World News

Coronavirus: Saskatchewan nurses union says it’s not getting proper protective gear

With Saskatoon’s second presumptive case of COVID-19, the province is planning to set up assessment facilities to test more people for the virus — but the nurses who’ll be on the front lines say they’re not being properly protected.

The problem is getting nurses a specific type of mask. N95 masks are the most effective protective wear, according to the president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) Tracy Zambory.

They’re also in short supply.

“Nobody ever goes to work thinking they’re going to come away from work with a potential to pass away because they haven’t had the proper protective equipment on,” Zambory said.

SUN said it’s imperative their members have these masks to do their jobs. They’ve been offered surgical masks and eyewear instead.

Zambory said that’s not enough for nurses getting close to people who may be infected.

Tests are done through swabs up someone’s nostrils, something Zambory said often makes patients sneeze. Without proper protection, she worries about what could happen to front-line staff who get exposed.

“This is going to spread,” Zambory said.

“We will have a massive outbreak if we don’t take a step back, take a deep breath and realize that testing requires it, the people that are doing the tests, the confirmed and suspected cases require N95s.”

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

Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

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

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Coronavirus: Kelowna businesses worried about decline in customers

It’s the day after every major sports league has either been cancelled or postponed.

“One hundred per cent we are concerned,” David Lindsay, Midtown Station Kitchen and Drink’s owner, told Global News on Friday.

“We’ll just have to manage our business accordingly.”

The NHL, NBA, MLB and the NCAA to name a few, have all decided their events will not go ahead as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Kelowna, some businesses rely on sporting events, both professional and local.

 “Certainly there will be some impact. However, I hope people still go out,” said Lindsay.

“We’re doing everything we can within these four walls to make sure we have a safe environment.”

Lindsay says his sports bars have stepped up their protocols.

He went on to say, “all that kind of stuff that we do on a regular basis but we want to make sure we are on top of it.”

With the WHL season suspended until further notice and the Memorial Cup scheduled in Kelowna in 10 weeks, businesses can’t help but worry.

“It makes us nervous with the cancellation of the NBA and NHL season. We are worried about the Memorial Cup here in May”, said Andrea Thomas, a Memphis Blues Barbeque House owner.

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Coronavirus: Food for cancelled London Knights games donated to local women’s shelter

Food previously purchased for a hockey game has been donated to a local women’s shelter.

Spectra Food Services at Budweiser Gardens donated roughly $1,000 of produce to My Sister’s Place Friday afternoon.

The food was originally purchased for London Knights games scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but the games were cancelled due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hockey game cancellations are one of many across the city.

As of late Friday afternoon, the number of cases of COVID-19 in the province has climbed to 79 with 19 new confirmed cases.

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USask researchers find some fungi thrive in radiation, can be trained to sense it

Mushrooms are a staple in the culinary world and taste great in pasta, pizza, soup and many other dishes.

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have taken fungi out of the kitchen and into the lab, studying how some species of fungi respond to radiation.

The team was lead by USask radiochemist Ekaterina Dadachova has spent the past fifteen years studying why some species of fungi can thrive and grow in radioactive conditions.

“They can actually use that radiation for their benefit in their lifecycle. Basically, it helps them to get additional energy if they lack some nutrition,” Dadachova explained.

Dadachova has spent the past three years working on a USask project funded by the U.S. Department of Defence, focusing on fungi containing melanin — the same pigment found in human skin and hair.

“When the fungus has melanin, it responds much better to the radiation rather than melanin deficient mutants,” team member and USask undergraduate biochemistry student Connor Frank said.

The fungi were put on different plates and exposed to three different types of radiation — wave, gamma and alpha.

The fungi grew the most when exposed to alpha radiation. Researchers were hoping to see it grow towards the radiation source, but instead, it only grew at a faster rate.

During this process, the team realized the fungi could also be trained to detect radiation.

“What we were able to find is that we’re able to train this fungus to sense radiation,” USask lab manager Mackenzie Malo said.

“We’re interested in how we could adapt that to something more useable but really what we want to know is why are they doing it.”

Exposure to radiation can be detrimental to your health. More research needs to be done, but the results of this study could help with more practical applications in the future.

The findings also have the potential to help with radiation clean-up and could help protect people exposed to radiation, like soldiers and astronauts.

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Winnipeg Transit to begin disinfecting city buses Saturday

The city has now confirmed it will begin disinfecting Winnipeg Transit buses in the wake of presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 following a late afternoon meeting between transit officials and the union Friday.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 began publicly calling for the disinfection of Winnipeg’s transit buses Thursday — three presumptive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by the province’s health minister that day. Another case was announced late Friday.

Global requested an update on the transit authority’s disinfection plans from the city Friday morning. It received a response shortly before 6 p.m.

“In response to this week’s confirmed arrival of COVID-19 to Winnipeg, Transit is instituting an enhanced cleaning program immediately. We anticipate this program will ramp up quickly — new equipment is being acquired to help sanitize buses and staff members are being trained,” an emailed statement reads in part.

That will begin at some point Saturday.

“Staff will begin carrying out additional cleaning procedures, sanitizing high-touch points on bus interiors using a disinfectant we have an existing supply of, ES65H,” the statement reads further.

The statement adds that the transit authority is committed to protecting the health and safety of its drivers and passengers.

The union is awaiting clarification and a decision from Winnipeg Transit’s top brass on some of its health and safety requests following the meeting, an ATU spokesman said in a text message Friday evening.

However, Winnipeg Transit’s communications manager Alissa Clark said the union’s public call for disinfection of transit buses did not lead to the decision to amp up cleaning.

The transit authority has been planning a response to COVID-19’s possible spread to Winnipeg for “longer than yesterday,” Clark said in a phone call shortly after the city sent its initial statement to Global.

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Blood spatter expert testifies at West Kelowna murder trial

On Friday, court saw pictures of the blood-spattered Best Western Hotel room where Rama Gauravarapu died in July 2018, and an RCMP expert on blood pattern analysis took the stand to describe part of the police investigation into what happened.

Former Surrey property manager Tejwant Danjou is accused of murdering Gauravarapu, his girlfriend, at the West Kelowna hotel while they were on vacation.

Sgt. Thomas Watts showed court photos of the blood-soaked carpet inside the hotel room.

Pictures showed blood smeared on the wall and spattered on the bed and ceiling.

Watts testified that the grey pants with a big red stain on them were consistent with the wearer kneeling in a volume of blood.

The pants appeared to match the front desk agent’s description of what Danjou was wearing on the night of Gauravarapu’s death.

The Crown said it isn’t expecting to call any other witnesses, and the trial will now take a break for the next week.

The case is scheduled to be back in court on March 23.

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Woman dies following downtown collision involving Winnipeg transit bus

Police are looking for witnesses following a fatal collision between a pedestrian and a Winnipeg transit bus.

First responders were called to Portage and Colony around 7:30 a.m. and rushed an adult woman to hospital, where she died of her injuries.

Westbound Portage Avenue was closed between Colony and Vaughn for a few hours but has since re-opened.

“We have a lot of trained investigators on scene right now doing what we call a reconstruction of the collision,” said Const. Jay Murray.

“So they’re looking to determine exactly how that happened and that’ll help with their investigation going forward.”

Murray says they’ll be reviewing video footage from the bus as well as nearby businesses.

He adds there may be more information available later in the day.

Anyone who may have seen what happened, or has any other information to help with the investigation is being asked to contact the Traffic Division at 204-986-7085.

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UK coronavirus lockdown as mass gatherings and sport games to be banned

Mass gatherings will be banned across the UK as the coronavirus outbreak sweeps the nation, it has been reported.

The move is set to be enforced from next weekend and will see sports fixtures, music concerts and business conferences all postponed.

A Whitehall source said the move will help free-up emergency services rather than curb the spread of the disease.

The source declined to say how many people meant a “mass gathering”, but told the Mirror tonight: “Ministers are working with the Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.

“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.

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“There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible.

“We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.

“For example, we are concerned about the burden large events put on public services – including the health service and the police – from dealing with coronavirus.

“Officials are working with industry bodies to identify how to support businesses that will be affected by this decision.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the Government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations.

“We will publish this legislation next week.”

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Thursday "many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time" as coronavirus pandemic sweeps the country.

He also told the country that people with even mild cold symptoms must self isolate immediately.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had earlier on Friday announced the UK had moved from "contain" to the "delay" phase over the coronavirus outbreak.

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World News

‘We need help’: Halifax small-business owner says he’ll go bankrupt due to coronavirus

There has been anxiety swirling around the world and in Nova Scotia as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.

However, to date, despite 226 lab tests being carried out in the province, there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

But its impacts are already being felt financially by John Luckhurst, who has been running a trade show at the Halifax Exhibition Centre called the Atlantic Retail Fair for the last 45 years.

“I’ll just say that at this point it looks like I will be facing bankruptcy,” said Luckhurst, who runs the industry show for Atlantic Canadian retailers from April 5 to 7.

He said there has been a lot of uncertainty in the last 48 hours, and he is still trying to decide whether to cancel the trade show or not, because if he does, then that would mean he’ll lose his business.

“We would hope to postpone, but the nature of our show makes it difficult to postpone because you’re buying for the season,” said Luckhurst.

“Because the later you postpone, the less likely your stories are going to need the product that you’re having,” he added.

Some of the items sold at the fair are for gift stores, pharmacies and fashion jewelry places.

Luckhurst explained that when a small company holds an event like this, all of the organizer’s annual revenue is tied into one show.

“Not only do I lose my business, I lose a year’s pay,” he said.

As the organizer, Luckhurst said that when he holds these shows, the venue needs the money upfront, as well as decorators and promotion.

“I’m in a situation where I have spent the money for the show. If it gets cancelled, I am not going to be refunded by any of those players,” he said.

“They’re all larger and more powerful than I am. And I’m going to give their money back and my suppliers want their money back. And so I’m in a situation where I will be bankrupt.”

Luckhurst said that his “phone is ringing off the hook” mainly from suppliers and exhibitors because, at this point, they’ll have to ship their product here.

But he said he’ll wait for more updates from the government to make the call to cancel.

“I am avoiding anything for 48 hours here,” Luckhurst said.

“It seems likely as information is coming in, that there’ll be a mandate to cancel all events that happen within 100 people or more in attendance,” said Luckhurst.

He said the show features 800 retail stores from across Atlantic Canada, with about 120 suppliers from all across Canada.

As of Thursday, New Brunswick has already recommended that all non-essential events or activities of 100 people or more be suspended due to the virus. But Nova Scotia hasn’t yet.

“We’re most likely going to cancel those dates,” said Luckhurst.

“However, if the situation basically put us into a bankruptcy, I’ll lose everything,” he added.

“We need help. Hopefully, the government will step in and help out to keep me out of bankruptcy.”

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El Salvador president seeks emergency powers to fight coronavirus

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador’s Congress will on Friday debate temporarily suspending a range of civil liberties including the right to freely enter and exit the country, as President Nayib Bukele resorts to tougher measures to curb coronavirus.

Bukele earlier asked Congress president Mario Ponce to consider decreeing emergency powers which would override some constitutional guarantees. Ponce convened all 84 lawmakers for an afternoon session and said they would vote the same day.

El Salvador has yet to report any cases of coronavirus, even suspected instances, but has taken steadily stricter measures to prevent any possible spread of the virus, including a widespread travel ban and school closures.

“Any measure we take now will appear exaggerated. Any measures that we want to take later will seem insufficient,” the 38-year-old Bukele wrote on Twitter, where many of his official announcements are made.

Bukele said 2,000 soldiers would be deployed to patrol 142 non-official entry points into the country, and that anyone attempting to enter would be imprisoned.

Anyone caught entering illegally would have to report their infringement on videos and upload it, he noted, before publicly shaming a man he said had snuck into El Salvador.

“This person was making fun on social media of having entered El Salvador through a blind spot,” Bukele wrote. “He’s already been captured and will spend quarantine in prison.”

Bukele, who has 1.3 million Twitter followers, deleted the post minutes later.

The articles he asked Congress to suspend for 30 days guarantee the right to freely enter and leave El Salvador, free association and communication without interception.

They also stipulate that people arrested on criminal charges are presumed innocent and have the right to full defense.

Earlier, El Salvador shut schools for three weeks and banned visitors from Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and Iran. Other Latin American governments fighting to contain coronavirus have taken similar measures.

Bukele took office in the Central American nation last July, ending 30 years of bipartisan rule and pledging to battle violence, poverty and corruption.

In February, political foes and rights groups warned of the possibility of democratic backsliding after Bukele brought armed soldiers into parliament in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to pass his crime-fighting plan.

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