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Okanagan families urged to only send one person shopping during COVID-19 pandemic

As Okanagan retailers implement numerous measures to keep both store employees and customers safe amid the pandemic, shoppers are being asked to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

In particular, families are being asked not to shop together, if at all possible, and instead only have one person do the shopping.

Global Okanagan has received a large number of complaints during the last two weeks from both consumers and store clerks that all too often, they are still seeing several members of one family shopping together.

“As a rule of thumb, it’s best if one person per household shops for groceries once a week,” said Greg Wilson, director for the Retail Council of Canada.

B.C. health officials have also made that recommendation to decrease the number of people shopping, and help minimize the risk of the virus spreading.

Wilson said, however, that there are exceptions to that rule of thumb: cases involving seniors, those with disabilities and single parents.

To help drive that message home, the Retail Council of Canada launched a shopping etiquette video.

The video, which can be viewed by clicking here, offers a number of tips to keep everyone safe.

One of those tips involves shopping alone.

As the video makes the rounds, retailers, both small and large, continue implementing measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Retailer giant Walmart has installed arrows on its floors to help move foot traffic through its stores.

“We just found it a really good way of helping our customers get through the store in an orderly fashion while maintaining that social distance between each other,” said Ryan Catto, manager of the Kelowna Walmart.

Many retailers are also restricting the number of shoppers inside their stores, disinfecting shopping carts and baskets and not allowing the sale of self-serve bulk items.

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World News

Jordan's nationwide curfew brings country to standstill

AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan confined its 10 million inhabitants to their homes in a sweeping one-day curfew on Friday that brought public life to a complete stop in a stepped-up bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

The government said the 24-hour curfew that began Thursday at midnight, with a shutdown that encompassed shops, bakeries and even pharmacies and left open only hospitals and emergency services, was needed if Jordan was to avert a major outbreak.

“We sought through a complete curfew today to gauge our ability and to prepare ourselves for the worse, God forbid,” Prime Minister Omar Razzaz told state television.

“The pandemic if it spreads will be difficult to control and we have to prepare for a period that is not short,” Razzaz added, saying it would take Jordan a while to recover from the damaging impact of the crisis on its debt-laden economy.

The kingdom has seen a spike of coronavirus cases since announcing the first early last month, and now has a total of 310 with five deaths.

The government announced a curfew two weeks ago after the monarch enacted an emergency law that gave Razzaz sweeping powers that restrict civil and political rights.

Tens of thousands of army troops and police have been deployed across the country. Movement has also been banned between governates and the capital.

The army has confiscated dozens of cars that violated the ban on vehicles with drivers facing a year in prison and heavy penalties.

The army also sealed the country’s second largest city of Irbid near the Syrian border last week, placing 2 million inhabitants in a tight lockdown. It cordoned off several villages around the city after discovering many coronavirus cases caused by the spread during a mass wedding.

Even government ministers on Friday were confined to their homes, and police detained two deputies who broke the curfew in the toughest moves so far to restrict people’s movements.

Twenty-two Muslim worshippers who went to pray in a mosque in the working-class district of Russaifa near Amman, the capital, were arrested for violating a strict ban on public prayers in mosques, security sources said.

The government said it would relax the curfew on Saturday to allow movement by foot for people to buy goods from local groceries and bakeries during daytime. The ban on vehicles and the night curfew will remain in place until further notice.

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Health

Separated by glass, B.C. couple marks 75th anniversary amid COVID-19

A Victoria, B.C., couple celebrated their 75th anniversary Thursday, still together and very much in love even though they’re now separated by a sheet of glass.

Lew Duddridge, 102, is in a care home under lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, forcing him and his 95-year-old wife, Hilda, to mark their diamond anniversary through a window.

“Can you feel it?” Lew asks Hilda as they place their hands on either side of the glass at his care home.

“One of these days, we’ll touch again,” she replies.

The couple met during the Second World War at a train station in England.

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Duddridge, a bold Canadian pilot, proposed to the Welsh-born Hilda within a week.

“At first I said, ‘My mother would kill me if I came home from holidays engaged.”

Lou eventually won her hand and swept her away to Hanley, Sask., where they raised four kids.

The novel coronavirus is not the first pandemic Duddridge has lived through.

He was born in 1918, amid the Spanish Flu, which claimed millions of lives around the world. Both his mother and father had the flu.

Having already lived through a worldwide disease outbreak and two world wars, Duddridge remains positive. At 102, he loses names and faces, but never Hilda’s.

On their anniversary, he sings her one of their favourite songs.

Despite the uncertainty and distress of the present, Hilda believes that this too shall pass.

“Be kind and love everybody,” she said. “We just gotta be patient and know that it’s going to end.”

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Business

Business booms for coffin-makers in coronavirus-hit France

JUSSEY/PARIS (Reuters) – Two hauliers load their lorries with what is fast becoming a precious commodity in France as the coronavirus pandemic takes its dreadful toll – coffins.

While most businesses have shut their doors as part of a national lockdown designed to slow the spread of the disease, the coffin-making factory in the sleepy town of Jussey in northeastern France can barely keep up with the orders.

France has confirmed nearly 60,000 cases of the coronavirus and as of Friday 5,387 deaths, the fourth highest tally in the world.

“Given what’s happening, the pace of production is going up by 50 coffins a day,” Emmanuel Garret, manager at the OGF plant, told Reuters. “We’re going up from 360 to 410.”

The group, which also has a factory near the Alps in eastern France, churns out about 144,000 coffins a year, making it the country’s biggest producer.

The Jussey plant manufactures 80,000 oak and pine caskets for the French market. It is not short of wood as there are about 60 square kilometres of forest in the adjacent area.

The town of just 1,600 inhabitants lies between Paris and the east of France, regions at the epicentre of the outbreak that account for more than half of the country’s death toll.

“It’s clear that in terms of activity, it’s where the demand is now strongest,” Garret said.

Inside the factory, the 120 employees beaver away assembling coffins that usually sell for between 700 euros ($756) to 5,000 euros a piece.

That will change as the surge in demand has pushed the plant to focus on the simpler units, Garret said.

Keeping a safe distance from each other and regularly disinfecting the work space, the employees all wear masks. The company commissioned local seamstresses to make them due to a chronic shortage caused by the global pandemic.

QUICK TURNAROUND

While the conveyor belts turn and robots finish off the varnishing in Jussey, more than 300 km (186 miles) away in Paris, preparations are underway for a wave of deaths with more than 2,200 people on life-support in regional hospitals.

At the Rungis food market, the largest in Europe, local authorities on Friday were converting a hall into a mortuary to hold 1,000 coffins and side rooms for families to say farewell to their loved ones for the last time.

“This is not a video game, this is reality,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement said. The makeshift morgue was to ensure there would be capacity if needed, he added.

Nathalie Vounikoglou, saleswoman for Bernier, one of the five casket distributors in the Paris region, said demand from funeral parlours had jumped by 20 percent in the past two weeks.

“We have occasional shortages of low-end models in standard size because there are no more ceremonies and so families go for the least expensive,” she said.

Some nursing homes and hospitals do not want to hold onto the bodies of coronavirus patients, Vounikoglou said, meaning there has to be a quicker turnaround.

Funeral parlours are ordering coffins at a day’s notice rather than the four or five previously, out of concern they could fall short.

“For the moment, we are restocking for the next morning,” Vounikoglou said.

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Health

WATCH: B.C.’s daily coronavirus update with Dr. Bonnie Henry, March 31

Health officials are providing daily updates on the coronavirus in B.C.

Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will hold a press conference each day as part of efforts to establish “a routine for providing the information that people need.” Updates will then be held at 3:00 p.m. PT each day from Tuesday, March 31 through to Friday, April 3.

View more Global BC videos by clicking here

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World News

Israelis told to wear face masks in public, mark religious holidays with close family only

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – All Israelis should wear face masks while in public as a precaution against the coronavirus, and upcoming Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays should be marked only with immediate family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

In televised remarks, Netanyahu also announced curbs on movement around an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has experienced a disproportionately large outbreak.

Israel has taken stringent measures to try to halt the spread of the virus, after recording more than 6,000 cases. At least 25 Israelis have died of COVID-19, according to Health Ministry data.

“We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks, adding that people could improvise “with a scarf or any other facial covering” in the absence of factory-produced masks.

Increasingly tight restrictions have largely confined Israelis to their homes, forcing businesses to close and causing unemployment to skyrocket to 24.4%.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Israel would spend 80 billion shekels ($22 billion) to help the economy weather the crisis and predicted a gradual return of business activity after the Passover holiday from April 8-15.

Netanyahu on Wednesday said the government would give Israeli families 500 shekels per child, up to a maximum of four children. The elderly would also receive 500 shekels, Netanyahu said, terming all the payments a “Passover gift”.

Those stipends would cost the state a total of 1.5 billion shekels, public broadcaster Kan estimated.

Netanyahu also said Israel’s majority Jews must mark Passover “with the nuclear family only,” adding that including elderly relatives in celebrations “would be to endanger them”.

Those same restrictions apply to Muslims and Christians, Netanyahu said, who make up most of Israel’s 21% Arab minority and will mark Easter and the beginning of Ramadan, respectively, later this month.

Israeli authorities will also tighten curbs on movement around Bnai Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town near Tel Aviv, which the Channel 12 TV news on Wednesday projected may account for as many as 30% of the coronavirus cases nationwide.

“We have decided to reduce to the minimum necessary the access and egress from the city,” Netanyahu said, while adding that residents would still be allowed to move around within the city if required.

Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested, and in normal times they are accustomed to holding thrice-daily prayers with often large congregations. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis have also cast doubt on the coronavirus risk.

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Health

Staff member tests positive for coronavirus at Langley care home

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at another seniors’ home in B.C.

A staff member at Langley Lodge has tested positive and is self-isolating at home, according to a news release from Fraser Health.

Enhanced control measures have been put in place at the facility, and a Fraser Health SWAT team is on site to help contain any outbreak and talk to residents and families.

Health officials have confirmed cases at 14 long-term care facilities in B.C. so far, and the virus has been confirmed at a 15th privately-operated facility on Vancouver Island.

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The largest outbreak is at the Lynn Valley Care Home in North Vancouver, where there have been more than 10 deaths.

The province has banned non-essential visits to seniors’ care homes and banned health-care workers from working at multiple seniors facilities in a continued effort to slow transmission.

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World News

Vancouver paramedic on front line of COVID-19 crisis has gear stolen

A Vancouver paramedic can’t go back to work after someone broke into her car and stole her equipment.

Annelie Van der Heyden returned to her East Vancouver home on Sunday night after a marathon shift with BC Emergency Health Services.

She said she packed all her gear into a bag rather than keeping it in a locker because she wasn’t sure where her next shift would start.

“I brought it home but I didn’t want to bring it into my house and contaminate my house,” she said. “I was tired. I figured I’d deal with it in the morning.”

The next day, she saw that someone had broken into her car and stolen her gear — including two sets of her uniform, a number of masks, and a green stethoscope — from the trunk.

Van der Heyden said the theft brings additional stress to an already challenging time for first responders dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

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She hopes that someone finds the gear and returns it, no questions asked.

“Stranger things have happened. I hope that somebody spots it and decides they’re not going to get any money for it,” she said.

“I understand that times are hard for everybody, but I hope that somebody can find it within themselves to return it.”

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World News

Lagos lockdown: ‘How will my children survive?’

As more than 25 million people are placed on a two-week lockdown in parts of Nigeria in a bid to curtail the spread of coronavirus, poor people in congested neighbourhoods are worried about how they will cope, writes the BBC’s Nduka Orjinmo from the commercial capital Lagos.

“From where do we get the extra water to wash the hands you are talking about,” asked Debby Ogunsola, 36, as she led me down a dark corridor towards her room in the Alapere area of Lagos state.

A lockdown in Lagos – the commercial hub of Nigeria, as well as the neighbouring state of Ogun and the capital Abuja – came into force on Monday night, following an announcement President Muhammadu Buhari that the fight against the virus was a “matter of life and death”.

For Ms Ogunsula it will be difficult to remain indoors. She and her family live in one room in a block of 20, locally called Face-me-I-face-you because of their close proximity to each other.

There is no electricity, and when I visited, light was coming in through where a door should have been standing. Outside there were two toilets and bathrooms shared by all the families living in the 20 rooms.

‘Fearing hunger, not the virus’

There is no pipe-borne water either in Alapere, and Ms Ogunsola is forced to walk more than 50 metres to a broken public water pipe for her supply.

“It’s my children I am worried about,” she said.

All four of them were lying on the floor as it rained outside. A single window was the only source of air into the room and it could get very hot at night.

“If I am not able to go out and sell, how will they [children] survive?” asked Ms Ogunsola, who earns money by selling fruit and vegetables by the roadside.

Her husband works at an oil rig in the southern city of Warri and is due to come home in a month. But several states – including Rivers, Delta, Kano and Bayelsa – have closed their borders, prohibiting inter-state movement. So if the lockdown is extended, it could be a while before she is reunited with her husband.

“It is hunger I am worried about, not a virus. I even heard it doesn’t kill young people,” Ms Ogunsola told the BBC.

Though there is a higher mortality rate among the old and those with underlying health conditions, young people are also dying of the virus – and they can transmit it if they do not act responsibly.

No money to stockpile

Across an open drain from Mrs Ogunsola’s residence are more rows of similar apartments. One has an expansive veranda where two old women were sitting and talking.

It is not uncommon for urban Nigerian families to live with older relatives, who also double up as nannies.

And the concern is that these old people could be at risk if the virus spreads.

“They are at home and they are still gathering in crowded conditions. If you were to have someone who has the virus there, the chances of spreading it is high,” said Dr Oyewale Odubanjo, a public health expert.

In Italy, many multi-generational families also live together and this is one reason why it has seen more coronavirus deaths than any other country.

All non-essential travel has been banned in most states and many workers, including civil servants, have been told to work from home.

But with a lack of reliable electricity supplies and poor internet connections, it is hard to see how most people will get any work done.

There were long queues at supermarkets after President Muhammadu Buhari announced the lockdown, with people rushing to stock up on essentials.

But many Nigerians live hand-to-mouth, often on less than $1 (£0.80) and they cannot stock up on food or other essentials.

Many workers are also yet to be paid their wages for March so there are deep concerns about the financial implications of a lockdown.

Mr Buhari outlined some measures to ease the hardship, including a one-month advance payment of the monthly $13 given to the poorest of the poor, but most people feel that millions of self-employed Nigerians have been left without financial aid.

“It’s only those who have money that can buy now. If you do not have what can you do?” said a taxi driver parked outside a supermarket.

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There are also fears that if things get worse in the urban areas, people would ignore the ban on travel and start moving to rural areas – where they are guaranteed food from family farms but where there is a higher population of vulnerable older people and more limited health services.

“That would be bedlam, total madness, if people begin to move to their villages,” said town planner Aboyami Bamidele.

“Whatever happens, people should remain where they are. We will survive this,” he said.

Early March now seems like a long time ago, when the World Health Organization praised Nigeria for its handling of coronavirus after the first case was reported in the country.

Officials had swiftly identified, traced and quarantined contacts of the Italian man they referred to as the index case.

But now there is growing concern that Nigeria has not done enough to curb the spread of the virus, and its health system is ill-equipped to cope with a major outbreak.

‘We shall survive’

Nigeria has few testing kits, but many asymptomatic government officials and music stars are being tested, raising questions about the fairness of the process.

Despite Mr Buhari’s promise when he took office to put an end to medical tourism, he and other government officials still go abroad for treatment. However, this is unlikely to happen if any official gets Covid-19.

“Even if you are wealthy, you will have to use the same health facilities with others, whether good or bad – nobody is going to accept a patient from abroad to treat,” Dr Odubanjo said.

Lagos and some other states introduced restrictions on large gatherings about a fortnight ago, but many people – including some pastors – are ignoring calls to adhere to social distancing.

Meanwhile, back at a crowded bus stop in Alapere, hawkers competed for every inch of available space to sell their wares, ignoring any thought of social distancing. Most were not concerned about the virus.

“All death is death,” a woman selling smoked fish on a tray said in Pidgin, as she nipped between two yellow buses.

“If I stay home, I will die of hunger, if I come out to hustle you say I will die of coronavirus.

“There is nothing we have not seen and we are still here, we shall survive this one,” she said, smacking her lips.

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Spirit cancels New York, Connecticut, New Jersey flights after CDC warning

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Low-cost U.S. carrier Spirit Airlines Inc said on Monday it will cancel all flights to and from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey after U.S. officials warned against travel to the area because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spirit, which appeared to be the first major U.S. carrier to cancel all flights to the so-called tri-state region, said it was responding to this weekend’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory warning against all non-essential travel to and from the area.

Spirit said it will suspend service to the airports it serves in the region – New York LaGuardia, Newark, Hartford, Niagara Falls and Plattsburgh – through at least May 4.

Flights are to be fully suspended by mid-week, the airline said. The Federal Aviation Administration this month waived rules mandating minimum flights from high-traffic airports like LaGuardia because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the 12 months ending in January, Spirit was the fifth largest carrier at LaGuardia, carrying 1.36 million passengers. It was also the fifth largest carrier at Newark, carrying 1.4 million passengers in the same period.

Spirit said on Monday it had obtained a senior secured revolving credit facility worth $110 million with an option to increase to $350 million with the consent of any increasing lenders. Spirit pledged take-off and landing rights at LaGuardia, aircraft and other assets.

Spirit said earlier on Monday that its board approved an anti-takeover measure that will “protect against parties seeking to take advantage of the current market environment to the detriment of Spirit and its shareholders.”

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