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Flight to evacuate Canadians from cruise ship ‘expected’ to depart Japan on Thursday

HINA ALAM AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 18th, 2020

Canadians stranded on a quarantined cruise ship were told that a flight set to bring them home is “expected” to depart Tokyo Haneda Airport on Thursday amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Passengers will be informed of the “exact departure time approximately 24 hours before the flight,” reads an email received by passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at a port near Tokyo.

“It is important that you remain on the ship until you are instructed to board the assisted Canadian flight, even if you are cleared to leave because you have completed the ship quarantine,” says the email received Tuesday evening local time from Global Affairs.

“Please note that if you leave the ship before you are instructed to do so, it will not be possible to board the assisted Canadian flight.”

Should passengers choose not to return on the charter flight, they will need to complete the current quarantine being administered by Japan and follow the instructions of local authorities, it says.

Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act, in line with a determination to be made by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it says.

This could include a further quarantine of 14 days, it reads.

An email sent Monday evening said it took the government time to organize this evacuation because the flight departure from Lisbon was delayed by “several hours due to overflight clearance challenges.”

As many as 255 Canadians are on the Diamond Princess, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for at least 10 days. So far, 355 people have been infected, including 15 from Canada.

The largest number of cases outside China is among passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Japanese Health Ministry has tested 1,723 people among the 3,700 initially on board, and 454 have tested positive.

The U.S. evacuated 338 American passengers early Monday, with most of them placed in a 14-day quarantine at military bases in California and Texas.

Global Affairs Canada said on Saturday that the aircraft will bring passengers from Japan to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in southern Ontario.

There they will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine.

Before boarding in Japan, passengers will be screened for symptoms, it said adding those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health system to receive appropriate care.

Experts have questioned if the close quarters have contributed to the virus’ spread.

Lolita and Hans Wisener of Red Deer, Alta., who have so far not shown symptoms of the virus say they are looking forward to being on the plane.

“I feel better having gotten some news because it feels like we’ve just been sitting and waiting for two days,” Lolita Wisener said.

“Things are moving even if it’s slow but knowing helps. It looks like it’s going to be another two days.”

Another passenger, Trudy Clement, said she’s a bit worried although neither she nor her husband have shown symptoms.

“It’s the stress,” she said.

“It’s bad enough just waiting for this day to finally come but waiting for that knock on the door to finally say you’re not going because you tested positive is horrible. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.”

Her husband will be spending his birthday in quarantine on March 1, in Ontario.

“We’ll order a cake, I don’t know, Clement said.

“As long as we get out of here, it’s fine. Home is always home.”

With files from The Associated Press

Boy, 14, in critical condition after hit-and-run in Oshawa

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 18th, 2020

A teenage boy is in critical condition after a hit-and-run in Oshawa Sunday night.

Police said the 14-year-old boy was sitting on an e-bike on Stephenson Road North, near Taunton Road East, around 7 p.m. when the crash happened.

It’s believed the boy was trying to get the bike started when a car heading southbound hit the boy at full speed and then fled the area.

The boy was airlifted to SickKids hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Police said the driver would definitely have known they hit someone.

The vehicle is believed to be a white, four-door car that will have extensive damage to the front end and a missing side mirror.

Anyone with information on the crash is being asked to contact Durham police.

Ontario legislature returns from break amid escalating tensions with teachers

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 18th, 2020

The Ontario legislature returns Tuesday after a break that’s been dominated by increasing tensions with the province’s public school teachers and the unions that represent them.

Contract talks between the Progressive Conservative government and the four major teachers’ unions have largely stalled.

Meanwhile, a co-ordinated provincewide strike set for Friday will see about two million students out of class.

In addition to the teachers’ issue, the Tories are preparing their second spring budget.

Controversy plagued the rollout of their first spending package last year, which included deep spending cuts, including some that are now at the centre of the teachers’ dispute.

The government is also likely to face questions about its controversial move during the winter break to cancel Hamilton’s light-rail line.

Snow hits the GTA, freezing rain and rain expected later

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 18th, 2020

The first trip to work and school after the Family Day long weekend is a messy one, as drivers are dealing with snow on the roads with rain set to move in later Tuesday morning.

A winter weather travel advisory, which was issued by Environment Canada, is in effect for the GTA.

The national weather agency said the snow could briefly mix with light freezing rain as the system moves across southern Ontario.

“Snowfall amounts in the four to eight centimetre range are expected by the time the snow tapers to rain or drizzle this morning,” the advisory states.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said in the GTA snow is expected to change over to rain around 7 a.m. The rain will then end by 11 a.m.

However, as the wet weather moves out, the wind with pick up this afternoon with gusts of 50 km/h.

One man suffers life-threatening injuries in Moss Park fire

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Feb 14th, 2020

One man has been taken to hospital without vital signs following a two alarm fire in the Moss Park area of the city.

Fire crews were called to an apartment building on Sherbourne Street near Queen Street East just after 6:30 p.m.

Paramedics tell 680 NEWS that one man has been taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries while another patient was being treated on the scene for minor smoke inhalation.

Firefighters say the blaze, which was contained to the one apartment, has been extinguished.

Pipeline protests expected today, governments to meet with First Nations

DIRK MEISSNER AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 14th, 2020

Anti-pipeline protests that have severed vital freight and passenger rail links across Canada could heat up today, with the added threat of activists planning to shut down government offices in British Columbia’s capital.

Protests continue as political leaders look to negotiate solutions, while business leaders, opposition politicians and ordinary people call for immediate action to end the disruptions, which have already seen more than 80 arrests.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan spoke Thursday about the need to work together to resolve the pipeline tensions that have resulted in solidarity blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and B.C.

Indigenous leaders in B.C.’s northwest have invited federal and B.C. politicians to meetings to find solutions.

The Indigenous leaders have said they would ensure a blockade of CN Rail track near New Hazelton, B.C., would come down during talks.

Canadian National Railway said Thursday it was starting a progressive shutdown in the East, while Via Rail cancelled all service on CN tracks in Canada.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said safe and efficient passenger and freight rail service is critical to Canada’s well-being.

He is to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations to discuss a way forward.

Federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is speaking to the media on Friday to address the ongoing blockades.

The blockades began last week after RCMP enforced an injunction against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who were blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada export project.

Horgan has rejected calls from the Opposition Liberals to seek immediate injunctions to end the blockades and protests in B.C.

“We can’t just use force,” he said in the legislature. “It needs to be dealt with by co-operation, by consultation, by discussion so that we can all move forward.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Horgan was taking an “entirely passive approach in the face of implacable protesters who are intent on shutting down constituency services, shutting down the universities, shutting down our transportation arteries.”

Groups including Grain Growers of Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have said rail delays caused by the blockades are hurting their members and the economy.

Teamsters Canada, the country’s largest union in the transportation sector, called on the federal government to intervene.

The union warned the impasse could put up to 6,000 workers at CN and other rail companies out of work.

Protesters have threatened to block government buildings in Victoria on Friday, but late Thursday a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted an injunction against further blockades at the legislature.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route.

However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

More than two dozen people have been arrested in the pipeline construction area near Houston, B.C., by RCMP enforcing an injunction order. Vancouver Police arrested more than 50 people this week enforcing an injunction order against people blocking access to Vancouver area ports.

UP Express service suspended due to signal problem

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Feb 14th, 2020

Those heading to the airport this morning via the UP Express will have to opt for a GO shuttle instead.

Metrolinx says the train that takes passengers from Union Station to Pearson Airport, with stops at Bloor and Weston in between, is not running due to signal issues.

A GO shuttle bus will be available to those traveling directly between Union and Pearson while those at Bloor and Weston are being asked to use the TTC.

It’s unclear when service is expected to be restored.

Death toll from coronavirus in China nears 1,400

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 14th, 2020

China on Friday reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new virus, as the death toll neared 1,400.

The National Health Commission said 121 more people had died and there were 5,090 new confirmed cases.

The number of reported cases has been rising more quickly after the hardest-hit province changed its method of counting them Thursday. There are now 63,851 confirmed cases in mainland China, of which 1,380 have died.

Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis and before they have been confirmed by lab tests. Of the 5,090 new cases, 3,095 fell into that category.

The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 as much as a revised methodology.

China’s health commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases in which the patient has pneumonia so they can be treated more quickly and reduce the likelihood of more serious illness or death. It was also seen as a reflection of a chaotic crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples.

“Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

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