The month of March featured considerable swings in Quebec’s messaging and action around the pandemic. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track, it’s understandable.
This week, the provincial government ordered schools and businesses in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau to close, only days after gyms in Montreal were allowed to reopen and churches allowed to welcome a maximum of 250 people.
On Tuesday, Premier François Legault said his government was watching the situation closely in select areas but insisted changes weren’t necessary — even as top experts, the province’s order of nurses and public health officials were questioning the lack of restrictions.
A day later, he called a 5 p.m. news conference and ordered three regions into lockdown, abruptly shifting them from an orange zone in the province’s colour-coded ranking system to a darker, more restrictive shade of red than in other red zones, including Montreal.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, meanwhile, ordered English school boards to comply with a decree to have high school students return to class full time, even as students held protests saying they didn’t feel safe. And organizers of recreational hockey in Montreal are planning to restart in early April.
Health Minister Christian Dubé acknowledged the government’s decisions can seem confusing, but he insisted there is a logic in the chaos.
“It can sometimes look inconsistent, but I tell you that we’re making all our decisions based on many factors, and I believe we are staying ahead of the game,” Dubé told Radio-Canada on Thursday.
So, what is the government trying to do? And is it the right move?
More targeted approach
In an interview Thursday, Dubé said the government is closely watching regions and sub-regions and acting as soon as its experts see transmission on the rise. The contagiousness of the variants means cases can spike much more quickly than in the second wave, he said.
Cases in Quebec City are now doubling every day, he said, and that region went from being a source of worry to a major concern overnight. (A single gym is now linked to more than 140 cases and 21 workplace outbreaks.)
“We act at the moment we’re certain of the trend, and before a major impact on hospitals,” Dubé told Radio-Canada.
Such a plan isn’t foolproof.
France tried a similar, targeted approach. But, with hospitals at risk of being overrun, President Emmanuel Macron reluctantly shut down schools for three weeks as part of another round of nationwide restrictions.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, as well, ordered new provincewide restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of gyms and stricter limits on gatherings.
Dr. Karl Weiss, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Montreal, said Quebec once again finds itself at a “critical point” — and that the vaccination campaign needs to move quickly to be able to fend off the rising number of variant cases.
He noted that Quebec is in a better situation than some other jurisdictions. More of the population has received one dose of vaccine (roughly 16 per cent) than Ontario or France, both of which are seeing a more dramatic spike in cases.
Why not tighten restrictions sooner?
Legault, Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, have frequently used the word “balance” when explaining the province’s approach.
They’ve made it clear their public health decisions involve keeping the virus in check, but also factor in the impact of disruptions to the education of school-age children, the mental health of the population and the effect on the economy.
WATCH | What’s the outlook for Montreal?
Prativa Baral discusses the outlook for Montreal in light of the government’s tightened restrictions in some other Quebec regions. 0:56
The government is also seeking to keep people onside, an increasingly difficult task as the pandemic drags on. Officials closely watch survey data from the province’s public health institute, which documents whether enthusiasm for restrictions is rising or falling among specific age groups and in specific regions.
“We have to find that balance because if we act too fast, we’ll lose co-operation from the public,” Dubé said Thursday, echoing past statements by Legault.
“We need the balance with mental health. We did everything we could so people could go to school and play sports.”
But is that helpful, if less than a month later those measures are back in place?
Dominique Anglade, head of the opposition Liberals, suggested that “playing the yo-yo” can be even harder on morale.
“Go to a restaurant here in Quebec City, you have people who are crying because they didn’t see it coming,” she said Thursday, a day after the restrictions were announced.
“The other regions are asking themselves the same question today. If you are in Lac-Saint-Jean today, if you are in Abitibi today, if you are in Montreal today, you’re asking yourselves the question, what’s next? We’re asking the government to tell us what’s next.”
Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., says government messaging is crucial.
“Part of making sure people trust the government and trust the public health guidelines that are being put in place is the transparency aspect, but also thinking of things in the long term and not mixing that messaging,” he said.
Why would Montreal be any different?
As Legault has pointed out, Montreal has, so far, resisted a spike in cases.
The daily case tally has remained consistent for the past several weeks. But with looser restrictions, including the reopening of gyms and high schools back at full capacity, that may not last.
Baral said Legault’s categorization of Montreal as “stable” is worrisome.
“The rate of increase has not been as substantial as other regions that are going to be shut down, but we’re still averaging 300, 350 cases a day in Montreal,” she said.
“Because of the variants of concern, the 350 could very easily turn into a larger number of cases very quickly.”
Baral called the relaxation of restrictions in Montreal “incredibly premature,” and said the cause and effect is well understood: when restrictions are lifted, cases go up, as they did in the regions now in lockdown.
“There is no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen to Montreal, unfortunately.”
The city’s public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, has said repeatedly she expects to see a rise in cases — the goal now is to delay that to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
Earlier this week, Drouin said she expects variants to begin to make up more cases after Easter and it will be crucial to keep them under control.
“Every day we win against the variant is a day when thousands of people are vaccinated.”
If he qualifies for this summer’s Olympic Games, Canadian swimmer Brent Hayden would prefer to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before arriving in Tokyo.
That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t go without getting his jab. He also isn’t sure if he would use the vaccine being offered to Olympic athletes as part of a recent partnership announced by the International Olympic Committee and China.
“I think that would be something I have to talk to my coach about, to figure out what we think is going to be the best decision,” said Hayden, who won a bronze medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I do want to be vaccinated, I want to be covered at the Olympics. I don’t want to catch it and spread it. Now whether or not that’s the China one … I’m just going to have to wait to see what my coach or what Swimming Canada recommends.”
In the recently announced agreement, the IOC entered into a partnership with the Chinese Olympic committee to buy and provide vaccines for people participating in the Tokyo Games and next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.
None of the Chinese vaccines are approved for use in Canada.
In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would prefer Canadian athletes use Health Canada approved vaccines.
“Our strong preference is that any vaccine a Canadian athlete receives has been approved by Health Canada,” COC boss David Shoemaker said in a statement.
“The COC will continue to follow Health Canada guidelines and the recommendations of our chief medical officer and the return to sport task force for all matters relating to the health and safety of Team Canada.”
WATCH | Should Olympians cut in line for vaccine?:
Some athletes say they want to wait their turn. 2:20
A Swimming Canada spokesman said they are encouraging athletes to follow the COC guidelines.
At least one Olympic expert said he isn’t surprised the by the IOC’s decision to buy vaccines or that they are being purchased from China.
Michael Naraine, an assistant professor with Brock University’s department of sport, said IOC president Thomas Bach has pushed for the Tokyo Games to go ahead, even though concerns remain about COVID-19.
“They weren’t going to force athletes to take the vaccine, but they wanted to do everything they could to ensure health and safety,” said Naraine, who studies major games and the Olympic movement.
“It’s not surprising that China would be the place where they were able to procure them. The supply chains are really tight now when you’re thinking about all the different countries that are trying to procure. When you think about scale in the supply chain, China’s clearly the top dog.”
WATCH | Why a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the key to a fair Olympics:
Jacqueline Doorey speaks with Canadian middle distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, how it can affect the Olympics, and whether athletes deserve to cut the line. 5:51
The IOC is also “very bullish on China” considering it’s hosting next year’s Winter Games and some of the major sponsors that comes with that, he said.
While athletes in some countries may be hesitant over the IOC’s offer, for others it might be their best chance to access the vaccine.
“If I’m an athlete in a country which has a very heavy strain on health care and the public health system, you’re looking at this as jumping the global queue as far as vaccination and inoculation is concerned,” said Naraine.
Wrestler Erica Weibe, a gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, supports more athletes having access to the vaccine.
It would be great if the IOC’s partnership “can help athletes and citizens of countries with less robust vaccination plans than Canada,” the Stittsville, Ont., native told The Canadian Press last week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised that every Canadian adult who wants a vaccine will be able to receive a shot by the end of September.
In B.C., where Hayden lives, his age group is scheduled to receive their first round of the vaccine in May or June.
The Tokyo Games, which have been delayed a year due to COVID-19, are scheduled to open July 23.
Hayden, who retired after the London Games but decided to make a comeback for Tokyo, said not being vaccinated won’t stop him from competing.
“My goal is to go to the Olympics,” he said. “If I’m vaccinated or not vaccinated, I’m planning on going until they tell me I can’t go.”
There’s now early evidence showing Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine may elicit a strong immune response even through half doses, prompting hope that further research could back up the results and eventually allow countries like Canada to stretch out vaccine supplies.
The study looked at the mRNA vaccine’s “immunogenicity” — its ability to provoke an immune response — through both anti-virus, spike-binding antibody levels and neutralizing antibodies, which help to block reinfection.
Researchers determined within a two-dose regimen that both the current amount of vaccine dose and half that amount being given each time were capable of “significant” immune responses.
Those findings are welcome news, though not yet worth changing dosing approaches, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“But it does bring up the urgent need to do a Phase 3-type clinical trial of full dose versus half dose and see what happens,” he said.
“The implications, obviously, are you all of a sudden double your vaccine supply overnight if this seems to work out.”
Immune response ‘increased substantially’
The Moderna vaccine is one of two options currently approved and being used in Canada to combat the spread of COVID-19, with more than 40 million doses ordered by the federal government.
Based on full clinical trial results, the current approach requires two doses of the vaccine, spaced 28 days apart.
The company’s recently released findings looked at both a full dose of 100 micrograms and a half dose of 50 micrograms, given as two doses in a randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
At eight different U.S. sites, a total of 600 participants were divided into age cohorts and randomly assigned at a 1:1:1 ratio to receive either the two full doses, two half doses, or two placebo doses.
By 28 days after the first shot, anti-virus spike-binding antibody levels and neutralizing antibodies were higher among people who’d been given the full dose compared to the half dose.
But that difference was “less apparent” after participants received both rounds, Moderna’s research team found.
Both binding antibodies and neutralizing antibodies “increased substantially” by the two-week mark after participants were fully vaccinated and remained elevated through day 57, the researchers wrote.
Questions over duration of protection, variants
Outside experts who spoke to CBC News all stressed the need for future research before changing Canada’s dosing approach, given the short two-month time period and small, homogeneous group studied by Moderna.
Chagla also said there’s a clear need to understand longer-term immunity and how other elements of the immune system — such as T-cells, which target specific bodily invaders — might be affected as well.
“The point nobody can answer for you is how long you will have protection,” said Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine.
“Nobody knows. Nobody can tell you. There are no studies; that’s the reason it’s a global emergency.”
Dr. Noni MacDonald, a researcher focused on vaccine safety who is also a professor at Dalhousie University’s department of pediatrics in Halifax, stressed that while Moderna’s study did show similar immunogenicity with two different concentrations of the vaccine, it was also based on “old data.”
The research was conducted between late May and early July 2020 — long before the clear rise of multiple virus variants, which may be more transmissible or capable of evading the body’s immune response.
If the findings hold up against emerging variants, it could mean countries like Canada could one day “stretch what we have” when it comes to Moderna shipments, MacDonald said in an email exchange with CBC News.
Immunologist and microbiologist Nikhil Thomas says it’s important to ‘suppress the spread of these variants,’ as the coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. is replicating faster and transmitting ‘at a higher frequency.’ 4:17
U.S. officials discussed half-dosing
Despite limited data on the benefits of using half-doses, particularly against emerging variants, there has been discussion south of the border over taking that approach, with the U.S. government also helping fund Moderna’s most recently-published research.
In January, Moncef Slaoui, then-chief adviser of the former U.S. president Donald Trump administration’s vaccine effort — one dubbed Operation Warp Speed — said officials were considering giving half-doses of the Moderna vaccine to American adults under the age of 55.
The same month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released a statement shooting that idea down, saying any changes to dosing or schedules of approved vaccines would be “premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence.”
On this side of the border, Health Canada officials told CBC News the agency has not received an application from Moderna to amend its vaccine authorization, but would “thoroughly review” one if it was submitted.
Canada has other vaccines in line for approval — how they compare to the ones already being rolled out and how COVID-19 variants are a complicating factor. 2:03
Dosing strategies have long-term impact
While Bach suspects full clinical trials might yield a similar result to Moderna’s Phase 2 trial, he said it isn’t clear if the manufacturer would even allow countries to stretch their supplies.
He also agreed keeping the current guidelines in place is the ideal approach for the time being, rather than risking lives by adopting a dosing strategy that needs more evidence.
“We don’t know where we are going,” Bach said. “You can put people in danger.”
Still, there’s some potential in Moderna’s early results, according to Chagla.
Knowing the adequate dosing strategy will matter down the line while developing those boosters for variants, he said. And the early evidence points to the potential for increasing vaccine supply to much of the developing world, where shots remain in short supply.
“The answer will have implicating effects for years, not just the vaccine roll-out over the next few months,” Chagla said.
Emily Galvin had nicknames for the nasty practices she said she saw police officers getting away with when she was a public defender in New York City.
Like perjury. In her circles, it’s called it testilying.
Then there’s collars for dollars, a term coined in a 1994 New York City corruption report. It described how officers arrested more people near the end of a shift so they could collect overtime pay.
Galvin said she witnessed officers repeatedly lying in courtroom testimony without ever getting charged.
She’s now deeply skeptical that the reforms currently being discussed in Washington, D.C., will result in a meaningful curb on abuses.
In her view, federal politicians are using carrots to entice police to change their behaviour. In other words, the good-cop approach.
As opposed to the bad-cop approach of using sticks such as defunding, dismantling, and denying particular legal protections in an effort to force police to change.
U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, signed an executive order Tuesday that promised to reserve special discretionary grants only for forces that seek to meet new standards in training and transparency.
Trump’s Democratic election opponent, Joe Biden, has gone a bit further — he’s suggesting reforms to the legal protections that help prevent officers from being sued by victims of police abuse.
But dozens of progressive groups in a letter urged Biden to take a more drastic step and slash police funding, which he’s proposing to increase to help forces reform their practices.
‘Pretty much all the reforms have been tried’
“You have a sort of uncorrectable culture problem,” said Galvin, who now runs a group, Partners For Justice, that provides legal assistance to people in need.
“Pretty much all the reforms have been tried. Retraining has been tried. Implicit bias. Sensitivity training, and harm-reduction, and community policing, and bans on chokeholds. They’ve all been tried.”
At the federal level, both major parties say they’re committed to passing legislation that goes beyond what Trump announced.
Part Three of today’s floor speech on the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/JUSTICEAct?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#JUSTICEAct</a>:<br><br>Most Americans are tired of Democrats and Republicans talking about each other.<br><br>They want us to focus on them. <br><br>This bill is grounded in bipartisan principles. We need both sides for real change. <a href=”https://t.co/wg6PDgbKx2″>pic.twitter.com/wg6PDgbKx2</a>
But the parties are in a deadlock over the idea of suing police officers.
That issue took on new salience this week when the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to qualified immunity, the decades-old standard protecting officers from civil suits.
Republicans won’t touch the issue.
Tim Scott, one of only three Black members of the U.S. Senate, is leading the Republicans’ reform effort. He said he can’t envision qualified-immunity changes getting through the Republican-controlled Senate.
“They see that as a poison pill on our side,” Scott said in Sunday’s episode of CBS’s Face the Nation.
“Any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done. That sends the wrong signal, perhaps the worst signal, right now in America.”
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker responded that if officers feared being personally sued they might not have Tasered and dragged a pregnant woman through the street in Chicago over a parking ticket; shot a Utah cyclist in a case of mistaken identity; or killed a pneumonia-stricken man who was stumbling around an Oklahoma hospital.
“No one in America should be above the law,” Booker said on the same program.
“We have to ask ourselves as a society, do we want to have a nation where police officers who do really awful things cannot be held accountable through civil rights charges?”
Police unions have mounted stiff resistance to reforms.
Minneapolis offers a now-notorious example that Galvin says illustrates how policing problems are deep and systemic.
A combative union leader there rebelled when the city banned military-style training for its police officers — he arranged for union members to get the training elsewhere.
In the case of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked an international uproar, officer Derek Chauvin was actually training younger peers when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and killed him.
Now, the city is exploring disbanding the entire Minneapolis force and coming up with a new public safety model.
Research on the role of unions
State legislators in New York have just voted to make disciplinary records public for the first time in decades. New York City council is proposing a $ 1-billion cut from the police budget, and the police department has disbanded certain units involved in abuse cases.
The Big Apple’s police union warns this will backfire — on officers, and on the public.
Union president Patrick Lynch said in a statement that officers have been murdered before, and publishing their records will only expose them to more danger.
As for the threatened budget cuts, Lynch said: “[City council] will bear the blame for every new victim. … They won’t be able to throw cops under the bus anymore.”
One Canadian researcher, however, says there’s evidence that police union protections themselves have done damage.
Rob Gillezeau of the University of Victoria teamed up with colleagues at the University of Memphis and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to examine what happened when U.S. police forces gained collective-bargaining rights, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
They found that jurisdictions experienced a 34 to 65 per cent increase in police killings of non-white civilians after officers gained new labour rights.
They found no effect on the killing of white people. And they found no similar jump in neighbouring jurisdictions where collective bargaining hadn’t started.
Those findings are consistent with the findings of a paper released last year by University of Chicago researchers, which focused on Florida.
And a report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found a one-third higher rate of complaints about officer use of force in departments that allowed collective bargaining.
Union rules help shield officers accused of abuses, Gillezeau said.
Between collective-bargaining protections and numerous state laws, he said officers accused of killing someone have special rights during the investigation.
“The officer has to agree to the time and location of an interrogation. They can delay. They can get access to, huddle with, other officers,” Gillezeau said in an interview.
“I don’t think this is really debated: Officers face a parallel justice system in the United States that is not the same as other citizens.”
Police unions argue that it’s unfair to tar all officers with the worst examples among the tens of millions of interactions each year between police and the public.
NY Police Union Boss Mike O’Meara: <br><br>“Stop treating us like animals and thugs, and start treating us with some respect! — We’ve been vilified. It’s disgusting.”<br><br>“Our legislators abandoned us. The press is vilifying us. It’s disgusting.”<br><br> <a href=”https://t.co/snJBH6i3Lz”>pic.twitter.com/snJBH6i3Lz</a>
Gillezeau said he would like to do similar research in Canada, but he can’t because so little data is made public here, especially as it pertains to race.
“We know pretty much nothing [about Canada],” he said.
He said it appears, from a database collected by the CBC, that Canada is worse than most developed countries, with one exception: the U.S., where fatalities involving police average more than 1,000 per year, compared to about 25 a year in Canada.
The White House readied new guidelines Monday on coronavirus testing and reopening businesses as it sought to regain its footing after weeks of criticism and detours created in part by presidential sideshows. But U.S. President Donald Trump appeared reluctant to cede the spotlight, with on-off-on plans for a news conference to capture the flurry of action.
As part of the effort, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was set to release new priorities for virus testing, including people who show no symptoms but are in high-risk settings.
The White House was unveiling what it described as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make enough tests for COVID-19 available so states can sample at least 2.6 per cent of their populations each month.
The action came as the White House tries to shift its approach after an erosion in public support for the president. What had been his greatest asset in the re-election campaign — his ability to dominate headlines with freewheeling performances at his daily briefings — is increasingly being seen as a liability. At the same time, new Republican Party polling shows Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.
Days after he set off a firestorm by publicly musing that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Trump said he found little use for his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with medical experts and reporters. Trump’s aides had been trying to move the president onto more familiar and, they hope, safer, ground: Talking up the economy in more tightly controlled settings.
But hours after the White House scrubbed the nightly briefing from its official schedule, it reversed course.
“UPDATE: The White House has additional testing guidance and other announcements about safely opening up America again. President @realDonaldTrump will brief the nation during a press conference this evening,” White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany tweeted.
McEnany had said earlier that instead of holding a briefing, Trump would be meeting with retail CEOs. She said briefings would be held later in the week, but, “they might have a new look to them, a new focus to them.”
“We’re entering a phase of looking to reopen the country and with that, the president will be focusing a lot on the economy,” she said.
‘Testing blueprint’ for states
Among the planned announcements is a new “testing blueprint” for states. It includes a focus on surveillance testing as well as “rapid response” programs to isolate those who test positive and identify those with whom they came in contact. The administration aims to have the market “flooded” with tests for the fall, when COVID-19 is expected to recur alongside the seasonal flu.
Many of the administration’s past pledges and goals on testing have not been met.
The CDC also has been working on more detailed guidelines on reopening schools, restaurants and other establishments that could be released as soon as Monday. Draft guidelines sent by the CDC to Washington include a long list of recommendations for organizations as they begin to reopen, such as closing break rooms at offices, schools spacing desks about two metres apart and restaurants using disposable plates and menus. The draft guidance was obtained by The Associated Press from a federal official who was not authorized to release it.
Some states have started to ease closure orders, and Trump is expected to spend the coming days highlighting his administration’s efforts to help businesses and employees. Aides said the president would hold more frequent roundtables with CEOs, business owners and beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars in federal aid already approved by Congress, and begin to outline what he hopes to see in a future recovery package.
Worries among Republicans
Trump last left the White House complex a month ago, and plans are being drawn up for a limited schedule of travel within the next few weeks, aides said. It would be a symbolic show that the nation is beginning to reopen.
The shift comes in conjunction with what the White House sees as encouraging signs across the country, with the pace of new infections stabilizing and deaths declining.
Still, medical experts warn that the virus will continue to haunt the country at least until a vaccine is developed. And they say the risk of a severe second wave is high if physical distancing measures are relaxed too quickly or if testing and contact tracing schemes aren’t developed before people return to normal behaviours.
WATCH | Media expert says Trump’s COVID-19 briefings have no news value:
Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, criticizes the media for reporting on U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments at the COVID-19 briefings, which he deems to have no news value. 7:52
The White House has considered whether to continue to hold news briefings in a modified form without Trump, an effort to restore confidence in the government response so the public would be comfortable resuming more normal activities.
Worries are growing among Republicans and Trump allies over the president’s increasingly erratic handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Though the White House and the president’s re-election team have resolutely projected outward confidence, a number of Trump’s confidants have argued for a course correction aimed at retaining the White House and keeping the Senate from slipping from the Republican Party’s hands, according to four current and former campaign and administration officials.
For weeks, Republicans have grown concerned that Trump’s daily briefings were doing him grievous political damage. Though Trump cherished the TV ratings, the modest polling bump he received in the early days of the pandemic has vanished amid a flurry of misstatements and partisan fights.
Ontario is set to unveil its initial plan for reopening the economy Monday afternoon, a day after it announced that publicly funded schools won’t be opening their doors to students for at least another month.
The announcement comes as the reported worldwide coronavirus case count approached three million, according to a database from Johns Hopkins University.
The novel virus, which causes an illness called COVID-19, first emerged in China and has since spread around the world. The U.S-based university’s tracking tool, which draws on a range of sources including national and local public health data, reports more than 207,000 deaths linked to the virus.
As of 9 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada accounted for almost 47,000 cases. The provinces and territories that provide data about recoveries listed 17,334 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial data, local health information and CBC reporting found 2,673 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada, with an additional two deaths abroad.
The expected announcement from Ontario officials at 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday comes after the provincial education minister announced that publicly funded schools will stay closed until at least May 31. The extended closure is meant to keep students and staff safe and comes at the recommendation of health experts, Stephen Lecce said.
Quebec, meanwhile, is expected to announce some details around reopening, including how it plans to deal with the remainder of the school year. Details around how the hard-hit province plans to handle the reopening of the economy more broadly are expected later in the week.
With no proven vaccines or treatments, governments around the world imposed a range of public health measures — including stay-at-home orders, physical distancing requirements and sweeping business closures — to try and slow the spread of the virus, or flatten the curve. Countries that have seen some progress in reducing the number of new cases are now making decisions around how to lift lockdowns, safely open businesses and how to handle issues like education.
WATCH | Epidemiologist explains why testing for COVID-19 is key to reopening the economy:
‘There will be re-infections,’ says Dr. Christopher Labos, but if they can be identified early, he says it should help with efforts to contain the virus. 5:26
Countries around the world are taking steps at reopening, including in Spain, one of the countries worst-hit by the virus.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is to present a detailed plan Tuesday for the “de-escalation” of his country’s lockdown, but said it would be cautious. His French and Greek counterparts are also unveiling their reopening plans Tuesday.
Spain’s easing of restrictions kicked off Sunday as children under 14 were allowed to leave their homes for the first time in six weeks.
Seven weeks into Italy’s strict lockdown, Premier Giuseppe Conte laid out a long-awaited timetable for easing restrictions, announcing factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume as soon as they implement safety measures against the virus.
Conte said parks and gardens will reopen, funerals will be allowed and people will be able to visit relatives living in the same region from May 4. If all goes well, stores and museums will reopen May 18, and restaurants, cafes and salons on June 1.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
The Office of the Seniors Advocate in British Columbia has announced an additional $ 500,000 to help support caregivers and seniors as part of the province’s emergency COVID-19 response plan. “Family care-giving can be intense for people,” seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said. “It can be stressful in the best of times.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to lay out his plan today for reopening the province. All businesses deemed non-essential were ordered to close last month as part of a series of emergency measures meant to curb the spread of the virus. The announcement comes after the education minister said publicly funded schools in the province will be closed until at least the end of May. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec reported 69 additional COVID-19-related deaths on Sunday, bringing the total number of deaths linked to the novel virus in the province to 1,515. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, where officials are expected to offer information on what will happen with the province’s schools, which have been closed since mid-March.
WATCH | Ian Hanomansing checks in with some of the people who’ve shared their stories about life during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Ian Hanomansing checks in with some of the people who’ve shared their stories about life during the COVID-19 pandemic to find out how they’re adjusting to the new normal. 4:56
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new confirmed case of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 258. Five people are in hospital as a result of the virus, and two of them are in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
From The Associated Press, updated at 10:30 a.m. ET
In the U.S., governors in states including hard-hit New York and Michigan are keeping stay-at-home restrictions in place until at least mid-May, while their counterparts in Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska are allowing certain businesses to reopen.
The split in approaches to reopening in the U.S. has often been along partisan lines.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, said with hospitalizations dropping in his state, he will reopen churches and restaurant dining on Friday, with physical-distancing guidelines in place.
WATCH | More businesses open in Georgia as COVID-19 restrictions ease:
Some health experts and local politicians are concerned that restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being lifted too soon in some U.S. states such as Georgia. 2:34
But Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told ABC that her state is not ready and needs more robust testing, community tracing and a plan for isolating people who get sick.
“We’ve got to be nimble, and we have to follow the science and be really smart about how we re-engage,” she said.
In a sign that it could get harder to enforce restrictions, a lingering heat wave in California lured people to beaches, rivers and trails Sunday, prompting warnings that defiance of stay-at-home orders could reverse progress. Federally, the Trump administration is focusing on protocols to keep U.S. factories open, including screening workers for potential cases, White House adviser Peter Navarro said Monday.
The U.S. death toll is nearly 55,000 — close to the 58,000 U.S. troops who were killed during the Vietnam War. Italy, Britain, Spain and France account for more than 20,000 deaths each.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:45 a.m. ET
Spain’s prime minister will present details for a “de-escalation” of his country’s lockdown Tuesday but said it will be cautious. His French and Greek counterparts will also unveil their reopening plans the same day. The total death toll stands on Monday at more than 23,500, while the number of infections is more than 200,000, according to the latest count from the Health Ministry, which records only cases confirmed through lab tests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain has reached the moment of “maximum risk” in the coronavirus outbreak, arguing that lifting the countrywide lockdown too soon would allow a second wave of infections. Speaking outside 10 Downing St. on his first day back at work after three weeks off sick with the virus, Johnson said the country was beginning to “turn the tide.”
Johnson’s Conservative government is under mounting pressure to set out a blueprint for easing the lockdown that has hobbled business activity and daily life since March 23. The restrictions are due to last until at least May 7.
Johnson said he understood people and businesses were eager to get back to work, but “I ask you to contain your impatience because I believe that we are coming to the end of the first phase of this conflict and, in spite of all the suffering, we have so nearly succeeded.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that 14 more countries, including Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia, will be added to the entry ban list as the country steps up border control as coronavirus infections continued to spread in the country.
Japan is already keeping out travellers who have a connection to more than 70 countries, banning foreigners with records of visiting those countries in the past two weeks, while invalidating visas for the rest of the world. The additional step on the 14 countries will take effect Wednesday, Abe said.
Japan has 13,385 confirmed cases, as well as 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, with 364 deaths, according to the health ministry.
WATCH | How South Korea flattened its COVID-19 curve:
Systems of extensive testing and contact tracing helped South Korea quickly flatten its COVID-19 curve, but many Western countries might think some of the methods infringe too much on privacy. 5:58
China, meanwhile, was fighting back against calls for an investigation into its role in the coronavirus pandemic, citing faults with the U.S. response to the outbreak and calling for Washington itself to admit its errors.
“Indeed, lately in the U.S. many people are questioning whether the U.S. government responded in a timely and effective manner,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing. China has faced questions and criticism over how it reported cases and its initial response to the virus, which first emerged in the city of Wuhan.
Russia reported 87,147 confirmed cases on Monday, surpassing the total number of cases reported by officials on mainland China. Desperate business owners in the country have been pleading with the Kremlin for help in the pandemic shutdown, although the response has been slow and largely focused on big industries. That has left most smaller companies to fend for themselves and raised the prospect of massive unemployment and social unrest.
More than a million Australians rushed to download an app designed to help authorities trace close contacts of COVID-19 patients.
WATCH | New Zealand loosens strict COVID-19 lockdown to allow businesses to partially reopen:
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand has ‘won the battle’ against the virus but plans a careful, staged return to normal life. 1:23
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to comply with a countrywide lockdown and physical distancing measures on Sunday, a day after some of the world’s toughest restrictions were eased slightly while cases of COVID-19 continued to mount.
Egypt has asked the International Monetary Fund for financial support and will begin talks with the agency within days.
Iran plans to reopen mosques in parts of the country that have been consistently free of the outbreak. Saudi Arabia eased curfews across the country, while keeping 24-hour curfews in Mecca and in neighbourhoods previously put in isolation.
Israel permitted some businesses to reopen and said it would consider allowing children back to school.
South Africa is seeking almost $ 5 billion US from multilateral lenders to help it fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Argentina will extend a mandatory countrywide quarantine period until May 10, while Honduras will extend a blanket curfew by one week until May 3.
WATCH | Canada’s role in the global race to find a COVID-19 vaccine:
Canada’s leading vaccine researcher and a team at the University of Saskatchewan are working around the clock to find a COVID-19 vaccine to save lives. 3:04
Amid fears about where the next outbreak of a fast-spreading new virus would appear, infections and deaths continued to rise across the globe Sunday, emptying streets of tourists and workers, shaking economies and rewriting the realities of daily life.
Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan, tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted, and governments closed schools and banned big gatherings. Amusement parks have been shuttered and concerts cancelled. In Paris, priests stopped placing sacramental bread in worshippers’ mouths.
While the new coronavirus has extended its reach across the world, definite geographic clusters of infections were emerging, with Iran, Italy and South Korea seeing rising cases. The United States, meanwhile, recorded its first death, a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health conditions but who hadn’t travelled to any affected areas.
“Additional cases in the United States are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover,” President Donald Trump said at a Saturday briefing, where officials announced heightened warnings about travel to certain regions of Italy and South Korea as well as a ban on travel to Iran.
China on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that number has exceeded 500. They remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, the epicentre of Wuhan.
The list of countries touched by the virus climbed to nearly 60, with Ireland and Ecuador reporting their first cases Saturday. More than 86,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with deaths topping 2,900.
Islam’s holiest sites were closed to foreign pilgrims, while professional baseball teams played in deserted stadiums in Japan and officials in France advised residents to forgo customary greeting kisses.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recommended that a meeting March 9 where about 10,000 people were to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a UN conference on women’s rights be drastically scaled back because of the spread of COVID-19.
Many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected apparently show no symptoms at all. That can allow for easier spread, and worries are mounting that prolonged quarantines, supply chain disruptions and a sharp reduction in tourism and business travel could weaken the global economy or even cause a recession.
South Korea, the second hardest hit country after China, has more than 3,500 cases.
Italian authorities say the country now has more than 1,100 coronavirus cases, with 29 deaths so far.
Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said. So far, the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed more than 40 people out of nearly 600 confirmed cases in Iran.
As governments scrambled to control the spread and businesses wrestled with interruptions, researchers working to better understand the disease reported that the death rate may be lower than initially feared as more mild cases are counted.
A study by Chinese researchers published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzing 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China calculated a death rate of 1.4per cent, substantially lower than earlier studies that focused on patients in Wuhan, where it started and has been most severe.
Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, “the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1per cent,” U.S. health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal.
That would make the new virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.
There’s growing evidence of the vast cost and economic turmoil of the disease that emerged in central China in December. A new report shows a sharp decline in Chinese manufacturing in February after efforts to contain the virus shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy. The survey comes as global stock markets fall sharply on fears that the virus will spread abroad.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a $ 3.35-billion Cdn emergency economic package to help fight the virus. Abe said at a news conference that Japan is at critical juncture to determine whether the country can keep the outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo summer Olympics.
Abe, whose announcement this past week of a plan to close all schools for more than a month has been criticized, said the emergency package includes financial support for parents and their employers affected by the closures.
“Frankly speaking, this battle cannot be won solely by the efforts of the government,” Abe said. “We cannot do it without understanding and co-operation from every one of you, including medical institutions, families, companies and local governments.”
In sanctions-hit North Korea, leader Kim Jong-un called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country.
China has seen a slowdown in new infections, and the ruling party is striving to restore public and business confidence and avert a deeper economic downturn and politically risky job losses after weeks of disruptions due to the viral outbreak.
In other areas caught up in the outbreak, eerie scenes met those who ventured outside.
Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March. Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and big events were cancelled, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.
In France, the archbishop of Paris advised parish priests not to administer communion by placing the sacramental bread in worshippers’ mouths. Instead, priests were told to place the bread in their hands. The French government cancelled large indoor events.
Saudi Arabia closed off Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina to foreign pilgrims, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50 per cent compared with a year ago, and in Italy — which has the most reported cases of any country outside of Asia — hotel bookings are falling and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the spectre of recession.
The head of the World Health Organization has said that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was “very high,” while Guterres said the “window of opportunity” for containing the virus was narrowing.
From stocking up on supplies to changing travel plans, The National looks at how Canadians can prepare for a coronavirus outbreak and what may be unnecessary. 1:52
The NHL announced this week the disgraced defenceman’s suspension has been extended through the end of next season. But after that, should a team wish to sign him, he can return to the NHL.
The move has again ignited debate over how professional leagues treat both players charged or convicted of domestic abuse and their victims.
Some point to the graphic facts in the Voynov case as reason to move towards a zero-tolerance policy or lifetime ban for perpetrators.
The NHL’s players association says the Voynov’s punishment — now one of the stiffest in league history — has been long enough and will argue for a quicker return.
Instead of focusing on if or when Voynov will return, others are using the case as an opportunity look at different approaches to dealing with athlete-spouse violence.
You may not be familiar Voynov’s story.
It’s been almost six years since police in California arrived at the home of the Los Angeles Kings defenceman and his wife, Marta Varlamova
According to police, the master bedroom was covered in blood. Varlamova told police she’d been attacked by her husband and that it wasn’t the first time. According to reports, the two had fought during a Halloween party causing Voynov to punch her in the jaw. When the two returned home, according to reports, Voynov attempted to choke her numerous times and pushed her violently to the ground when she tried to get up. Voynov told police his wife sustained the injuries after falling out of bed.
Voynov, with his wife Marta Varlamova, right, were in a Los Angeles courtroom in 2015 following a domestic violence incident that escalated after a Halloween party in 2014. (Brad Graverson/Associated Press)
NHL takes action
The NHL swiftly suspended Voynov. He eventually pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, and avoided a more serious felony charge. Varlamova refused to cooperate or testify. She wrote a letter to prosecutors stating an accident at home caused her injures.
Voynov served two months in jail before returning to Russia.
Last year, a judge dismissed Voynov’s conviction. The move was opposed by prosecutors who said it was “impossible to determine” whether he met all of the conditions of probation after his plea because he returned to Russia. A doctor told the court Voynov had completed 28 domestic violence counselling sessions but said the couple had a “lack of emotional awareness and difficulty to communicate effectively.”
Critics in both mainstream and on social media point to the graphic details of Voynov’s case as enough to ensure he never again plays in the NHL. They say his case would be the perfect time for the NHL to get tough on players like Voynov and declare a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to domestic violence.
“We have no reason to believe that zero-tolerance policies deter further violence. The fact that leagues have taken action against people in the past doesn’t seem to be stopping athletes from continuing their violence,” says Leigh Goodmark, a law professor and Director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland.
Goodmark contends that these policies allow leagues to feel as if they have dealt with an issue, but it really only holds players financially accountable for what they’ve done.
“When you cast someone out you don’t give them any opportunity to change, you don’t give them any support to make that change,” Goodmark contends. “If what we want is for people to change, we have to create pathways for that to happen and zero-tolerance policies don’t do that.”
Despite being suspended by the NHL, Voynov was still able to play on the Russian Olympic gold-medal team in 2018. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Varlamova not alone
Varlamova’s role in all of this also must be contemplated, or “the wife” as she is referred to in NHL media releases. Like many others in her shoes, she didn’t want to see her husband punished. She didn’t want to cooperate with the investigation and she certainly didn’t want to take the witness stands.
She is not alone.
Take former NFL player Ray Rice. The notorious elevator video of Rice punching his wife Janay led to an intense discussion about domestic violence but also cost Rice his career. Despite the horrific video, Janay Rice wrote passionately about how upset she was about the demise of her husband’s career. Other victims including the partners of former NFL kicker Josh Brown and MLB pitcher Aroldis Chapman have also encouraged officials not to move forward with charges or discipline despite horrific allegations.
Katherine Redmond heads The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. Redmond, who contributed to Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, says victims need more assurances that coming forward won’t mean potential financial hardship.
“If the league decides to discipline a player, they need establish a fund for the spouses or an insurance policy for these spouses,” Redmond says. “So they don’t feel like they have to remain silent and just live through it with their kids.”
Often Redmond says, the wives and families of players are used by teams and leagues as part of the initial apology tour and then quickly discarded. Redmond says if teams conclude a player’s actions precludes them from continuing with an organization, they are quickly discarded and so too are their families
“These families get wrapped up in PR. I mean here they are deteriorating. There’s really no support for the family,” Redmond says. “The player is treated as an employee and teams say, ‘Well what do you want us to do? He’s an employee. We don’t have any obligation to this family.'”
A look at social media shows numerous pictures of Voynov and his wife smiling, including some from the 2018 Olympics. More than five years after that violent night in Los Angeles, they appear to still be married.
In making a case for his return, teams will likely be asking if Voynov has changed. Is he still prone to physical violence? Has he explored the root causes of what made him violent?
We don’t really know. Prosecutors say it’s unclear how extensive any treatment Voynov or his wife may have received.
Redmond says things like counselling need to be closely scrutinized. Redmond contends that in most situations the athlete has little interest in reform or rehabilitation; it is simply a means to get back on the field.
“When a player injuries his ACL, there is surgery followed by a year of committed to physical therapy and working it out constantly in the weight room.” Redmond says. “When somebody is an abuser, it has been learned at a very early point in their life. To think that this person can go to even three months of therapy and come out saying, ‘Wow I’ve really realized what I’ve done’. No, he has to get to the point of admitting, as cliché as it sounds, he has this problem and he doesn’t like its effects.”
Goodmark says athletes must be able to show real accountability for what they have done. She points to the exiled Rice, who speaks regularly about intimate partner violence, the very topic that ended his career.
“I don’t think real accountability is you lose your job and that’s that. I think real accountability is you accept responsibility for what you’ve done. You have to reflect on it. You have to share those experiences with other people and give other people the opportunity to call you on your behaviour,”Goodmark says.
“Imagine if teams required not the photo-op type experience, but some actual deep work around these issues within communities rather than just giving somebody a free pass back.”
If the first half of the curling season is any indication of what's to come in the following months, then buckle up.
It appears the level of curling is the highest it's ever been. Many of the games are being decided by the smallest of margins as curling continues to evolve and grow. Parity is also at an all-time high. On any given day and on any given sheet, these top teams can find a way to win.
This week the top 16 men's and women's teams from around the world are in North Battleford, Sask., taking part in the Grand Slam of curling's Meridian Canadian Open. It's the fifth stop on the Slam Tour this season, and for the Canadian teams it's the last real tune-up before provincial playdowns to qualify for the men's and women's national championships.
Many of the curlers on the ice this week have raised their intensity level as the pressure continues to build —January marks the sprint to the finish with the big curling prizes creeping into focus.
The Scotties will be played in just over a month in Sydney, N.S. That's followed by the Brier in Brandon, Man., at the beginning of March. The winning teams will then represent Canada at the respective world championships. Teams will use this week as a last chance to tinker with lineups, techniques and strategy before locking it in heading into provincials.
The Canadian Open has a unique format different from most bonspiels fans would be used to watching. Rather than round-robin pool play that puts the top teams into the playoff round, this week it's a triple knockout format.
Essentially teams want to win three games before they lose three games in order to clinch a spot into the playoffs. For instance, if a team wins its first three games, they automatically qualify on the A side and will get a full day of rest.
On the flip side, should a team follow a win-lose-win-lose scenario, the journey to the playoffs gets a lot longer. That final game would then become a do-or-die situation to remain in the tournament.
In total, two A teams (3-0) qualify, three B teams (2-1) qualify and three C teams (3-2) qualify for the playoffs.
The quarter-finals are slated for Saturday morning with the semis being played later that night. The men's championship goes Sunday morning with the women's final being played on Sunday afternoon.
Rachel Homan is part of the world’s top-ranked rink. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)
World curling supremacy
Coming into the Slam event the world rankings are extremely close. Kevin Koe and Rachel Homan — Canada's two Olympic representatives one year ago — are the top teams in the world right now.
Following Koe on the men's side are Nik Edin, Bruce Mouat, Brad Jacobs and Brad Gushue to round out the top five. On the women's side, Anna Hassselborg, Jennifer Jones, Kerri Einarson and Silvana Tirinzoni follow Homan.
Teams are also trying to secure valuable Pinty's Cup points this week. Each Slam points are up for grabs and tallied up throughout the season. There is a men's and women's Pinty's Cup champion crowned after the last event of the year with a cash prize of $ 75,000. Gushue and Jones are the defending Pinty's Cup champions.
When authorities in Thailand were assembling a group of rescuers to search for a soccer team lost in a flooded cave, their first calls went to a retired firefighter and an IT consultant in England.
Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were the first to reach the 12 boys and their coach inside the Luang Nang Non Cave in Chiang Rai province on Monday.
It is their voices that can be heard talking to the boys and giving them calm reassurance in a dramatic video released by the Thai navy. They are working with Thai navy SEALs, who are leading the rescue operation.
Stanton, the retired firefighter from Coventry, and Volanthen, who does IT consulting work in Bristol, have years of experience in cave rescues and have helped map the Luang Nang Non Cave.
"Brits are probably one of the best cave-diving teams," said Dinko Novosel, head of the European Cave Rescue Commission, even before the search mission proved successful.
Chris Jewell, a member of the British Cave Rescue Council, confirmed that the divers on the video were Stanton and Volanthen.
Divers found the boys, coach about two kilometres inside the labyrinth-like system of caves 0:59
It's not the first time they have lent their expertise to an international rescue effort.
Stanton, who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, in 2012, previously described his most memorable life-saving effort as the 2004 rescue of six soldiers trapped by rising floodwaters in Mexico.
"They were trapped for nine days, and we had to teach a few of them to dive through a considerable length of passage to get them out," Stanton told the Coventry Telegraph newspaper in 2012. "It took about nine hours to get them all out."
Push to go farther
Stanton also tried to rescue French cave explorer Eric Establie in 2010. Establie's remains were discovered in southern France after a dramatic eight-day operation.
Alex Daw, a West Midlands Fire Service watch commander who supervised Stanton for six years, said his experience as a firefighter serves him well. Besides that, Stanton also is known as a tinkerer — a technician always making sure his equipment will help him go "farther, further under water, in the dark."
Rescuers and stores of equipment are still being sent in to assist the rescue operation after the 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive in the cave where they had been missing for over a week. (Linh Pham/Getty Images)
"If the kids have got someone there like him, they're safe," Daw said without hesitation. "He's cool, calm and collected."
Volanthen was Stanton's partner on the French rescue attempt.
Volanthen told the Sunday Times in 2013 that cave diving is not the pursuit of those who crave thrills.
"The flight response now isn't always appropriate," he said. "Panic and adrenaline are great in certain situations, but not in cave diving. The last thing you want is any adrenaline whatsoever."
Both men are members of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue team. A third Briton, Robert Harper, is working with them in Thailand after Thai authorities contacted the British Cave Rescue Council for help when the boys disappeared June 23.
The British divers left London on June 26 with special rescue equipment, including radios designed to work in caves.
Brits helped survey caves
British cavers have helped survey and catalogue many caves in Thailand because there are only a few people with such experience in the country, the council said in a statement last week.
"Many British cavers, including specialist cave divers, active on such expeditions, also serve as volunteers in cave rescue teams across Britain and Ireland and bring with them valuable knowledge of the layout of overseas cave systems," the council said.
The euphoria of finding the soccer team and their coach alive has quickly turned to the sober reality of how to extract them from the cave. Heavy rains are forecast, and that could worsen the flooding in the cavern, possibly forcing authorities to have them swim out through a narrow, underwater passage.
Three British cave divers, Rick Stanton, left, John Volanthen, centre, and Robert Charles Harper are seen as they arrived at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27. (AFP/Getty Images)
Gary Mitchell, the assistant vice-chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council, said that helping the boys dive out could take time, particularly since they are assumed to have no diving experience and because they will be in a weakened state.
"They may start to dive them out in small batches into small, into other chambers, other pockets of air, and do that over a staggered period of time," he told The Associated Press. "Obviously, the biggest risk really is current rainfall. If it keeps raining or starts to rain and water levels rise then there's a bit more immediacy required."
New opening may not be an option
Drilling an opening would be a problem because of the need for determining with pinpoint accuracy where they are inside the cave. While stressing that the Thai military is in charge, Mitchell believes they are working under the assumption that the group is about 800 metres to a kilometre below the surface — meaning the need to drill through solid rock.
"Drilling from the top of a jungle mountain ridge is really tricky," he said.
Thai searchers also have been searching for a fissure that might lead to a shaft that could be a kind of "back door" to where the soccer team is sheltered. So far, they have not found one that goes far enough.
For Stanton, such curiosity about finding the right path in a cave seems to motivate him.
He once told the online site Divernet: "I'm only interested in the cave, where it's going and how it ends. I suppose that's what motivates me — I don't know why, but that's it."