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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Tue, 13 Apr 2021, 12:23 AM


Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Tue, 13 Apr 2021, 12:23 AM

TORONTO - Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada's most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children's hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario's hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering "enacting the critical care triage protocol," something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

"Everybody's under extreme stress," said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto's University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

"There's going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can't fill those gaps any longer."

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario's Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

"The horror stories that we're seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies," she said. "They're not supposed to be the reality we're seeing one year into a pandemic."


  - Reuters


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Uber, PayPal, Walgreens launch $11 million vaccine rides fund

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Tue, 13 Apr 2021, 12:22 AM

Uber Technologies Inc, PayPal Holdings Inc and Walgreens Inc on Monday said they launched an $11 million fund to provide free ride-hail trips to U.S. COVID-19 vaccination sites for people who lack access to transportation.

The Vaccine Access Fund will be managed by U.S. non-profit Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which will identify communities that need free rides as well as local partners to help with the program, the companies added.

Consumers can support the effort by donating to the fund through PayPal or in the Uber app, they said, adding they were also looking forward to welcoming other corporate donors.

In a joint letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the companies said their cooperation came in response to calls by the administration for companies to get involved in the pandemic response.

"The Vaccine Access Fund will draw on the innovative tools developed by our respective firms to expand vaccine access and build upon the Biden-Harris administration's efforts," the companies said in the letter seen by Reuters.

The fund is separate from Uber's promise to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites globally, an effort that is both public-spirited and self-interested as it is trying to get more drivers and passengers back on the road.

Lack of transportation is a major hurdle to healthcare equity and vaccine access, and studies show fewer options for medical care in low-income and Black communities that are frequently poorly served by public transit and have lower car ownership rates.


  - Reuters


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Bayern targeting 'mini upset' in Paris, says Flick

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 12 Apr 2021, 11:56 PM

Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick has urged his players to be more clinical and force Paris St Germain into mistakes as they look to overturn a 3-2 deficit in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Parc des Princes.

Holders Bayern dominated for long stretches in the first leg in Munich but missed a bagful of chances in the absence of top scorer Robert Lewandowski, falling to their first loss in the Champions League in more than two years.

Flick, however, is confident his side will respond positively.

"We had many chances but we were not as decisive as we should have been and we have to improve," Flick told a news conference on Monday. "We will do everything we can and approach the game with optimism.

"We have to make sure tomorrow we show same ambition that PSG showed against us. We have to force them into making mistakes. We know we have to score at least two goals.

"It will be a tough task, but these are the games we play football for. We want to cause a mini upset in Paris. Of course, we'll be delighted if we manage that."

Bayern will have their work cut out trying to neutralize the threat of PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, who netted a brace in the first leg in Munich.

The 22-year-old France international has scored 33 goals in 39 games this season, including a hat-trick in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona in February.

Flick said Mbappe was well on his way to becoming a global superstar.

"Mbappe will be the world's best in the future, he's fast, technical and scores important goals," Flick added. "Considering his age he's so well developed."

Flick said Lewandowski, who trained for the first time since sustaining a knee injury last month, would not make the trip to Paris, but Leon Goretzka, Lucas Hernandez, Jerome Boateng and Kingsley Coman are available for the game.


  - Reuters


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EU sanctions elite Iran commander over 2019 protests

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 12 Apr 2021, 11:56 PM

BRUSSELS -The European Union has imposed sanctions on eight Iranian militia commanders and police chiefs, including the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, over a deadly crackdown in November 2019, the bloc said in its Official Journal on Monday.

The travel bans and asset freezes are the first EU sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013 and their preparation was first reported by Reuters last month .

The bloc, which also hit three Iranian prisons with asset freezes, blacklisted Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the Islamic Republic.

"Hossein Salami took part in the sessions that resulted in the orders to use lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests. Hossein Salami therefore bears responsibility for serious human rights violations in Iran," the EU said.

About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019, according to a toll provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials at the time. The United Nations said the total was at least 304.

Iran has called the toll given by sources "fake news".

On March 9, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, presented a report saying Tehran used lethal force during the protests and chided it for failing to conduct a proper investigation or failing to hold anyone accountable.

Other individuals targeted with EU sanctions, which take effect on Monday, include members of Iran's hardline Basij militia, who are under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, and its head Gholamreza Soleimani.

Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations by the West of human rights abuses.


  - Reuters


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Dutch tourists trade lockdown at home for confinement in Greek resort

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 12 Apr 2021, 11:56 PM

AMSTERDAM - Almost 200 Dutch tourists on Monday traded lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek holiday resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 399 euros ($475) each, participants will have "all-inclusive" access to the pools, restaurants and other facilities of the Hotel Mitsis Grand Beach on the island of Rhodes, but nothing else.

They will have to settle for watching the sea from their room or the hotel terraces, as no one is allowed to leave the resort where they will be the only guests.

"I really enjoy being away from my usual space and if that means not going outside of the hotel I will have to settle with it, but that's fine," graphic designer Amy Smulders told Reuters before leaving on the trip together with her sister.

"It's still a holiday, there's still sun, that's the most important."

At the hotel, guests will have to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres (5 ft) from one another. They also face several coronavirus tests before, during and after their trip and will have to quarantine for at least 5 days upon return.

Despite the restrictions, demand for the trip was high, with around 25,000 people signing up last month in the hope of getting a ticket.

Dutch tour operator Sunweb, which organised the government-backed trip, hopes the experiment will show that people can still enjoy a holiday, even with strict safety regimes, and pave the way for tourism to reopen.

"For the travel industry it's extremely important. I don't think that a lot of companies will survive another summer without travelling," Sunweb Chief Executive Mattijs ten Brink said.

Confining people to resorts, however, probably won't be the solution on the long run, he added.

"But you have to start somewhere. So the next test will probably be including that people in a controlled way can actually leave their resort."


  - Reuters


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Taiwan reports largest incursion yet by Chinese air force

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 12 Apr 2021, 11:55 PM

TAIPEI - Twenty-five Chinese air force aircraft entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, including 18 fighter jets and four bombers, the island's defence ministry said.

That was the largest daily incursion since Taiwan's defence ministry started to report Chinese Air Force activities in Taiwan's ADIZ last year.

Chinese-claimed Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China's air force near the island, concentrated in the southwestern part of its air defence zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.


  - Reuters


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