Peterborough to open emergency shelter, re-open select daycares for essential workers amid COVID-19 crisis

Peterborough Public Health says some daycares in the city will be re-opening to support essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, medical officer of health, mentioned the daycares during Wednesday’s media briefing updating the region on the fight against COVID-19.

Details on which daycares will re-open have yet to be determined. However, Salvaterra said they will be for children of essential workers, such as healthcare workers, only.

The City of Peterborough closed its daycare facilities on March 17. At the time, they were expected to remain closed until March 31.

“Our role will be to ensure that infection control measures will be followed,” said Salvaterra.

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Nova Scotia can now conduct 400 COVID-19 tests in one day: Strang

Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer says they have doubled their COVID-19 testing capacity, while also increasing 811 staffing levels.

Speaking at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Robert Strang said the capacity to conduct COVID-19 tests has increased from 200 to 400 COVID-19 tests in one day.

“As a result of that, we’re now able to begin testing of all the close contacts that public health is identifying,” said Strang,

“Any close contact of a case, we’re not just putting them in isolation and seeing if they get sick, we’re testing them right away.”

Strang added they will be going back and testing close contacts all the way back to the province’s very first case.

Premier Stephen McNeil says in addition to the increase in testing capacity, 53 nurse and tele-health associates have been added to handle the volume of calls coming into 811. Another 40 are being trained.

“We are also doubling our phone bank,” said McNeil. “We had 79 lines when we started, and in the next 48 hours we’ll have 138 lines.”

“We are doing this to better support the people who are worried about their health,” he added.

10 new cases, bringing total to 51

The province announced Tuesday afternoon that there are 10 new cases of coronavirus in Nova Scotia, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 51.

Strang said all the cases are travel-related or connected to earlier reported cases, and that none are the result of community spread.

The 51 individuals range in age from under ten to mid-70, and cases have been identified in all parts of the province.

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Child care providers raise coronavirus concerns in letter to B.C. premier

The B.C. Child Care Owners Association is raising concerns about the province’s requirement to keep daycares open.

In an open letter to Premier John Horgan, association board member Pamela Wallberg says the organization is worried about the “absolute dearth of directions from your ministries despite weeks of requesting information.”

“You were elected and placed into a position that is responsible for child care in B.C. and you are failing the children, families and child care professionals throughout the province,” Wallberg writes.

“We support decisions being made grounded in best practice and science. We understand that the decisions for child care program operations must be made by the provincial health officer. This is as it should be.”

The organizations is asking the province for direction for a number a issues.

One concern is that with staff in self-isolation, there are not enough educators and/or licenses to operate facilities and meet ratio.

The organization is also concerned about the shortage of cleaning supplies such as paper towels and sanitizer.

Wallberg is asking for help accessing supplies to ensure a full clean, twice a day.

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Recession forecast for Australia, US and Europe

SYDNEY/LOS ANGELES • Australia’s economy will record its first recession since 1991 as the hit from the coronavirus-induced slowdown is amplified by slumping confidence and domestic disruptions.

Gross domestic product (GDP) will fall 0.4 percentage point in the first three months of the year and 0.3 percentage point in the second quarter, ending a 28½-year stretch of economic growth, Mr James McIntyre of Bloomberg Economics said in a report yesterday.

“Isolations and domestic disruptions to contain the spread of the virus will have a mounting economic impact, which is likely to result in a further GDP contraction in the second quarter and potentially beyond,” he said.

“Stimulus, both fiscal and monetary, will help to reduce the damage, but is unlikely to be enough to offset the impacts.”

GDP will expand by just 0.4 per cent this year, he forecasts, some 1.5 percentage points below his pre-coronavirus estimate.

The United States and Europe also face the “distinct possibility” of a technical recession in the first half as the coronavirus outbreak dampens demand and supply and drives investors to safe havens, according to Pacific Investment Management Company (Pimco).

“The worst for the economy is still to come over the next several months,” Pimco global chief economic adviser Joachim Fels wrote in a note to clients, which also cited concerns including a slump in China’s manufacturing and a weaker market for travel-related services.

An all-out price war between the world’s biggest oil producers is adding to the prospect of a recession as the coronavirus wreaks havoc across the world. Panic reigned in currency markets yesterday as orders from traders and algorithmic machines snowballed.

That saw the Australian dollar plunge almost 5 per cent in less than 20 minutes, the biggest one-day decline since 2008. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 stock index had slumped 6.2 per cent at 3pm in Sydney.

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates last week and money markets are pricing in a further reduction next month, which would bring it to the estimated lower bound of 0.25 per cent and open the door to unconventional policy.

The government is finalising a fiscal “boost” that could amount to A$10 billion (S$9 billion) to support firms struggling with cash flow and help them retain employees.

An all-out price war between the world’s biggest oil producers is adding to the prospect of a recession as the coronavirus wreaks havoc across the world.

Mr Fels also predicted further interest rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve. Similar moves to ease monetary policies by other central banks, including those in emerging markets, could also come over the next few weeks. Mr Fels also expects further fiscal easing by governments to support demand to aid an economic recovery.

He wrote his note following Pimco’s quarterly “cyclical” forum, when the firm offers its 12-month outlook. It was staged for the first time by video from 17 global offices amid restrictions on staff travel and gatherings at the firm, which oversaw US$1.9 trillion (S$2.6 trillion) as of Dec 31 last year.


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Coronavirus will cost businesses billions. Insurance may not help

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Two years ago Munich Re, the reinsurance giant, tried to start underwriting a new kind of insurance – one that would make a company whole if its business tanked in an epidemic. For months, there were no takers.

Then came the coronavirus outbreak.

“Now, quite honestly, we probably have a six-month backlog in getting quotes out,” said Christian Ryan of the risk advisory firm Marsh, which is brokering the policies in partnership with Munich Re and Metabiota, a data analytics firm.

It’s too late to buy coverage for the current outbreak. “We can’t insure a burning building,” Ryan said – but the daily drumbeat of news about the havoc wrought by the coronavirus in the highly integrated global economy has many executives focused on how they can protect themselves next time.

On Tuesday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development laid out just how bad things could get: If the coronavirus continues to spread, it could cut the year’s global growth by half, to 1.5 per cent for the year instead of the 2.9 per cent that the Paris-based research group had forecast before the epidemic took off.

Global output was US$86.5 trillion (S$119.6 trillion) last year, so that means US$1.5 trillion of economic activity could be lost to the disease, said Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS, a California company that makes detailed forecasts of the effects of catastrophic events like hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes.

“The only thing we’ve ever had which was bigger than that was the banking crisis,” Muir-Wood said, referring to the 2008 financial crisis, when the credit markets seized up and governments had to bail out banks and other institutions.

“This is likely a 1-in-a-100-year event that we have to live through, and there’s still quite a lot ahead of us,” he said.

Many businesses have insurance policies that are meant to kick in when disaster strikes. But few of those policies will cover the losses incurred because of the outbreak.

Companies typically buy a kind of coverage known as business interruption insurance as part of their property policies, which pays cash to make up for lost revenue when a business has to halt operations unexpectedly. A close relative, contingent business interruption insurance, kicks in when the shutdown is at a supplier of the insured company.

At first glance, those might seem perfect for the current epidemic, which has caused quarantines that shut down factories in China, severed links in supply chains and disrupted business activity for hundreds of companies from Microsoft to Marriott. But those policies almost always cite “direct physical loss or damage” as a requirement to get a payment.

Quarantines and travel bans can make it just as impossible for workers to do their jobs as destruction from a fire, flood or earthquake, but do not cause the physical damage to workplaces that is necessary to trigger successful business interruption claims.

That means companies will have to absorb much of the losses themselves, either directly or with the money that very large companies often set aside in special self-insurance reserves.

Business interruption insurance policies were more permissive in the past. But after other viral epidemics – such as the SARS outbreak in 2003, Ebola in West Africa starting in 2014, and Zika, most recently in 2015 – insurance companies realized that business-interruption claims could become unwieldy if they covered shutdowns tied to outbreaks of disease.

Since then, insurers have taken steps to specifically exclude epidemics as a way of limiting future potential payouts – even as companies’ supply chains have become more complicated, and widespread business and recreational travel has greatly increased the potential for contagion to spread around the world.

“The insurance markets are not going to be freaked out” by the epidemic, Muir-Wood said. “Insurers are not viewing it as being up there with Hurricane Katrina” – a disaster that broke all records for the industry with damage covered by insurance of more than US$40 billion in six states, not counting payouts by the National Flood Insurance Program, which needed a taxpayer bailout to keep going.

With the coronavirus slowing manufacturers who can’t get key components, cancellations for airlines and hotels, and retailers watching foot traffic slow, the losses from the outbreak will probably be much larger – but less likely to be insured.

Even contingent business interruption insurance, which handles claims for disruptions from a policyholder’s suppliers, probably won’t cover virus-related losses.

For example, after severe flooding in Thailand left whole industrial parks underwater in 2011, contingent business interruption policies paid out to Japanese auto plants that couldn’t get components out of the flood zone. But they could point to the physical damage of the floods.

Some insurers do agree to pay decontamination costs after an outbreak, but they tightly limit the amounts.

“If you have an employee who has the coronavirus, they’ll bring in a special decontamination crew, and there could be a US$250,000 to US$500,000 payment for this,” said Ryan, the head of Marsh’s hospitality, sports and gaming business in the United States. “They’ll have a policy stating, ‘We’ll pay up to US$500,000,’ not millions and millions of dollars.”

Analysts said they expected a storm of litigation in the coming months, as companies begin to tally their losses from the epidemic and lawyers for insured companies look for ways to get around the limits and exclusions. One possibility: arguing that an infection had worked its way into a building’s ductwork, constituting “physical loss and damage” to the workplace.

Ryan said the policies his firm designed in partnership with Munich Re were intended to be straightforward and avoid months of wrangling over those kinds of issues.

Companies could pick coverage that would pay when the deaths from an epidemic pass a predetermined threshold, or coverage that would kick in when a government body – anywhere in the world – ordered a shutdown or travel ban. The policies are intended as custom contracts, so the company would choose according to its own risks.

The point would be to trigger the payments quickly, without court battles, Ryan said. His father was running hotels in Brazil when the Zika virus struck, and Ryan watched him struggle to stay afloat when tourism dried up. The cash squeeze lasted longer than the outbreak.

“In hospitality,” he said, “your business doesn’t rebound in a day.”

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