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World News

Coronavirus: Thailand trials 15-minute COVID-19 test

A new 15-minute COVID-19 test has been launched in Thailand aimed at increasing the number of people being screened for the deadly virus and easing the burden on the health system.

Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok rolled out the rapid kit this week hoping it will help to quickly identify people with the illness.

Coronavirus cases rose sharply in Thailand in March, with panicked citizens flocking to under-pressure hospitals for coronavirus tests.

Currently doctors rely on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from nasal and throat swabs to detect COVID-19.

The demand for the PCR test can mean kits are in short supply and results can take two to four days.

The new rapid strip tests detect antibodies (IgG & IgM) in the blood serum or plasma which could indicate that a patient either currently or previously had COVID-19.

It works with a drop of blood and gives a first positive or negative result in 10 to 15 minutes.

Although it does not replace the need for laboratory testing of COVID-19‎, there is hope that the test kit will help reduce the large number of patients who need to go to the hospital for examination.

“We don’t want to replace the PCR test but we want to add some screening tests to help the government to decrease the amount of workload who come to have the PCR test by using our rapid test,”Professor Narin Hiransuthikul, vice president of Chulalongkorn University told Sky News.

“If the rapid test is accurate enough we would like to expand this kind of test to all the provinces in Thailand.”

Patients who get positive results are sent for a follow-up PCR test, those who are negative are told to self-quarantine for 14 days.

In recent trials the test had a 5% margin of error, so negative patients are retested after a few days to confirm the reading.

Some 50 patients can be seen each day at the facility in Bangkok where chairs are meticulously separated to enforce social distancing.

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World News

Coronavirus: How to keep your husband happy in lockdown posters condemned

The Malaysian government’s department for women has apologised after it released series of online posters telling women how to keep their men happy during its COVID-19 lockdown.

Titled ‘Household Happiness’ the tips posted on Facebook and Instagram included giggling coyly instead of nagging, not allowing your appearance to slip and making sure the home is clean.

One suggested women avoid being sarcastic if their partner was not helping with the housework.

The online posters, with the hashtag #WanitaCegahCOVID19 (Women Prevent COVID-19), were condemned by women’s rights groups who said the campaign could worsen gender stereotypes and possibly encourage domestic violence.

The Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) said the Facebook and Instagram posts reinforced negative gender stereotypes of both women and men.

“It implies that women are ultimately responsible for getting domestic chores done when the duty should be a shared one,” it said in a statement.

“It makes women the ones who need to persuade their partners to chip in, and worse, asks that women downplay a rightful request by using infantile language and mannerisms – so as not to offend the apparent sensitivities of men.

“The implicit message is that men are allowed to slack off on domestic work and it’s women who must follow up with them – but they should only do so nicely.

“In short, it sends the message that women are subordinate in the home and are not allowed to function as equals to men.”

In a statement the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said the aim had been to share methods and practices to sustain positive relationship within a family while women are working from home.

Director-general Datuk Saidatu Akhma Hassan said: “We are sorry if some of tips shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties, and we will be more careful in the future.”

Three of the four posters have now been removed from social media.

Malaysia has shut schools and non-essential shops and imposed tight restrictions on travel and movement in a bid to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

Local media reports suggest a government helpline to aid domestic abuse victims and vulnerable children has had double its usual number of calls since the start of the lockdown.

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World News

Germany reports 5,453 additional coronavirus cases, 149 more deaths

BERLIN (Reuters) – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 67,366 and 732 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

Cases rose by 5,453 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 149, the tally bit.ly/3aKER5W showed.

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World News

Grounded cabin crew get hospital training as Sweden battles coronavirus

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Furloughed crew from crisis-hit Scandinavian airline SAS are taking a three-day course in basic hospital duties to help plug gaps in a Swedish healthcare system strained by thousands of coronavirus cases.

The airline, part owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, temporarily laid off 10,000 staff – 90% of its workforce – this month to cut costs and ride out a plunge in air travel due the pandemic and related border closures.

With Stockholm’s healthcare system in need of reinforcement as cases rise, Sophiahemmet University Hospital is teaching former cabin crew skills such as sterilizing equipment, making hospital beds and providing information to patients and their relatives.

The first students are due to complete the course on Thursday and the response has been overwhelming.

“We now have a long, long list of healthcare providers that are just waiting for them,” said Johanna Adami, principal at the University. Airlines in Australia, and the U.S. have also enquired about using the training methods for their staff.

She said municipalities, hospitals and nursing homes have all been queuing up to employ the re-trained staff, who will number around 300 in the coming weeks. Adami said airline staff were particularly suited to helping in the healthcare sector.

“They have basic healthcare education from their work. They are also very experienced to be flexible and think about security and also to handle complicated situations,” she said.

Sweden has around 4,500 confirmed cases of the virus and 180 deaths, with the capital especially hard hit. Healthcare officials in Stockholm have scrambled to set up a temporary hospital in a convention center and warned of a lack off staff and safety equipment to meet the crisis.

Malin Ohman, 25, a airline stewardess from northern Sweden was in the first class of students.

“In the a blink of an eye I decided – ‘yes of course, why wouldn’t I’,” she said of her decision to retrain. “I felt that we could just contribute with something,” she added.

The course is free of charge and the companies involved with the training are not seeking to make a profit. Funding, about 7 million Swedish crowns ($698,000) is provided by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation.

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Health

Coronavirus: Health officials say there are 10 outbreaks in long-term care homes around Ontario

Ontario health officials say there are 10 outbreaks of coronavirus in long-term care homes across the province as facilities work to isolate those infected from healthy residents.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, confirmed the number in a provincial update Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Toronto’s Rekai Centre (Sherbourne Place) confirmed its first death, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions.

In a statement, the centre said the man was diagnosed on Friday and was immediately put into isolation. He shared a room at the home.

“He had been isolated prior to that because we suspected he might have it due to symptoms, but he passed away last evening which has been devastating for his family and the staff that cared for him,” said Sue Graham-Nutter, CEO of the Rekai Centre.

The centre went on to confirm that there are three more residents who have tested positive and two others with tests pending.

“This virus moves very quickly as public health officials have been telling us and right now they’re all stable, thank god, but the virus does move fast and if they have underlying conditions, it can be very troubling,” Graham-Nutter said, adding the centre only has six private rooms and those are already filled.

She said they have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health about “various solutions” in regards to COVID-19 in long-term care homes, as well as with residents sharing rooms in the facilities.

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“We are well aware of the fact that sharing is not good,” Graham-Nutter said.

At the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., 12 residents and a volunteer have died due to coronavirus.

There have been two deaths and a number of residents confirmed positive at Hillsdale Terraces Long-term Care Home in Oshawa, Ont.

The home confirmed it had 28 residents in isolation, split between three units.

When asked about issues of outbreaks at long-term care homes, Yaffe said there have been new directives put in place that she hopes will help, but warned that these homes house a vulnerable population.

“I know our staff is working with the ministry of long-term care to do more education and training for long-term care staff and retirement home staff and working with public health as well,” Yaffe said.

“I’m hoping with the more aggressive measures that are being put in place and the more aggressive training and support, that hopefully we’ll pick up cases as quickly as possible and that we’ll prevent as much as possible.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed Yaffe’s statement and said one of Toronto Public Health’s main objectives has been to “minimize the possibility of COVID-19 entering into long-term care settings.”

The city has said five long-term care homes have seen coronavirus outbreaks.

“Particularly with COVID-19, we’re always working, ensuring that infection protection and control measures are well applied in the long-term care setting because of the vulnerability of residents there,” de Villa continued.

De Villa went on to say that TPH works to ensure that those residents who have COVID-19 are “isolated to the extent they can be.”

“And each home we know has its own unique circumstances, but I can tell you that the team at TPH has been working around the clock with long-term care partners.”

De Villa said that any positive test at a home, whether it be a resident or staff member, is considered “very high priority.”

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford extended the province’s state of emergency to April 13, while Toronto Mayor John Tory cancelled all events in the city through June 30, both in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Ontario had 1,966 total cases of coronavirus. Thirty-three people have died and 534 cases have been resolved.

With files from Matthew Bingley

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World News

Hamilton launches website to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19

The city of Hamilton has launched a website where residents who want to support local businesses can access them, all in one place.

HometownHub.ca is divided into three sections: food, products, and gift cards, with direct links to the websites of Hamilton’s small businesses.

Norm Schleehahn, the city’s director of economic development, said the site, created in partnership with Hamilton Rising and ShopEatPlay, is also helping to bring merchants online if they’re not already selling their products remotely.

“There is no cost for the merchant to participate,” said Schleehahn.

“If the merchant does not offer gift cards at this time, ShopEatPlay will get them up and running with a digital gift card offering at no cost to the business for three months.”

Schleehahn describes the site as a “parallel economy” for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on walk-up traffic and don’t have that particular revenue source at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of retailers across Hamilton to close their doors or reduce their operational capacity.

For businesses on Locke Street, which were slowly beginning to recover after months of construction closed the street to traffic, it’s been a major blow.

“Locke Street is just devastated,” said Steven McDuffee, who has been running Pure Home Couture Apothecary on Locke alongside his wife Abby since 2002.

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The road underwent major reconstruction between March and September of 2019, during which it was closed to vehicle traffic. The street re-opened toward the end of September but was still impacted by construction until November.

During that time, McDuffee estimates that about 15 businesses shut their doors permanently and the ones that remained open lost up to 50 per cent of their business.

Pure Home was forced to let its staff go and the store is now being run solely in its online form by Steven, Abby and their son.

One of the products that they’ve started selling online is a homemade sanitizer that started when Abby was making some just for use at home.

“Because our daughter has cerebral palsy and she’s severely challenged … we have to be super careful on this, bringing anything home. So she was making some hand sanitizer because we have all of the ingredients. For our perfumes, diffusers, room sprays, and things that we normally make. And then she thought, why don’t I put a label on this and sell it?”

The hand sanitizer has been one of their most popular items since transitioning to the online-only store, but McDuffee said they now have another challenge: the supply chain.

“Things that you need are not readily available. There’s high demand for hand sanitizer ingredients, bottles and things of that nature. Everybody wants it, so it’s hard to get.”

Other suppliers have shut down and aren’t producing the ingredients they need. As a result, McDuffee said they’re only selling what they have in stock.

“It’s hard to make any promises to anybody because you can only work with what’s in your factory. And beyond that, it’s just kind of roll the dice and see what today brings.”

With the launch of the city’s HometownHub site, McDuffee said he hopes it encourages people to support their local businesses while staying at home.

“To go on Amazon and pull products out of the U.S. right now for whatever reason, if they can be replaced by a Canadian-made product or a locally-made product, I would hope that that’s something that people will gravitate to. Because we all need to help each other right now.”

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Health

N.S. long-term care residents in isolation to prevent spread of COVID-19

All residents and staff at a long-term care facility in Enfield are being tested for COVID-19 after a staff member was tested positive on Sunday, and a second staff member along with two residents were also tested positive on Monday.

“All residents have been tested and we’re just waiting to get the tests back on those,” said Tracey Tulloch, a spokesperson for Rosecrest, which operates three long-term care facilities, including Magnolia.

“We do have one other resident who is symptomatic, but we’re waiting on the test results.”

The two staff are now offsite, self-isolating and dealing with their symptoms. Seven additional staff who worked directly with those who tested positive are also self-isolating.

In the meantime, the facility is receiving some help from the province through VON and other care workers to help replace the staff currently off due to self-isolation requirements.

“They can’t come back until the 14 days has passed,” said Tulloch, “even though they have tested negative at this point.”

Magnolia is currently a home to 82 people, 70 in long-term care and 12 in residential care. Residents are divided up into five cottages which houses 12-15 residents each.

The two residents who have tested positive are in their 80’s and both reside in the same cottage.

Tulloch says they are showing mild symptoms, and are being isolated.

“They are actually coping quite well,” said Tulloch.

The facility has been adhering to guidelines provided by public health officials to limit the spread of the virus. They no longer hold any communal events for residents, with physical distancing measures in place. They are focusing on hand washing and cleaning of high touch surface areas and all staff are wearing personal protective equipment.

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“Like any vulnerable sector, illness hits the elderly and immuno-compromised a little hard, so we want to contain this and flatten the curve within our own environment,” said Tulloch.

Meanwhile two other similar facilities in Nova Scotia have had workers test positive for COVID-19.

An employee who works at Lewis Hall in Dartmouth, part of Shannex’s Parkland at the Lakes retirement living community, has tested positive after being linked to another case in Halifax. The individual last worked on March 22 and has not been in the workplace since.

Lewis Hall in a Shannex Parkland at the Lakes retirement community in Dartmouth has also had staff member test posi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Senior Vice President of Operations for Shannex, Catherine MacPherson says they have been working closely with Public Health and the 17 residents living in the neighbourhood where the employee worked were immediately put into isolation as a precaution. They were also all tested, and those tests came back negative on Sunday.

A second staff member was also tested after working closely with the individual who tested positive,  and is still waiting results. That member is also self-isolating.

In Antigonish, a staff member at RK MacDonald tested positive. An emailed statement from CEO of the nursing home, Michelle Thompson says they too are following health guidelines.

“We are working closely with Public Health and NSHA Infection Prevention and Control; staff are taking the appropriate infection control measures. This is something we take very seriously in order to protect our residents and our staff.”

Public Health officials are working with all three facilities, and continue to work with long-term care facilities and retirement communities across the province to limit the spread of COVID-19.

A number of measures have already been implemented including restricting access into facilities. Visitors are no longer allowed and residents are not allowed on community excursions.

Any staff who feel sick, or who have traveled must stay home, but Dr. Robert Strang admits it’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely as the staff live in communities.

“It’s concerning but I think we’ve done everything we could do to limit the possibility of introduction, and we do have robust plans in responding, as you’ve seen in the last few days, if we get COVID-19 in long-term care facilities,” said on Tuesday.

Strang says those robust plans are largely based on existing plans and guidelines already in place to deal with outbreaks of respiratory illnesses or influenza each year.

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers 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. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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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Health

Coronavirus: City of Toronto cancels events through June 30, including Pride Parade

The City of Toronto has cancelled events through June 30 amid the coronavirus pandemic, including the annual Pride Parade.

Toronto Mayor John Tory made the announcement during an update on the city’s response to COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto is cancelling all city-led major events, festivals, conferences, and cultural programs and is also cancelling all city permits for major events organized by external groups,” Tory said.

“This is not an easy decision to make, but it is necessary to protect the public and to save lives … While we treasure many of these events and the important contribution they make to life in our city, protecting the health and safety of Toronto residents has to be our primary concern right now.”

Tory said Pride month in June will still be celebrated, but the annual Pride Parade has been cancelled.

“Many of these events of course involve thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people, and it is doubtful that the health environment will be where it needs to be on the originally-scheduled spring dates if these events are to happen in a healthy, safe, and stress-free way,” Tory said.

Pride Toronto responded to news of the City’s policy in a statement Tuesday.

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“Pride Toronto will no longer host the Festival Weekend on June 26-28th 2020,” the statement read.

“Our team is working hard to deliver Pride celebrations in new, creative, and unique ways that ensure safety and physical distancing … Any future programming will be in alignment with the recommendations of the public health authorities and the communities we serve.”

Sixty-five people are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. Eight deaths have been reported in the city and 43 people are considered recovered.

Health officials attribute 25 per cent of the cases to community spread.

“We will only be able to get through this and reopen city buildings, businesses, playgrounds, restart our economy, get our festivals back and celebrate life in our city again by stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Tory said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Eileen de Villa said she was concerned with the number of people in the city who are not following physical distancing advice.

“I have been stating repeatedly the importance of physical distancing and I am truly disappointed that there continue to be people in our community who are simply not listening,” de Villa said.

“The only way we can reduce the spread of the virus is by staying home and away from other people …

“I am in active discussions with all of our partners about the potential for other increased measures and I will soon share what that means and what that looks like.”

Since March 24, officials have received 597 complaints related to the use of park amenities. Officials said education is their “first line of enforcement.”

Still, nine $750 tickets have been issued by police.

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Economy

Coronavirus: Fed will do 'whatever it takes' to help US economy likely in recession, says Daly

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) – The Federal Reserve is ready to do more to help a US economy ground to a sudden halt as businesses shutter and people stay home to slow the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly said on Tuesday (March 31).

“The Federal Reserve is prepared to do whatever it takes within our powers to ensure that we are part of the solution of shoring up people over the virus, shoring up the American economy and putting us in the best position to grow again once the virus recedes,” Daly said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

“If we do the right thing and shelter in place and curb the spread of the virus, the economy will be in the best position to bounce back.”

With the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of Americans and killing hundreds each day, three-quarters of the US population are under orders to stay home except for essential trips to slow the spread of the virus.

With businesses laying off millions of workers as demand dries up and states ordering non-essential businesses to close, the economy is likely already in recession, Daly said.

The Fed’s job, along with that of the US government that on Friday finalized a $2.2 trillion rescue package, is to provide the support to financial markets, businesses and people who are doing their duty to boost the public health, Daly said.

Once the pandemic threat has passed, the Fed’s programs and low interest rates will help drive the economic recovery, she said.

“The virus and its evolution will determine both the magnitude of the downturn and its duration,” Daly said, adding that Fed staff are working to manage programmes already under way and stand up new ones, including the to-be-launched Main Street Lending Facility.

“The virus will also determine the amount of action we have to take. These are unprecedented times and they call for unprecedented action.”

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Health

Coronavirus: Crowds of more than five now on notice in Hamilton

The City of Hamilton has new enforcement powers after the province issued an emergency order banning social gatherings of more than five people.

Municipal bylaw officers, along with Hamilton Police, can now break up crowds of more than five and even have the ability to hand out fines of up to $750 per individual.

Paul Johnson, Hamilton’s emergency operations director, says the crackdown means the “persuasive approach” didn’t work to the degree needed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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Johnson adds that while the “vast majority” are taking this virus seriously, he was “dishearted” to hear about “tons of kids” playing in a suburban skate park over the weekend.

Johnson hopes we never get to the point of handing out tickets and making arrests, but he’s pleased that the city now has added “authority to go out and educate and be very clear with people.”

He says “you can still walk through a park” as long as you keep the right distance, but all leash-free dog parks and “communal or shared outdoor public or private recreational amenities” are now closed within the City of Hamilton.

The provincial government, based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a new emergency order on Saturday under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. It prohibits organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people,

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