a promise that quashed speculation against the EU’s most heavily indebted countries and was seen as saving the joint currency.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in Europe is raising pressure on Germany to ditch its self-imposed pledge of not taking on new debt and unleash a large fiscal stimulus package to cushion the impact on Europe’s largest economy.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said on Thursday the coronavirus outbreak had inflicted a major shock to global growth and governments would need to mount an ambitious fiscal response to counter its effects.

Markus Soeder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that Berlin must act now and put together a broad package of measures to help the private sector.

“The feedback we get from business is just as devastating as from the health sector, with long-term consequences,” he said.

“We have to act in a similar way as it may have been in the euro and financial crisis and think more in Draghi’s dimensions – …do everything to prevent a major recession.”

Carsten Linnemann, deputy leader of Merkel’s conservatives in parliament and head of the bloc’s business-friendly wing, proposed the creation of a crisis fund worth up to 100 billion euros ($110.95 billion) to help companies and its employees.

Germany has recorded 1,567 cases of the coronavirus, according to the Robert Koch Institute, and at least four people have died. The government has recommended that events with more than 1,000 participants are canceled.

FINANCIAL RESERVES

Merkel told reporters on Wednesday that the government would do everything necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic and that the question of whether to run a budget deficit was secondary.

The government has financial reserves of more than 93 billion euros and it could raise up to 35 billion euros of new debt if Berlin decided to ditch the black zero budget goal.

The economy ministry is providing various instruments to help companies bridge short-term liquidity shortages, for example through special loans from state-owned KfW bank.

The cabinet on Wednesday passed new short-time work rules making it easier for companies hit by the coronavirus to tap state funds so that they can put staff on reduced working hours, bridge liquidity problems and avoid layoffs.

Merkel will discuss the impact of the pandemic and the needs of the private sector at a meeting with business associations and labor unions in Berlin on Friday.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier will give a news conference at noon (1130 GMT) Friday in which they are expected to present measures to improve the liquidity of companies such as allowing them to pay taxes later.

Scholz will also meet top bankers on Friday afternoon to discuss measures to combat the impact of the coronavirus, sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Germany’s banking lobby has called for rules to be eased to help its members through the crisis.

On Monday, government officials will meet representatives of airlines and labor unions to discuss possible liquidity aid, following an U.S. decision to restrict flights from Europe.

($1 = 0.9013 euros)

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China, Russia are meddling in Canadian politics and society, warns security watchdog

A national security and intelligence watchdog says China and Russia are meddling in Canada’s affairs.

In a report today, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians singles out the two countries for trying to exploit the openness of Canadian society and penetrating key institutions for their own ends.

It says they target ethnocultural communities, try to corrupt the political process, manipulate the media and influence debate on university campuses.

Overall, the committee says efforts by foreign adversaries to interfere in Canada’s affairs pose a significant and growing risk.

It says the federal government has been slow to react to the threat of foreign interference and recommends it be addressed in a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach.

The committee, established in 2017, has the authority to review sensitive activities across the federal government.

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Pentagon chief says all options on table after Iraq rocket attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday that all options were on the table after a rocket attack in Iraq killed one British and two American troops, an attack he said was by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups.

“Yesterday’s attack by Iranian backed Shia militia groups, consisted of multiple indirect fires that originated from a stationary platform and was clearly targeting coalition and partnered forces on Camp Taji,” Esper told reporters.

“Let me be clear, the United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Esper said.

“All options are on the table as we work with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice and maintain deterrence,” he added.

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