Coronavirus: Daily COVID-19 deaths in Spain, France and Italy continue to fall

The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has fallen for the third day in a row – a glimmer of hope in the hard-hit country where more than 12,400 have died.

The fall is part of a pattern in other European countries which imposed a stringent lockdown several weeks ago, with France and parts of Italy also seeing falls in the number of daily deaths.

France on Saturday saw its daily death toll fall to 441 from 588 on Friday.

Italy, on the same day, registered 681 deaths having reported 766 deaths the day before.

Sky’s Alex Rossi, in Madrid, said there was “muted optimism” as a result of the Spanish figures.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the nation on Saturday: “We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The number who have died in Spain now has reached 12,418. The number reported as having died in Italy on Saturday was 15,362 with 7,560 in France.

Despite the lockdown appearing to reduce the number of deaths, authorities have made it clear they have no immediate intention of lifting the restrictions.

Mr Sanchez said on Saturday he would ask parliament to extend his country’s lockdown by 15 days until 26 April.

He added a team of experts was also studying how restrictions could be gradual loosened to reactive the country’s economy.

Meanwhile, Italy’s virus-ravaged Lombardy region is now requiring residents to wear a protective mask when they go outside.

It follows similar orders in recent days in two other northern regions, hard-hit Veneto and Alto Adige, which require protective masks for residents if they go shopping in stores and markets.

All of Italy is under a nationwide lockdown and Lombardy has passed particularly tight restrictions on movement and business operations.

It comes amid a growing appreciation that the official death toll may be masking the true number dying.

Interviews by Reuters with families, doctors and nurses in Lombardy indicate that scores are dying at home as symptoms go unchecked and medical professionals are unable to visit the sick before they pass away.

In Bergamo province, where Sky News witnessed horrific scenes in the main hospital and where the mayor told Stuart Ramsay he was convinced the death toll was higher than that being reported, a recent study of death records found the true number could be more than double the official tally of 2,060, which only tracks hospital fatalities.

In France, the centralised state has allowed authorities to take extraordinary measures in an attempt to save lives.

Europe’s biggest food market, in Rungis, south of Paris, is being transformed into a morgue.

The country’s high-speed train network has been whooshing critically ill COVID-19 patients and the breathing machines to locations where they can be looked after better.

TGV trains are just one part of France’s nationwide mobilisation of trains, helicopters, jets and even a warship, to relieve congested hospitals.

Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care in France, pushing hospitals to their limit and beyond.

In Germany, which has been reporting a lower fatality rate than other European countries, the official toll rose by 184 to 1,342.

But, health authorities reported that the number of new infections rose by 5,936 in the past 24 hours to
91,714 on Sunday, the third straight drop in the daily rate of new cases.

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University of Regina students unsatisfied with grading options amid COVID-19

On Monday, the University of Regina (U of R) announced four options to choose from for each course students are enrolled in.

Those options include completing the course and receiving a final grade percentage, choosing to withdraw from the course with the grade not affecting the student, and also a pass-fail option, which would replace the percentage grade with a credit or no credit.

Many students believe these options are not in their best interest.

“There’s a lot going on in the world, and we are not going to be able to focus and do our schoolwork properly,” said Taralyn Fleuter, a fifth-year student at the University of Regina.

Fleuter believes that the university should look at the option of allowing students to use their current grade as their final grade.

“There’s a week left of classes, we have done the majority of our schoolwork and a lot of us have worked really hard on that, and you know a lot of us have also have recently lost our jobs, kids are at home, and there are a lot of students who aren’t lucky enough to have their own computers,” Fleuter said.

Before the announcement students created an online petition asking the U of R to change to a pass-fail grading system. This petition has 4,400 signatures.

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The last day of classes is April 9th.

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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‘Not the time to joke around’: Halifax police issue warning on lying about COVID-19

Halifax police are asking the public to tell the truth about possible exposure to COVID-19.

Given the current circumstances first responders are now asking people, both at the dispatch level and then again in person, questions related to COVID-19 exposures.

“They may ask have you travelled, are you experiencing symptoms, those common questions,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod.

But in recent weeks, some officers have been reporting that people are falsely claiming to have been exposed to the virus.

“It certainly is not the time to joke around about something like this,” said MacLeod.

“Even in jest, it requires us to take elevated steps to make sure everyone is safe.”

Those steps include forcing officers to self-isolate if they were possibly exposed, until they can verify whether or not it’s true and if the officers were at risk.

“Officers have been delayed for a number of days in relation to this,” said MacLeod, adding that it can put a strain on resources as they need to find others to replace those in self-isolation.

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MacLeod also says it’s important for people to be honest in the other direction. If someone has been exposed or has symptoms, they must alert first responders as soon as possible.

All first responders, including officers, have masks, gloves and other personal equipment they can use if need be, but they need to know.

In Newfoundland, the provincial health minister has said that four paramedic teams are self-isolating after responding to calls where they were potentially exposed to the virus without being alerted ahead of time.

So far, MacLeod says that hasn’t happened to any police officers in Halifax, but he says it is important people understand the value of honesty in this situation.

“We’re trying to do our part with the rest of the community and the health authority and the other community partners to let folks know what we can do to help further prevent the exposure of this COVID-19 virus,” said MacLeod.

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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Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered

Being pregnant in a pandemic isn’t part of most expecting parents’ birth plans.

Cameo Rempel is 34 weeks pregnant with her first child, due in early May.

There are still plenty of unknowns about COVID-19.

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While research is ongoing, the World Health Organization says at this time, there isn’t any evidence that pregnant people have a higher risk for severe illness.

It’s not yet known if the virus can be passed from mom to baby during pregnancy or delivery, but it hasn’t been found in amniotic fluid or breastmilk, according to the WHO.

“I’m trying not to panic yet and to hope that things will be a little more stabilized by the time this baby comes in May,” Rempel said. “If things haven’t been stabilizing, then I’m going to guess the three of us will just be hunkered down at home.”

Stress is one major health concern that can’t be avoided through social distancing, said Cathy LaFleche, the executive director of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre.

“I’ve never seen a situation like this where they’re so isolated,” she said.

“It’s so different right now for these new moms. We all had family and support and now social isolation or the social distancing is really going to make it hard for them.”

She’s heard concerns from families anxious about visiting hospitals, and others struggling to find necessary supplies, like formula.

The Pregnancy Options Centre can drop off supplies to families in need, she said. It also offers peer support and prenatal education.

LaFleche recommended new or expecting mothers to take care of their mental health by staying, calling or video chatting with loved ones while social distancing.

“Having that baby at home with you, that might be the hardest, darkest days of your life, but reach out,” she said. “You will get through it.”

Family and friends can help those who are expecting by dropping off food or groceries while maintaining social distance, LaFleche said.

“It’s big enough to give birth, but to do it at this crisis in our time? Wow,” she said.

“These are absolute heroes and they need as much support from us as possible.”

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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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EPCOR asks Albertans to watch what they flush as disinfectant wipe use soars

EPCOR is issuing a warning — ahead of any issues — in hopes that Albertans will roll with the COVID-19 situation and stick to flushing toilet paper only.

“We know that people are using more flushable wipes, more cleaning wipes, and paper towel at this time,” said EPCOR spokesperson Kelly Struski.

“We do want to remind them that all of those items should not be going into the drainage system.”

The warning comes following some strange situations around the world, as toilet paper remains in high demand — despite direct orders from officials not to hoard or stockpile. 

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In Redding, Calif., last week, the city’s sewer system backed up and officials found shredded t-shirts clogging the pipes. Officials in that city said that if residents were using alternative or creative products to wipe, they should bag them instead of flush.

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Coronavirus: Saint John keeping playgrounds open as neighbouring communities closes theirs

Saint John is defending its decision to keep playgrounds open during the COVID-19 outbreak as Moncton and other neighbouring communities ask kids to stay away.

“The City of Saint John is following directives and recommendations from public health in our response to COVID-19,” said Lisa Caissie, manager of communications for the City of Saint John, in an email statement to Global News.

Caissie said the province has not recommended the closures of parks and trails, so those remain open as well.

“We are monitoring the evolving situation on a 24 hour basis and, should this directive change, we will act accordingly and notify the public immediately,” Caissie said.

She also encouraged residents to take necessary safety precautions and practice social distancing when using parks and trails.

However, Rothesay and Quispamsis, both minutes from Saint John, have opted to close their playgrounds. But trails remain open.

The playground structures at Rothesay Common had yellow “caution” tape wrapped around them in an attempt to keep the public away, although the Common itself was still a popular spot for exercise Wednesday with a number of residents.

Moncton deemed its public playground equipment off limits on Tuesday, according to Director of Corporate Communications Isabelle LeBlanc.

“We are also preparing signage that will be installed at various areas regarding outdoor equipment not being sanitized,” LeBlanc said, in an email.

Playgrounds in Riverview and Dieppe are also closed.

“Our neighborhood parks (playgrounds) are closed during the winter,” said Julie Albert, a Communications and Public Relations Officer with the City of Dieppe. “Therefore, they were closed when the pandemic started and still are.”

All the communities said they would be monitoring the latest developments and directives from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell.

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Okanagan medical clinics switch to phone and virtual appointment

Medical clinics in the Okanagan are adjusting to a new way of seeing patients.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has prompted doctors to limit face-to-face visits and provide care for most of their patients over the phone or through virtual visits.

“We are here for you and we can still provide you with care, we can still provide you with comprehensive care,” said Dr. Toye Oyelese, owner of Westside Medical in West Kelowna.

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Patients can engage with their family doctor through online video chats and telephone conversations to assess chronic and acute health issues, as well as review and discuss new and ongoing prescriptions.

Patients requiring medical attention are asked to contact their doctor’s office and will be asked to come in only if deemed necessary.

“The clinic (Westside Medical) is closed and would only be open when a physician has determined a patient needs to be seen in the clinic,” Oyelese said.

Clinics are taking drastic measures to keep both medical staff and patients safe. In many cases, clinics have patients wait in their cars to keep reception areas empty.

Westside Medical is now offering its virtual walk-in clinic to all residents, not just its own patients.

That’s because many residents don’t have a family doctor, and, even if they do, not all clinics are equipped to provide virtual care.

“We want to all patients to know, West Kelowna, Kelowna and area that we do have local physicians here who are ready and able to serve them,” Oyelese said.

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British Columbians can now extend expiring driver’s licence over the phone

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is allowing British Columbians to extend their expiring driver’s licence remotely.

Customers looking to renew their driver’s licence can call ICBC’s Driver Licensing Call Centre and extend their licence over the phone.

Drivers will be mailed an interim paper licence valid for 90 days. Routine renewals, reinstatement of a licence, and the replacement of a lost licence are eligible for the extension.

The public insurer is not allowing expiring BC Services Cards and BC Identification Cards to be renewed over the phone. ICBC is monitoring the situation and will determine whether the 90-day period needs to be extended further.

ICBC cannot renew a licence over the phone because of the requirement for a new driver’s licence photo.

The public insurer and the Insurance Brokers of British Columbia announced last week that drivers could renew insurance over the phone or email with a broker.

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