Ottawa meeting with UN official leads several MPs to test, self-monitor, and self-isolate for COVID-19

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and several other MPs took steps to protect their health after learning that a UN official they had all met in Ottawa in mid-March had tested positive for COVID-19.

Morneau and an unknown number of MPs from all parties met David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, either at some Parliament Hill receptions on March 11 or when Beasley testified the next day at the House of Commons committee that deals with international human rights. Morneau had a separate meeting with Beasley.

Beasley announced on March 19 he had tested positive for COVID-19 and, at the same time, said that his symptoms began appearing two days after he returned to his home in the United States from his official visit to Ottawa.

Beasley’s announcement set off a chain reaction among several MPs that were in contact with him.

Morneau received advice from Global Affairs Canada officials who advised him to self-monitor for any symptoms.

The Beasley visit and its subsequent fallout underlines how social the business of politics is, and how that business — like so many other kinds of business — has been forced to make radical changes.

For example, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health will meet Tuesday afternoon but will do so by teleconference with journalists and interested members of the public listening in via audio webcast.

Maéva Proteau, Morneau’s press secretary, said Friday that the finance minister remains in good health and has not exhibited any symptoms.

But one of the MPs Beasley met with was Brampton West MP Kamal Khera. Khera announced on March 25 she had tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the only MP so far to be diagnosed with COVID-19. A spokesperson for Khera said it would be impossible to say where she may have contracted the virus.

Another MP who met Beasley, New Democrat Heather McPherson (Edmonton—Strathcona), took a COVID-19 test Wednesday on the advice of public health officials. McPherson, who went into self-isolation as soon as she learned of Beasley’s diagnosis, had experienced a minor cold but otherwise reports feeling fine. She continues to wait for the results of her test.

As soon as Beasley disclosed his diagnosis, the House of Commons sent an email to all MPs saying, “If you were in close contact with Mr. Beasley on March 12, it is recommended that you self-isolate until further direction is received from Ottawa Public Health. If you were in the room during the committee meeting, it is recommended that you self-monitor for symptoms.”

Some MPs acted on those instructions in different ways.

“I followed that advice, self-monitoring for symptoms and practising distancing as everyone should, but not self-isolating because I was not in close contact with him,” said Conservative MP Garnett Genuis. Genuis is also a member of the human rights committee and, other than posing in a picture with him — with four MPs were standing between him and Beasley — had no close contact with him. ” I have not experienced any symptoms.”

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard), another member of the committee, did the same thing — self-monitoring — and has consulted a physician.

The committee chair, Liberal Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South—Hespeler) as well as committee member Conservative MP David Sweet (Flamborough—Glanbrook) put themselves in self-isolation.

Tabbara did so after receiving the email from the House of Commons. Sweet was notified by Conservative MP Mike Lake (Edmonton—Wetaskiwin) on March 19 about Beasley’s diagnosis and went into self-isolation after consulting the Government of Ontario’s self-assessment site.

Lake and Conservative MP Randy Hoback (Prince Albert) had both attended the March 11 Parliament Hill reception. Both subsequently self-isolated.

Hoback then developed a sore throat and contacted local public health officials who instructed him to be tested. Hoback received his test result on March 24 and it, too, was negative.

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M.I.A. under fire after posting anti-vaccine message amid coronavirus pandemic

M.I.A. is facing a wave of criticism online after revealing she’s an anti-vaxxer as the world grapples with the new coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the British rapper, born Mathangi Arulpragasam, took to Twitter, saying she’d rather “choose death” over “the vaccine or chip.” The comment came as researchers around the world work to develop a vaccination against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 22,000 people as of March 25.

“If I have to choose the vaccine or chip I’m gonna choose death — YALA,” she wrote, referencing her own 2013 hit, Y.A.L.A, which stands for You Always Live Again.

“Have a healthy life,” M.I.A. wrote. “Don’t live in fear!”

The 44-year-old’s comment prompted a major backlash from both fans and haters.

After responses flooded in, M.I.A. came back an hour later, telling people not to panic.

“You are OK. You are not gonna die,” she tweeted.

“You can make it without stressing the medical systems. Just breathe. You are going to be OK,” the Paper Planes singer continued. “You can make it through without jumping in the frying pan. You are fine. All the vaccines you’ve already had is enough to see you through.”

Half an hour later, she returned to Twitter to address some social media users who had suggested she was either “cancelled” or “irrelevant.”

“Cancelling is irrelevant,” she wrote.

In response, one user tweeted: “Anti-vaxxers don’t get cancelled, they die, sis.”

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After being labelled an anti-vaxxer, M.I.A. reportedly responded to a user in a since-deleted tweet claiming that getting her child vaccinated was “the hardest thing” she had ever done.

In another deleted tweet, M.I.A. tried to validate her reasoning for opposing vaccinations altogether.

“As an adult you have choice,” she wrote, according to NME, adding: “By then you’ve built your immune system.”

Here’s what some other Twitter users had to say in response to M.I.A.’s comments:

“M.I.A. being an anti-vaxxer is kind of perfect,” tweeted another social media user. “It’s like her common sense on the subject is… missing in action…”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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PM and ministers to take three-month pay cut in solidarity with Singaporeans coping with coronavirus

SINGAPORE – The Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and other political office-holders – as well as the President – will take a three-month pay cut to stand in solidarity with Singaporeans in this difficult time, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (March 26).

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said that political office-holders will take an additional two-month pay cut on top of the one-month pay cut announced last month, in light of the deteriorating situation caused by the coronavirus.

“The President, Speaker and both Deputy Speakers have informed me that they will join in and take a similar three-month pay cut in total,” said Mr Heng, as he delivered the Supplementary Budget.

“It is in times of crisis that the true character of a nation can be seen,” he added. “We are all in this together, and we must all look after one another in these trying times.”

Calling the Covid-19 situation an “unprecedented crisis” that has escalated very quickly, Mr Heng said it has prompted the Government to take extraordinary measures and put together a landmark supplementary budget.

Delivering a ministerial statement that outlined the Government’s thinking behind what he has called the Resilience Budget, Mr Heng said the coronavirus is a defining challenge for Singapore.

“It is a public health crisis, an economic shock, and a social test,” he said. “It will challenge our resilience as individuals and as a society.”

Mr Heng noted that just five weeks after he delivered his Budget speech on Feb 18, the world is now facing a pandemic, with an estimated 410,000 people infected across 190 countries.

While Singapore acted early and decisively and managed to keep the number of cases to a manageable level during the first wave of infections, the world is now seeing successive waves and imported infections, prompting countries to take public health measures, said Mr Heng.

But measures on the medical front to contain the pandemic have made the economic battle more difficult, he added.

“As more countries implement their measures, the economic disruptions will be wider, deeper, and more prolonged,” said Mr Heng. “The global economy is now facing both a supply and demand shock.”

He noted how lockdowns have had knock-on effects, given today’s highly-integrated global supply chains, while people staying home mean that spending has fallen, while business confidence is plunging in the face of growing uncertainties.

Global financial and stock markets are also in turmoil, while credit has tightened around the world, he added.

As an open economy that is highly integrated with the global economy, Singapore will be deeply impacted by these global shocks, said Mr Heng.

He noted that advance GDP estimates released on Thursday (March 26) showed that the economy contracted by 10.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry has downgraded the Republic’s GDP growth forecast for the year to between minus 4.0 per cent and minus 1.0 per cent.

“In economic terms alone, this will likely be the worst economic contraction since independence,” said Mr Heng.

The Resilience Budget, which will introduce over $48 billion in new and enhanced measures, is therefore focused on three areas: protecting jobs, helping enterprises with immediate challenges, and strengthening economic and social resilience so that Singapore can emerge intact and stronger.

“We cannot prevent an economic recession as the external health and economic situation will evolve beyond our control,” he said. “But it will help us to mitigate the extent of the downturn, and more importantly, help save jobs and protect livelihoods.”

The Resilience Budget is also a reminder that the battle against Covid-19 is waged not just on the medical and economic fronts, but that the virus is also a test of Singapore’s social cohesion and psychological resilience, said Mr Heng.

“This reflects our determination that Singapore and Singaporeans remain resilient in the face of these challenges,” he said. “Come what may, no matter how daunting the challenge at hand, we will bounce back, stronger and more united than ever, as we weather this storm together.”

Concluding, Mr Heng pledged that the Government will lead the way in the fight against Covid-19 by doing its best to anticipate and respond to developments, make decisions based on facts and evidence, and exercise judgment when there are trade-offs.

“The Government and the political leadership are in this with Singaporeans,” he said. “We share the worries and anxieties of Singaporeans, and we will do our best for them.

“We will walk with every Singaporean, through every up and down.”

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Frustrations continue for Saskatchewan nurses over lack of protective equipment

Registered nurses in Saskatchewan continue to be concerned over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the number of COVID-19 cases in the province continues to rise.

Considered the most effective protective wear by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, N95 masks are at a premium.

SUN president Tracy Zambory says it’s putting a strain on its workers.

“It’s not like COVID-19 was a surprise. We could have been doing this quite some time ago and unfortunately, it’s poor planning.”

Zambory said other than the lack of PPE, nurses in Saskatchewan are dealing with the situation in a positive manner.

“Registered nurses, we are there for people no matter what. We are very used to working in stressful conditions. We’re used to working with people who have infectious diseases,” Zambory said.

“This is not new to us. We are not nervous or concerned about that part of it.”

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Some nurses in Alberta have refused to work due to not having proper PPE, but Zambory says it’s not something SUN is looking to follow.

“We’re going to strive to not have that happen. Registered nurses are dedicated to their patients. The last thing we want to do is to halt work,” Zambory said.

“We are going to work with the health authority and ministry of health to make sure that doesn’t happen. At the end of the day, we need to make sure frontline workers aren’t getting sick.”

In regards to N95 masks, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says there are many supply chains trying to meet the demand.

He is hopeful supply shortages won’t last much longer.

“It looks like supply will be ramping up. We are hopeful for that, not only for us here in Saskatchewan, but for all of North America,” Moe said.

Moe said he is grateful to all Saskatchewan businesses and industries who do have N95 masks on hand and have provided them to SHA.

When the COVID-19 pandemic passes, Zambory says SUN plans on sitting with the province’s ministry of health and Saskatchewan Health Authority to talk about how to better plan for future situations like COVID-19.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. All international travellers returning to Saskatchewan are required to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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N.S. sprint kayaker Mark de Jonge responds to Olympic Games postponement

Two-time Olympic sprint kayaker and Nova Scotian Mark de Jonge was supposed to be in Florida this week, training for what would be a third Olympic appearance. Instead, he and his family are in self-isolation at their Halifax home.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster” said De Jonge, sitting under a framed photo from a 2016 Olympic photo emblazoned with the Canada motto Fire in Our Hearts, Ice in our Veins. “I ended up driving home the end of last week and now here I am, just hanging out in my basement. Not really what I had planned.”

De Jonge, like most Canadian athletes this week, is disappointed but not surprised by the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The announcement comes after the Canadian Olympic Committee said they won’t send athletes to compete if the games went ahead as planned.

“A lot of this stuff wasn’t surprising to me,” he said. “It’s obviously hard to be told to leave your Olympic training camp but if you just looked at Italy or China around that same time you can see the extent of this pandemic. It’s been rough but it could be a heck of a lot worse too.”

De Jonge is no stranger to the feeling of being an Olympian. He won a bronze medal in the K-1 200 metres at the 2012 Olympics in London and competed for Canada again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He is a two-time world champion and was recently named one of the top Nova Scotian athletes in history.

This time around, De Jonge is the veteran on a K4 team with three other members who have yet to live the Olympic dream. He’s been keeping in contact through group chats and the overall mood is disappointment but relief that Canada is still in the game for 2021.

“It’s very precious to be going to an Olympic Games and we were so close to doing that, we were just weeks away,” said De Jonge, “but it’s obvious the circumstances are what they are, you have to just suck it up. It’s another year, if we can wrap our heads around this and come out of these quarantine situations ready to get back on the water again, it shouldn’t really hold us back too much.”

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Economic Affairs: Waiting for global cooperation

During the depths of the global financial crisis in April 2009, the Group of 20 (G-20) held a crucial summit in London, chaired by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In the run-up to the summit, financial markets were crashing, economies were sliding into recession and confidence was shot to pieces.

The G-20, which comprises not only major industrial countries, but also large developing and middle-income countries, managed to coordinate and come up with a collective response. Together, the members provided a US$2 trillion stimulus to the global economy, pledged more resources for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help troubled economies and committed to strengthen supervision and regulation of financial markets and institutions. The G-20 is now the de facto steering committee for the global economy.

Confidence was restored, financial markets bottomed out and the crisis began to lift. The big lesson from the London summit – probably the most successful summit of all time – was that international cooperation during a crisis can make all the difference.

The world is facing another crisis now, more serious than in 2009 in that it is not just financial and economic, but also a public health crisis of global proportions. Yet, international cooperation – other than among some central banks – has been close to non-existent.

On March 16, the Group of Seven (G-7) industrial countries – itself an archaic body that does not include countries like China, India, Russia or Brazil, or any others from the middle-income or developing world – held a video conference call in which they promised to do “whatever it takes” to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. But they made no concrete commitments. Nothing has been heard from the G-7 since. The leaders went their separate ways and did their own thing.


In the United States, President Donald Trump and some of his administration’s senior officials, having failed to take the fast-spreading pandemic seriously before it arrived on American shores, made no attempt to cooperate with the Chinese government (or any other) in trying to manage the pandemic response. Instead, they riled the Chinese by declaring Covid-19 “the China virus”.

Provoked to retaliate, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made the unfounded claim that the virus had in fact been brought to China by the US military, which China’s Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai later sensibly walked back.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross viewed the coronavirus through a trade-war lens, declaring soon after the outbreak that the spread of Covid-19 through China would “accelerate the return of jobs to North America”, as if the epidemic was a blessing.

The trade war has in fact helped weaken America’s response to the pandemic. US tariffs have disrupted imports of medical supplies from China that the US desperately needs. Such items as CT scanners, thermometers, patient monitors and disposable headgear, of which China is among the world’s major suppliers, are still subject to 25 per cent tariffs. As the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington has pointed out, the US did not increase its purchases from the rest of the world to offset the decline in these imports from China.

Greater cooperation between the US and Chinese governments, including rolling back the trade-war tariffs, instead of needling and name calling, would have created mutual goodwill and helped both countries.

The saving grace is that the American and Chinese scientific communities have continued to cooperate in private. American scientists appreciated China’s efforts in sharing the genome sequence of the coronavirus early on and are closely following the case studies of cured patients and other medical findings from China. Chinese scientists, on their part, have been generous in sharing their research and best treatment practices.


Over in Europe, the cooperation has been better, but still sub-par.

During the early stages of the outbreak in Italy, Germany and France started hoarding face masks and other protective gear instead of sending such items to where they were then most needed. Although this short-sighted practice has since stopped after the European Commission finally got its act together, Italy suffered heavily from a shortage of sufficient protective equipment at a critical time. China did more to support Italy with medical supplies than the country’s fellow European Union members.

In the economic sphere, the European Central Bank has, like the US Federal Reserve, launched a massive bond-buying programme. On the fiscal front, although individual EU countries are making their independent plans for expansionary policies, the EU has yet to come up with a concerted and coordinated fiscal stimulus. The danger is that if some countries act without regard to the effects of their policies on others, this would impact spreads on sovereign bonds, which might make it harder for governments of weaker EU economies like Italy and Spain – which happen to be the worst hit by the pandemic – to access finance from capital markets. A collective fiscal response from the EU would also boost confidence across Europe.


Looking beyond wealthy countries, the Covid-19 pandemic is now spreading in the developing world. Infections are rising in South and South-east Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America ( Most countries in these regions – some of them heavily populated – have weak public health infrastructure and insufficient financial or medical resources to cope with full-blown epidemics. Many are also being hit by outsized commodity shocks as well as devastating declines in other sources of earnings such as tourism.

They will badly need help – some of them already do – but as yet, rich countries have offered them little or no support. Only China – which was the disease epicentre but seems to have managed to curtail the spread of the virus internally – has been proactive in sending help abroad, in terms of equipment and medical expertise.

With rich countries facing severe budgetary pressures of their own, the best hope for the developing world lies with international institutions. The IMF has activated its fast-disbursing emergency financing facilities to provide US$50 billion (S$72.4 billion) to developing countries, some of which will carry zero interest rates. It has also pledged to mobilise its US$1 trillion lending capacity to help its members.

Some economists, such as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, suggest that the IMF should also provide liquidity support to developing countries by allocating to them more of its own currency called Special Drawing Rights – effectively creating money like the Federal Reserve does with quantitative easing. But that would call for international cooperation because it would need the approval of the IMF’s rich members.

The Federal Reserve could also lend a hand to emerging market economies, which are being hit by a dollar shortage. The Washington-based Institute of International Finance, which tracks global financial flows, recently reported that international investors withdrew about US$42 billion from emerging economies in January alone, the largest outflow ever recorded.

Faced with both currency crises as well as debt crises because of their dollar-denominated debts, these countries need urgent access to US dollar funding. The Fed has so far provided dollar swap facilities to just a handful of other central banks – mostly those of major economies. It needs to do the same for emerging economies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is another institution that can help the developing world – and rich countries too – at this time. It has the ability to coordinate global public health responses and the expertise that especially poor countries rely on. But the WHO has had its budgets slashed in recent years at the behest of some its rich country members. As a result, its emergency response capabilities have been compromised, and many of its epidemic control experts have left the organisation.

Last month, the WHO called for US$675 million in donations so it could ramp up efforts to deal with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the developing world. Singapore has responded promptly with a US$500,000 donation. Other donors, especially the US, the EU and Japan, must agree to replenish the WHO’s coffers.


Public health is, after all, a global public good. At no time is this more self-evident than the present. Viruses are the ultimate globetrotters, respecting no national boundaries and needing no passports or visas. One of the biggest lessons that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us, even in its relatively early days, is how far-reaching and profound the consequences of an interconnected world can be.

Controlling a pandemic like this cannot be done without a global response. No country can wall it out if others don’t do the same. Any country that is not able to – regardless of its geography, ideology or political system – needs all the help it can get.

And it’s not just about providing financial support and medical equipment; it’s also about sharing knowledge. Every country will have something to learn and something to teach, which will benefit all. International cooperation is no longer optional. It has become indispensable.

There are glimmers of hope. Finance ministers and central bankers from the G-20 recently held a video conference where they pledged to coordinate their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic – although nothing specific was revealed and there was no joint statement. The G-20 leaders are expected to hold a virtual summit later this week. Hopefully they can match, in impact, what the London summit of 2009 managed to achieve.

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