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Arrests made in 2018 mistaken identity fatal shooting

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 31st, 2020

Peel police have confirmed arrests have been made in the shooting death of 23-year-old Jason Ramkishun, who was gunned down in what police called “a case of mistaken identity.”

Ramkishun was shot once while driving down Highway 410 northbound on Nov. 13, 2018 on his way home from work. The car veered off the road and paramedics say he was found without vital signs at the scene.

He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries.

Police believe the homicide was also related to a second shooting on the 410 that occurred a week later on Nov. 20.

A 26-year-old man suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds in the incident. He is believed to have been the intended target in the shooting that killed Ramkishun. Police said their two vehicles resembled each other.

Peel police are expected to hold a press conference on Friday at 11 a.m. to announce more than five people have been arrested in connection with both cases.

Pedestrian struck by vehicle at Sheppard and Allen Road

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jan 31st, 2020

A pedestrian has been rushed to a trauma centre after being hit by a vehicle in the city’s northwest end.

Emergency crews were called to Sheppard Avenue at Allen Road around 4:45 a.m. Friday.

Police said the man, believed to be in his 30s, suffered life-threatening injuries.

The vehicle remained at the scene.

Police have closed the intersection while they continue to investigate.

3rd day of talks between Ontario’s public elementary teachers and government

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 31st, 2020

Contract talks are to resume Friday for a third day in a row between Ontario’s public elementary teachers and the government.

Friday is the deadline the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has given to reach a deal with the government or the union will ramp up strikes next week.

The two sides returned to the bargaining table Wednesday for the first time since Dec. 19.

The elementary teachers have been holding one-day, rotating strikes for two weeks, but they are planning to walk out at each board twice a week starting next week if no deal is reached.

ETFO rotating strikes today are to hit the Peel and Hamilton-Wentworth school boards.

Meanwhile, in another crack in the teacher-government stalemate, the province’s English Catholic teachers say they will return to the bargaining table after talks broke off earlier this month.

No need to change Canada’s plans after WHO declares global emergency

DANIELA GERMANO AND ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jan 31st, 2020

Canada is already taking the right steps to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, so there is no need to change things now that the World Health Organization has declared a global emergency over the outbreak, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Thursday.

“The World Health Organization’s global emergency status is really … about helping countries that do not have the same level of sophistication as Canada, or perhaps the United States, to protect their citizens if in fact they have a citizen who returns from China who is ill, or has been close to someone who has returned from China who is ill,” Hajdu said in Ottawa.

“You know this has been working very well in Canada, because we have actually been able to detect cases very quickly, support those people to get better and prevent the spread of disease.”

The UN health agency defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a co-ordinated response.

Though many people experience only mild symptoms from the virus, China has reported more than 9,600 cases, including 213 deaths.

Hajdu stressed the need and the responsibility to remain calm.

“I think that anything that we are doing as politicians or leaders or members of the media that will create a sense of anxiety or panic is actually a dangerous road to travel down,” she said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, reiterated Thursday that the chances of an outbreak in Canada remain low.

“Most cases and the spread of the novel coronavirus are occurring in affected areas in China with only three cases detected in Canada,” Tam said.

“As well, all travel from China is now significantly diminished as a result of exit border measures by the Chinese government in the effort to contain the outbreak.”

The Canadian government is advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to the province of Hubei, which includes the city of Wuhan which is considered ground zero for the virus.

Two confirmed cases are in Ontario and one is in British Columbia, which are all linked to recent travel in China. Tam said 101 people in Canada have been tested for the virus, with 58 testing negative for the respiratory illness.

Tam also expressed concern about discrimination against Chinese-Canadians because of the virus.

“It is understandable that our fears increase during times of uncertainty, but when this fear leads some people to spread stigmatizing stereotypes and misinformation, it only does harm,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also warned against stigmatizing the Chinese-Canadian community.

“We’ve seen too many instances of unreasonable fears being spread either on the internet or in other ways,” Trudeau said in Brampton, Ont. “We need to know this is a time for Canadians – all Canadians, including Canadians of Chinese origin – to pull together and to lean on each other.”

Meanwhile, Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with Global Affairs, which is preparing to fly Canadians out of the Hubei province at the centre of the outbreak in China.

Tam would not comment on whether those people would be quarantined once they arrive in Canada, saying more information would be provided when it’s available.

Earlier Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said the relatively low number of cases in the province is “reassuring.”

Dr. David Williams said there are no new presumptive or confirmed cases in Ontario, adding that he would be much more concerned at this point if the province had already seen about seven to 10 cases.

“This is reassuring in a way, but not that we’re going to sit back and coast,” he said. “The system is working. We’re investigating. Individuals of concern have self-reported, are coming forward and we haven’t seen ones that out of the blue show up already quite ill and infected. We’re not seeing that yet, but it’s still early days.”

He said there are 27 cases under investigation in the province, and 38 people have already been tested and cleared.

Williams said the coronavirus does not seem to be much different from regular influenza in terms of transmissibility, and evidence suggests it is not transmissible when a person is not feeling symptoms.

In Quebec, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus, and the chances of its being transmitted to the community are considered low, the province’s director of public health said.

Dr. Horacio Arruda warned the public against wearing masks, which he said “do not constitute, by science, a useful tool for the general population in Quebec, even in the context of a coronavirus outbreak.”

Instead, he suggested people practice “respiratory hygiene” by washing their hands and covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing.

If people have respiratory symptoms and have to go out in public, wearing a mask can help prevent transmission, Yaffe said, but it is not useful for the general population.

“Anybody who’s feeling well, wearing a mask is not going to do anything,” she said. “In fact, it might give them a false sense of security.”

Virus death toll hits 170 as Chinese officials express ‘great concern’ over transmission

KEN MORITSUGU AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 30th, 2020

China counted 170 deaths from a new virus Thursday and more countries reported infections, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from China’s worst-hit region returned home to medical observation and even isolation.

India and the Philippines reported their first cases, in a traveller and a student who had both been in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the new type of coronavirus first surfaced in December. South Korea confirmed a case that was locally spread, in a man who had contact with a patient diagnosed earlier.

Locally spread cases outside China have been a worrying concern among global health officials, as potential signs of the virus spreading more easily and the difficulty of containing it. The World Health Organization is reconvening experts on Thursday to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, another type of coronavirus.

Thursday’s figures for mainland China cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and one was in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The World Health Organization is reconvening experts on Thursday to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

Three of Japan’s confirmed cases were among a group of evacuees who returned on a government-chartered flight from Wuhan on Wednesday. Japan’s foreign ministry said a second flight carrying 210 Japanese evacuees landed Thursday at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever.

India’s health ministry said a student in Kerala state who had been studying in Wuhan was confirmed to have the virus after returning home during the Lunar New Year break. Philippine health officials say a woman who travelled to the country from Wuhan via Hong Kong had tested positive.

Vietnam, meanwhile, confirmed three new cases on Thursday — all people returned from Wuhan — bringing its total to five. The patients, who are receiving treatment in Hanoi and Thanh Hoa provinces, are all in stable condition, Do Xuan Tuyen, deputy minister of health, said in a statement.

The United States evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan who are being tested and monitored at a Southern California military base. A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said additional evacuation flights were being planned for Monday or surrounding days.

France, New Zealand, Australia, India, Singapore and other countries are also trying to get out their citizens. Taiwan, the self-governing republic China considers its own territory, has also asked to be able to repatriate its passport holders from Wuhan, but it and the United Kingdom said they were awaiting approval from Beijing.

In South Korea, residents in two cities where quarantine facilities are being prepared threw eggs and water bottles at government officials to protest plans to isolate in their neighbourhoods 700 South Koreans the government plans to evacuate from China.

Amid reports of shortages in food and daily necessities in hot-spot areas, Chinese authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

It cited Ministry of Commerce data showing current reserves in Wuhan can ensure a secure supply of rice and cooking oil for more than 15 days, pork and eggs for more than 10 days and vegetables for about five days.

China’s highly developed online shopping and home delivery businesses were important in ensuring those confined to home by choice or by order could get food and other essentials.

“I’d just like to ask that folks don’t order anything other than the daily necessities,” Hou Yanbo, deputy director of market supervision from the National Post Administration, told reporters at a daily briefing.

China extended its Lunar New Year holiday to Sunday to try to contain the virus, but the wave of returning travellers could potentially cause the virus to spread further.

Transport ministry spokesman Wu Chungeng outlined a series of rigorous temperature checks and other “severe measures” to detect possibly infectious passengers. Transport restrictions such as those isolating Wuhan and suspending inter-provincial bus services would remain in place, Wu said.

“It’s definitely very challenging, but we’re confident we can exert effective control,” Wu told reporters at the briefing.

School openings in Hong Kong, Beijing and other regions have been extended by at least two weeks.

The WHO emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, spoke in Geneva after returning from Beijing. He said China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.

To date, about 99 per cent of the cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2%, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.

In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.

Scientists say there are many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.

Chinese authorities have demanded anyone who travelled from or through Wuhan report to health authorities and self-quarantine themselves for 14 days, the maximum incubation period during which patients can be infectious even if they don’t show symptoms.

China has been largely praised for a swift and effective response to the outbreak, although questions have been raised about the police suppression of what were early on considered mere rumours — a reflection of the one-party Communist state’s determination to maintain a monopoly on information in spite of smart phones and social media.

That stands in stark contrast to the initial response to SARS, when medical reports were hidden as state secrets. The delayed response was blamed for allowing the disease to spread worldwide, killing around 800 people.

This time, in addition to working with WHO, China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei has been in touch with foreign colleagues, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Trial expected to begin Thursday for man accused of killing Tess Richey

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 30th, 2020

The trial of a man accused of killing a young woman in Toronto’s gay village is expected to begin on Thursday.

Kalen Schlatter is charged with first-degree murder in the November 2017 death of Tess Richey, who police have said died of “neck compression.”

The 22-year-old woman was reported missing Nov. 25 after a night out with a friend. She was found dead days later by her mother, who had travelled to Toronto from North Bay, Ont., to help with the search.

Richey’s body was found in a stairwell at the back of an alley, just metres from the address where she had last been seen alive.

Police have said they believe Schlatter and Richey did not know each other before the night of her death, but they have released few details of the investigation.

The force has faced public criticism for officers’ failure to find Richey in the days after she vanished. Two police officers are also facing disciplinary charges in the matter.

Const. Michael Jones and Const. Alan McCullough are charged under the Police Services Act with not performing a duty and not carrying out an order in connection with Richey’s disappearance. Their hearing has been put off until Schlatter’s criminal trial is over.

Richey’s death is one of several missing persons cases connected to the gay village that sparked public backlash against police, with many in the community alleging officers were not protecting them.

The force has launched a review of how it handles of missing persons cases. The review is being conducted by a retired Ontario Court of Appeal judge, Gloria Epstein, and was initially supposed to wrap last year but is now expected to finish this spring.

Shots ring out again on Acorn Place in Mississauga

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jan 30th, 2020

Almost exactly 24 hours after a drive-by shooting, shots rang out again overnight on a Mississauga street.

Emergency crews were called to Acorn Place, near Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue East, just before 1 a.m. Thursday.

Investigators found shell casings on the road and witnesses reported seeing a car race away from the scene.

Officers located the two intended victims crouching in a grassy field, claiming they had been chased by a couple males in a vehicle. Neither of the intended victims were injured.

The vehicle is described as a four-door, dark-coloured Honda Accord.

Duty Inspector Sean Brennan said it appears this shooting was random.

“The two males that were chased are Mississauga residents but not specific to the Acorn Place area,” he explained.

“It appeared the vehicle spotted them, then the attempted shooting took place at that point.”

Police have taped off the area and are searching for more clues.

Just after 1 a.m. Wednesday, two males were sitting in a car parked on Acorn Place when another vehicle pulled up and a gunman opened fire.

Several shots shattered vehicle classes and a stray bullet went into an empty apartment nearby.

Both intended targets in that shooting were able to flee the car unharmed.

No suspect or vehicle description were released in that incident.

Police have not said if the two shootings are connected.

Canada’s chief public health officer says no coronavirus vaccine for 1 year

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jan 30th, 2020

Canada’s chief public health officer says it will likely take at least a year before a vaccine is developed to protect people against the new coronavirus that is spreading around the globe.

In the meantime, Dr. Theresa Tam says government and public health authorities should plan on having to manage the outbreak for some time to come.

More than 7,700 people in China have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus and 170 of them have died.

Ontario public health officials reported Wednesday that a presumptive case of the new deadly strain of coronavirus reported earlier this week has been confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, bringing the number of confirmed cases in that province to two.

Late Wednesday, Health officials in B.C. said the presumed case in that province had also been confirmed by the lab in Winnipeg. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says officials are in regular contact with the individual who is in isolation at home, and the risk of spread of the virus in B.C. remains low.

All three of the Canadian cases are linked to recent travel in China.

Tam, who updated members of the House of Commons health committee on the outbreak, said the risk of catching the virus in Canada remains low.

And she said Canada and the world are much better prepared to deal with a potential pandemic than they were during the outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus that killed more than 700 people worldwide from 2002-04.

Among other things, she said international health regulations have been strengthened and Canada now has a public health agency that didn’t exist during the SARS outbreak, as well as improved laboratory and diagnostic capacity and better co-ordination among federal, provincial and territorial health authorities.

The speed with which the three cases in Canada have been identified, diagnosed and managed “is a testament to how the system has improved over time,” Tam told the committee.

That system will be tested as the virus spreads.

For now, the only treatment available for those who catch the virus is “supportive care,” Tam said. But she said countries around the world are collaborating to see if any existing anti-viral remedies are useful in this case.

A number of vaccines have previously been developed for other coronaviruses and she said countries around the globe are pulling together to see if they can accelerate development of a new vaccine that would protect against this particular strain.

“But what I can say is that even with the most rapid acceleration, I don’t believe we are going to see a vaccine that is ready probably for a year,” Tam said. “So at least we have to plan for the fact that we’re going to be managing this particular virus with no specific vaccine.”

Tina Namiesniowski, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, told the committee it is to be expected that there will be travel-related cases in Canada and that the number of confirmed cases will rise.

At the three airports that receive direct fights from China – Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – information screens in the customs areas have been set up, advising people to self-report to customs officials if they are experiencing any symptoms of the novel coronavirus. At electronic kiosks, a question has been added, requiring travellers to specify if they’ve been in the Chinese province at the heart of the outbreak.

By the end of the week, Namiesniowski said more public health officials will be in customs areas at the three airports to help border officials.

The federal government, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it has chartered a plane to evacuate 160 Canadians who’ve been trapped in China due to strict quarantine measures imposed by the Chinese government in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Details are still being worked out about how and when the evacuation will take place and whether those returned to Canada will have to be quarantined once they arrive.

Not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave, Tam warned.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the committee.

Some airlines have halted all flights to China as a result of the outbreak, including British Airways and several Asian carriers, while Air Canada is only cancelling select flights to China.

The Canadian government is advising against all travel to China.

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