Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday, outnumbered by National Guard troops and police brought in to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. As darkness fell, there were no reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state capitol buildings ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Crowds of only a dozen or two demonstrated at some boarded-up, cordoned-off statehouses, while the streets in many other capital cities remained empty. Some protesters said they were there to back President Donald Trump. Others said they had instead come to voice their support for gun rights or decry government overreach. “I don’t trust the results of the election,” said Michigan protester Martin Szelag, a 67-year-old semi-retired window salesman from Dearborn Heights. He wore a sign around his neck that read, in part, “We will support Joe Biden as our President if you can convince us he won legally. Show us the proof! Then the healing can begin.” As the day wore on with no bloodshed around the U.S., a sense of relief spread among officials, though they were not ready to let their guard down. The heavy law enforcement presence may have kept turnout down. In the past few days, some extremists had warned others against falling into what they called a law enforcement trap. Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said he hoped the apparently peaceful day reflected some soul-searching among Americans. “I would love to say that it’s because we’ve all taken a sober look in the mirror and have decided that we are a more unified people than certain moments in time would indicate,” he said. The security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when far-right Trump supporters galvanized by his false claims that the election had been stolen from him overran the police and bashed their way into the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote. The attack left a Capitol police officer and four others dead. More than 125 people have been arrested over the insurrection. Dozens of courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have all said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the presidential race. On Sunday, some statehouses were surrounded by new security fences, their windows were boarded up, and extra officers were on patrol. Legislatures generally were not in session over the weekend. Tall fences also surrounded the U.S. Capitol. The National Mall was closed to the public, and the mayor of Washington asked people not to visit. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country are expected to arrive in the city in the coming days. U.S. defence officials told The Associated Press those troops would be vetted by the FBI to ward off any threat of an insider attack on the inauguration. The roughly 20 protesters who showed up at Michigan’s Capitol, including some who were armed, were significantly outnumbered by law enforcement officers and members of the media. Tensions have been running high in the state since authorities foiled a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. At the Ohio Statehouse, about two dozen people, including several carrying long guns, protested outside under the watchful eyes of state troopers before dispersing as it began to snow. Kathy Sherman, who was wearing a visor with “Trump” printed on it, said she supports the president but distanced herself from the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol. "I’m here to support the right to voice a political view or opinion without fear of censorship, harassment or the threat of losing my job or being physically assaulted,” she said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he was pleased with the outcome but stressed that authorities "continue to have concerns for potential violence in the coming days, which is why I intend to maintain security levels at the Statehouse as we approach the presidential inauguration.” Utah's new governor, Republican Spencer Cox, shared photos on his Twitter account showing him with what appeared to be hundreds of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers standing behind him, all wearing masks. Cox called the quiet protests a best-case scenario and said many ”agitating groups" had cancelled their plans for the day. At Oregon's Capitol, fewer than a dozen men wearing military-style outfits, black ski masks and helmets stood nearby with semiautomatic weapons slung across their bodies. Some had upside-down American flags and signs reading such things as “Disarm the government.” At the Texas Capitol, Ben Hawk walked with about a dozen demonstrators up to the locked gates carrying a bullhorn and an AR-15 rifle hanging at the side of his camouflage pants. He condemned the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and said he did not support Trump. “All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” Hawk said. At Nevada's Capitol, where demonstrators supporting Trump have flocked most weekends in recent months, all was quiet except for a lone protester with a sign. “Trump Lost. Be Adults. Go Home,” it read. More than a third of governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their capitols and assist local law enforcement. Several governors declared states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden's inauguration. Some legislatures also cancelled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week. Even before the violence at the Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year. Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to coronavirus lockdowns. People angry over the death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer's knee vandalized capitols in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Last last month, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures. Amid the potential for violence in the coming days, the building's first-floor windows were boarded up and the National Guard was brought in. "The state capitol has become a fortress,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat. “I never thought I’d see that. It breaks my heart.” ___ Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio; Gillian Flaccus in Salem, Oregon; Mike Householder and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Sam Metz in Carson City, Nevada; Marc Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report. David A. Lieb And Adam Geller, The Associated Press
David Pontone's voice still shakes as he recalls having to crawl out of Toronto's Humber River Hospital on his hands and knees. "The pain was unbearable," said Pontone. "To be able to walk properly was impossible." It happened on April 18, 2018, but involved a lengthy battle for his family to obtain video footage of the event. The 45-year-old had gone to emergency, complaining of excruciating pain in his legs. Pontone also told medical staff he took medication for bipolar affective disorder — a mental illness that causes severe depression and episodes of mania — but that he'd been stable for seven years. He says that disclosure affected his treatment. "They thought I was faking it because I was bipolar," Pontone told Go Public. "There are no words to describe what I went through that night." One of Canada's leading psychiatric experts says overlooking serious physical health issues in people who struggle with mental illness is a widespread problem — and that it can severely shorten their lifespans. "We are failing this population miserably," said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, psychiatrist and physician-in-chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada's largest mental health teaching hospital. WATCH | Video shows man crawling from hospital after calls for help dismissed: "They go in for a broken leg and get sent to psychiatry to check their head." Pontone says he hopes sharing his story will prevent others from experiencing an ordeal like his. "I was mistreated. Misjudged. It should never be repeated, with any person," he said. When Pontone arrived at emergency he was seen by a doctor who ordered an MRI but also referred him to an on-call psychiatrist after learning about his mental illness. In medical records obtained by Go Public, the psychiatrist noted that "anxiety" seemed to be Pontone's most dominant symptom — despite Pontone having said he was in a great deal of pain and had been suffering from increasing leg pain for a month. Another note says the reason for Pontone's visit is "bipolar" — not his inability to walk. When the MRI didn't find anything unusual, the psychiatrist discharged Pontone. "As soon as they got the results … they took off the blankets and started saying, 'Come on, get up! You're fine, there's nothing wrong with you!'" said Pontone. 'Totally helpless' Video cameras at the exit captured Pontone as he was ordered to leave. The footage shows Pontone lying on the hallway floor, struggling to stand. As he gets to his hands and knees and crawls toward the exit, a nurse walks next to him, escorting him out. Passersby stop to look at the spectacle, but the nurse encourages Pontone to keep going. "The nurse kept saying, 'You're a big boy! You're strong! Come on, big boy, stand up!'" said Pontone. "I've always been a gentleman, but I was angry. I felt totally helpless." It took Pontone about 20 minutes to reach the exit. A security guard later helped him to a waiting taxi. He says the doctors had made him think his pain was "all in his head," so a few days later, he made his way to CAMH, where a psychiatrist immediately determined that his suffering had nothing to do with his mental health. An ambulance took him to Toronto Western Hospital in downtown Toronto, where a neurologist diagnosed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves. Five weeks later, the family met with Humber management. They hadn't seen the video yet, but chief nursing executive Vanessa Burkoski had screened it and told them she was disturbed by what she saw. She apologized, and told the family they could have the video once people's faces had been blurred for privacy. In a follow-up meeting two months later, the family viewed the video for the first time. "They let him go, like a dog, outside," said Pontone's mother, Lucia. "Nobody should be treated like that." "It's hard to understand how the hospital thought this was OK," said Pontone's sister Laura. "It was humiliating. It was not OK." Pontone wanted a copy of the video, but in spite of Burkoski's earlier assurances, the hospital now said it couldn't hand the footage over, in case Pontone unblurred the faces of other people. The hospital took the matter to Ontario's Privacy Commissioner, stating it didn't feel comfortable giving Pontone the video and that a cybersecurity expert would have to be hired for about ten hours to use multi-layered obscuring technology, so Pontone couldn't unblur the faces later. It also said Pontone would have to pay the cost and sign an agreement, promising not to share the video. The Pontones met with Toronto personal injury lawyer Harrison Cooper, who offered to work pro bono after hearing about his ordeal. "In Canada we pride ourselves on evolving to understand mental illness," said Cooper. "And we don't want incidents like this — where someone who has a mental illness isn't treated the same way someone without mental illness is treated." The fight took two years to resolve. The privacy commissioner ruled Pontone could have the footage if basic blurring was done, stating that Pontone had shown no indication he wanted to reveal other people's faces. The hospital paid for the blurring and shared the footage. Hospital 'deeply troubled' Go Public requested an interview with a spokesperson for Humber River Hospital, which was declined. In a statement spokesperson Joe Gorman said the hospital was "deeply troubled" by Pontone's experience and that the staff involved "were dealt with accordingly." "Every patient at Humber River Hospital deserves compassionate, professional and respectful care from our staff," Gorman wrote. Go Public has learned that the nurse who escorted Pontone out of the hospital was fired. Gorman wouldn't say whether any of the doctors were disciplined. 'Diagnostic overshadowing' Stergiopoulos was not involved when Pontone visited CAMH. But she says it's so common for health-care professionals to blame mental illness for people's physical health concerns that there's a term for it — "diagnostic overshadowing." She recalls, several decades ago, "having to take a patient of mine with serious mental illness to the oncologist who had refused to treat her just because she had a mental illness." "It was through advocacy that I managed to get her into treatment and she was treated successfully," she said. "And to see that persist so many years later, it's really heartbreaking. I think we can do better and I think we should do better." A 2019 Lancet Psychiatry Commission reviewed the findings of almost 100 systemic reviews that examined the presence of medical conditions among people worldwide with mental illness. It found that people with serious mental illness have a life expectancy that's up to 25 years shorter than the general population. "The statistics are indeed shocking," said Stergiopoulos. "And what is most shocking is that they're persisting despite us knowing about these issues for many years now." She says several factors can be behind the shortened life expectancy for people with mental health issues — such as a sedentary lifestyle or a lack of disease prevention services — but a key reason is stigma and discrimination by health-care workers. At the root of the problem, says Stergiopoulos, health-care professionals see physical and mental health as separate. "This is flawed and we need to do a better job at seeing people as human beings." Pontone spent almost four months undergoing intensive rehabilitation, but considers himself lucky to be able to walk again — Guillain-Barré Syndrome can worsen rapidly and attack the organs. It can also lead to full-body paralysis and possibly death. His mother hopes that speaking out will benefit other people with mental illness who need help with a physical problem. "I want the hospital to change the way they look at mental health," she says. "So that this doesn't happen again."
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Monday to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection. In a speech opening a new Parliament session, Suga said his government would revise laws to make anti-virus measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its virus caseload manageable with non-binding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing and for people to stay home. But recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes toward the anti-virus measures, and doubts are growing as more contagious variants spread while people wait for vaccines and the Olympics draw closer. Suga said his government aims to start vaccinations as early as late February. “In order to restore sense of safety, I will get the coronavirus pandemic, which has raged worldwide and is now severely affecting Japan, under control as soon as possible,” Suga said. “I will stand at the frontline of the battle while I get the people's co-operation." Suga pledged to achieve the Olympics as “a proof of human victory against the coronavirus." “We will have full anti-infection measures in place and proceed with preparation with a determination to achieve the Games that can deliver hope and courage throughout the world," he said. Recent media polls show about 80% of the Japanese public think the Olympics will not or should not happen. Suga said the vaccine is the “clincher” of the pandemic and hopes to start vaccination when Japan's Health Ministry is expected to approve the vaccine developed by Pfizer, one of three foreign suppliers to Japan, as early as late February. But the pace of inoculation could be slow, as surveys have shown many people have safety concerns. Suga later told reporters that he created a new ministerial post to ensure smooth delivery of safe and effective vaccines, appointing Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono to double as vaccine minister. Suga also said in his speech, just two days ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, that he hoped to meet the new American leader soon to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and to co-operate on the pandemic, climate change and other key issues. Japan has confirmed more than 330,000 infections and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, numbers that have surged recently though they are still far smaller than many other countries of its size. Suga on Jan. 7 issued a state of emergency for the Tokyo area and expanded the step last Wednesday as the surge in infections strained medical systems. But he has been criticized for being slow to put preventative measures in place after the new surge began, apparently due to his government’s reluctance to further hurt the economy. He kept the state-subsidized “Go To” travel promotion campaign active until late December, which critics say misguided the public when people needed to practice more restraint. Suga in Monday’s speech made no mention of the “Go To” campaign, which was designed to support the tourism industry devastated by the pandemic. The state of emergency — covering more than half of Japan’s 127 million people — asks bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m., employees to have 70% of their staff work from home and residents to avoid leaving home for nonessential purposes. It's set to end Feb. 7 but could be extended. One of the proposed changes to anti-virus measures would legalize compensation for business owners who co-operate with such measures and allow fines or imprisonment for those who defy them. Suga's government also plans to revise the infectious disease law to allow authorities to penalize patients who refuse to be hospitalized or co-operate with health officials, Economy Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, in charge of virus measures, said on a NHK public television talk show Sunday. Health officials believe a growing number of people are defying instructions from health officials to self-isolate or be hospitalized, spreading the virus and making contact tracing difficult. Opposition lawmakers and experts are cautious about punishment for the patients, citing human rights concerns. They also say such punishment is pointless when hospitals are running out of beds and forcing hundreds of people to wait at home. ___ Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press
CAIRO — The death toll from tribal violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur province climbed to at least 83, including women and children, a doctor’s union and aid worker said, as sporadic violence continued Sunday. The ruling sovereign council met Sunday and said security forces would be deployed to the area. The deadly clashes grew out of a fistfight Friday between two people in a camp for displaced people in Genena, the provincial capital. An Arab man was stabbed to death and his family, from the Arab Rizeigat tribe, attacked the people in the Krinding camp and other areas Saturday. Among the dead was a U.S. citizen. Saeed Baraka, 36, from Atlanta, had arrived in Sudan less than two months ago to visit his family in Darfur, his wife, Safiya Mohammed, told The Associated Press over the phone. The father of three children rushed to relieve a neighbour amid the clashes in the Jabal village in West Darfur, when he was shot in his head Saturday, his brother-in-law Juma Salih said. Baraka's wife said the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum phoned her to offer condolences. The embassy did not return phone calls and emails from AP seeking comment. The violence led to local authorities imposing a round-the-clock curfew on the entire province. Besides the 83 killed, at least 160 others were wounded, according to Sudan’s doctors’ committee in West Darfur. It said there were troops among the wounded. It said clashes subsided by midday on Sunday and the security situation started to improve. The committee is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded a popular uprising that eventually led to the military's ouster of longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The clashes pose a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur, where most people live in camps for the displaced and refugees. Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy and is being ruled by a joint military-civilian government. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is deeply concerned” about the violence and “calls on the Sudanese authorities to expend all efforts to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to the fighting,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said. The bout of violence came two weeks after the U.N. Security Council ended the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force’s mandate in the region. The UNAMID force, established in 2007, is expected to complete its withdrawal by June 30. It also puts into question the transitional government’s ability to stabilize the conflict-ravaged Darfur region. Salah Saleh, a physician and former medical director at the main hospital in Genena, said clashes renewed Sunday morning at the Abu Zar camp for internally displaced people, south of the provincial capital. He said most of the victims were shot dead, or suffered gunshot wounds. Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in Darfur, said there were overnight attacks on Krinding. He shared footage showing properties burned to the ground, and wounded people on stretchers and in hospital beds. Authorities in West Darfur imposed a curfew beginning Saturday that includes the closing of all markets and a ban on public gatherings. The central government in Khartoum also said Saturday a high-ranking delegation, chaired by the country’s top prosecutor, was heading to the province to help re-establish order. A database by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, showed that inter-communal violence across Darfur region doubled in the second half of 2020, with at least 28 incidents compared to 15 between July and December 2019. West Darfur province experienced a “significant increase” of violence last year, with half of the 40 incidents reported in the entire Darfur region, OCHA said Sunday. Samy Magdy, The Associated Press
Miramichi Youth House has stepped up and started the process to bring a homeless shelter for adults to the Miramichi. The group's mandate is to provide services to youth ages 16 to 19. The youth house, running under executive director Samantha Fairweather, provides overnight shelter beds, low cost housing and an outreach program. But Fairweather, like many others working in the sector in Miramichi, sees a desperate for services for adults. "Unfortunately, it just seemed that nothing was being done, nothing was coming to life," she said. "So that's where we were inspired to create the project manager position." Fairweather applied to Reaching Home, a federal grant program, and received funding to hire someone. Kaitlin Carroll left her job as a social worker with Horizon Health to become the project manager of the homeless shelter. "It was something that I felt very passionate about," said Carroll. She said exact numbers are hard to come by, but working with different agencies in the region, she estimates there are anywhere from 40 to 80 people experiencing homelessness. "We have folks sleeping in wooded areas in tents, cardboard boxes (and) other types of shelters, sleeping in condemned buildings, cars, breaking into places to stay warm, bank vestibules." said Carroll. And then there are the people who are less visible, those who are couch surfing. "That is the urgent need that is boiling over in our community," said Carroll. She said Miramichi Youth House receives calls on a weekly basis from people looking for a place to stay. After doing a survey of the province and country to see what has worked in other centres of a similar size, Carroll decided the place to start is a six to eight bed shelter, set up in a retrofitted house. The shelter would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carroll said the Department of Social Development has made an NB Housing unit available, but Robert Duguay, director of communications with the department said the location is still up for discussion. "We are still having discussions to determine how the province can support this initiative," he said. "The type of support will depend on the specifics of the project, funding by other levels of government, as well as stakeholders and the needs identified within the community." Carroll said funding is the barrier every step of the way. She said operational costs are covered, but salaries have not, and Carroll said a number of grant requests have been written and different groups in the Miramichi region have been approached. She'll know by February if the applications were successful, so the best case scenario is the shelter is open in March. "We're ready to press the go button," she said. It can't happen soon enough for Patricia Michaud, executive director of the Miramichi Emergency Centre for Women. Her shelter would normally have 12 beds for woman and children fleeing domestic violence, but since COVID restrictions came into affect, only seven spaces are available, and they are all currently full. Michaud said the shelter receives five to 10 calls a month from women who fall outside her mandate, and she can't accept them. "It's horrible and we hate doing that," she said, adding that exceptions are sometimes made but it depends on how much space is available. "There's always been someone trying to open up something, trying to get a homeless shelter because we've helped them with stats and things like that, but it's never come to fruition," said Michaud. "It's desperately needed." She said she's spoken to Carroll, and has seen how far the project has come in a short time and is hopeful it will happen. But Carroll isn't stopping at a shelter because she understands it's not a solution to the problem. The next step is affordable housing. Miramichi has a 1.3 per cent vacancy rate, much lower than Campbellton's, a city of comparable size, whose vacancy rate is 4.2, according to Statistics Canada. "There's a lot of luxury townhouses and apartments, but not a lot in the affordable housing range," said Carroll. She said it's too early to go into details, but the group is also working on two affordable housing developments, one on each side of the Miramichi River.
In 2006 Brian and Anne Marie Sewell got married on the top of a mountain in March. They made the 12-kilometre trek up Turtle Mountain, near Grand Bay–Westfield, along with their closest friends and family who were willing to go the distance on their snowmobiles and ATVs. Anne Marie had her wedding veil on her snowmobile helmet for the ceremony at the summit. Brian wore his best blue snowmobile suit. With a million-dollar-view stretching all the way to the Bay of Fundy, they each said, "I do." Today, they live at the foot of that mountain in an off-grid log cabin. The peak where they were married is visible from their living room window. At the time of the ceremony the furthest thing from their minds at the time was the possibility of wedding crashers. But both say if they did it all again that wouldn't be the case. There's just too many people. Where they would see a lone hiker pass by their home on the mountain trail, they now see dozens every weekend. "Ten or fifteen years ago you would see the odd person on the road," said Anne Marie Sewell. "But since this year, the pandemic in March, it started in the spring, I would say hundreds." The couple noticed an uptick of hikers two years ago. But they can only describe what they see now as an "explosion of people." Both point to the pandemic as being directly responsible for the hundreds headed past their home and into the woods. "Oh, definitely," said Anne Marie Sewell. "And I think it's great young people are getting out into nature." The trail to a once remote destination has been turned into a highway for those hungry to go somewhere within the limitations placed on them by the pandemic. Herd of hikers The Sewell's aren't alone. Long-time hikers and outdoorsmen have found themselves suddenly not-so-alone in the woods. Jennifer Spinney said she's likely hiked most of New Brunswick's trails. She tries to get out in the forest every day, traversing about 50 kilometres a week through the woods. Being isolated, with only her dogs for company, is the big draw for her. But now that's no longer possible. "There are some trails that I've always banked on being the remote ones, where you're not going to see anyone," said Spinney. "That's changed this year." She names Coac Falls in Upper Queensbury as a spot that used to be favourite for being alone. "The last time I was there I think there were five cars there," said Spinney. "And often that was one that I banked on being solo." Online traffic Most of the trails in New Brunswick are free to use and open to the public, so getting an accurate idea of just how many people are taking to the woods is difficult. But the popular Hiking NB website suggests how many people are looking for directions, and where. "Since the pandemic started the web traffic has pretty much doubled," said James Donald, the owner and creator of the website. His site has more than 800,000 page views in the last 12 months. Last year it was around 450,000. He said trails like Turtle Mountain, which used to be considered too remote for most, are suddenly hotspots as New Brunswickers have spent most of the last year unable or unwilling to leave the province. "People are looking for ways to get out," said Donald. When he's out for a hike, Donald said it's not uncommon to come across a trail head now with 30 cars parked. And with winter weather he said the traffic hasn't slowed down. It just shifted to different destinations. Donald said the cold temperatures are now drawing people to "ice features" including frozen waterfalls, the ice-caked gorge of the Parlee Brook amphitheatre, and the Midland ice caves. And that's been good for the businesses catering to those new at going deep into the woods. Booming business Like most businesses at the start of the pandemic, the Radical Edge in downtown Fredericton had an uncertain future. "It looked pretty bleak," said Kaylee Hopkins, a manager at the Radical Edge. "We didn't have a lot of people coming in." Fast-forward almost a year later and the outdoor adventure store often has a lineup outside on weekends, as the 25-person limit inside has been reached. "It's pretty wild," said Hopkins. "People just want to get out and move." Tents, sleeping bags, and outerwear have all been hot items this past year. She said she has witnessed large amounts of people on the trails this year. But, they don't appear to be springing for new shoes. "We didn't see a lot of traffic in out footwear," said Hopkins "So, it's interesting to see what people are wearing when they're hiking and doing all their outdoor adventures." Leave no mark While some lament the dwindling isolation, the consensus is that it's worth the sacrifice to have more people experience the outdoors. "It's good to know that other people have caught on to the 'love of the woods' or the 'love of hiking,'" said Spinney. "Personally, I like being alone in the woods, so sometimes I'll drive further to get to a place where I know I'll be alone, but that's not a bad thing." And for the Sewell's, who have had to occasionally rescue a hiker who has gotten lost along the way, or had a vehicle stuck in their driveway, they're more than happy to share the natural beauty of where they live. "We enjoy that other people enjoy what we like," said Brian Sewell. "We just hope that they pick up their garbage."
Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. "I would say the simple rule would be that we vaccinate people who've had prior infections, just like everybody else," Veillette said. "If you had the infection, yes, you may have some protection, but it may not last a long time, and it may not be as good as the vaccine." Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in protecting against severe disease. But there are still questions around whether the vaccines can actually prevent someone from catching the virus and spreading it to others. While Moderna has some data that their product may protect against acquiring the virus, it's still unclear. Antibodies from natural infections suggest the same — that they may protect us from getting really sick again, but not from getting the virus a second time. While there have been some cases of reinfection around the world, immunology expert Steven Kerfoot says the fact we're not seeing more of those suggests the immune response from initial COVID-19 infections is probably "pretty strong." Kerfoot, an associate professor at Western University, says vaccines are designed in a way that should produce an immune response "at least as good or better" than what we get after a natural infection. "So it may help fill in holes where people may not have developed an immune response effectively to the virus," Kerfoot said. "If anything, the vaccine could as act as its own booster that would improve your immunity." While some studies have suggested antibodies may disappear relatively quickly after COVID-19 infections, others have found a more lingering immune response. An American study published this month showed antibodies present for at least eight months, and possibly longer. Even studies suggesting an early drop-off of antibody levels aren't concerning, Kerfoot says. Infections trigger the body to produce other immune cells and memory cells that reduce slowly over years and help fight off future invasions from the same virus. If the immune response in those with past COVID infection is expected to be lengthy, could there be justification to defer their inoculations, especially if vaccine supply is low? It will be up to provinces to decide priority in each stage of their rollouts, but Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, says that will be a tricky decision. "I don't think we can use prior infection as an indicator of priority, because we just don't know what that person's immune response actually is," Kindrachuk said. "We don't know what long-term immunity looks like in those folks. "The recommendations are going to be that everybody gets vaccinated because that way we know — across vulnerable groups and all ages and different demographics — they'll all get a robust immune response." Veillette adds that many people with previous COVID cases were also in higher-risk settings — either because of their jobs or living environments — that would theoretically put them at risk for reinfection. And if they were to get the virus again but not show symptoms, they could still pass it on to other people. "There's probably a whole spectrum of situations there, and when there's so many variables it's better to have a simple rule," he said. "So I think that's another reason to vaccinate previously infected people." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness's spread. The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada's handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here's what they had to say. John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says. "That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate," he says. No such tests have been approved in Canada yet. "We've been saying this all along, so it's not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine." Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day. "We haven't seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection." He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don't cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots. Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus's incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security. Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments' support for people suffering in the crisis should continue. He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important. "Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better." David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker. Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada. "Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September," he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they've mostly sat unused. "Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There's a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them," he says. Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall. He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they're used properly. A federal advisory panel's report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says. "I'm happy to see we're slowly shifting from the point of view of 'Should we use rapid tests?' to a point of view (of) 'How can we best use them?'" More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says. "We still don't have enough capacity to test everyone so we'd have to use them in a strategic way." Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise. He says the late lockdowns in Canada won't be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading. "Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome." He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges. "If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens," he said. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force: Canada's federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard. "There's a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It's greatly impacted the efficiency of the response," he says. The problems in long-term care homes are examples. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care," he says. "I think it's heinous." He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation. "It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble," he says. Sheppard says he doesn't think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic. "Remember that we don't have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds," he says. "There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings." He suggested that the current immunization campaign's goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct. "The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the 'susceptibles' in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
The Quebec government is investing $19 million into educating, recruiting and training workers for the information technology sector — a sector that has been stretched even thinner by the pandemic. With an unprecedented number of people working from home, IT specialists have been in higher demand than ever before. The sector was already suffering from a workforce shortage before COVID-19 made landfall, with 6,500 positions left unfilled. The government's most recent investment aims to fill roughly 4,500 of those posts, ensuring some 900 companies are able to staff crucial IT roles. Labour Minister Jean Boulet said the funding will also help retrain those who've lost their jobs since March. "During the pandemic, many young people, women, immigrants lost their jobs," he said. "They've become extremely affected by the pandemic, and we have to help them get re-qualified or upscale their capacity." The recruitment campaign began in December under the motto "On cherche du mode," or in English, "We are looking for people." Of the investment, $15 million will go toward offering financial support to businesses in the IT sector, assisting with recruitment outside of Quebec, according to a government announcement. Another $4 million will help unemployed people get into short-term training programs at the college or university level. That investment is expected to give 500 people a career boost. The initiative is in addition to other actions aimed at attracting workers into fields such as visual effects, computer animation and video games, the province said. 'Upsurge in career changes' This funding comes at a time when an increasing number of people, many well into their career, are changing fields, according to Pier-Samuel Goulet-Côté, admissions counsellor at Collège O'Sullivan de Québec. "What we have noticed since the start of the pandemic is really an upsurge in career changes," he said. His school has hybrid classrooms set up that allow students to come in person or attend classes from home. "I would say that we are riding the wave since we offer a lot of online training," Goulet-Côté told Radio-Canada. He said a large proportion of students who enrol in IT programs are mid-career workers who want to upgrade or simply change jobs. For a 45-year-old who has a career, a house, a car, and children, it's not easy to dedicate so much time to schooling, Goulet-Côté said, but this government program could help. If companies want to recruit and retain IT professionals in the current job market, he said, they will have to do their part by offering training and skill development.
A 29-year-od Wha Ti man accused of murdering another man in Yellowknife this month has a long and increasingly violent criminal history. Morin Lee Nitsiza, also known a Morin Mike Nitsiza and Moran Nitsiza, was arrested Jan. 10, two days after another man was found dead near the downtown homeless shelter and sobering centre. According to court records, Nitsiza has been in almost constant trouble with the law since he was a teenager. He has been convicted of assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault, sexual interference, break and enter, and theft and robbery. In 2011 he was expelled from school for threatening to kill the principal of the Wha Ti school he was attending. In a background report prepared for his sentencing for making that threat, a probation officer noted, "Morin indicated he had no plan to follow through on his words and further states, 'That's just not in me. I may have the courage to fight someone but not to stab or kill someone.'" In early 2018 Nitisza was convicted of slashing another man with a knife in Sombe K'e Park in Yellowknife.The same year he was convicted of breaking and entering a downtown convenience store. According to a background report prepared for his sentencing on the break and enter charge, Nitsiza said he was black out drunk and had no memory of the robbery. "Morin is hopeful that he can establish a healthier lifestyle following his sentence," noted another probation officer in a report prepared for that sentencing. Two attempts at residential treatment According to the background reports, Nitsiza's parents split up when he was five years old. His mother took him and his siblings to Yellowknife. He was placed into care a few years later, after his mother lost her job and started drinking excessively. He remained in foster care the rest of his adult life. A doctor who examined Nitsiza when he was an infant, noticed he was very slow to develop motor skills and suspected he was suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, according to one of the background reports. He was formally diagnosed with FASD when he was four years old and, again, at the age of 16, according to the reports. Nitsiza has never been employed. He began smoking cannabis and drinking when he was 14 and dropped out of school after he was expelled. "I got tired of going to school and seeing the same faces," he told a probation officer. Nitsiza attended two residential counselling programs, according to the probation officers' reports. He was at Ranch Ehrlo in Regina in 2007. "He went AWOL numerous times (13 in total) and did not complete the program," noted one of the probation officers. He committed a robbery while he was in Regina taking the program. From February 2009 to August 2010 Nitsiza attended the PLEA program for troubled youth in Vancouver. He was kicked out of the program when he was charged with assault with a weapon. Nitsiza is currently being held a the North Slave Correctional Centre on the murder charge. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday urged Russians to take to the streets in protest after a judge remanded him in pre-trial detention for 30 days despite calls from Western countries to free the opposition politician. The United Nations and Western countries had told Moscow before the ruling to let Navalny go, and some countries have called for new sanctions on Moscow, which on Monday told them to mind their own business. The ruling to remand him in custody for violating the terms of a suspended jail sentence, a day after he flew back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent last summer, could be the prelude to him being jailed for years.
BRUSSELS — Women in Europe doing jobs requiring the same skills as jobs done by men are still being paid significantly less, according to a study by the the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The major trade union organization, which represents 45 million members in 38 European countries, compared wages in two countries from Western and Eastern Europe — Germany and Romania — looking at women working in the sector of household appliances and men working in car manufacturing. The organization looked at several criteria including skills, physical effort and responsibility. It compared full-time workers of the same age and with a permanent contract working for medium-sized companies. In Germany, ETUC said, women in the white goods sector earn €865 less per month in gross income than men making cars, for jobs requiring similar skills. In Romania, where wages are significantly lower, the average difference in net income is €244, ETUC said. “Comparing the pay of women and men in the manufacturing sector shows clearly how women are paid less even when their jobs require the same levels of skill and physical effort as those of men,” ETUC deputy general secretary Esther Lynch said. “The COVID crisis has also exposed the deep-rooted bias behind wages for professions dominated by women, with carers and cleaners recognized as ‘essential’ despite being amongst the lowest paid.” Last year, using data from the EU's statistical office, the trade union organization said women would have to wait for another 84 years and the next century to achieve equal pay at the current pace of change. ETUC called on the European executive commission to quickly come forward with its pay transparency directive. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had planned to present measures to introduce binding pay transparency measures in the first 100 days of her mandate, but the proposals have yet to be unveiled. “Quality is more important than speed in this case,” EU commission spokesman Christian Wigand said. “We'll come forward with proposals in the coming months." The Associated Press
As the first terminally ill cancer patient in Canada to legally use so-called magic mushrooms to treat anxiety, Thomas Hartle is hopeful that more temporary approvals from the federal government signal a permanent regulatory regime may be in the works. Hartle, 53, received a one-year exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act last August to use psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, during psychotherapy. Since then, Health Canada has approved 24 more applications from cancer patients for treatment of end-of-life distress. It has also granted exemptions to 19 health-care providers, giving them the right to possess and use mushrooms containing psilocybin for professional training purposes, a spokeswoman said in a statement. The department has yet to decide whether it will allow the public to use any psychedelics for therapeutic purposes beyond the exemptions it has granted so far. Hartle has had two psychedelic psychotherapy sessions at his home in Saskatoon, the last one in November, with psilocybin from mushrooms he grew and dried himself using a coffee grinder to turn them into powder and placed into capsules for precise dosages. The IT administrator, who is on leave from his job, said anxiety over dying from colon cancer and leaving his wife and two children, both on the autism spectrum, became unbearable after his inoperable condition was diagnosed in 2016. However, taking psilocybin during his two sessions with the help of his regular clinical psychologist helped him manage his anxiety to the point that he hasn't felt the need to have any more psychedelic-assisted therapy while he continues traditional therapy, Hartle said. "I think that's probably obvious to most people who have interacted with me before and after my sessions," he said of the marked improvement in his anxiety through a deeper understanding of the word "serenity." "I've been talking about subjects that I would previously have considered almost impossible to talk about and keep a clear voice and not break down into a very emotional state. Instead of focusing on the pain or discomfort, I'm focusing on making lunch for my family or something like that." Before each of the two sessions, Hartle said he met with his therapist and completed paperwork to gauge his anxiety level in order to establish a baseline that could be compared with how he would feel afterwards. The first session lasted about six hours, during which he took three capsules about an hour apart, containing a total seven grams of psilocybin, he said. His therapist and a friend remained by his side as he lay blindfolded and wearing a headset while listening to music from a playlist compiled by Johns Hopkins University as part of its research into psychedelics. Hartle said the range of music, from classical to chanting as well as South American and African beats, elicited different emotions and he saw multiple colours and geometric shapes as he entered "a state of other," which made it impossible for him to recall the names of his family members. "It was very serene and comforting to me to realize that I could have consciousness and awareness that had nothing whatsoever to do with this existence." Hartle said that prior to his cancer diagnosis, he had never used illegal substances and only started taking cannabis oil to deal with the nausea brought on by chemotherapy as part of his cancer treatments. Focused psychotherapy sessions before, during and after his two sessions were crucial to his use of psilocybin, Hartle said. "It's not like you take a pill and suddenly everything is fantastic. It doesn't work like that any more than regular therapy does. There is work to be done. There are challenges to face. There are issues that need to be worked through the same as any other session. The main difference is that with the psychedelic-assisted therapy, it can get your ego out of the way so you can get at some things." Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, a Victoria-based advocacy group for patients, said it helped Hartle apply for exemptions to use psilocybin on compassionate grounds based on Canadians' right to medical assistance in dying. He said access to assistance in dying should also give terminally ill patients the right to try mushrooms to reduce their emotional suffering. "When we can't manage someone's symptoms, that's often when they choose MAiD. (Psilocybin) deserves to be put in between the treatment options that are failing those patients and MAiD." TheraPsil has helped people from six provinces apply for exemptions. Health-care providers who have received exemptions to use psilocybin themselves before leading psychedelic-assisted sessions include family doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical counsellors and social workers, Hawkswell said, adding the group is putting together a training program that will need partnerships with provincial governments. Psilocybin is just one of several psychedelics being considered to treat mental health conditions while a growing number of private companies promote their potential use for multiple issues including obesity, smoking, alcohol dependence and addiction to illicit substances. Mark Haden, chair of the board for the Canadian chapter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS Canada, said psychedelics appear to be seen as the new cannabis before it was legalized. "A lot of venture capitalists went into the cannabis world. Many of them made money. Some of them lost a huge amount of money, so the cannabis bubble exploded and then burst. So, all of that money is saying, 'Where do we go next? What's the next big thing?' And they've latched their view on psychedelics." MAPS Canada is currently conducting a Phase 3 clinical trial in Vancouver on the use of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Haden said the small trial involving about 12 people is expected to be completed next year as part of the research by over a dozen sites in the United States and Israel. Traditional PTSD therapy has a high dropout rate, may involve patients taking medication for years and has an effectiveness rate of 10 to 25 per cent, said Haden, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health. "With MDMA, it takes a few months and the effectiveness is 60 to 80 per cent," he said of research findings elsewhere. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is now the first jurisdiction in North America to implement presumed consent around organ donation, a move health officials believe could see a significant rise in the number of donors over the next few years. Legislation passed in April 2019 finally took effect Monday following more than 18 months of work to ensure provincial systems were equipped to handle the change. Under the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, all people in Nova Scotia will be considered potential organ donors unless they opt out. "To my knowledge nobody else is close to considering this, but many places are thinking about it," said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director of Nova Scotia's organ and tissue donation program. "We have an opportunity to transform a component of the health care system and that just does not happen very often." In an interview last week, Beed said the work to bolster the province's organ donation program has focused on planning, education and public awareness. He said the system has, in effect, been "rebooted" with the recruitment of several donation physicians and an increase to the number of system coordinators, who have also seen a change in their training. Overall, 27 new professionals have been brought into the system over the last three years. In addition, a donation data system has been developed to assess the program's performance. The province plans to spend $3.2 million this fiscal year to bolster the system. "Overall I honestly think that the system change is the most important part," Beed said of the shift to presumed consent. He said that was the message delivered to Premier Stephen McNeil when he first approached health officials with the idea for the legislation. "We said, 'If you change the law all you really have is words on a piece of paper, but if you change the law and then support the redesign of our system then you have reason to be optimistic'." Beed said organ donation rates increased by as much as 35 per cent in European countries such as Belgium and Spain after they adopted an opt-out system, though he noted other jurisdictions that made the switch have had the opposite experience. But one prospective organ recipient said the success stories abroad have left her more optimistic about matters closer to home. "I am very proud that Nova Scotia is the trailblazer for this," said Anita MacDonnell of Halifax, who is awaiting a kidney transplant. "I was very encouraged when they announced this back in 2019." MacDonnell, who turns 60 on Wednesday, was approved for a new kidney last May and started dialysis in October. She and her friend Brenda Mackenzie, also of Halifax, suffer from a genetic kidney disease that has seen several of their siblings and both of their mothers require transplants in the past. Both women undergo dialysis three nights a week for four hours at a time and liken the life-saving process to having a part-time job. Mackenzie, 60, describes her wait for a kidney as "pretty nerve-wracking." "So I guess my hope obviously would be that with this (change) that so many more people would be able to be transplanted," she said. "That's what the ultimate hope is." The new approach hasn't received universal support on its way to becoming provincial law. Some civil libertarians balked at the legislation when it was first proposed, raising concerns around governments having the power to tell people what to do with their bodies. Other opponents expressed potential cultural and religious concerns about the move. Beed said he believes those issues have been addressed through the development of an opt-out registry and safeguards such as double checking with families to ensure the last known wishes of a potential donor are honoured. Those who tell their families that they don't want to be donors will see those instructions respected, he said, even if they haven't formally opted out. In addition, certain groups will be exempt such as new immigrants, transient residents of Nova Scotia, and people who don't have capacity to make their own decisions. Beed said talks are also continuing with leaders of religious and faith communities to ensure they are "engaged" with the system. Peggy John, the acting director for the organ and tissue donation and transplantation program at Canadian Blood Services, agrees the opt out program will only be as good as the strength of the system put in place to support it. John, whose organization is the national collaborating body for provincial transplant systems, said the end goal should be to increase the opportunities for transplant for patients who are in need. According to the most recent figures compiled by Canadian Blood Services, 250 Canadians died while waiting for a transplant in 2019 — an increase from 223 in 2018. They also showed that Canada still has a shortage of organs, with 4,419 patients still waiting for transplants at the end of 2019. John said the new Nova Scotia law will be an opportunity to observe and to learn about what might work elsewhere to potentially boost donation rates. "We are keen to see what's going to happen," she said. "We know they (Nova Scotia) have been approaching this in the right way and we will continue to watch what the outcome will be." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
France is expanding the eligibility for people to get their COVID-19 vaccines. Around 6 million people can now have the jab. Those over 75 can have their first dose along with anyone in a high-risk group, such as those with serious health conditions.View on euronews
BEIJING — Chinese state media say 12 out of 22 workers trapped for a week by an explosion in a gold mine are alive, as hundreds of rescuers seek to bring them to safety. The Xinhua News Agency said Monday a note passed through a rescue shaft Sunday night reported the fate of the other 10 remains unknown. The handwritten note said four of the workers were injured and that the condition of others was deteriorating because of a lack of fresh air and an influx of water. Managers of the operation were detained after they failed to report the accident for more than a day. The mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under the city of Yantai in Shandong province, had been under construction at the time of the blast, which occurred Jan. 10. More than 300 workers are seeking to clear obstructions while drilling a new shaft to reach the chambers where the workers were trapped and expel dangerous fumes. “Keep on with the rescue efforts. We have hope, thank you," read the note, written in pencil on notebook paper and posted on Xinhua's official website. China's mining industry has a reputation for skirting safety requirements amid massive demand for coal and precious minerals, although increased supervision has reduced the frequency of accidents that used to claim an average of 5,000 miners per year. Two accidents in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing last year killed 39 miners, prompting the central government to order another safety overhaul. The Associated Press
JERUSALEM — Israeli military aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip early on Monday in response to two rockets fired from the Palestinian territory, the military said. In a statement, the military said fighter jets hit Hamas military targets, including sites for digging underground tunnels, some of which stretch into Israel. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the airstrikes. There were also no reports of damage or injury from the rockets launched. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets. Hamas maintains an unofficial cease-fire with Israel, but Israel holds the group responsible for any fire emanating from Gaza. Hamas meanwhile accuses Israel of failing to honour its truce obligations, which include easing a crippling blockade on the Palestinian enclave, and allowing for large-scale infrastructure and job-creation projects. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power of the coastal enclave in 2007. While no major confrontation has occurred since 2014, there are often cross-border skirmishes and flare-ups between the sides. While militant rocket attacks and Israeli retaliatory artillery and aerial strikes are frequent, they have largely been subdued in recent months due to the coronavirus outbreaks in both territories. The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Albertans will be able to visit hair salons and tattoo parlours today as the province relaxes a few of its COVID-19 restrictions. Starting today, personal and wellness services, including hair salons and tattoo parlours, can open by appointment only. Outdoor social gatherings, which were previously banned, will be allowed in groups of up to 10 people. And the limit on the number of people who can attend funerals is increasing to 20, although receptions are still prohibited. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that Alberta can't entirely ease up, but that it can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities. Alberta's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said that easing rules now will act as a test case, and that COVID-19 case numbers will have to be lower before any other restrictions are loosened. Since early December when COVID-19 infections spiked to well over 1,000 a day, outdoor gatherings were banned and restaurants and bars were limited to delivery and takeout. Casinos, gyms, recreation centres, libraries and theatres were closed. Retail stores and churches were allowed to open but at 15 per cent capacity. Alberta reported 750 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 19 more deaths. Hinshaw said officials looked at the province's COVID-19 data along with research from other parts of the world, and she said funerals, outdoor gatherings and personal service businesses show a lower level of risk for transmission. Shandro said last week that hospitalizations and case numbers remain high and pose a threat to the province's health system capacity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
Mobile games developer Huuuge Inc. expects to raise up to $150 million from a new share issue as part of its planned initial public offering (IPO) in Warsaw, the U.S.-registered company said on Monday. Huuuge, with a significant base in Poland, adds to a list of companies that have targeted IPOs as restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus crisis prompt more people to go online for entertainment, shopping and other needs. Polish parcels locker firm InPost announced its IPO plans in Amsterdam as more shoppers order online.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 18, 2021. There are 708,619 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 708,619 confirmed cases (75,281 active, 615,324 resolved, 18,014 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 6,436 new cases Sunday from 70,499 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 200.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 47,285 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,755. There were 149 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,001 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 143. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.92 per 100,000 people. There have been 16,557,083 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 396 confirmed cases (nine active, 383 resolved, four deaths). There was one new case Sunday from 204 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.49 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 76,369 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 104 confirmed cases (nine active, 95 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday from 331 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 5.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 86,220 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,558 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,464 resolved, 65 deaths). There were four new cases Sunday from 743 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.54 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 195,810 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 947 confirmed cases (293 active, 642 resolved, 12 deaths). There were 36 new cases Sunday from 874 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 37.72 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 168 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 24. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of three new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 128,277 tests completed. _ Quebec: 242,714 confirmed cases (20,651 active, 213,008 resolved, 9,055 deaths). There were 1,744 new cases Sunday from 9,270 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 19 per cent. The rate of active cases is 243.38 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13,893 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,985. There were 50 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 369 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 53. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.62 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 106.72 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,656,534 tests completed. _ Ontario: 237,786 confirmed cases (28,893 active, 203,484 resolved, 5,409 deaths). There were 3,422 new cases Sunday from 58,215 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 198.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22,004 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,143. There were 69 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 380 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 54. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 37.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,633,584 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 27,511 confirmed cases (3,081 active, 23,661 resolved, 769 deaths). There were 189 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 224.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,194 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 171. There were eight new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 31 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.32 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 56.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 436,236 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 20,272 confirmed cases (4,121 active, 15,936 resolved, 215 deaths). There were 287 new cases Sunday from 862 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 33 per cent. The rate of active cases is 350.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,158 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 308. There were three new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 24 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.29 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 18.31 per 100,000 people. There have been 321,266 tests completed. _ Alberta: 116,837 confirmed cases (12,234 active, 103,167 resolved, 1,436 deaths). There were 750 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 279.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 769. There were 19 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 152 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 22. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.5 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.85 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,979,663 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 60,117 confirmed cases (5,955 active, 53,115 resolved, 1,047 deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 117.42 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,440 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 349. There were zero new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 42 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is six. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 20.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,021,911 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (two active, 67 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 4.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,256 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 28 confirmed cases (four active, 24 resolved, zero deaths). There were three new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 8.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of four new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 8,323 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Sunday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,558 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press