- UN food agency warns of refugee exodus due to COVID-19 in Latin America.
- Berlin protesters rally against coronavirus restrictions.
- NHL season, paused due to virus, to go ahead in altered playoff format.
- Japan’s traditional kabuki theatre resumes performances after 5-month break.
- Trudeau announces EI-like benefit for gig, contract workers after CERB ends.
The head of the UN World Food Program says the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically increased the number of starving people in Latin America, which could trigger a refugee exodus to North America if not addressed.
David Beasley, the agency’s director, issued the warning as the Royal Canadian Air Force began Saturday to prepare to end its nearly two-week mission in which a mammoth C-17 Globemaster transport crisscrossed Central and South America and the Caribbean delivering tonnes of medical supplies.
“If patterns of experience are of any indication, if the economic deterioration due to COVID continues as it is, and we don’t have safety-net programs in place, I don’t see how you don’t have mass migration,” he added.
“You won’t have a mass migration today, tomorrow, but you will have it soon.”
Beasley said there has been a sharp increase in food insecurity in the region since the pandemic struck.
For now, countries such as Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador have been bearing the brunt of the influx of people leaving Venezuela due to its collapsed economy.
While those countries have been welcoming, COVID-19 has added an extra layer of strain and Beasley said the leaders of those countries told him last week they are extremely worried.
“This is why the international community has to step up. Otherwise there’s going to be chaos,” he told The Canadian Press.
As of early Saturday, the novel coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has infected more than 17.6 million people around the globe and has been blamed for more than 679,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
Guidelines or rules to control the spread have included lockdowns, contract tracing, school closures, physical distancing — including limits on the number of people who can gather in groups — and wearing masks.
Resistance to months of restrictions was evident in Berlin on Saturday, where protesters held a demonstration titled “The end of the pandemic — freedom day,” despite an upturn in infections in Germany.
A crowd of people whistling and cheering — and with few masks in sight — marched from the Brandenburg Gate ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park.
Germany’s management of the pandemic has widely been viewed as relatively successful, with a lower death rate than comparable countries. The country has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social-distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks in public transport and shops.
Infection figures have crept up over the past few weeks and officials have warned against complacency.
NHL season resumes
In professional sports, the NHL’s shortened season begins Saturday with an altered playoff format, 143 days after the league paused the regular season.
Games will be played in a bubble in the two hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton. The top four teams in each conference will automatically qualify for the post-season. The next eight teams in the standings in the East and West will play in a qualifying mini-tournament.
WATCH | NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks on resuming the season:
The NHL issued a statement this past week saying more than 4,200 tests for COVID-19 were administered to more than 800 players between July 18-25 with no positive results.
“In this unpredictable environment nothing is risk-free, but we’ve been working very hard with our own people, with the health authorities at all levels, to make sure that we were doing everything sensible, practical to make sure we are taking care of health and safety,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CBC News.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 116,312 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 101,227 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,971 Canadians have died.
Details are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks about the Trudeau government’s plan to transition out-of-work people off the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and onto a slightly revamped employment insurance system.
Previewed on Friday, the plan calls for eligible Canadians to shift to EI, while those who are not eligible would move to a new program for contract and gig workers. The government is also promising to relax EI eligibility rules, like the number of hours required to receive support payments.
WATCH | Canadians using CERB benefit can transition to EI, Trudeau says:
In Ontario, as Toronto and nearby Peel Region moved into Stage 3 of the province’s reopening on Friday, the provincial government announced additional measures for bars and restaurants.
Those establishments, as well as tour boat operators, will have to keep client logs for 30 days for contact tracing, if necessary.
In British Columbia, health officials are cautioning people to keep groups small this long weekend as the province confirmed 50 new cases of COVID-19 Friday.
WATCH | B.C. health officials give warning ahead of long weekend:
Officials have doubled down on messaging about socializing safely as Kelowna grapples with an outbreak linked to large indoor parties around Canada Day.
WATCH | Doctor answers viewer questions about returning to school:
What’s happening in the rest of the world
The Philippines on Saturday reported 4,963 additional coronavirus infections, the largest single-day jump on record.
The country’s health ministry said total infections have reached 98,232, while deaths increased by 17 to 2,039. In the region, the Philippines is second only to Indonesia in coronavirus deaths and cases.
Indonesia reported 1,560 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total in the Southeast Asian country to 109,936, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed. It also reported 62 COVID-19 related deaths, taking the death toll to 5,193.
WATCH | U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he believes vaccine will come by year’s end:
Japan’s traditional kabuki theatre resumed performances Saturday after a five-month break due to the pandemic. But there are some noticeable differences: musicians are in masks, the actors are farther apart, and there are only half the usual number of seats available.
The reopening comes as new case numbers have spiked to record highs around the country. Japan reported over 450 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
Russia is preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against the virus in October, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Saturday, RIA news agency reported. The minister, who did not give details about the vaccine to be used, said doctors and teachers would be the first to be vaccinated.
Russia’s first potential COVID-19 vaccine will win local regulatory approval in the first half of August, a development source close to the matter told Reuters.
German restaurants and bars and their customers are expressing concern at reports that the contact data that guests must supply as part of coronavirus prevention rules has been used for police investigations.
Drinkers and diners have to provide a name and a telephone number to allow them to be traced if someone who is found to have the virus was present at the same time.
But the DPA news agency has cited several police stations as saying that they had used that data to find witnesses to help solve crimes.