Gradual reopenings and the battle against superbugs; In The News for May 14

COVID-19 in Canada ….

OTTAWA- Canada is slowly beginning to emerge from its COVID-19 cocoon, with the federal government poised to announce a gradual reopening of national parks and heritage sites and more provinces taking the first halting steps toward a return to normal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson are expected to announce today plans to soon begin a phased-in opening of federal parks and historic sites across the country.

Since the deadly virus that causes COVID-19 sent the country into lockdown in mid-March, all national parks and historic sites have been closed, with visitor services and all motor vehicle access suspended.

The gradual reopenings are to be accompanied by measures designed to ensure the safety of visitors and workers.

The plan involves some 38 parks and 171 historic sites, including lighthouses, forts, canals and monuments, that are administered by Parks Canada.

However, none of them are expected to be open in time for the coming long weekend.

In other Canadian news …

SMITHERS, B.C.- Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and representatives of the federal and provincial governments are expected to sign an agreement today that politicians say will rebuild relationships after anti-pipeline protests and blockades earlier this year.

But the deal has also fractured an Indigenous community in B.C.’s Interior.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in March, ending protests and blockades by First Nations across the country that damaged Canada’s economy.

The hereditary chiefs oppose the construction of a Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory and while this agreement recognizes their rights and title, the chiefs say it has no impact on the pipeline.

Elected chiefs of the First Nation say they should have been involved in the negotiations and are urging rejection of the agreement.

Premier John Horgan says the Wet’suwet’en have to figure out how to govern themselves and the agreement provides a framework allowing that.

Also this …

OTTAWA- Experts say necessary measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic could be setting Canada back in the battle against superbugs.

They say drug resistant organisms, or superbugs, are just as great a threat as COVID-19, but the consequences will play out on a much longer timeline.

Many of the important things people are doing to fight the virus that causes COVID-19, like copious use of disinfectants and sanitizers and certain treatments, may be making the superbug problem worse.

Microbiologist Dr. Lori Burrows says people using unproven drug therapies to fight the virus, particularly south of the border, is especially troubling as it’s not likely to work and could severely impact the effectiveness of certain antibiotics in the future.

The government was set to release this year its pan-Canadian action plan to fight antimicrobial resistance.

Even so, experts say without significant resources to back it up, it will be difficult to stop the superbug problem from spreading.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON- A U.S. immunologist who says he lost his government job because he warned the Trump administration to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic isn’t backing off his bleak forecast.

Dr. Rick Bright is preparing to tell Congress that America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless its leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus.

Bright is set to appear today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In prepared testimony, Bright says failing to develop a national co-ordinated response, based in science, could mean the pandemic will get far worse and cause unprecedented illness and fatalities.

COVID-19 around the world …

MANILLA, Philippines- A strong typhoon has slammed into the eastern Philippines where authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people while trying to avoid the virus risks of overcrowding storm shelters.

The first typhoon to hit the archipelago this year barged ashore at noon in a town in Eastern Samar province. Video showed fierce rain and wind swaying coconut trees, rattling tin roofs and obscuring visibility.

A lockdown to fight the coronavirus requires people to stay in their homes and prohibits all kinds of gatherings that can set off infections. Governors say social distancing will be nearly impossible in emergency shelters.

Some shelters have been made into quarantine facilities, and they may have to be turned back into storm shelters.

COVID-19 and charity work …

A number of Canadian not-for-profit and charity organizations are seeing a drop in the number of volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among senior citizens.

Thousands of seniors who would normally be helping on the front lines have become shut-ins, protecting themselves against the novel coronavirus.

The loss of senior volunteers has had a dramatic impact on community organizations, health care and other sectors of Canada’s economy since the lockdown began in March.

Chris Hatch of Food Banks Canada says they have leveraged paid staff from other closed programs to conduct the work that senior volunteers normally perform.

Paula Speevak, president of Volunteer Canada, said about 12.7 million Canadians volunteer every year and of those, around 2.3 million are 65 and over.

She says most seniors help in home support services like family visits, Meals on Wheels, hospital auxiliaries and long-term care.

She says those activities give seniors a sense of belonging, purpose and value, and help them feel connected to the community.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020

 

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