Super-spreading events and Wimbledon cancelled; In The News for April 2

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 April 2 ...

COVID-19 in Canada ...

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One of Canada's largest veterans' organizations is urging the federal government to automatically approve the roughly 44,000 outstanding applications for disability benefits from injured veterans to help them better deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The call from the National Council of Veteran Associations, which represents more than 60 veteran groups, comes amid fears about the financial and emotional toll the pandemic is taking on veterans struggling with mental and physical wounds.

Veterans Affairs Canada says staff are still processing claims as they work from home and that there are no immediate plans to automatically approve the backlog, which was already a source of frustration and anger for many veterans forced to wait years for support even before COVID-19.

But the COVID-19 crisis presents yet another barrier for veterans to get their applications approved, said council chairman Brian Forbes, who is also executive director of The War Amps Canada and a member of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay's policy advisory group.

"It was bad enough as far as the backlog and the delays and the number of new claims (before COVID-19)," Forbes said in an interview "And then when you put the coronavirus on top of it, you've got a perfect storm. Things are just not getting done."

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Also this ...

Thousands of people smiled, laughed, shook hands and conversed at one of the largest dental conferences in North America last month unaware of a deadly virus circling among them.

More than 15,000 attendees, presenters or vendors were part of the Pacific Dental Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre in early March. Six days later, public health officials sent out a warning: an attendee had tested positive for COVID-19.

More positive tests followed. A dentist from British Columbia, Dr. Denis Vincent, died two weeks after the convention.

In the days and weeks that followed, positive cases linked to the conference popped up across Canada: at least 32 in B.C., nine in Alberta and three in Saskatchewan.

It's not known how many people were infected with the novel coronavirus at the convention because not all regions have provided that information.

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

President Donald Trump is resisting calls to issue a national stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus despite his administration's projections that tens of thousands of Americans are likely to be killed by the disease. One by one, though, states are increasingly pushing shutdown orders of their own.

Trump said Wednesday he wants to give governors' "flexibility" on whether a stay-at-home policy is the best option for their constituents, but acknowledged that he's looking at limiting air and rail travel between hot spots within the United States. The president remains hesitant to press a unified policy even after the White House released "sobering" new projections on Tuesday that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will likely succumb to the coronavirus even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday the nation's federalist system leaves much of the authority on how to properly respond to catastrophes to individual state governors and local officials.

"We trust the governors and the mayors to understand their people and understand whether or not they feel like they can trust the people in their states to make the right decisions," Adams said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

On Wednesday alone, five more states — Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada and Pennsylvania — added or expanded their stay-at-home orders.

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COVID-19 around the world ...

The Taliban said the group was ready to declare a cease-fire in areas of Afghanistan under its control if they are hit by a coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement follows a U.N. Security Council statement Tuesday urging Afghanistan’s warring parties to heed the U.N. secretary-general’s call for an immediate cease-fire to respond to the pandemic and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.

"If, God forbid, the outbreak happens in an area where we control the situation then we will stop fighting in that area," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Muajhed told The Associated Press.

The Taliban have also said they would guarantee the security of health and aid workers travelling to their areas offering assistance to prevent the spread of the new virus.

It wasn't clear how many cases would need to be confirmed in any given area for the insurgent group to announce a cease-fire and there was no immediate response from the government.

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COVID-19 in sports

Wimbledon was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first time since World War II that the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament won't be played.

The All England Club announced after an emergency meeting that the event it refers to simply as The Championships is being scrapped for 2020.

Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the club's grass courts on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.

Instead, the next edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.

Also Wednesday, the ATP and WTA announced that the men's and women's professional tennis tours would be suspended until at least July 13. They already had been on hold through June 7.

Wimbledon first was held in 1877 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of two stretches: from 1915-18 because of World War I, and from 1940-45 because of World War II.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.

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