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COVID-19 spending package and Big Brother Canada; In The News for March 17


In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 17 ...

COVID-19 in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau is expected to soon announce the federal government's plan to help workers affected by COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the details of the spending package would arrive imminently, with measures rolling out in the coming days to buffer the economy from the sudden shock of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He also suggested that more measures may have to be taken in the long term to help restore consumer and business confidence.

A number of moves have been debated, such as temporarily boosting the value of the Canada Child Benefit and providing grants to workers who don't qualify for employment insurance, such as gig economy workers.

The federal government has also said it is closing its borders, effective Wednesday, to most foreign nationals except Americans and is barring anyone, including Canadian citizens, with symptoms of the novel coronavirus from boarding flights back home.

Calgary-based airline WestJet announced late Monday it was suspending all commercial international and transborder flights for a 30-day period, refocusing its efforts on repatriation flights for Canadians stuck abroad.


Also this ...

CALGARY — Some legal experts are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on Canada's justice system.

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench is adjourning all scheduled trials for at least 10 weeks and limiting hearings to urgent matters.

Ontario is also putting all new jury trials on hold.

Lisa Silver, a law professor at the University of Calgary, says the justice system needs to plan now for when the outbreak is over.

She says courts will be hit with a flood of cases.

Ian Savage, president of the Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers' Association, says delays will likely double the amount of time an accused has to spend in the system.

But he says he doesn't think the courts will see more Jordan applications.

The Supreme Court's Jordan decision imposed time limits on how long it can take for a criminal case to go to trial before it is deemed unreasonable.

Savage says delays caused by special circumstances, such as a pandemic, likely won't get counted in the overall delay period.


COVID-19 and the vulnerable ...

VANCOUVER — Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness is putting out an urgent call for more emergency shelter beds to protect Canada's vulnerable homeless population from COVID-19.

President Tim Richter says people who sleep in shelters or hunker down outside already have a lower life expectancy, and often have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk if they develop COVID-19.

The fact that many can't follow public health advice to protect themselves or limit the spread of the virus makes for an even more dangerous situation.

Chrissy Brett, a community advocate in Vancouver, says social distancing to reduce the risk of spreading the virus is difficult for people who are housed in crowded spaces and lining up in groups to use bathrooms or get food.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says he's been working with the mayors of major cities to co-ordinate a response to the risk for homeless people.


COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — The Democratic presidential primary is consumed with uncertainty after leaders in Ohio called off today's election just hours before polls were set to open to combat the new coronavirus.

Not since New York City postponed its mayoral primary on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has an election been pushed off in such a high profile, far-reaching way.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said late Monday that the state's health director will declare a health emergency and order the polls closed.

Elections officials in Arizona, Illinois and Florida said they were moving forward with plans to vote.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump is urging all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating out at restaurants for at least the next few weeks as officials forecast a surge in the coronavirus outbreak.

For the first time Trump acknowledged that the pandemic may send the economy into a recession and went on to suggest that Americans may be dealing with the virus until "July or August."


COVID-19 around the world ...

European Union leaders are meeting to try to forge a united front against the coronavirus as the case count multiplies across the 27-nation bloc.

The challenge at today's video-conference, their second in two weeks, is to halt the arrival of more virus cases, co-ordinate any border closures and guarantee that vital goods can reach people in need.

They are expected to endorse a 30-day ban on travel and non-essential business visits to the EU.

It's likely the leaders will also agree to set up fast lanes at internal European borders to smooth the passage of medical equipment and food.


COVID-19 in the sports world ...

Sam Pedlow has time on his hands to wonder if he'll compete in beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

The 32-year-old is self-quarantined in his Toronto home with his wife and two cats after landing Friday from a tournament in Doha, Qatar.

Like the majority of sports in the world, beach volleyball pressed pause on its season to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

With the Olympics still over four months away, the Tokyo organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee insist the Games will open July 24.

While that's heartening to Canadian athletes who have already qualified, dozens have been thrown into qualification limbo.

Pedlow and teammate Sam Schachter from Richmond Hill, Ont., currently hold down the required top-18 spot in the FIVB's provisional Olympic ranking to get to Tokyo. But the criteria and rules for Olympic qualification across all sports could change dramatically the longer the world remains in a holding pattern.

With the beach tour shut down until the end of April and perhaps beyond, will the sport's governing body arbitrarily change criteria to get to Tokyo?

"It's a little bit more challenging to say with confidence we will be there one hundred per cent because I'm not sure what the qualification period even looks like any more," Pedlow says. "If there's no tournaments and they change the classification system, we could be in, we could be out. It's difficult to say.

"If they keep the classification and there's no tournaments, we're in one hundred per cent."


COVID-19 in entertainment ...

TORONTO — Production is still underway on "Big Brother Canada" despite the global COVID-19 crisis.

But Corus Entertainment says contrary to rumours, the sequestered contestants on the hit reality series have been informed about the pandemic situation and have all chosen to remain on the show.

Corus adds the Toronto-shot series has eliminated its live studio audience and heightened on-site sanitation and other precautionary safety measures.

The eighth season of "Big Brother Canada" debuted with 16 Canadian contestants March 4 on Global — before the virus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

The series unfolds in real-time and sees contestants living together in a camera-filled house with no exposure to the outside world.

"There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 on any Corus Original productions and we continue to monitor the situation closely," Corus said Monday in a statement.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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