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Mobilizing scientists and easing COVID-19 restrictions; In The News for April 23

Last Updated Apr 23, 2020 at 1:20 am PDT

A pedestrian walks past closed storefronts on Ste. Catherine street Wednesday April 22, 2020 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

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 April 23 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

OTTAWA — The federal government is expected to announce today new measures aimed at mobilizing the country’s scientists and researchers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientists around the globe are scrambling to come up with tests, treatments to lessen the severity of the disease and, ultimately, a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus that has killed almost 2,000 Canadians and almost 200,000 people worldwide.

Today’s measures bolster previous efforts by the Trudeau government to marshal Canada’s scientific community in the battle against COVID-19.

In mid-March, it committed $275 million for research, as part of the first emergency aid package.

That was supplemented later in the month with the creation of a new strategic innovation fund, which provided another $192 million to specific companies and research institutions working on the development of drugs and vaccines.

As well, the government has provided $52 million through national granting councils to almost 100 research teams across the country.

In other Canadian news …

HALIFAX — Police say the man who went on a murderous rampage through five Nova Scotia communities was likely using unlicensed firearms, and investigators are trying find out how he obtained illegal weapons.

That probe into firearms is occurring alongside a hunt for anyone who helped the killer obtain an RCMP uniform and a replica vehicle he used to deceive his pursuers and the public as he went about killing 22 people and setting fire to homes on the weekend.

Chief Supt. Chris Leather says investigators have a fairly good idea that, in Canada at least, he didn’t have a firearms acquisition certificate.

It is illegal to own a gun without the proper licence, which federal legislation formally refers to as a possession and acquisition licence. 

Leather says it’s now a key part of the investigation to understand how Gabriel Wortman obtained his weapons, as well as a police uniform and a Ford Taurus that was painted in a fashion identical to a regular RCMP patrol car.

The 51-year-old denturist, whose business was in Halifax, began his killing spree in the small community of Portapique, about 40 kilometres west of Truro, late Saturday.

Also this …

Infectious disease experts say provinces looking to relax restrictions related to COVID-19 need to consider their neighbours.

At least two provinces, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, have lower case numbers and hope to ease measures put in place to control the spread in the coming weeks.

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary, says easing restrictions in one province could present challenges for others.

He notes there are no hard borders between provinces, particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Dr. Stephanie Smith, an associate professor in infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, says it may make sense for provinces with lower case numbers to let up on the measures.

But Smith and Jenne agree that those provinces must have robust testing and contact tracing so they can identify any new cases and prevent an outbreak.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is shifting its message about the novel coronavirus.

For weeks federal officials have raised alarms about the dangers of exposure to the virus in their effort to persuade Americans to stay at home.

U.S. President Donald Trump is now aiming for a swift nationwide reopening and with that comes the challenge of convincing people it will be safe to resume their normal lives.

At the White House, officials believe they have entered a new chapter of the pandemic response, moving from crisis mode to sustained mitigation and management.

For Trump, his re-election likely rides on the pace of an economic rebound.

COVID-19 around the world …

BANGKOK — The world is inching toward a new phase in the coronavirus crisis.

Some countries like Vietnam and New Zealand have few new cases and are moving toward ending their shutdowns. Others like Singapore and Japan are tightening measures to prevent a surge in infections.

Like the U.S., many countries are moving from crisis mode to managing the next phase to prevent flare-ups.

France has started to break the seals on its locked down nursing homes, allowing limited visitation rights for the families of the residents.

The visits are shedding light on the immense emotional toll caused by locking down care homes.

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken notice, retweeted a painful-to-watch interview with a 96-year-old nursing home resident complaining tearfully about being stuck in her room, deprived of daily visits.

In his tweet, Macron wrote: “Madame, your pain overwhelms us all.”

COVID-19 in entertainment …

TORONTO — Live concerts are cancelled in most parts of the country for the foreseeable future, yet Ticketmaster and other Canadian ticket portals have continued to sell access to upcoming events that aren’t happening.

Several dozen concerts, including a DJ set with Andrew Rayel originally slated for Friday at Toronto’s Toybox Nightclub, were still available on Ticketweb, a portal owned by Ticketmaster, until after the company was contacted by The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

And concerts once booked throughout May at the PNE Forum in Vancouver were listed by non-profit retailer Ticketleader until the company responded to inquiries on why they were still up for sale.

Those PNE shows, which included a Kaytranada concert previously scheduled for May 9, have now been marked “postponed” by Ticketleader until an undetermined new date.

A representative for Ticketmaster did not respond to requests for comment about shows listed on Ticketweb, and its reseller platform Stubhub.

Shelley Frost, president of Ticketleader, which is owned by Pacific National Exhibition, said the company is working with concert promoters to reschedule dates, including the Kaytranada show. She said that’s why Ticketleader continued to make the events available to purchase, even though there was no certainty when — or if — they would go forward.

COVID-19 in sports

A 99-year-old Second World War veteran who has raised more than 28 million pounds for Britain’s health service during the coronavirus pandemic has been invited to perform one of British sport’s quaintest traditions once the crisis is over.

Tom Moore will get the chance to ring the famous bell at Lord’s cricket ground, signalling the start of a day’s play, as a reward for his fundraising efforts that have become a national rallying point. The job is typically given to former cricketers or figures in the sport.

The offer was made to Moore, a cricket fan, by England captain Joe Root — a fellow Yorkshireman.

“I’d love you to give us a team talk at some point as well,” Root said in a video conversation with Moore, “and get all the lads in the right frame of mind.”

With the aid of a walking frame, Moore walked 100 laps of his garden in eastern England to support workers in Britain’s National Health Service.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press