Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

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How sick Canadian travellers are masking COVID-19 symptoms to get through airport screening

Canadians desperate to return home from abroad in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic are easily circumventing air travel screening aimed at preventing sick and infected passengers from boarding planes, CBC News has found. Some people are simply hiding symptoms from officials to ensure they can get back home. In a number of instances, sick travellers have boarded airplanes back to Canada, no matter the risks of spreading infection.

"Now is just the worst time to be coughing, sneezing or reporting any kind of symptom at an airport," said one university student in Toronto, who flew home from Spain on March 14. She admitted she purposely hid her symptoms and the fact she'd been suffering a fever hours before boarding the flight. "It wasn't information you volunteered. So I just stayed quiet about it."

CBC is withholding her name to shield her from backlash, given that she travelled two days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced anyone with symptoms would be barred from boarding return flights. In addition, she was only officially diagnosed with COVID-19 after she got home. Her case demonstrates just how weak Canada's screening of air travellers is, given it relies solely on voluntary reporting of symptoms. Even the "enhanced screening" adopted in recent days amounts to a simple series of health questions put to air travellers and does not involve any physical detection, testing or thermal screening now being used in many other countries. Both Air Canada and WestJet said they have barred some passengers from boarding flights, but the situation has air crews and their unions calling for more safeguards to prevent sick travellers from boarding aircraft. Read more on this story here.

Keep your distance

Sakchai Lalit/Associated Press

(Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

People practice social distancing as they sit on chairs spread apart in a waiting area for take-away food orders at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday.

In brief

After hours of tense negotiations, the government and opposition parties in the House of Commons are nearing a deal on an $82-billion aid package to help Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will improve access to Employment Insurance and other programs to provide money to workers and businesses in need. Read more on the developments from ParliamentYou've likely seen footage of young people partying it up on beaches last week or families gathering en masse in public parks last weekend. Perhaps you've argued with seniors in your life about needing to curtail their social lives for the time being. So how can you persuade those around you who are ignoring social distancing appeals to reconsider their behaviour? Clinical psychologist Mary Pipher has some advice: "If you start an argument with somebody, you've already lost. The whole trick with persuasion is defusing resistance before you're in an argument." Read more here on how to talk with family and friends about social distancing.

Last week, nearly a million Canadians applied for EI benefits, according to media reports, after they were left jobless when governments across Canada shut down most non-essential businesses in the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Experts say when it comes to the Herculean task of pushing close to one million employment insurance payments out the door in a short period of time, it's more important to get it done fast than it is to get it done perfectly. Read more on how the government is trying to cope with the surge in EI claims. In the global race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, the federal government is pumping $23 million into an academic research lab in Saskatoon. The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan is a world class facility that the Trudeau government is betting can develop a vaccine to stop the pandemic. The lab already has a head start. It has been working on coronavirus vaccines, primarily for animals, for four decades, including successful vaccines for cattle and pigs. Read more here about one of the few high-level containment facilities in the world able to conduct research on a vaccine for COVID-19. Doctors from around the world are facing similar issues: lots of patients, long hours and frustration. And there's concern that it could lead to some serious mental health concerns, even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A recent study of front-line workers involved in the COVID-19 outbreak in China found that those involved in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with the disease had a higher risk of symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress. Dr. Laura Hawryluck, the critical-care response team lead at Toronto Western Hospital, was on the front line during the SARS outbreak in Toronto. She said she saw the toll it took not only on patients in quarantine, but also on those in the medical field. Some, she said, chose to leave the field altogether. Read more about the pressures health-care workers are facing. Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: After blood donations dropped by 40 per cent across the country amid coronavirus fears and warnings to stay home, political and health leaders issued an urgent appeal for people who can donate blood to continue. Blood products have a shelf life. Plasma can be frozen and red cells last 42 days, but platelets — needed by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy — only last seven days. Cydney Kane, a university student in Halifax, saw the plea on her social media feed. "Just seeing the call go out and knowing that the need is going on and knowing that I could do something to help was more than enough to get me out and book an appointment," she said shortly after giving blood at a Halifax clinic. Thanks to people like Kane, donations have bounced back across the country, and the hope is donors will keep returning. Read more on this story here.

Front Burner: Trump pushes the economy while experts warn of COVID-19 deaths

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he "would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter," which is two and a half weeks from now. But many public health experts say the result could be an increase in COVID-19 deaths. Today on Front Burner, CBC senior correspondent Susan Ormiston on the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. — Trump's hopes to see the economy reopened in mere weeks, and what it could mean for a country the World Health Organization warned could become the new epicentre of COVID-19.

Today in history: March 25

1905: Britain and the United States establish the Canada-Alaska boundary. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt told the British government the boundary must be set his way or troops would be sent to enforce it. Canada was left out of the talks and ended up with no seaports in northern B.C. or the Yukon. As a result, Ottawa decided it must handle its own foreign relations and created the External Affairs Department in 1909. 1958: The first test flight of the Canadian Avro Arrow fighter plane is carried out. But the Arrow program was cancelled by the federal government nearly a year later. 1982: North America's first test-tube twins, Colin and Gregory Rankin, are born in Oakville, Ont.  1988: Canada's Kurt Browning becomes the first figure skater to land a quadruple jump in competition. The future world champion from Caroline, Alta., landed a quadruple toe loop during his long program at the world championships in Budapest. 1998: Jean Charest announces his resignation as federal Tory leader to seek the Quebec Liberal Party leadership. He was acclaimed to the job, but lost a November election to Lucien Bouchard's Parti Québécois. 2011: The federal Conservative minority government is brought down on a historic vote in Parliament, forcing an election. MPs voted 156-145 in favour of a Liberal motion citing Stephen Harper's Tories for contempt of Parliament and expressing non-confidence in the government. The contempt citation marked a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth.