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World News

Demand surges for virtual health care amid novel coronavirus pandemic

With Canada under strict social-distancing rules and facing an unprecedented demand for medical resources due to COVID-19, many British Columbians are turning to virtual medicine for help.

The idea of telemedicine is not new, but operators of video-based health-care say they’re witnesses a never-before-seen interest in their services.

“Many clinics are just not accepting walk-in clients at this point. Most clinics are having people call ahead and do a screening. It’s really challenging out there for people to find access to care,” said Blake Adam, the CEO of Medimap, a website that lists real-time waits at walk-in clinics in five provinces, including B.C.

“People are struggling to navigate the system right now, the health-care system is totally overwhelmed right now, (and) people end up relying on the emergency department when they shouldn’t.”

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World News

Kingston Transit limits seating, asks residents to ride the bus for ‘essential trips’ only

The city has announced it will be limiting seating to a maximum of 15 passengers on their public transit buses and are asking residents to use transit for “essential trips only.”

This comes just a day after the city declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, Kingston Transit decided to reduce service on almost all its lines to Sunday schedules with the following exceptions:

  • All express routes will be reduced to 60-minute service frequency and will operate from approximately 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Route 7 will be reduced to 60-minute service frequency and will operate from approximately 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Routes 1 and 15 will reduce service to operate from approximately 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Routes 17, 18 and 18Q will be suspended.

The city also added a shuttle that offered direct service from the Centre 70 park and ride to Kingston General Hospital from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week to accomodate health care workers trying to get downtown.

Those changes came into effect Thursday.

On Friday, the city announced they would be marking certain seats as “unavailable” on all buses still running in order to allow riders to practice social distancing.

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The city is also urging residents to only use transit for trips they deem essential.

“Kingston Transit will make every effort to deploy additional buses when capacity has been reached, but unfortunately this will not always be possible. Passengers should be prepared to wait for the next scheduled bus, should capacity be reached,” the city said in a new release sent out Friday afternoon.

To ensure seats remain available to those who truly need them, we ask riders to use Kingston Transit for essential trips only. Capacity will remain limited and further changes are possible.

The city continues to ask people to board the bus from the back entrance to protect their drivers from the disease.

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World News

Coronavirus: City of Regina updates lunch program and makes inspection changes

With continuing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, the City of Regina has made changes to two programs.

Starting March 26, 1,000 bagged lunches will be distributed from neighbourhood centres to children and youth in need of food support. This will replace the programs that were previously run by schools.

Families in need will receive a food package that contains a week’s worth of lunches through this program.

The Regina Exhibition Association Limited will provide facilities and staff to prepare the lunches daily. They will work with city staff who will be distributing the food packages.

The Mosaic Company has donated $50,000 to make ensure the program is possible.

“My council is very proud of Regina and residents about what they have been doing, but again, more needs to be done,” Micheal said Fougere, Regina mayor.

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“One of the things the city wants to do is help residents continue social distancing with this new lunch program.”

The packages will be distributed Monday to Friday from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at a different centres each day.

A second change has also been made starting immediately to contain the spread of COVID-19. Many public facilities are now closed, including City Hall. Building permit applications will now be submitted by email, and building permit inspections will no longer be done in person.

City inspectors will use live video-conferencing tools like to conduct inspections remotely.

The city says that service levels will remain the same. Review targets are 10 days for residential applications, and 20 days for commercial applications.

Mayor Fougere expressed gratitude to the Provincial Government for continuing to take steps that will ensure public safety, by stating, “I want to thank the province for acting swiftly and decisively.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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World News

Calgary Tower asks for help lighting up city amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Calgary Tower hopes to shed some light across the city during a time of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The organization is asking Calgarians to design their own light show to be featured on the tower for the entire city to see.

The organization took to Twitter on Wednesday to explain the details of the LED Challenge.

“We’re countering the self-isolation blues with a colouring contest,” the tweet said.

To enter the contest, residents can download the Calgary Tower template and colour in the white zones.

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Sections of the tower have been numbered on the template. Each section can be home to between one and 16 different colours.

The contest announcement urges residents to be creative and use old light shows as a guideline in their designs.

“The easier it is to translate into a real show, the better your chances are of winning,” the post said.

Entries should be shared on Twitter or Instagram using #MyTowerLights.

The winning entries will be seen lighting up the tower on March 29, April 3 and April 9.


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World News

Coronavirus response in Ottawa throws Cumberland byelection date in the air

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has thrown the timing of a proposed municipal byelection in Ottawa’s Cumberland ward up in the air.

The east-end ward’s former city councillor, Stephen Blais, resigned earlier in March after he was elected to the Ontario legislature.

In late February, city clerk Rick O’Connor proposed that Ottawa city council opt to replace Blais through a byelection, preferably called for June 8.

However, the city’s focus now is on its response to the spread of COVID-19 in the national capital.

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On top of that, byelections involve door-to-door campaigns and group events and health officials are demanding people stay home and away from other people to curb transmission of the virus.

“Under the current pandemic, I do not believe that the integrity of the byelection as I had suggested earlier … would be viable at this point in time,” O’Connor said during Ottawa city council’s virtual meeting on Wednesday.

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World News

Coronavirus: Growing concern over increase in curbside garbage, Okanagan landfill activity

The Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton is a hive of activity.

A national stay-at-home order to curtail the spread of COVID-19 HAS prompted some to utilize their spare time to catch up on household cleaning.

But regional district officials are concerned too many people are making the trek to the landfill, potentially jeopardizing social distancing guidelines and putting staff at-risk.

WildSafe BC coordinator Zoe Kirk says it’s not just the influx of waste at the dump that has them worried.

With people now bulk buying, along with an increase in single-use containers at food outlets, the end result means more curbside garbage.

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“Our concern is that people are going to have an extraordinary amount of more garbage going out to the curb,” said Kirk, “and they may be following some unsafe practices.”

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World News

Taiwan doubles down on virus criticism as China denounces 'disgusting' behavior

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan doubled down on its criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, saying the Communist Party cared more about power than its own people, while Beijing described Taipei’s allegations of a cover-up as slander.

The epidemic has deepened enmity between Taiwan and China, which regards the democratic island as its sacred territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s government says China has intentionally hampered its efforts to get virus information direct from the World Health Organization. China blocks Taiwan’s WHO membership as it considers the island merely one of its provinces.

Taiwan has also been angered by stepped-up Chinese military drills near the island in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang accused China of covering up the crisis in its early stages and not giving the world early enough warning.

Then on Wednesday, Cho Jung-tai, chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), reiterated the cover-up accusation, adding that China had hoodwinked the WHO.

“Since the outbreak of the epidemic at the end of last year, China has covered it up and manipulated the WHO to pretend that everything is going well,” Cho told a party meeting, according to a statement.

“The Chinese Communist Party regime’s approach of maintaining stability and neglecting people’s lives and health has caused the spread of the epidemic and seriously damaged China’s carefully crafted image as a great power,” he added.

China has strongly denied covering up the epidemic, and has said it ensures the island is provided with the information it needs to battle the virus. The WHO has also praised China’s response to the epidemic.

In a statement late Tuesday, China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office said it was “slander” for Taiwan to suggest there was a cover up and that China has sent Taiwan 101 notifications to date, including information about its sharing of virus genome sequences with the WHO.

“The use of the epidemic to stir up cross-Taiwan Strait confrontations at a time when the outbreak in Taiwan is picking up is shameless and disgusting,” spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said in comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

Taiwan swiftly stepped up checks and closed its borders to most Chinese visitors at the start of the outbreak, but over the past week it has seen an uptick of cases as infected people return from abroad, especially from Europe and the United States.

Taiwan now has 235 cases, although that is still far lower than the more than 80,000 cases recorded in China.

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World News

White Spot restaurant chain lays off 3,000 workers due to coronavirus

The owner of White Spot restaurants says about 3,000 workers have been laid off in the last week because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ron Toigo, who also owns the Vancouver Giants hockey team, echoes other business owners in countless sectors who say the economic effects of COVID-19 will be deeply felt.

“Corporately, we’re probably more resilient than the franchisees, but the franchisees are family-owned operations,” Toigo told Global News on Tuesday. “And those are the guys we’re really concerned about.”

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Economy

US retailers plan to stop paying rent to offset coronavirus hit

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Major US retail and restaurant chains, including Mattress Firm and Subway, are telling landlords they will withhold or slash rent in the coming months after closing stores to slow the coronavirus, according to people familiar with the situation.

In a brewing fight, chains are calling for rent reductions through lease amendments and other measures starting in April, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

These moves mark the next phase in virus fallout: What happens to billions in rent owed for businesses that have been closed? The stakes are high. Retail has a slew of big chains in turnaround mode. And if they do withhold payments, there would be a ripple effect. Landlords can’t afford to stop collecting rent for long, with many property owners sitting on loads of debt.

The situation is likely to get messier. The US relief packages being considered don’t directly address rents. But the Federal Reserve’s actions may give banks the leeway to defer mortgage payments, allowing property owners to delay rent. It’s also unclear if retailers can declare a so-called “force majeure,” a contract clause that covers highly unusual events, and if landlords could then make the same case to insurers.

“The court system is just going to get flooded with a million of these disputes between tenants and landlords,” said Vince Tibone, an analyst at Green Street Advisors. “If the government doesn’t step in in any form or fashion, it could get ugly. They need to respond quickly.”

‘MORE DRASTIC’

Mattress Firm, with about 2,400 stores, sent landlords a letter last week saying it would cut rent in exchange for longer leases and offering two options to do so. This week, it sent a more urgent note revoking its earlier offer.

“The decline in revenue and forced store closures across the nation are more drastic, compressed and immediate than we originally anticipated,” the company wrote in a letter reviewed by Bloomberg. “Our need is now more severe,” the firm said, invoking the virus as a force majeure event that “will prevent or prohibit us” from paying rent.

After being contacted by Bloomberg, Mattress Firm confirmed that it has requested a temporary suspension of rent.

“We appreciate our landlord partners, and the responses have been encouraging so far,” Randy Carlin, chief real estate officer for Mattress Firm, said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to maintain business continuity and to ensure there are jobs available for our people to return to when this crisis ends.”

Hennes & Mauritz AB said it’s also reaching out to landlords in areas hit by the virus.

“Negotiations of rents is an ongoing part of our business, but due to the current effect on the economy, we have and will approach our landlords in the affected markets,” a spokesperson said. The Swedish retailer has shuttered about two-thirds of its more than 5,000 stores around the world and on Tuesday warned it may need to lay off a significant portion of its staff because of the virus.

Subway Restaurants, which has more than 20,000 US locations, sent out a letter to landlords last week saying that it might cut or postpone rental payments due to the virus, according a person with knowledge of the situation. The Real Deal, a real estate trade publication, reported on the communication earlier.

SOME HELP

In a statement, Subway said it was looking at ways to help franchises mitigate the virus fallout.

Some landlords have recognized they need to help smaller tenants. Irvine Company Retail Properties, based in Irvine, California, is allowing rent to be deferred for 90 days and then paid back with no interest over a year starting in January, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg. The firm confirmed the practice without further comment.

Bedrock, a Detroit developer, said it will waive rent and other fees for three months for its smaller retail and restaurant tenants.

Retail real estate investment trusts may need to provide leeway on rent, Bank of America said this week after downgrading several Reits. The bank sees store closings lasting through May and the possibility of some locations going away as more fragile retailers are forced into bankruptcy.

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World News

Japan’s PM, IOC say 2020 Olympics will be postponed over coronavirus

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee say they have agreed to delay the Tokyo Olympics for one year because of the spread of the coronavirus around the world.

Abe spoke with the International Olympic Committee’s president, Thomas Bach, on Tuesday as questions have dogged the organizing body about whether it should cancel or delay the Games, which were set to begin on July 24, as the number of cases of coronavirus continue to rise around the world.

Abe and Bach issued a joint statement afterwards, saying that “in the present circumstances,” they had decided the Games need to be postponed “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.”

The move is an attempt “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” the statement said.

In the meantime, the Olympic flame will stay in Japan and the Games will still use the name “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”

There are currently 392,331 global confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, worldwide.

A total of 17,156 people have died as a result.

In Canada, there are 1,646 confirmed cases and 24 deaths so far.

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