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COVID-19 federal aid and NHL player diagnosed; In The News for March 18


In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 18 ...

COVID-19 in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau is poised to announce billions in federal aid to help cushion the financial shock of the COVID-19 outbreak on Canadians.

The sweeping economic package is expected to be worth $20 billion or more.

It is expected to include measures to get direct payments to Canadians so that they can afford to follow the advice of health professionals to stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of infection — possibly through a temporary increase in the Canada Child Benefit and grants to workers who don't qualify for employment insurance.

The aid comes on top of the $1 billion the federal government has already committed for provincial health-care systems, research, protective equipment, relaxed employment insurance rules and economic stabilization.

And it's on top of the $10 billion in credit support that it has been made available to businesses.


Also this ...

OTTAWA — Canada's chief public health officer says provinces are working to boost the capacity of their health-care systems to handle the outbreak of COVID-19.

Dr. Theresa Tam says the race to fortify the systems started after the first rumblings of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, more than two months ago.

Since the outbreak hit Canada, she says provinces have started taking measures to free up hospital resources and beds, like cancelling elective surgeries and procedures.

The federal public health agency has also been working with provincial health authorities to stock up on supplies, including test kits, personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Meanwhile, officials have been working on ways to keep people out of the health system entirely, particular since most COVID-19 cases are mild and can be handled at home.

That includes using online assessments and telehealth so people don't need to go to the hospital and clinics don't get inundated with patients.


COVID-19 and travel ...

WASHINGTON — Canada and the United States are working out the details of a proposed mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries, a federal government source in Ottawa says. 

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose details of talks that are still ongoing, was responding to a CNN report Tuesday that said the two countries are currently working on a joint statement that would be issued within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Both countries are anxious to arrest the spread of COVID-19 without choking off the essential flow of trade and commerce in both directions over the Canada-U.S. border. To that end, the official said the two sides are discussing which essential workers might be exempted.

Also Tuesday, Westjet Airlines said some of its passengers may have been exposed to people infected with the novel coronavirus on recent flights.

The Calgary-based company made the announcement on their website and social media Tuesday, listing the flights and affected rows.

It said passengers in affected rows are considered close contacts to those infected and could be at risk of exposure. A total of 14 flights between March 12 and Feb. 28 had passengers on board who tested positive for COVID-19.


COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump's proposed economic package to rescue the economy from the ravages of the novel coronavirus could come with a novel price tag — nearly $1 trillion.

Trump is pushing Congress to approve the stimulus package within days with the goal of having emergency checks in the mail to the public within two weeks.

Other initiatives sparked by the outbreak of the virus include enlisting the military for MASH-style hospitals to care for the sick.

As analysts warn that the country is surely entering a recession, the government is grappling with an enormous political undertaking with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis.


COVID-19 around the world ...

CAIRO — Long-running wars and conflicts in the Mideast have wrecked potential defences against outbreaks such as the new coronavirus, leaving millions vulnerable in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.

Health-care systems have been gutted and several countries are carved up among rival governments, factions or armed groups, snarling any attempt at nationwide protection programs.

Hundreds of thousands driven from their homes by fighting are crowded in refugee camps. So far

Yemen, Libya, Syria and Gaza have not confirmed any infections.

But many doctors believe the coronavirus has arrived and fear a lack of disease surveillance systems and other critical shortages are allowing an invisible pandemic to spawn.


COVID-19 and sports ...

OTTAWA — An Ottawa Senators player has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first NHLer to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The Senators did not name the player when releasing the news Tuesday night.

The team said in a statement that the player has had mild symptoms and is in isolation.

The statement added that the organization is in the process of notifying anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete and is working with team doctors and public health officials.

The Senators have asked all of their players to remain isolated and says its medical staff will be monitoring the health of the players.

The NHL suspended its season last Thursday because of the COVID-19 outbreak.


COVID-19 in entertainment ...

TORONTO — Streaming platforms are joining Hollywood in throwing away the rule book in hopes of attracting viewers stuck inside during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was already a shakeup in how viewers consumed film and TV entertainment before the outbreak, driven by the growing number of streaming platforms and a slowdown in movie ticket sales.

But as the entertainment industry scrambles to keep up with developments, films are being pushed off the theatrical release slate and onto video-on-demand platforms at an unprecedented pace.

Already, a few smaller platforms are trying to leave their mark in the COVID-19 era, as health agencies encourage people to avoid social contact and stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.

Both Acorn TV, a hub of British and international television, and Sundance Now, which stocks independent films, say they're lengthening their seven-day free trials to 30-days for customers with a special code, designed to get new subscribers hooked on the services.

Disney Plus gave Canadian parents a sense of relief on Tuesday by adding the animated film "Frozen 2" to its library of content three months early. The company said it hoped the move would offer "some fun and joy during this challenging period," which coincided with more parents staying at home with their kids during the work day.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

The Canadian Press