Turkey to evaluate possible measures as COVID-19 outbreak flares


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ANKARA — Turkey will evaluate possible new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus as the outbreak flares nationwide, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday

Turkey reported another 2,102 people with COVID-19 symptoms on Thursday, the highest figure since May when Ankara imposed a series of restrictive measures. The death toll from the virus rose to 9,584 on Thursday, Health Ministry data showed.

“Our health minister is visiting various provinces…We are working on what sort of measures we will take there,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“As of now, what sort of measures are to be taken will be conveyed to us from the science team and we will take our steps according to that,” he said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier on Friday that 40% of the total cases across the country were reported in its largest city Istanbul, where there were five times more cases than in the capital Ankara.

He was meeting officials in the province of Bursa and elsewhere in northwest Turkey and was set to brief the media on the latest situation in the region later in the day.

Turkey’s top medical association and the main opposition party have criticized the government’s decision to only publish symptomatic COVID-19 patients, saying it hides the true scale of the outbreak.



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European stocks lift off lows after new stimulus measures in UK



FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Staff

October 22, 2020

By Susan Mathew and Joice Alves

(Reuters) – European shares fell for a fourth straight day on Thursday, though they trimmed losses after Britain’s Finance Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled billions of pounds more of financial aid for pandemic-hit businesses.

London’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE> erased losses to end up 0.2%, while the mid-caps index <.FTMC> rose over half a percent. The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> recovered from losses of up to 1.2% to close down 0.1%. [.L]

“(Sunak’s) announcement highlights the hope that other nations will also remain suitably supportive to avoid economic collapse,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online trader IG.

Europe’s travel and leisure sector <.SXTP>, the pandemic’s worst casualty, jumped 1.6%, with London’s Trainline <TRNT.L>, bookmaker GVC Holdings <GVC.L> and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines <ICAG.L> leading gains.

The German DAX <.GDAXI> fell 0.1% as a survey showed consumer morale in Europe’s largest economy dropped heading into November.

With COVID-19 cases climbing in Europe, all eyes next week will be on the European Central Bank’s next move.

Spain became the first Western European nation to exceed 1 million infections on Wednesday, while Italy saw a record rise in daily cases. The number of confirmed cases in Germany jumped by more than 10,000 for the first time in a single day..

Analysts at Rabobank say that while an immediate ECB intervention isn’t warranted given the stimulus already being provided, there is now a substantial possibility of an announcement next week.

The broader selloff took a toll on tech stocks <.SX8P>, the worst-performing sector so far this week. Investors have also remained nervous about the slow pace of U.S. stimulus and the Brexit negotiations.

Data showed fund flows into European stocks have surged in recent months as global investors looked away from U.S. equities ahead of the presidential election, and on concerns over high valuations.

Third-quarter earnings continue to be largely better than expected.

French electrical equipment group Schneider Electric SE <SCHN.PA> rose 2.1%, giving the biggest boost to STOXX 600, after it raised its 2020 revenue and margin forecasts.

Unilever <ULVR.L> <UNA.AS> rose 0.4% after the Anglo-Dutch consumer group reported a stronger-than-expected return to quarterly sales growth, led by emerging markets.

Swedish hygiene products group Essity <ESSITYa.ST> and British price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com <MONY.L> fell as quarterly revenue suffered from the stay-at-home trend.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Jan Harvey)





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Canadian media outlets challenge the government to save the industry with new measures to rein in big tech


Canadian news media organizations, which say they are being bled dry by tech companies like Google and Facebook, have challenged the government to follow Australia’s lead and implement strong new measures to save the industry.

On Thursday, News Media Canada, a lobby group representing major print and digital publishers including Torstar, issued a report requesting that the federal government allow them to band together to bargain collectively with the tech giants, impose a code of conduct on “web monopolies,” and enforce that code with large financial penalties.

This model would help the struggling industry take on the “monopolistic practices” of the American tech giants and level the playing field at no cost to taxpayers and without the need for new user fees or subsidies, the organization says.

Media companies, with the approval of government, would form a collective bargaining unit to negotiate compensation for the use of their content and intellectual property by Google and Facebook, which currently collect around 80 per cent of all advertising revenues in Canada, according to the organization.

“Currently, media outlets are forced to play by their rules, and they can pay us whatever they feel like. We want to end a monopolistic abuse of power,” said Jamie Irving, vice-president of Brunswick News Publishing and chair of News Media Canada’s working group.

Canadian anti‑competition law currently prohibits media outlets from forming a negotiating bloc, so legislative changes would be needed for them to collectively negotiate with the tech giants.

Irving oversaw the “Levelling the Digital Playing Field” report released Thursday, which reviewed how various countries have tried to address challenges posed by the dominance of web giants in digital advertising.

“The Australia model was clearly the best model for Canada,” Irving said. “Our two countries are similar in many ways.”

In addition to allowing the country’s news media to form a collective bargaining unit, Australia is working on a legally binding code of conduct to ensure that tech companies don’t try to expand their market domination and anti-competitive prices. Those that violate the rules would be subject to fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The enforcement would have teeth,” Irving said.

Advocates have long argued that Canadian publishing laws — mainly written for the predigital era — are antiquated.

News Media Canada represents publications that reach more than 90 per cent of the news media readership in Canada through daily, regional, community and ethnocultural news publications.

Its membership includes Torstar, which publishes the Toronto Star, Glacier Media, Black Press, Postmedia, the Globe and Mail, La Presse, Quebecor and Brunswick News.

Irving says that he hopes that the proposal will achieve broad bipartisan support in Ottawa.

Last month, the federal throne speech announced that Canada will pass a new law compelling companies like Facebook and Google to pay for the stories, music and videos they take from other sources and post online.

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“Web giants are taking Canadians’ money while imposing their own priorities. Things must change and will change,” said the speech read by Governor General Julie Payette.

“The government will act to ensure their revenue is shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production and distribution of our stories, onscreen, in lyrics, in music and in writing.”

With files from Moira Welsh and Alex Boutillier

Joanna Chiu is a Vancouver-based reporter covering both Canada-China relations and current affairs on the West Coast for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu





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How dissecting superspreading events can help people take COVID-19 measures seriously


It’s a snapshot of a superspreading event: one person unknowingly infected with COVID-19 transmitted the contagion to 23 other passengers scattered on a tour bus, even those sitting seven rows behind.

The image presented in last month’s study of what happened on a sunny, breezy day in eastern China is dramatic, experts say.

For those who have been studying how the public has responded to messages from authorities during the pandemic, it’s the kind of story that public health officials should harness more often in their communications.

“They tell a very compelling story,” said Prof. Kim Lavoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal. “If you can represent that visually, people get it. People see the good things that happen when I adhere to these policies and the not-so-good things that happen.”

The Chinese study documented what happened in late January during the peak Lunar New Year travel season. The novel coronavirus was spreading in China’s Hubei province when a group of 126 Buddhists living in the community took two buses to a temple ceremony in Ningbo, hundreds of kilometres east of the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus.

A woman who had recently dined with friends in Hubei rode on one bus. The presumed index case started to have a cough, chills and muscle aches after returning from the temple. She sat, unmasked, for the 100-minute round trip on a vehicle with cooling units recirculating the air. Two windows on each side of the bus were open.

The close, crowded conditions on a bus for a long period with someone who was likely highly contagious — with most of the 68 passengers and driver not wearing masks — suggested “airborne transmission likely contributed to the high attack rate,” the researchers wrote.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it does not have a definition of superspreading events for this country and instead monitors outbreaks.

Several local medical officers of health across the country also don’t refer to superspreaders. For example, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, was asked Tuesday if the city’s largest current outbreak at a spin studio — one of the worst fitness studio outbreaks in the country — would be considered a superspreader event.

Richardson said the public health department generally doesn’t use that term, instead calling it a “very large outbreak” with a lot of transmission.

(CBC News)

Nonetheless, Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officer of health for Kingston, Ont., and surrounding communities, said that during an outbreak at a nail salon in June that led to 37 cases, a “superspreading event contributed to 38 per cent of total cases.”

Testing rates were at record levels following media attention and public health messaging, Moore said.

Personal approach is more persuasive

Successful public health measures during COVID-19 can also be used to tell a story and illustrate cause and effect for the public, Lavoie said.

The collective sacrifices of individual Canadians succeeded in bending the curve when only essential workers ventured out, cases dropped and then the effective reproductive number fell below one, pausing the disease’s exponential growth during the summer. Australia’s more recent success is another positive example.

To keep people engaged with public health measures over time, Lavoie suggests that governments in Canada share more personally relevant information to help individuals make informed decisions, rather than what she called a “pretty please” approach.

“I think ‘pretty please’ without supporting data is not very compelling, particularly when you’re asking people to make massive sacrifices without demonstrating that the sacrifices are worth it.”

(CBC News)

Early on, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, was praised for clearly showing people what was happening and why, in easy-to-understand terms.

“I honestly believe that had a huge impact,” Lavoie said. “It felt like ‘We respect you, we trust you with the information, and now that you have it, we have confidence you’ll make the right decision.'”

What’s more, when missteps were made initially, such as outbreaks in B.C.’s long-term care homes, Henry took full responsibility, she said.

What motivates people to sacrifice?

Behavioural medicine also suggests that moving away from a one-size-fits-all message to a more personalized approach would work better at motivating people to make important sacrifices.

Lavoie and Simon Bacon, a professor of health, kinesiology and applied physiology at Concordia University in Montreal, have been surveying people throughout the pandemic about what motivates them as part of the iCARE (International COVID-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation Study) project.

The findings suggest that younger people might be more motivated by the socio-economic fallout of reimposing restrictions rather than risk to their individual health from COVID-19, compared with people over the age of 65.

“Show how long it’s going to take us to pay down the debt, this is how long it’s going to take, the longer we remain in this,” Lavoie said.

Individual goals matter, too.

“I think we do need to have positive messaging,” Lavoie said.

Barbershop manager Georgette Simms gets a haircut from her partner, Jason Carter, at their business, Social Barber Studio, in Brampton, Ont., in July. Positive messaging from public health officials can help people understand that adhering to COVID-19 safety measures can be beneficial, such as by protecting their business. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A common message from public health officials is: “We’re all going to get through this.” But to Lavoie, that doesn’t go far enough.

Her version is: “We are going to get out of this only together. This is how and this is why, and this is what’s in store for us the quicker we achieve that,” she said. “We’re all going to benefit. Some of you will benefit by protecting your health. Some of you will benefit by protecting your business. Some of you will benefit by being able to have your dream wedding.”

It’s a numbers game

The field of finance also shows how communicating in terms of time, not case numbers, makes a difference in perception.

Daniela Sele, a PhD candidate at the Center for Law & Economics at ETH Zurich, turned from studying exponential growth in financial decision-making, like compound interest, to the exponential growth of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Sele found that how numbers are presented matters in how people perceive them.

Portraits of Dr. Bonnie Henry, left, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, are dismantled at a picture-framing shop in Vancouver in May. Henry was praised at the time for clearly showing people what was happening during the COVID-19 pandemic and why, in easy-to-understand terms. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In a preprint study posted in August, Sele asked about 450 students to estimate how many cases could be avoided through interventions like physical distancing, handwashing and wearing a mask.

Sele and her co-author found people drastically underestimated how many cases could be avoided.

But if the same numbers were framed in terms of doubling time — how long it takes cases to double from, say, 100,000 to 200,000 — people assessed the benefits correctly.

The classic example of framing exactly the same number differently is saying two-thirds of people will survive versus one-third of people will die.

“I think it’s interesting to think about could we talk about how long until the health-care system capacity is reached in our local community?” Sele said. “Because people, according to our data, seem to understand that better than the actual pace of the pandemic.”

WATCH | The role of superspreading events in COVID-19 transmission:

Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

Prevent superspreading events

Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and mathematical modeller at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said when it comes to superspreading events like the tour bus in China, a small proportion of people are responsible for a greater share of the transmission.

“You don’t know ahead of time what will result in a superspreading event,” Tuite said.

The message? Like the woman who boarded a tour bus, it’s impossible to know if your silent infection will affect many others, so everyone needs to heed public health precautions.

It’s a combination of biology, such as being at the peak of infectiousness, and performing an activity in a location that’s really conducive to transmission — think indoor, crowded places — that come together to create superspreading events, Tuite said.



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Youth crime needs pandemic scale measures, says historian


By ERWIN CHLANDA

Local historian Alex Nelson says “problems of youth on the streets at night … correlate directly with the advent of equal civil rights for Aboriginal people during the 1960s and self-determination from the 1970s onwards.”

In a letter to the new Minister for Territory Families, Kate Worden, Mr Nelson (pictured) says: “There are fundamentally implicit negative side-effects to these progressive reforms that (despite many early warnings) effectively negate all efforts and expense to advance prospects for Indigenous people.

“While often there are claims that the current situation is out of hand and the worst it’s ever been, this is in fact a repetitive theme that stretches back several decades.

“Similarly, public figures frequently cast aspersions on other parties and recent previous administrations to lay blame for the failure to adequately address the problem of children running amok at night – again, it is another constant theme of several decades standing.”

Mr Nelson says various ideas and programs have been suggested or implemented “which invariably have been mentioned or tried previously to no avail, in some instances more than twice.

Advocate, January 23, 1987.

“Despite the deeply entrenched nature of this problem, there is little corporate memory of just how long these issues have been at the forefront of public awareness. It is a strikingly Orwellian facet of our society.”

Mr Nelson illustrates his point “of youth roaming the streets of Alice Springs at night covering a period well over half a century, spanning literally generations” with reports in the Centralian Advocate and Alice Springs News about the “spectrum of social disorders of crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and related issues which are all intricately interconnected … most notably the criticism of lack of parental responsibility but also poverty, overcrowding, family violence, disengagement with society, boredom, education issues, lack of or inadequate drop-in facilities, and much else.

“Aboriginal children and families are predominant in these circumstances for the entire duration of its history, irrespective of all the changes in Indigenous affairs throughout this time.

Alice Springs News, March 13, 2002.

“It is pertinent to note that these problems began to manifest in the NT from about the early 1960s onwards, trended progressively worse during the 1970s, and became firmly entrenched from at least the early 1980s onwards.

“The magnitude of the problems experienced today varies little and has been much the same for the duration of the period of NT self-government.”

Later the advent of social media “facilitated rampant vitriol and personal abuse”.

Mr Nelson says: “I am not advocating a repeal of civil rights but there is a need to recognise the duality of reforms which has led to unforeseen or unheeded negative consequences.

“The problem has developed on such a scale that it is beyond immediate family members or communities.

Advocate, January 11, 1994.

“It requires the whole of society to accept responsibility for bringing aberrant youth behaviour issues under control, and that is only possible if all our community leaders are determined to act in unison.

“This approach isn’t dissimilar to that taken towards controlling a pandemic – that is the kind of effort and resolution we need here.”

PHOTO collage, clockwise from top left: Alice Springs News March 3, 2011; News March 3, 1994; Centralian Advocate January 21, 1987; Advocate January 23, 1987; Advocate, November 16, 1990. Below: Alice Springs News, November 20, 2008.



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Maharashtra: As adoptions pick up pace, agencies take measures against Covid-19


Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala
| Mumbai |

October 7, 2020 2:36:59 am


The pandemic forced the Patwekars to wait for five months before they could hold their baby boy. On March 6, the Central Adoption Regional Agency informed them about a six-month-old baby up for adoption in Nashik. The Sangli couple finished the paperwork but by the time documents were ready, the lockdown was announced. For months, once every week, the coordinator in Adhar Ashram, Nashik, sent pictures of the boy growing up. Mushtak Patwekar (45), an optician, said they could not do video calls, and pictures were all he and wife Zareena could hold on to.

By July end, the couple was allowed to adopt the baby. “Nashik has a lot of Covid-19 cases so we took the nine-hour journey from Sangli to Nashik by road, didn’t stop anywhere and reached the adoption home directly. Since hotels were shut we had to return with the baby the same day,” Patwekar said. They were not allowed to hold the baby until documentation and court proceedings were completed. Only when they could take the baby home, did the adoption centre hand them the boy, now 12-month-old and named Abdul. But the 1,000 km to and fro journey was worth it. “We waited three years for this,” he said.

Amid the Covid-19 scare, some adoption centres in the state have prohibited couples from touching babies, some allow them to hold the child after disinfection of their hands, while others permit meetings only after a couple confirms to adopt a child. As the adoption procedure gradually picks up, agencies are formulating in-house prevention mechanisms against Covid-19.

Covid-19 has brought international adoption to a grinding halt, but domestic adoptions are slowly picking pace as travel restrictions ease. Since March, 190 adoptions, mostly within states, have been processed.

Adhar Ashram in Nashik has 28 children waiting for adoption. The adoption centre has managed to process the adoption of five children within Maharashtra but two slated for adoption in Australia and USA have been on hold since March. “We have designated a room behind our centre for parents to meet our staff. We have put transparent partitions. Couples are not allowed to touch or take the baby in their arms,” said Rahul Jadhav, in-charge, Adhar Ashram. Jadhav said the elaborate measures are to protect all babies. “If a single baby is infected and does not get adopted by the couple, the baby can infect all other babies,” Jadhav explained.

The adoption agency recorded one Covid-19 positive case among its staff. Jadhav said after that they put in an even stricter protocol. From three shifts in a day, the centre has cut it down to one shift per day of 24 hours to avoid movement of too many staffers. In Mumbai’s Bal Asha Trust too, one shift remains in the adoption home for a fortnight and then the next shift takes over.

“Earlier prospective adoptive parents had to visit the centre for in-depth counselling sessions. Now we have moved most procedures online. The entire documentation and counselling is done through video calls,” said Sunil Arora, from Bal Asha Trust in Mahalaxmi.

The trust has processed adoption of 10 babies during the pandemic. Couples who have reserved a child and then got approval from adoption committee can only visit the centre.

While some adoption agencies have strictly declined request by couples to hold the baby before adoption, some allow it with due protocol. Najma Goriawalla, consultant with Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare, said they have processed only one adoption and allowed the mother to hold the baby. “We thought a lot about it. We can’t deprive the prospective parents from the feel of holding a baby in their arms. We asked them to wear masks and disinfect their hands before letting them touch the baby,” she said.

Manisha Pirari, programme manager at Maharashtra State Adoption Regional Agency (SARA), said the pandemic has modified the entire adoption process “to ensure no baby gets infected in centres”. Parents earlier physically came for adoption committee meetings and for filing documents. Now the process is through e-mails and online video calls. “Only when everything is finalised one meeting is held. Sometimes parents request for more medical tests, but we decline that request if that exposes the child to infection risk in hospital,” Pirari said. She added that the main challenge is when a couple wants to return the child after a month or two due to any problem. “An adoption home will have to create a quarantine room for such babies,” she said.

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Coronavirus Australia live updates September 23: Victoria to learn lockdown fate on Sunday as state records 15 new cases and five deaths; Easing of SA border restrictions depends on crucial case numbers; Australia ‘playing vaccine roulette’; Boris Johnson tells Britons new measures will save lives


Mr Andrews has confirmed he will be making announcements on the easing of restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne on Sunday.

The eased restrictions could come into place midnight on Sunday or midnight on Monday.

The premier admitted he was looking at further easing of restrictions but would not provide details of what the additional relaxing of the rules could be.

“I’m not in a position give you the full list of what we’re looking at. We don’t want to do something that might seem quite small but could present a significant challenge to us in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.

He said the city’s drop in virus cases was a “positive trend”.

“The band we’re chasing is 30 to 50 and right now we are in fact, better than that, just under 30,” he said.

“The key point is we’ve still got a few days to go and we’ve got to refine things and make sure that we’re confident that the numbers we’re getting is an accurate reflection of how much virus is out there. But these numbers are a positive trend. The trend is with us, the strategy is working.”



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Sweden says Stockholm measures possible as COVID cases rise


September 22, 2020

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden, which so far has decided against lockdowns as a means to contain COVID-19, is seeing early signs that the number of coronavirus cases are rising again and could impose new measures in the capital, its chief health officials said on Tuesday.

Sweden’s strategy emphasising personal responsibility rather than major lockdowns to slow the virus drew fierce criticism as deaths shot up during the spring, but has also been lauded by WHO officials as a sustainable model.

Infections dropped significantly in the summer and so far Sweden had been spared the type of sharp increases in new cases seen in Spain, France and Britain in the past month.

However, around 1,200 new cases and five deaths have been reported since Friday compared to around 200 cases per day in the last weeks. The increase in new cases cannot solely be explained by increased testing, the Public Health Agency said on Tuesday.

“The rolling average has increased somewhat,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist who devised its pandemic strategy, told a news conference.

“It hasn’t affected the healthcare – yet. The number of new cases at ICU is very low and the number of deaths are very low,” he said.

Tegnell said that new measures for the capital could not be ruled out. “We have a discussion with Stockholm about whether we need to introduce measures to reduce the spread of infection. Exactly what that will be, we will come back to in the next few days,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday Stockholm’s top health official warned that the region saw an increase in cases.

“The downwards trend is broken,” Stockholm Director of Health and Medical Services Bjorn Eriksson told a news conference. “We can only hope that this is a blip, that the spread start decreasing again. That depends on how well we follow the guidelines,” he said.

Sweden has reported 5,870 deaths since the start of the pandemic, many more per capita than its Nordic neighbours but also lower than countries like Spain and Italy that opted for hard lockdowns.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)





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