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ISS Astronauts Move Crew Dragon to a New Docking Port

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Having multiple spacecraft going to and from the International Space Station (ISS) is great for scientific progress, but it can cause the occasional traffic jam. Astronauts have executed the first-ever Dragon port relocation maneuver at the ISS, moving one Dragon to a new port, leaving space for the next few capsules to dock at the station. 

It’s common practice on the ISS to keep at least one human-rated spacecraft docked at all times. This provides a means of escape for astronauts in the event of a system failure on the ISS or a high risk of impact with space debris. The current escape pod is Resilience, the Dragon capsule that went up to the ISS in November, carrying the first crew members on a regular rotation. 

Resilience remained docked at the forward port on the station’s Harmony module, until 6:30 AM Eastern time on Monday. Four astronauts boarded the vessel and backed it 60 meters away from the station. 38 minutes later, the crew Dragon was docked with the module’s zenith port. This frees up the forward docking port for the next Crew Dragon, which will arrive later this month. 

In late April, Resilience will leave the zenith port behind, making its way back to Earth. That will make way for the upcoming cargo Dragon, which will dock at the zenith port in June. Cargo missions need to dock at this location so the station’s robotic arm can unload materials from the trunk compartment on the vehicle. 

The Crew-2 launch later this month will bring NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide to the station. This mission will use the Dragon capsule known as Endeavor, the same one that flew the successful Demo-2 mission in 2020. Crew-1 will splash down on April 28, returning NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Victor Glover, as well as JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi.

The ISS will probably only get busier as time goes on. SpaceX is the only commercial spaceflight company with a human-certified vehicle, but Boeing is still plugging away at the CST-100 Starliner. After a flunked uncrewed orbital test in late 2019, Boeing and NASA have decided to re-launch the orbital test this summer. After that, Boeing hopes to have a regular flight to the ISS before the end of the year.

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Egypt parades royal mummies amid move to new museum

Egypt held a gala parade on Saturday celebrating the transport of 22 of its prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive new museum further south in the capital.

The ceremony, designed to showcase the country’s rich heritage, snaked along the Nile corniche from the Egyptian Museum overlooking Tahrir Square, to the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in the Fustat neighborhood, where Egypt’s first Islamic capital was located.

The mummies were being transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic design for the hour-long journey from their previous home in the older, Egyptian Museum. The vehicles were designed to appear like the ancient boats used to carry deceased pharaohs to their tombs.

Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 B.C. to 1075 B.C., according to the ministry of antiquities.

They include Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only woman Pharaoh — who wore a false beard to overcome tradition requiring women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.

A mummy is seen in a video screened during a ceremony of a transfer of Royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. (Host Broadcaster/Reuters TV via Reuters)

The mummies — 18 pharaohs and four other royals — were originally buried around 3,000 years ago in secret tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site. Both areas are near the southern city of Luxor. The tombs were first excavated in the 19th century.

After excavation, the mummies were taken to Cairo by boats that sailed the Nile. Some were showcased in glass cases, while others were stored. The remains of Ramses II were taken to Paris in 1976 for intensive restoration work by French scientists.

The made-for-TV parade was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by publicizing its ancient artifacts. The tourism industry has been reeling from political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

“This parade is a unique global event that will not be repeated,” declared Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany.

Security is tight in the capital, with authorities closing off major streets and intersections all along the route for the slow-moving vehicles. Guards on horses and Egyptian celebrities and signers followed the motorcade.

The made-for-TV parade was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by publicizing its ancient artifacts. (The Associated Press)

“Again, Egypt dazzles the world with an unrivalled event,” said movie star Hussein Fahmy in an official promotional video.

The event started in the late afternoon and was broadcast live on the country’s state-run television and other satellite stations. The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry also live-streamed it on social media platforms.

The “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” circled Tahrir square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to now decorate Cairo’s most famous square.

The ‘Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ circled Tahrir square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to now decorate Cairo’s most famous square. (The Associated Press)

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who will welcome the mummies at the new museum, tweeted: “This majestic scene is a new evidence of the greatness of this people, the guarding of this unique civilization that extends into the depths of history.”

Once at the new museum, 20 of the mummies will be displayed, while the remaining two will be stored, according to the ministry.

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Toronto, Peel region ask to move to COVID-19 grey zone, caution against ‘chasing normal too quickly’

After nearly four straight months, top doctors in Toronto and the Peel Region are asking the province to lift stay-at-home orders.

Both are recommending a move into the grey zone of Ontario’s pandemic framework as soon as March 8, which is when the province’s current stay-at-home orders for the regions are set to expire.

The move would still see the regions locked down but with what Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa called “more flexibility.”

Residents “earned this change… often at a personal sacrifice,” de Villa said during a news conference on Wednesday. However, both she and her Peel region counterpart, Dr. Lawrence Loh, cautioned people to continue to stay at home, only leaving for essential reasons.

“I know it has been long and we all want to get back to normal,” Loh said during a separate news conference, but “chasing normal too quickly could mean losing the progress that we’ve made to this point.”

WATCH | Toronto’s mayor, top doctor recommend lifting stay-at-home order, moving back into grey zone

After 100 days in lockdown, Toronto’s mayor and top doctor said Wednesday they’re ready for the province to lift a stay-at-home order for the city. Toronto will be staying in lockdown, but moving into the grey zone of the province’s colour-coded reopening framework. Speaking to reporters, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, called the move a “modest step toward flexibility,” but said its success will come down to “our choices in our daily lives.” 1:12

The updates come as Ontario reports an additional 958 cases of the illness. The total number of deaths connected with the novel coronavirus has now surpassed 7,000 in the province.

However, the new cases reported Wednesday are the lowest single-day increase logged in the last two weeks. In Toronto, there were 290 new cases reported, according to de Villa.

In Peel region, Mayor Bonnie Crombie said they’re averaging 95 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from 88 cases per 100,000 people last week.

A visibly disappointed Crombie had hoped to move Peel region into the less severe red zone.

“I’m really hoping this week’s case numbers are just an anomaly,” she said, adding she will be asking Loh to do weekly reviews “in the hope that we can progress to the red zone and beyond very soon.”

Both de Villa and Loh expressed concerns over the rise of COVID-19 variants, which are more transmissible than the original virus.

In Peel region, Loh said there are currently 100 confirmed cases of variants of concern, up from just five a week ago.

In Toronto, de Villa said “the number of cases screening positive for a variant has more than doubled.”

Both acknowledged how hard this announcement will be for some residents who have now spent 15 straight weeks under stay-at-home orders — 100 days.

A spokesperson for the Ontario minister of health said residents can expect an announcement this Friday, adding that a decision will be made “in consultation with local medical officers of health.”

Loh urged caution, saying that what happens in the coming weeks will determine whether Peel region begins its exit from the pandemic or descends into a third wave.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s top doctor, is urging caution when it comes to reopening, saying ‘a third wave would devastate our small businesses.’ (CBC)

“I don’t want to reopen only to have the province pull the emergency brake,” he said. “A third wave would devastate our small businesses.”

In Toronto, de Villa encouraged people to act in ways that do not “squander” this opportunity.

“While I believe moving into grey is reasonable, we are also scaling up enhanced safety measures to protect those essential front-line workers who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” she said.

“This is the right approach,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory, adding that “vaccinations taken together with regional and economic realities make it the right time for Toronto to move cautiously back.”

Both Toronto and Peel region’s vaccination efforts are being hampered by delays in supply.

“Vaccines do us no good if they’re not in arms yet,” Loh said. “We must stay the course.”

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CBC | Health News

Veteran Canadian Olympic officials dismiss ‘silly’ calls to move 2022 Games from China

A number of Canadian politicians have called for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, to be relocated to another country, but Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says such a move is unfeasible at this late date.

“What the politicians are doing with this kind of a request of moving the Games with less than a year to go is silly,” said Pound, a former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “If they give this 30 seconds of thought, they know it’s not possible.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and other politicians, including Green Party Leader Annamie Paul and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called for the relocation of the Games, pointing to the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim minority population.

Concerns have also been raised over China’s actions in Hong Kong and the ongoing detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

WATCH | Pound dismisses idea of boycott:

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says athletes shouldn’t pay the price for the government’s dissatisfaction with China. 6:45

Two of the people involved in organizing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics agree the logistics involved in staging a Games make a move impossible.

“The ability for a country to step in this late — the headwinds are fierce,” said John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

“It makes for great headlines and it makes for great debate, but the truth is, it’s far too down the road to contemplate.”

Dave Cobb, who was VANOC’s deputy chief operating officer, said it takes years to prepare for an Olympics.

“It’s such a massive [project] that we took seven years and we needed every week of those seven years to be ready,” said Cobb.

The 2022 Winter Games are scheduled to open Feb. 4.

WATCH | Erin O’Toole says ’22 Olympics should be moved:

Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the International Olympic Committee to relocate the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games amid what he calls a genocide against minority Uighurs. 1:43

Politicians call for action against Beijing Games

A multi-party group of 13 MPs also released an open letter calling for the Olympics to be relocated. Jean-Luc Brassard, a gold medallist at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, signed the letter along with some Canadian non-governmental organizations.

Annamie Paul has suggested Canada should consider the feasibility of hosting the Games, but Cobb said the timeline is too short.

“We could not replicate anywhere close to what we had in Vancouver in 2010, because so much of it takes years of advance planning,” he said.

WATCH | Bring It In panel on whether boycotts work:

Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin, to discuss the recent call from over 180 human rights organizations to boycott the Beijing Games in 2022, due to human rights violations in China. 8:07

Pound said moving the Games is a non-starter for the IOC.

“We certainly haven’t discussed it and have no intention of discussing it,” he said.

David Shoemaker, the CEO and secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said in a statement that moving the Games now “would be next to impossible.”

Massive undertaking

Furlong compared organizing an Olympics to “staging three Super Bowls a day for 17 days.”

A new host city would need the sports venues and an athletes village capable of housing the thousands of competitors attending the Games. There’s also the logistics of security, transportation, recruiting thousands of volunteers needed to stage the event and securing accommodation for officials and media.

“If you think of Vancouver, it took us eight months just to put the governance model in place,” Furlong said. “You’d have to build an organization capable of delivering the Games.

“You can certainly sit and dream and say you could do it, but no one would reasonably say, ‘I think we can pull that off,’ and deliver it anything near the standard that’s required for the Games.”

Cost is another issue. The estimated budget for the Beijing Games is $ 3.9 billion US. Furlong said the money the IOC has committed to Beijing has already been spent. That would leave a new host country scrambling to find cash to pay for the event.

“I would say the chances of any government being willing to do that are slim,” said Furlong.

The last two cities to host a Winter Olympics were Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 and Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Furlong said many of the facilities in those cities have been re-purposed for non-sports uses.

WATCH | Trudeau says human rights issues being thoroughly examined:

After Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called for the Beijing 2022 Olympics to be relocated due to what he labelled a genocide against minority Uighurs, Prime Minister Trudeau was hesitant to use the term genocide, but says they have been “very vocal in standing up for human rights around the world” and they, along with the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Committee, will continue to follow the issue. 3:30

Even in Vancouver, facilities would need to be reconditioned.

“Some of them would be straightforward, some of them would be extremely complicated,” said Furlong.

Pound said relocating the Games to Sochi would be difficult, because Russian athletes have been banned from competing at all major sporting events until December 2022 because of a doping scandal.

Move would be ‘complete humiliation’ for China

Cobb said one option could be spreading events around several cities in different countries.

“You could put on a hockey game at Rogers Arena [in Vancouver], or you could put on a ski event in Whistler, but it wouldn’t have many of the unique elements which Olympic Games are all about,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another factor for countries to consider.

“How many countries would be ready to receive all the people, the employees and the media and everyone who would be suddenly descending on them,” he said.

Moving the Games from China could also have legal and political implications.

Beijing will be the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympics.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, said taking away the Winter Games would be seen “as the ultimate affront” by the Chinese government.

“This is a complete sort of humiliation,” he said. “They’re not going to take it too kindly.”

Furlong said it also could make potential bid cities nervous.

“It would make countries feel that they were vulnerable, that you could do this any time,” he said.

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Visitors to B.C. care homes deemed ‘essential’ move to front of vaccine line — others wait and worry

Jody Vance said her heart skipped a beat when she got an unexpected phone call from the long-term care facility where her elderly father lives.

She braced herself for bad news, but instead the voice on the other end told her something so many Canadians would love to hear: a dose of the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine was being set aside for her.

“It was kind of was a little bit surreal,” she said. “It felt like hope.”

Vance got the shot because staff at the long-term care facility in Delta, B.C., declared her an “essential” visitor for her 82-year-old father. Driving him to emergency cancer surgeries during the pandemic made her eligible for such status.

To Vance, the main benefit of being vaccinated is that her dad won’t need to be isolated from her for his own protection. 

B.C. is one of the few provinces — Ontario and Nova Scotia are taking a similar approach — ushering essential visitors to the front of the vaccine line as a priority group. It’s up to the discretion of each facility to determine who is considered essential.

There is no cap in B.C. on the number of approved essential visitors, but only one will be allowed at a time with exceptions made for end-of-life care.

Those left to wait say they are also left to wonder if the delay could ultimately be too long.

Visiting loved ones in long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic often means no physical contact. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A frustrating process

“I don’t know how long she’ll be with us,” said Niovi Patsicakis, speaking about her 98-year-old mother, who lives at Evergreen Long-Term Care in White Rock.

Patsicakis said her mom has been mostly confined to her room in the facility for nearly three months, and Patsicakis hasn’t been able to visit since before Christmas. She said she fears the lack of in-person mother-daughter visits has affected her mom’s health.

But unlike Vance, Patsicakis said she has not been deemed essential by her mom’s long-term care facility. 

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), essential visits include those for compassionate care reasons such as critical illness, hospice care, end of life and medical assistance in dying. They can also include visits by a person who assists with feeding, mobility and communication needs.

WATCH | British Columbians with loved ones in long-term care talk about their experiences trying to get vaccine priority: 

As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential. 2:03

The B.C. Health Ministry has also said a clergy member can be designated as an essential visitor.

Health authority and facility staff, in collaboration with the long-term care resident, determine who gets essential visitor status, according to BCCDC in guidelines published on Jan. 7.

Patsicakis’ visits in the past have tended to be social in nature, but Patsicakis said her mother’s health seems to be deteriorating since their loss of contact.

“I can see a huge difference in how mom has gotten much worse,” said Patsicakis. “Her language skills have weakened as well as her mood. Sometimes, she’s confused or doesn’t want to get out of bed.”

Trying to get an essential designation has been difficult and frustrating, she said.

Niovi Patsicakis, right, says she has tried multiple times to be designated as an essential visitor so she can spend time with her mom, Sophie Patsicakis, left, who is 98 years old and in a long-term care facility in White Rock, B.C. (Submitted by Niovi Patsicakis)

Patsicakis said essential visitors to Evergreen are evaluated by a group that includes facility faculty and a representative from the local health authority, Fraser Health. She said she wrote Evergreen administration three times to plead her case and filed a complaint with an advocate at the health authority’s patient quality care office.

She said she requested Evergreen’s decision be sent to her in writing in November and never received it. As of Jan. 20, she said hadn’t heard anything from Fraser Health either.

“I know so many people are devastated,” she said, adding she is part of a social media group of others like herself who are supporting one another as best they can.

The National Institute on Ageing said families in British Columbia are enduring the most restrictive long-term care home visitation policies in the country.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says decisions around who qualifies as an essential or designated visitor can be arbitrary because care-home residents and their families don’t have an association that represents them. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the lack of an association that represents residents and their families at the 300 care homes in B.C. means they don’t have a voice in policy discussions between the government and care-home operators.

She said care home operators seem to be arbitrarily deciding who qualifies as an essential or designated visitor.

Patricia Grinsteed, 91, who survived COVID-19, touches hands with her daughter through a glass barrier at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, B.C. in June. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, provided the latest numbers of people who had qualified as essential visitors during a press event on Jan. 18.

Henry said about 8,000 people have met the criteria and will receive a vaccination during the province’s first phase of a four-phase immunization program, which is underway. There are approximately 30,000 people living in long-term care facilities

“The default, we believe, should be that every person, every resident who has a person who can care for them, should have a designated essential visitor, but that has been a challenge to operationalize,” said Henry.

Applications for essential status are available on the provincial health ministry’s website. There is an appeal process for people who do not like the initial decision.

One Abbotsford long-term care home operator said the more people who are designated essential, the better.

“Because of staffing levels, this gives us that extra layer of assistance — they are doing things like supporting their loved one with feeding or mobility,” said Dan Levitt, executive director of Tabor Village. “So they need that vaccine, and that’ll make a big difference for all of us.”

B.C. Health Minister, Adrian Dix, said by March, when residents and staff at long-term care facilities have had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, people will have more social visiting access to their loved ones and some daily activities put on hold will begin to resume for residents. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

During a Friday press briefing, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the frustration felt by people disappointed to hear they are not considered essential.

“Everyone should feel that their participation, their social life, their visiting of their loved ones is essential,” he said.

Dix said vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care and assisted living facilities now could lead to eased restrictions around social visits by March, when all residents and staff are expected to have received both doses of their vaccines.

“It’s going to allow a lot of things to happen, including more visits from family members and loved ones and friends,” he said.

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Messi remains dour on Barca’s prospects, floats interest in future U.S. move

Lionel Messi won’t make a decision on his long-term future at Barcelona until the season is over, with the soccer great also raising the possibility of playing in the United States one day in a TV interview broadcast Sunday.

“I am going to wait until the end of the season [to decide],” the 33-year-old Messi told private Spanish station La Sexta.

About fifth-place Barcelona’s future prospects, Messi said “there is no money” and “it is not going to be easy to turn this around.”

As of Jan. 1, Messi could negotiate with other clubs as his contract with Barcelona is set to expire in June.

In August, Messi stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave following a season without titles that ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. The club said no, and Messi backed down saying that he could not take his club to court. He has played as hard as ever since then, but has not said if he has changed his mind over wanting to leave.

“Now I am focused on winning titles instead of other things,” Messi said in the rare interview. “I have always had the idea that I would like to have the experience of playing in the United States, but this is not the time for it.”

Messi also said he would not publicly support any of the candidates who plan to run in club elections set for Jan. 24.

Nor was he overly enthusiastic about the immediate prospects of the team.

“Let the best candidate win,” Messi said. “Whoever does will find a very difficult situation, it is not going to be easy to turn this around. It is going to be difficult to bring in players. That requires a lot of money and there is no money. We need several important players to get back to fighting for titles.”

Rumours remain

Barcelona reported losses of $ 118 million US last season and sold off several veteran players, including Messi’s strike partner and friend, Luis Suarez.

The interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Evole was recorded recently and aired hours after Barcelona announced that Messi would miss Tuesday’s Spanish league game against Eibar due to an unspecified ankle injury.

In a statement about the injury, Barcelona said “first team player, Lionel Messi, is completing the treatment for his right ankle, and is expected to return to training after the FC Barcelona v SD Eibar match.”

Messi is reportedly in Argentina taking a short winter break after Barcelona gave its players some time off following their last game on Dec. 22 against Valladolid.

Messi played the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Valladolid and scored his 644th career goal for Barcelona to overtake Pele’s all-time scoring milestone for their clubs.

After Eibar, Barcelona’s next league match is at Huesca on Jan. 3.

Messi has helped Barcelona win four Champions League and 10 Spanish league titles since his debut in 2004.

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CBC | Soccer News

Goalkeeper Evan Bush on the move again, dealt to Crew by Whitecaps

After a brief stint with the Vancouver Whitecaps, veteran goalkeeper Evan Bush is on the move once again.

The ‘Caps sent the 34-year-old from Concord Township, Ohio, to the Columbus Crew in exchange for $ 125,000 US in general allocation money during Major League Soccer’s half-day trade window on Sunday.

As part of the deal, Vancouver will retain an undisclosed portion of Bush’s salary.

Bush was traded to the Whitecaps by the Montreal Impact at the end of September after Vancouver goalies Maxime Crepeau and Thomas Hasal suffered season-ending injuries.

“Evan is a talented goalkeeper whose significant experience in MLS will be a great addition to our team,” Columbus president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “We look forward to integrating him into the team and seeing him push our goalkeeping corps as we prepare for the 2021 season.”

He posted a 4-4-0 record with his new club, including one shutout, but the ‘Caps missed the playoffs for the third season in a row.

Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said in a statement that when Vancouver brought Bush in, he expressed a desire to move closer to his family at the end of the year.

The move to the Crew, which won the MLS Cup on Saturday, reunites the ‘keeper with coach Caleb Porter, who was his coach at the University of Akron.

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Troops ordered to move on Tigray capital, says Ethiopian PM

Ethiopia’s prime minister said Thursday the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray regional capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warned residents to stay indoors and disarm.

The statement by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on Mekele, a city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.

The military offensive “has reached its final stage” after three weeks of fighting, the new statement said.

It asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.

The United Nations has reported people fleeing the city, but communications and transport links remain severed to Tigray, and it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings.

The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access. Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”

People who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region walk at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan on Wednesday. (Nariman El-Mofty/The Associated Press)

It remains difficult to verify claims in the fighting that erupted Nov. 4 between Ethiopian forces and the heavily armed forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which once dominated Ethiopia’s government but has been sidelined under Abiy’s rule. The two governments now regard each other as illegal.

The UN says shortages have become “very critical” in the Tigray region as its population of six million remains sealed off.

Fuel and cash are running out, more than one million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.

Travel blockages are so dire that even within Mekele the UN World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.

Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.

Refugees flee to Sudan

Another crisis is unfolding as more than 40,000 Ethiopian refugees have fled into a remote area of Sudan, where humanitarian groups and local communities struggle to feed, treat and shelter them. Nearly half the refugees are children under 18. Many fled with nothing.

“When it is cold, it hurts so much,” said one wounded refugee, Alam Kafa. “At night, I have to wrap tightly with a blanket so I can sleep. But I don’t sleep at night.”

“Just to imagine for everything, literally for everything, starting from your food, ending with your water drinking, ending just to go for the toilet facilities and washing your hands, for everything you depend on somebody else,” said Javanshir Hajiyev with aid group Mercy Corps. “This is really a very dire situation. I can’t stress how difficult it is.”

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Move more to stay fit in pandemic era, WHO advises

All adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, even more vital for well-being and mental health in the COVID-19 era, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday in its first guidance in a decade.

It recommended that children and adolescents have an average of one hour of daily physical exercise and limit time in front of electronic screens.

And people of all ages must compensate for growing sedentary behaviour with physical activity to ward off disease and add years to their lives, WHO said, launching its “Every Move Counts” campaign.

“Increasing physical activity not only helps prevent and manage heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and cancer, it also reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, reduces cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s and improves memory,” Ruediger Krech, WHO director for health promotion, told a news briefing.

Yet one in four adults and a “staggering” four out of five adolescents do not get enough physical activity, which can include walking, cycling, gardening and cleaning, WHO said.

These guidelines emphasize what many are experiencing during the COVID restrictions that are applied all over the world. And that is that being active every day is good not only our bodies, but also our mental health,” said Fiona Bull, head of WHO’s physical activity unit.

“Phone a friend and do classes online together, help your family members, do it as a family. And when you can, get outside,” she said.

Offset harms of sitting too much

Research into the ill-effects of sedentary behaviour (defined in this guideline as 10 or more hours) has grown in the past decade, leading to the new advice, Bull said.

That advice is to limit sedentary time and to do more activity to offset the time people do spend not moving, she said, particularly those who spend long hours in office-based work environments. 

“For children we also recommend they limit sedentary time, particularly screen time.”

A person walks a dog in Ottawa on Monday. Physical activity can include walking, cycling, gardening and cleaning. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Pregnant women and postpartum mothers are now included in the recommendations of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for adults.

This provides health benefits for both the mother and baby, according to Juana Willumsen, a WHO technical officer.

“For example there is a 30 per cent reduction in gestational diabetes amongst women who are physically active during pregnancy,” she said.

Adults above 65 are advised to add muscle strengthening and activities focusing on balance and co-ordination to help prevent falls later.

Start small and build up

Devices worn on the wrist or hip that track physical activity are helpful for all, Bull said.

Monitoring how active you are is very good feedback,” she said. “That is important because we tend to think we might be more active. We tend to underestimate how much time we spend sedentary.”

Those unable to meet the recommendations should start small and gradually build up the frequency, intensity and duration of their physical activity, the researchers suggested.

Dr. Ali Zentner of Vancouver appreciated the positive approach of the new guidelines, which she wasn’t involved in writing. She said to think of activity rather than serious exercise at first. 

“Walk the walls of your house,” Zentner said. “Walk from the kitchen to the living room and back and do it 10 times and that’s good.”

The research involved more than 44,000 people from four countries wearing activity trackers.

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Toronto, Peel move into COVID-19 lockdown Monday as Ontario tries to stop ‘worst-case scenario’

Toronto and Peel Region are moving into “lockdown” effective midnight Monday as Ontario tries to curb a steep rise in COVID-19 cases, Premier Doug Ford announced Friday.

The shutdown will last a minimum of 28 days, equal to two incubation periods for the coronavirus, and the province says it will fine people $ 750 for violating public-health rules.

“Further action is required to prevent the worst-case scenario,” Ford told reporters.

Meanwhile, Durham and Waterloo regions are moving into the red “control” zones while Huron-Perth, Niagara, Simcoe-Muskoka, southwestern Ontario and Windsor are moving to the orange “restrict” zone.

The lockdown restrictions mean:

  • No indoor gatherings with anyone outside a person’s household.
  • Individuals who live alone can have close contact with one other household.
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.
  • Restaurants are limited to take-out, drive-through and delivery only.
  • Religious services, funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors.
  • Gyms are closed.
  • Non-essential retail and malls are limited to curbside pickup or delivery only.
  • Personal care services, casinos and bingo halls are closed.
  • Post-secondary institutions move to virtual instruction, with some exceptions, such as clinical training.
  • Pharmacies, doctor and dentist offices, grocery stores, essential services remain open.
  • Schools will also remain open.

Hospitalizations up by 22%, ICU visits by 50%

The measures come as Ontario reports 1,418 more cases of COVID-19. 

Eight more people with COVID-19 have died, the province said Friday, bringing the official death toll to 3,451. So far this month, 315 people have died of COVID-19 in Ontario.

Nearly 80 per cent of cases reported in recent days are from regions in red zones, Ford said. At the same time, hospitalizations have increased by 22 per cent, and intensive care admissions have risen by 50 per cent.

WATCH | Health Minister Christine Elliott on what’s open and closed amid the new restrictions:

Health Minister Christine Elliott explains what will be open and what will be closed in this video. 2:19

Health officials and local politicians in Toronto and Peel have advocated and publicly supported additional, more far-reaching restrictions. Both areas are registering consistently high daily case counts and alarming test positivity rates. Local officials in York have instead pushed for very targeted measures.

The new cases include 393 in Toronto, 400 in Peel Region and 168 in York Region. The province has now seen more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the illness since the first infection was reported in late January. 

The province released an updated version of its COVID-19 framework to highlight what will change during the lockdown.

You can read those changes in the document below:

Also on Friday, the province announced $ 600 million in relief for eligible businesses required to close or significantly reduce their services as a result of the new measures.

Still, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses is concerned the lockdown will be “devastating” for small business owners in Toronto and Peel Region and is calling on the government to develop a policy for small businesses to remain open with capacity limits.

“Today’s restrictions once again create an unfair advantage for big box operators like Walmart and Costco, leaving Main Street retailers to shoulder the burden alone,” the federation’s written statement says.

“That large department stores can be open while small retailers are forced to close during the busiest season of the year is a direct punch to the gut of independent businesses.”

COVID-19 still spreading in other parts of the province

The other public health units that reported double-digit case increases today were:

  • Ottawa: 77
  • Durham: 46
  • Windsor: 45
  • Middlesex-London: 37
  • Halton Region: 36
  • Hamilton: 36
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 33
  • Waterloo: 28
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 26
  • Niagara: 21
  • Grey Bruce: 21

The newly confirmed infections Friday push the seven-day average up to 1,373 after three straight days of declines.

They come as Ontario’s labs processed 48,173 tests for the novel coronavirus, the most on a single day since Oct. 8. The province reported a test positivty rate of 3.6 per cent.

Ontario’s testing network currently has capacity for up to 50,000 tests daily. The provincial government has said it hopes to expand capacity to 100,000 tests per day by mid-December.

There are 12,623 confirmed, active COVID-19 infections provincewide, five fewer than yesterday. It was the third straight day that the number of resolved cases outpaced new ones, after reaching a second-wave high of 12,932 active cases on Nov. 17.

The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness fell to 518, down from 526. Patients being treated in intensive care fell by four to 142, but those on ventilators increased by four to 92. 

Notably, an internal report from Critical Care Services Ontario, shared by sources with CBC Toronto Thursday, put the number of patients in ICUs at 150. Last week, public health officials said that is the threshold before other surgeries and procedures will likely need to be cancelled to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.]  

Health orders extended to Dec. 21

Meanwhile, the provincial government said Friday that public health orders currently in effect across Ontario will stay in place for at least another month.

The province said the current orders under the Reopening Ontario Act will remain in force until Dec. 21.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said extending the orders will ensure the province can address the health crisis and deliver critical services such as health-care.

WATCH | Restaurant owner discusses how new restrictions could affect business:

With Premier Doug Ford poised to implement tighter restrictions in Toronto, Peel and possibly York, here’s a look back at how the novel coronavirus has surged this fall. 6:24

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