Coronavirus cases rise again in China's Hubei province

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The number of reported new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province rose on Monday after two days of falls, as authorities imposed tough new restrictions on movement to prevent the spread of the disease which has now killed more than 1,700 people.

The tighter lockdown on the central province where the flu-like virus originated in December came as American passengers were taken off a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan.

Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board the Diamond Princess where 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3. Some 355 people on board have tested positive for the disease, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

“Leaving in a few hours. No details. Might be going to Texas or Nebraska,” Gay Courter, one of the American passengers on board, told Reuters. She said she expected to spend another two weeks in quarantine on U.S. soil.

In Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, health officials reported 1,933 new cases and 100 new deaths on Feb. 16, the lowest daily death count since Feb. 11.

The number of new cases rose nearly 5% from the previous day, but the number of deaths fell from 139.

Nearly 90% of the new cases were in the provincial capital of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have originated at a market illegally trading wildlife.

The total number of cases in the province reached 58,182, with 1,696 deaths.

Chinese health officials on Sunday said two days of falls in the number of new confirmed cases showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.

“The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing,” Mi Feng, spokesman for the Health Commission, told reporters.

Mi said the proportion of confirmed cases who were critically ill had fallen to 21.6% on Saturday, from 32.4% on Jan. 27. He said this showed the authorities were able to treat patients more quickly, preventing cases from becoming critical.

Outside China, more than 500 cases have been confirmed, mostly of people who traveled from Chinese cities, with five deaths.

Restrictions were tightened further in Hubei on Sunday with vehicles, apart from essential services, banned from the roads and companies told to stay shut until further notice.

After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China urgently needs to get back to work. But in some cities streets are still deserted. Many factories have yet to re-open, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond.

Trade-dependent Singapore on Monday downgraded its 2020 economic growth forecast range to -0.5% to 1.5% from 0.5% to 2.5% previously as it braces for a hit from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Britain’s University of Edinburgh, said it was too early to say the virus had peaked.

“It could simply be that reporting is not keeping up with events in circumstances where the health services are under enormous pressure,” he said.

HAZMAT SUITS

On board the Diamond Princess, American passenger Matthew Smith posted a photo on Twitter showing a fleet of coaches parked on the shore to transport U.S. nationals. American officials in hazmat suits and face masks had visited his room to check if he would disembark. He said he wanted to stay.

The ship, owned by Carnival Corp., has been held in the Japanese port of Yokohama with 3,700 passengers and crew on board. Those with the disease have been taken to hospital in Japan and no one from the ship has died. Around half of the guests onboard are from Japan.

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Countries that have announced plans to fly their citizens home from the ship say they will take them only if they are symptom-free, and quarantine them on arrival.

Another cruise ship, Holland America’s MS Westerdam, docked in Cambodia on Thursday after being rejected by ports elsewhere. An 83-year-old American passenger tested positive upon arriving in Malaysia, authorities there said. A second test requested by the cruise operator confirmed the finding.

Taiwan reported its first fatality on Sunday. The first fatality in Europe was reported on Saturday, an 80-year-old Chinese man who died at a Paris hospital.

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Police investigating reported shooting in northeast Edmonton

Edmonton police responded to reports of a shooting at an apartment building in the northeast area of the city on Sunday afternoon.

Northeast division officers were called to the Riviera Gardens building at 138 Avenue and 24 Street around 3 p.m.

An injured man was taken to hospital by EMS with serious injuries.

A tactical police vehicle was on scene for part of the afternoon.

Officers were still in the area conducting their investigation as of 5 p.m.

 


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American medical school sends acceptance letters to 364 applicants by mistake

The Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine based in Minnesota accidentally sent letters of acceptance to 364 applicants on Thursday.

The school is blaming technical issues for the error, according to a statement on their website.

The applicants who were “erroneously” sent acceptances soon saw them withdrawn.

“Soon after the emails were sent, a technical error was discovered and the letters of acceptance were withdrawn by email,” the school said.

“All affected applicants have been contacted by phone.”

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UK snow map: Brutal weather patterns to bring snow to Britain in wake of Storm Dennis

Temperatures are expected to drop after Storm Dennis moves on. Further unsettled weather and colder temperatures following the storm are likely to bring snow to the UK.

The aftermath of Storm Dennis will bring snow to higher ground in Scotland tomorrow and Tuesday, according to the latest WX Charts map.

The storm was dubbed a “weather bomb” because its pressure levels dropped dramatically in 24 hours.

Looking ahead, John Hammond of weathertrending said: “Dennis will usher in chilly north-westerly air with frequent wintry showers in the north.

“Computer models bring further wet weather from midweek in an ominously strengthening jet stream.”

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Snow looks to be more widespread on Thursday with Net Weather showing most of the country at risk.

The snow risk map covers the entirety of the UK with the exception of eastern Scotland.

A WX Charts forecast shows the Highlands as the most likely to see snowfall at midday.

A Met Office spokesman said: “It turns colder after the weekend, with wintriness over northern hills.”

From Friday onwards, the Met Office says: “Unsettled and often windy conditions are expected to continue with areas of rain moving east across the UK interspersed with brighter, showery interludes.

“Rain is likely to be heaviest across western and especially northwestern areas with the driest and brightest weather across the east and southeast.

“Hail and thunder are also possible in the showery interludes with snow at times over northern hills.

“Temperatures will generally vary between near normal and mild as weather systems cross the country.

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“Some brief quieter, colder spells are also likely with more in the way of night frost.

“These are more likely later in the period and could give snow showers more widely to low levels in the north.”

Monday 24th looks to be a chilly one for northern regions where an east to west band can be seen above Scotland and northern areas of England.

And there might be more storms on the horizon thanks to an Atlantic jet stream.

This month’s storms are being attributed to a powerful high-altitude Atlantic jet stream that has propelled the weather systems towards Britain.

The next name on the Met Office’s list is Ellen, and no February has had more than two named storms since they began naming them in 2015.

Weather maps indicate potential storms coming in on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as further ahead on February 26.

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Women still under-represented in Nova Scotia politics: ‘We need those voices’

The deputy mayor of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s deputy premier and the deputy prime minister of Canada are all women, but the number of females in elected positions in the Maritimes remains far lower than that of their male counterparts.

Women who have chosen a life in politics say more needs to be done to encourage others to let their voices be heard.

Of Halifax’s 17-person city council, only two are women, and only one-third of MLAs elected in the 2017 Nova Scotia General Election were female. Two of them have recently stepped down, lowering that figure even further.

Increased diversity of thinking, better focus on issues that affect women (who make up roughly half of the population) and more well-rounded decision-making are key reasons why female representation is a benefit for elected bodies.

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Round dance held in Regina in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation

For the second week in a row, supporters of Wet’suwet’en Nation blocked off Albert Memorial Bridge, in solidarity with protests happening across the country.

“We’re hoping to send a clear message to the Regina public that we are not in agreement with what’s happening there,” said Wendy Lynn Lerat, a co-organizer of the protest. “There’s growing support and we’re doing our part.”

On Saturday, protesters held hands for a round dance while others formed a barricade to block traffic from driving through the Albert Street bridge. They eventually marched north on Albert Street to about 14th Avenue. Police were there to assist the flow of traffic.

“We’re not doing this to make people feel inconvenienced,” said Lerat. “We’re hoping by being confronted by a blockade, you’ll be reminded of a history that no one reminds you of enough.”

“Not everyone wants the kind of development colonialism has brought us. We’re seeing incredible destruction across the world and ecosystems that are in jeopardy and will never recover.”

Protesters are standing with Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia where some hereditary chiefs oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Protests continue to pop-up daily throughout Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia – with protesters blocking off railways, city intersections and ports.

Lerat said the protests will persist until sovereignty is addressed.

“The messaging needs to switch to recognize the need to have a different narrative. What’s happening in Wet’suwet’en is a reflection in the sickness and desire for change in general society,” Lerat said.

She said Regina protesters want the government to recognize Indigenous sovereignty, and until they do, rallies will continue to grow.

“It’s not so much to cause inconvenience or get a violent reaction like last time. But we’re hoping they’ll be an opportunity in the near future to collectively say ‘What do we need to do differently here.’”

On Saturday, Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met with the Mohawk First Nation in Ontario to discuss the cross-country rail blockades.

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Montrealers dive into competition season with Pointe-Claire as first hosts

Some of Quebec’s finest young athletes took the big dive into competition season on Sunday as Pointe-Claire hosted the first of three provincials.

The competition is split between senior and junior, male and female.

The divers need to accumulate enough points throughout the three provincials to then move on to nationals, according to Plongeon Quebec coordinator Claudie-Anne Leblanc.

“As amateurs, we all look at that perfect rip entry and we think, wow that’s a 10!” said Plongeon Quebec judge Shannon Bisson. “But we’re also looking at their position as they come off the board, the trajectory from the board, their position in the air, also how they enter the water.”

Quebec has developed some of the sport’s greatest athletes — like Alexandre Depatie and Roseline Filion, who have each won several Olympic medals.

Now, the next generation of divers is looking to make it big.

“My goal this year is to go to the national championships and go on the three podiums,” said CAMO club diver Charles-Antoine Labadie.

“I would like to go to the Olympics,” said 11-year-old Team Quebec diver Dean Calfacacos. “It’s fun doing flips. Almost every day you learn something new and that’s really fun.”

Parents and competitors said there’s truly nothing like the support the sport brings — regardless of the result.

“It’s a sport where everybody’s really tight, everybody’s rooting for each other,” said Bisson. “Everybody wants to see everybody do well, but at the end of the day, we have to be fair and we’re not doing the kids any favours to not judge them fairly.”

But it’s not always easy.

“The hardest part is to be relaxed because the dives you did a lot of times in practice, now it’s just to do the best you can without getting nervous,” said Labadie.

Bisson — who is the mother of a competitive diver and a judge for Plongeon Quebec — is in a tougher spot than most.

“When I don’t dive for one week I just want to go dive again,” said ARO club diver Marie-Laurence Forest.

National Championships are set to take place in July.


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North Macedonia parliament dissolves, sets poll date, after EU shuns talks

SKOPJE (Reuters) – North Macedonia’s parliament dissolved itself on Sunday and set April 12 for an early election, eight months ahead of the end of the current term, in what is seen as a major test for the pro-EU policies of former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s Social Democrats.

The move, endorsed by 108 deputies in the 120-seat parliament, follows Zaev’s resignation last month that came after the European Union failed to give his country a date to start talks on joining the bloc.

Zaev’s cabinet was replaced by an interim government led by Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski which was tasked to ensure conditions for a free and fair vote.

“I have signed the decision (to set the date) for early elections on April 12,” Talat Xhaferi, the parliamentary speaker, told deputies.

French President Emmanuel Macron in October refused to let North Macedonia start EU entry talks, despite concerns over increased Chinese and Russian meddling in the Balkans.

Skopje had expected to be granted a date to start accession talks after settling a dispute with neighboring Greece by changing the country’s name to North Macedonia from Macedonia. Macron also led a group of EU leaders who ruled out opening talks with Albania.

Serbia and Montenegro also aspire to join the European Union but the enlargement process has also largely stalled amid concerns in the West about immigration and the strains of Brexit.

Bosnia and Kosovo, the other two EU hopefuls from the Balkans, are lagging far behind.

Earlier this month, EU’s enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, proposed giving EU members the power to delay or reverse the process of admitting new nations or to force them to restart entry talks in some policy areas.

North Macedonia is expected to become the 30th member of NATO early this year, once its accession has been ratified by all the member states of the U.S.-led alliance.

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Vancouver police execute search warrant for drug investigation at downtown apartment

Vancouver police, fire crews and hazmat teams descended on a downtown apartment building Sunday to execute a search warrant related to a drug investigation that may involve fentanyl.

The building at 1255 Seymour Street was surrounded by crews and vehicles as police investigated a suite inside in the late morning.

Police said fire crews and hazmat were on scene “due to a possible prevalence of fentanyl” and to ensure the search “can be processed in a safe manner for police and the public.”

Police would not speak to whether anyone has been arrested or if any drugs had actually been found inside the suite. The investigation is active and ongoing, they added.

The building sits close to the northeastern exit ramp of the Granville Street Bridge, and the heavy police and fire presence is affecting traffic coming off the bridge.

Drivers are being advised to avoid the area.

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Nova Scotia Lung Foundation hopes to make Stair Heroes fundraiser an annual event

The Nova Scotia Lung Association knows that in order to make your way up 18 flights of stairs, you need strong, healthy lungs.

That’s why Sunday saw more than 150 people sign up for the association’s fundraiser, known as Stair Heroes, with individuals raising their heart rates for a good cause.

“This is actually the first time a stair climb has been done in Nova Scotia, so we’re really proud of that,” said Robert MacDonald, the president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Lung Foundation.

The foundation tries to help people with lung diseases and advocates for policies and procedures on vaping and smoking regulations.

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