Alberta health officials to provide update on COVID-19 cases, response Friday afternoon

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will be providing an update on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta.

She will be joined by other provincial health officials for the daily update, which will be live streamed in this article.

They will also discuss the work being done to protect public health and steps being taken to support the health-care system as it responds to the pandemic.

On Thursday, Hinshaw said there were 486 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the province. Of those, 34 are believed to be the result of community transmission. Twenty-one people are in hospital and 10 of them are in the intensive care unit.

There were a total of 14 confirmed cases connected to the McKenzie Towne Community Care Centre in Calgary — where there was a fatality earlier this week.

Twenty-seven Albertans were reported to be recovered Thursday, Hinshaw said.

Alberta Health Services vice-president Dr. Mark Joffe said Thursday there are roughly 8,500 hospital beds in the province. About 2,250 of those are being set aside for COVID-19 patients. Those beds will come from the 8,500 total but AHS is also looking at closed hospital wards to see if those areas could be used.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Taleban refuses to talk to new Afghan government negotiators

KABUL/PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (REUTERS) – The Taleban declined on Saturday (March 28) to begin talks with the Afghan government’s new negotiating team in a setback to the US-brokered peace process for one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants could not talk to the 21-member team named on Thursday as it was not constituted taking into account all parties.

The team is headed by Masoom Stanekzai, a former security chief and supporter of President Ashraf Ghani, and includes politicians, former officials and representatives of civil society.

Five members are women.

“In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides so that it can represent all sides,” said Mujahid.

The United States, which ousted the Taleban from power in 2001, signed a troop withdrawal deal with the group in February.

But progress on moving to talks between the militants and the Afghan government has been delayed by a feud between Afghan politicians, and disagreement between the Taleban and the government prisoner releases and a possible ceasefire.

Afghan ministry of peace affairs spokeswoman Najia Anwari said the Taleban’s stance was unjustified as the negotiating team was made after wide consultations among Afghan society.

Ghani’s political rival Abdullah Abdullah has not confirmed whether he will support the delegation, potentially important given his camp’s strong influence in the north and west.

Abdullah’s spokesman Fraidoon Khwazoon said that though the announced list was not final and there were “considerations that needed to be addressed”, it should not be rejected outright.

“All sides including the Taleban should try not to lose the available opportunity for peace, by make illogical excuses. The Taleban should not lose the current opportunity.”

The US Embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to mediate between Abdullah and Ghana to create an “inclusive” government during a visit to Kabul on Monday, and announced a US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) cut in US aid to Afghanistan, which he said could be reversed.

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Greece crisis: Islands in RUINS as ‘nightmare within nightmare’ scenario erupts

That is the stark verdict of human rights researchers who claim that Greece faces a “nightmare within a nightmare” if an outbreak occurs at a time when the country remains in financial ruin. Express.co.uk has reported that around 38,000 refugees are currently living in horror camps, with no water or electricity to support them. The refugees are from Turkey, which allowed them to travel to the EU after disobeying its pact with the bloc over controlled migration.

Turkey’s reluctance to continue with the deal came as a result of Brussels’ flawed approach over where the refugees would be rehomed afterwards.

With thousands of people, many children, crammed into these destitute areas fit to home only 6,000, mass panic has erupted throughout the Aegean islands, where they are currently residing.

Locals and volunteers fear that at any moment, a coronavirus case could be contracted, leading to a rapid spread throughout the unhygienic camps. 

Earlier this week, the International Rescue Committee described the situation as a “tinderbox ready to explode,” before calling on EU member states to help move the refugees on to safe locations within the bloc.

But now, researcher group Human Rights Watch is demanding Greece take action to avoid a nightmare scenario, where cases of the infection starkly rise on its islands.

The HRW joined 21 other human rights organisations in condemning the Greek government, which has received millions in support from the EU in tackling the refugee crisis.

Eva Cosse, Greece researcher at HRW, said: “Restricting thousands of women, men, and children in severely overcrowded camps, where living conditions are unacceptable, makes it impossible to isolate people exposed to COVID-19 or to comply with minimum preventive and protective measures, even hand washing and social-distancing. 

“The Greek government urgently needs to move people to mainland Greece.”

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Another concerned at the lack of action is Vassilis Kerasiotis, HIAS’ Greece country director.

He said: “The government must take the necessary steps in order to ensure that the thousands of asylum seekers and migrants living in claustrophobically congested RICs are protected. 

“They should be relocated to otherwise empty hotels and apartments where they can practice social distancing. In these hard times, no one should be left behind.

“It is not only a moral but also a prudent thing to do, since the fates of asylum seekers as well as those of the locals are inevitably bound together in the face of the pandemic.”

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The IRC confirmed that so far no case of the coronavirus had been found within its refugee centres, but Greece had recently confirmed its infection.

The major concern is how quickly the virus will spread and whether Greece, which has been plagued with financial difficulties for years despite EU bailouts, will be able to control it.

Fotini Kokkinaki with HumanRights360 added: “When the virus hits overcrowded camps in Greece, the consequences will be devastating. 

“That will be a nightmare within an existing nightmare since the public health system has collapsed during the previous years of economic depression. 

“We must act now before it is too late.”

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City of Calgary to provide Friday afternoon update on COVID-19 response

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread across the globe, the City of Calgary is adjusting to a new reality in the face of the pandemic.

On Friday at 1:45 p.m., Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson will address the city during a news conference.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi will also be in attendance to provide updates on the steps being taken by the city in response to the growing pandemic.

Global News will livestream the update in this post.

Updates will be provided as they become available.

More to come…


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Glam coronavirus medic slams trolls who mocked her for wearing make-up

A glamorous NHS paramedic has let rip at the trolls who mocked her for wearing make-up on the job.

Laura Heath, 24, shared a snap of herself in her uniform writing that she was "proud to be a paramedic".

It comes as the heroic NHS fights the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 1,028 in the UK since its outbreak.

But Ms Heath was met with a wave of snide remarks by people who lashed out at her for wearing make-up.

One low-life wrote: "Wtf really (look at me I'm gorgeous an I work for the NHS) selfies for a few likes while people are dying smh."

"Another said: "Pride is a sin and so is VANITY."

While another said: "Seriously? I think that you've probably got better things to do than trout pout."

But Ms Heath hit back, telling site Tyla: "The unkind comments were mainly focused on my appearance and the fact I wear makeup. I was told I am the reason the death toll is rising (in reference to the coronavirus pandemic).

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"(People said) that I'm a glorified first aider and it's ok for paramedics during this pandemic as we get to go home after dropping a patient off."

She added: "The replies made me feel hurt and upset that people really think that shallow of me and judge my whole persona on one photograph.

"I've only been qualified for six months and I never thought I would me facing something of this magnitude.

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"When I took this photo I was feeling really low – as I struggle with mental health."

But she was also met by support, with one writing: "Go girl. Proud to be in the NHS.

"Proud to be part of the Ambulance Service. Ignore the haters. Do what you do. We're behind you."

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Spain's coronavirus death toll rises by 769 overnight to 4,858

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose overnight by 769 cases to 4,858, the health ministry said on Friday, a new record in the number of fatalities recorded in 24 hours.

The total number of those infected rose to 64,059 from 56,188 on Thursday.

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Family holds parade for Peterborough girl celebrating birthday during coronavirus pandemic

A Peterborough girl received a parade in her honour Thursday as a way to celebrate her birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While physical distancing limits the opportunity for close interaction, that didn’t stop family and friends of Luna Pineo who wanted to celebrate her third birthday.

They decorated their vehicles and drove in front of the girl’s home in the city’s south end.

Elyse Kellar, Luna’s aunt, said the party planning began a week ago.

“My mom and I had the idea last week when we knew we couldn’t get to celebrate with her,” Kellar told Global News Peterborough.

Kellar said Luna’s parents Emma and Joey have been explaining to their two daughters — Luna and five-year-old Alba — about COVID-19 and why they couldn’t have everyone together for the birthday.

“We take it very seriously because my husband has Cystic Fibrosis and Alba has very bad asthma,” said Kellar.

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“So we don’t want to spread anything or chance it at all. We didn’t even get out of the car at any point. We just did the drive-by.”

Kellar posted the following tweets showing highlights of the parade:

On Friday morning, Peterborough Public Health stated there are now 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its jurisdiction.


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Third move for Saint John COVID-19 testing site causing confusion, says MLA

Saint John’s coronavirus testing centre has had a few homes since Horizon Health Network put it in place earlier this month.

Residents in the Saint John area who wished to be tested for COVID-19 were originally directed to Exhibition Park before the test site was relocated to the city’s north end.

Now, the testing location has been moved for the third time, based out of the Hope Wellness Centre on Saint John’s east side.

Horizon health said the decision came after community feedback.

But Saint John Harbour MLA Gerry Lowe said the triple-relocation is “a source of confusion for many Saint John residents,” and questioned the choice of the Hope Wellness Centre as a screening site.

“It doesn’t make sense to move the testing site to the far end of town.”

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“People don’t know what’s going on,” Lowe says in a statement released Friday.

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Coronavirus shock: New York Mayor to reopen schools mid-pandemic

Mayor Bill De Blasio seeks to reopen education in New York by April 20.

He admitted that the task will be a ‘big challenge,’ but hopes to see students return before the crisis passes.

He also predicted that the worst is yet to come for the epicentre of America’s pandemic.

He revealed the questionable plans at a daily press briefing on Thursday.

The mayor fielded a question about the city’s ability to provide meals to children despite closures.

He said that the meals will be available to students even if the schools don’t reopen, but hopes to reopen them soon

De Blasio said: “We hope to get schools back up on April 20, but that’s going to be a big challenge.”

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On Thursday afternoon, the mayor vitiated Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Three businesses from the area have joined forces to deliver between 15,000 and 18,000 face masks for health care workers.

Duggal, New Lab, and Bednark Studio have called their workers in to begin production.

The companies first created a prototype for the mask on Saturday and quickly began production on Wednesday.

The mayor spoke to the workers at the yard, thanking them for their service.

He said: “Every one of you are heroes right now because you are providing us with supplies that are going to save lives and protect out health care workers, 

“And you make me very proud of New York City and of Brooklyn, seeing that this has been created in a matter of days to protect people and it is an example of how we are going to fight back.”

Supplies are desperately needed in the state, with many hospitals running low of protective equipment.

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Another stop on the Mayors tour of the disease stricken state was Elmhurst hospital.

Before his visit, he said the health care facility has become “the number one priority of out public hospital system.

“We’ve moved in 40 more ventilators and added more staff to increase capacity. Yesterday Elmhurst was running nearly three times the number of ICU beds than usual,

“Right now Elmhurst hospital is holding its own, but we are in a race against time and we need more federal help immediately.”

The visit to elmhurst comes after news that some staff are forced to reuse protective equipment.

One health care worker has died from coronavirus, while some workers have been asked to wear trash bags instead of hospital gowns.

New York as of Thursday has over 37’000 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

385 have died from the disease, with 100 deaths confirmed in the space of one day.

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France's Macron says he and Trump preparing an initiative on coronavirus crisis: Twitter

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he had a “very good discussion” with U.S. President Donald Trump over the coronavirus crisis and that the two were preparing a new initiative to combat the pandemic.

“In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we are preparing with other countries a new strong initiative in the coming days,” the French president said on Twitter.

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