Tag Archives: outside

Fans from outside Japan banned from attending Tokyo Olympics

Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months, the IOC and local organizers said Saturday.

The decision was announced after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers.

The move was expected and rumoured for several months. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic, an idea strongly opposed by the Japanese public. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries.

“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.

About 1 million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan. Organizers have promised refunds, but this will be determined by so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers that handle sales outside Japan. These dealers charge fees of up to 20 per cent above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded.

WATCH | How the pandemic changes sports overnight:

In the blink of an eye, everything in the sports world changed, culminating in the mayhem that ensued on March 11, 2020. 5:14

“We could wait until the very last moment to decide, except for the spectators,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee. “They have to secure accommodations and flights. So we have to decide early otherwise we will cause a lot of inconvenience from them. I know this is a very tough issue.”

IOC President Thomas Bach called it a “difficult decision.”

“We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody,” he said.

The financial burden of lost ticket sales falls on Japan. The local organizing committee budget called from $ 800 million income from ticket sales, the third largest income source in the privately finance budget. Any shortfall in the budget will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Overall, Japan is officially spending $ 15.4 billion US to organize the Olympics. Several government audits say the actual cost may be twice that much. All but $ 6.7 billion is public money.

About 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents. Organizers are expected next month to announce the capacity at venues, which will be filled by local residents.

The ban on fans from abroad comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts Thursday from Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. It will last for 121 days, crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners, and is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The relay will be a test for the Olympics and Paralympics, which will involve 15,400 athletes entering Japan. They will be tested before leaving home, tested upon arrival in Japan, and tested frequently while they reside in a secure “bubble” in the Athletes Village alongside Tokyo Bay.

Athletes will not be required to be vaccinated to enter Japan, but many will be.

In the midst of Saturday’s meeting, Bach and others were given a reminder about earthquake-prone northeastern Japan — and Japan in general.

A strong earthquake shook Tokyo and triggered a tsunami warning as Bach and others made introductory remarks before the virtual meeting. The strength was put a 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey and the location was in northeastern Japan, an area hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“I think the screen is shaking. Have you noticed the screen is shaking,” Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s Olympic minister, said as she made her presentation from Tokyo talking remotely to Bach visible on a screen in Switzerland. “We’re actually in the midst of an earthquake right now.”

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri says fight for equality to continue outside of courts

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he will continue to fight for equality outside the courts now that a lawsuit against him has been dropped.

Ujiri issued a statement Monday in which he thanked Raptors players, staff, ownership and fans for standing with him throughout the timeline of the lawsuit, which stemmed from an altercation with a California law enforcement officer at the 2019 NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif.

The lawsuit, filed by Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland and his wife, Kelly, was dropped on Wednesday, as was a countersuit filed by Ujiri.

“I have decided my fight isn’t a legal one,” Ujiri said in the statement.

“Now the challenge is this: What can we do to stop another man or woman from finding themselves in front of a judge or behind bars because they committed no crime other than being Black? That is the work that each one of us must commit to, every day.”

Video of the 2019 incident had started to circulate online last August. Footage of Ujiri speaking about the incident that month was posted to the Raptors’ Twitter feed Monday.

“When I look at this I ask: Who are we as people?” Ujiri said in the video. “Who are we as human beings?

“It comes down to human decency.”

Countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force

Strickland was seeking $ 75,000 US in general damages as well as other compensation.

He alleged he suffered injuries in an altercation when Ujiri tried to make his way onto the court following the Raptors’ championship-clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors on June 13, 2019, at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

Ujiri’s countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force by Strickland.

The altercation between the men was captured in a widely circulated fan video, which appeared to show Strickland shove Ujiri twice before the Raptors president responded.

Strickland, who alleged Ujiri did not have the necessary credentials to access the court, filed his civil suit after prosecutors decided in October not to press criminal charges against Ujiri.

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‘Worrying’ number of tourists from outside B.C. prompts Whistler doctor to call for travel ban

An emergency room doctor in Whistler is calling on the B.C. government to restrict travel from other provinces after seeing a “worrying” number of patients from Ontario and Quebec over the holidays.

Dr. Annie Gareau, an emergency physician at Whistler Health Care Centre, told Radio-Canada she’s concerned that an influx of visitors from outside the region could lead to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, overwhelming the health-care system.

“We have a limited capacity. Our waiting room is small, so definitely at one point in time between Christmas and New Year’s it was unsettling the amount of patients that were in the clinic,” she said.

“I think we need to do like the Atlantic provinces did and I think we need to restrict inter-provincial travel until the numbers are going down.”

A public health advisory has been in place across B.C. since Nov. 19 cautioning against all non-essential travel. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said skiers should stick to their local slopes — for example, people who live in Metro Vancouver should limit themselves to the North Shore mountains.

However, an advisory does not have the legal power of a public health order.

Reliance on personal responsibility

Some ski resorts have cancelled reservations from non-local visitors in response to Henry’s advice, but a representative of Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb, told CBC last month that it is asking guests to take “personal responsibility” for following public health advice.

Little of that personal responsibility was apparent at the Whistler Health Care Centre over the holidays in December, said Gareau.

“I would say the majority of patients that came to the clinic between Christmas and New Year were not Whistlerites. The majority were from the Lower Mainland,” Gareau said.

“And then — surprising and worrying — was a lot of people from out of province, mainly Ontario and Quebec.”

Some residents of the Sea-to-Sky region are concerned about an influx of out-of-province visitors to Whistler. (Eric Berger/Whistler Blackcomb)

According to Tourism Whistler, people from outside of B.C. represent a bit more than 10 per cent of overnight visitors so far this season.

Both Ontario and Quebec are currently struggling to bring rampant COVID-19 transmission under control.

Ontario is implementing a stay-at-home order on Thursday and Premier Doug Ford has said “the system is on the brink of collapse.” Quebec now has an 8 p.m. curfew for residents to prevent spread of the disease.

‘We just need to stay in our provinces’

Gareau’s concerns are shared by Maude Cyr, a resident of nearby Pemberton, who said she was shocked to encounter a large group of tourists from Quebec during a recent day of skiing at Whistler.

Cyr said when she questioned them about the wisdom of travelling cross-country right now, they told her B.C. has fewer cases than Quebec and is therefore safer for them.

“It was hard to say anything,” she recalled.

Cyr worries about the stress these travellers are causing for people who work in the tourism industry and don’t want to bring COVID-19 home to their families and neighbours.

“I’d like to remind people from other places that small communities have small facilities and clinics, so if there is an expansion of cases here, we are in trouble,” she said.

“We just need to stay in our provinces and enjoy what we have in our own provinces.”

Her concerns come as another B.C. ski resort community has seen significant transmission of the novel coronavirus connected to staff housing and parties. As of Tuesday, a total of 162 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, according to Interior Health.

Representatives of the B.C. health ministry have yet to respond to requests for comment on calls for stricter travel regulations.

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Will the Queen meet any of her family outside at Christmas? How royal festive traditions change with the times

Hello, royal watchers. This is your regular dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.

For the past few years, there has been much anticipation before Christmas over how members of the Royal Family would come together to mark the festive season.

Amid rumours of rifts involving Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, public appearances at Christmas became an opportunity to try to suss out the true nature of royal relationships. Maybe a sideways glance during a walk to church would indicate who was getting along — or not — with whom?

Such glimpses might not come anywhere close to revealing much of anything, but the interest was there.

It is still there, even in this year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, complete with the recommended abandonment of large family get-togethers — royal or otherwise — over the holidays.

Queen Elizabeth has decided she and Prince Philip will mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle — where they have been living in virtual isolation for most of the pandemic — rather than with the large family gathering that has taken place over Christmas at her Sandringham estate northeast of London for more than three decades.

New, stricter pandemic restrictions announced Saturday that cover the area around Windsor could mean further changes to any plans some members of the Royal Family may have had for Christmas Day.

“Under these restrictions, individuals may meet with one person from another household outdoors, and there will be interest in whether one of the Queen’s children or grandchildren meets with her outside Windsor Castle at Christmas in accordance with these requirements,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author.

Kate, left, William, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, keep their physical distance as they thank volunteers and key workers at Windsor Castle on Dec. 8. (Richard Pohle/Getty Images)

Already there has been notable interest in another outdoor — and physically distanced — pre-Christmas meeting of some senior members of the family at Windsor Castle. 

The Queen stood outside, well apart from William and Kate, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as they thanked volunteers and workers from local charitable organizations.

It’s hardly the first time the Royal Family has altered its actions to accommodate the world around them.

“During times of crisis, the Royal Family adjusts their own routines to reflect the conditions experienced by the wider public,” said Harris.

In the Second World War, food was rationed at Buckingham Palace, even on formal occasions, when more modest meals were served to visitors — albeit still on the fancy china.

The announcement earlier this month of the Queen’s decision to mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle “just shows how … clear the palace [is] about understanding the nation, or particularly the Queen is, in her 95th year,” said British public relations expert Mark Borkowski, adding that the announcement was a further reflection of her ability to do “the right thing at the right time in the right way.”

William and Kate walk with their children, Prince Louis, left, Princess Charlotte and Prince George, on the red carpet — their first such appearance as a family — to attend a special pantomime performance in London on Dec. 11 to thank key workers and their families for their efforts throughout the pandemic. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

Harris said public interest in royal Christmas celebrations mirrors the interest in royal weddings and births — they’re milestones that average people also experience and ones that could provide “a glimpse of more personal moments.”

That was seen this year, she said, when William and Kate took their children to see a Christmas pantomime, and there was public curiosity about how Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis responded to the performance, and how their parents explained the jokes to them.

Watching how the royals celebrate Christmas goes back several generations.

Some of the traditions they followed then found favour with the wider public, especially during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria, when her husband, Prince Albert, brought his own traditions from Germany, particularly the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees had been in use during previous royal Christmases, but the unprecedented expansion of that era’s mass media helped to spread the word about what the royals were doing in the festive season. 

William and Kate sit with Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte at the pantomime performance. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

“An image in the London Illustrated News of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their children and Queen Victoria’s mother gathered around the Christmas tree provided a famous image of the royal Christmas, which was widely admired and emulated,” said Harris.

In that instance, there was also some royal image management going on in an attempt to counter public perception of the monarchy at the time.

“After the scandalous reigns of Queen Victoria’s uncles, George IV and William IV, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were determined to demonstrate that the monarchy was once again respectable and mirrored the prevailing middle-class views of the importance of domesticity and the home as a refuge from the concerns of the wider world,” said Harris.

Ready for his shot

Prince Charles, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, arrives to meet with workers at a vaccination centre in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Glouscestershire, England, on Thursday. (Chris Jackson/The Associated Press)

Prince Charles, who had COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, says he will get a vaccination against the coronavirus.

But he’s not expecting his shot will come any time soon.

His comments came Thursday as he and Camilla toured a vaccination centre in western England and met front-line health-care workers administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Charles chats with front-line workers administering and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. (Chris Jackson/The Associated Press)

“I think I’ll have to wait for the AstraZeneca one before it gets to my turn. I’m some way down the list,” Charles said, according to a report from ITV.

Speculation has swirled about whether or when his mother, the Queen, might also receive a coronavirus vaccine, with palace comments widely reported that she might let it be known once she and Prince Philip had received the shot.

Flash back more than six decades, to a time when the British government wanted members of the public to take another vaccine, and Elizabeth let it be known that Charles and his sister Anne had received shots to protect them against polio.

“As a result, public mood over the vaccine thawed and millions of others went on to take the drug, which the National Health Service said helped cases ‘fall dramatically,'” the Daily Express reported recently.

No formality here 

Zara and Mike Tindall attend the 2019 Magic Millions official draw at Surfers Paradise Foreshore on Jan. 8, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

When it comes time to declare another royal baby is on the way, the general modus operandi is a formal announcement from Buckingham Palace.

So it caught people’s attention and spawned headlines the other day when Mike Tindall, husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall, shared news via his sports podcast that they are expecting another child.

“Had a little scan last week, third Tindall on its way,” the former rugby player told the 150,000 weekly listeners of The Good, the Bad & the Rugby podcast. 

“Z is very good … obviously always careful because of things that have happened in the past. But so far, so good. Fingers crossed. I’d like a boy this time. I’ve got two girls, I would like a boy. I will love it whether it’s a boy or a girl, but please be a boy,” he said, holding up those crossed fingers and waving  in the podcast video.

“Things that have happened in the past” refers to two miscarriages Zara had between the birth of their elder daughter Mia, 6, and younger daughter, Lena, 2.

Zara Tindall and daughter Mia Tindall pose with Mike Tindall after he finished a quadrathlon on July 11, 2015, in Aberfeldy, Scotland. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

According to The Telegraph, the announcement was very much in keeping with the couple’s casual, down-to-earth manner, and their “reputation as the Royal Family’s most relatable couple.”

The baby will be the Queen’s 10th great-grandchild, and is the second royal birth expected in 2021. Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, are also expecting a child in the new year.

Royally quotable

“You just disappeared, all of you.”    

— Queen Elizabeth takes a technical glitch in stride during a virtual meeting with staff at the accounting giant KPMG, as it marked its 150th anniversary. The pandemic has led to numerous online firsts for the Queen, as she carries out duties remotely. Last week, she conducted her first diplomatic audience via a video call.

Queen Elizabeth speaks with, top row from left, Cheryl Valentine and John McCalla-Leacy, and bottom row from left, David McIntosh, Bill Michael and Jennifer Lee, during a virtual visit with KPMG staff to mark the firm’s 150th anniversary. (Royal Communications/The Associated Press)

Royal reads

  1. A three-day rail tour through the U.K. by William and Kate to meet and thank front-line pandemic workers ran into a lukewarm welcome in Scotland and Wales. [The Guardian]

  2. Harry and Meghan will host and produce podcasts as part of a deal the couple, now living in California, have made with the streaming service Spotify. [BBC]

  3. Netflix says it has “no plans” to include a disclaimer with The Crown to make it clear that the award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth’s reign is a work of fiction. [Los Angeles Times]

  4. Christmas means Christmas cards, often including a happy family photo from the past year. For their 2020 festive mailing, Charles and Camilla are relaxing in their garden at their home in Scotland, while William and Kate are all smiles with their kids at their country home northeast of London. [BBC]

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Husband Sets up ‘Date Nights’ Outside Wife’s Hospital Room Window as She Awaits Birth of Their Son

Husband Sets up ‘Date Nights’ Outside Wife’s Hospital Room Window as She Awaits Birth of Their Son | Entertainment Tonight

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COVID-19 test to be offered to anyone in Sask. working outside the home starting Monday

Beginning Monday, Saskatchewan is expanding COVID-19 testing to include anyone working outside the home who desires a test, no symptoms necessary.

The broadened criteria will make Saskatchewan’s testing program the most expansive in Canada, with other provinces still requiring people in the general population to feel sick or show symptoms before they qualify for a test.

Thus far, health officials have reserved widespread testing of asymptomatic people to outbreak locations, such as long-term care homes and meat-processing plants.

Saskatchewan’s testing capacity is relatively high, at about 1,500 tests a day, but the demand has dropped significantly in recent weeks to roughly 300 a day.

On Wednesday, the government of Saskatchewan announced additional details on how expanded COVID-19 testing will work and who will be able to access a test. Residents must still call 811 HealthLine to make arrangements.

Expanded testing availability will now include: 

  • Anyone working outside the home currently or returning as part of the province’s reopening plan.
  • All patients upon admission, or in advance of a planned admission, to an acute care hospital for a stay expected to be longer than 24 hours. This includes all expectant mothers entering a health facility to give birth.
  • Immunocompromised asymptomatic individuals, including cancer patients in advance of undergoing immunosuppressive procedures such as chemotherapy. 
  • All health staff working with immunocompromised patients.
  • Increased testing for the homeless or those living in vulnerable situations.
  • Mobile (work site) testing in high-volume work settings (such as factories, industrial settings, etc.).

“I think testing is important not just for yourself and your family’s health but … for all of us. It helps all of us reopen in a safe manner,” Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said  on Tuesday.

“We have fairly low COVID activity and that’s where we want to keep it. I think is important just to maintain that testing level and that kind of reassurance that we are maintaining COVID-19 circulation in the community at a very low level,” Shahab said.

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said the expanded testing was set for Monday because those operating the 811 line need time to prepare for the “extensive” list of people testing will be offered to.

“Until that’s in place it would be essentially a free-for-all,” Livingstone said.

He said Saskatchewan already has “one of the broadest” testing programs in all of Canada in its list of symptoms which can qualify a person for a test.

“If you have the sniffles, you can go in for COVID testing.”

Livingstone said the testing criteria will continue to evolve and will be evaluated to see how it is working, and where infections are occurring that may have been missed.

“We don’t have an idea of how many folks will come in. We do expect to see expanded numbers.”

As of May 20, a total of 41,951 COVID-19 tests had been performed in Saskatchewan. As of May 18, Saskatchewan’s per capita testing rate was 32,410 people tested per million population, while the national rate was 35,570 people tested per million population, according to the province.

Infection control specialist applauds approach

University of Toronto associate professor Colin Furness, an infection control specialist, said Saskatchewan’s plan is “proactive.”

“That sounds quite responsible. It sounds wise, it sounds like the population is being well taken care of,” he said.

“I think Saskatchewan’s approach is good. I think they have managed the pandemic very well.”

Furness suggested Saskatchewan and other provinces should be even more aggressive and undertake “sentinel surveillance.”

“You don’t wait at the hospital for people to show up [looking] desperately ill, but you go with your testing equipment and you go to people who have known occupational risk.”

He said examples of workers at risk include grocery store employees, taxi and bus drivers, and front-line health workers.

“They are the canaries in the coal mine. They’re the ones who are going to get sick and not necessarily know it, but they’ll be among the first to get sick,” Furness said.

“If we can test all the grocery store workers in the province and we come up … negative, that would be an excellent sign.”

He said that would allow for tracking community spread in a way that may not have been noticed before.

“We did the lockdown to stop occupational exposure. We know occupational exposure is risky. We know where to find grocery store workers,” he said.

“There’s no mystery here. It’s really just a question of having the resolve to say we’re going to actually go where the risk is.”

Widespread testing needed to ‘quash’ COVID-19

An epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa said it is “good news” that Saskatchewan is expanding its testing criteria as it reopens its economy.

“That has to be done. Ultimately, we should have testing on demand for everyone and even those who don’t want it,” said Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. 

“That is how we’re going to get out of this, is to identify the cases in real-time and quash them.”

Deonandan said a lack of access to rapid test results is among the many barriers to mass testing. Currently, patients who go into a hospital have to wait to find out if they are positive.

“We would like to have our results back in minutes, not days.” 

A nurse in personal protective equipment walks with a patient into a Saskatchewan Health Authority assessment centre. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Provinces should be seeking out the virus, and not waiting, he said.

“We’re not actively hunting the disease yet. We should be.”

Another issue with the current tests, he said, is false negatives.

“Some have high false positive rates. High false negative rates are more distressing because people think they haven’t got it and they’re walking around behaving as if they don’t have it.”

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, warned in April of the danger of false negatives in mass testing.

“The testing, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us the whole story. People can be negative one minute and positive within an hour,” she said.

“The false negative rate can be as high as 30 per cent early on in infection.”

Testing criteria varies across Canada

Saskatchewan would be the first province to offer a test to workers regardless of symptoms. However, people will still require a referral.

In other western provinces, referrals are not required.

Alberta recently offered testing to asymptomatic people in the Calgary zone. About 3,400 people with no symptoms got tested, and more than a hundred were found to have the virus. 

Both B.C. and Alberta have proactively tested in outbreak situations, such as meat plants and prisons.

Ontario just recently expanded testing for people with mild or moderate symptoms. It had previously required multiple symptoms, travel or contact with a positive person.

Both Quebec and Ontario have proactively tested in long-term care homes.

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Some areas outside New York City ready to reopen this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says

Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo shut down most activity in the state on March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a global pandemic hot spot, but the outbreak has been less severe in the state’s smaller cities and rural areas. He said three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes.

Other upstate regions are making progress and could follow soon after, he said. 

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional “control rooms” to monitor the effects of the reopening.

He also said certain business and recreational activities, including tennis, landscaping and drive-in theaters, could open on May 15, when a stay-at-home order expires.

“This is the next big step in this historic journey,” the Democratic governor said at his daily briefing.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said regions in the state needed to meet certain safety specifications before they could reopen, such as COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations trending down. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York’s first tentative steps toward reopening follow other states that have already relaxed restrictions.

Last week, Cuomo said regions of the state could phase in reopening if they met seven conditions. COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations need to trend down and there must be enough hospital beds to handle a surge. Counties also have to beef up testing and contact tracing. And businesses will need to take steps to protect workers.

The economic reopening will happen in four phases. The first businesses that can open will include construction, manufacturing and retail with curb-side pickup. 

Additionally, landscaping and gardening businesses and drive-in theaters can open statewide, the governor said.

Cuomo warns of reopening risks

Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on the crisis, warned that reopening too quickly could backfire.

“We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory,” Cuomo said. “The rest of the nation, the cases are still on the incline.”

Cuomo said regional reopenings would be co-ordinated across the state and that hospitalizations and other metrics would be watched closely. If “circuit breakers” are triggered, restrictions could be put back into place, he said.

“We just made it over the mountain. Nobody wants to go back to the other side of the mountain,” the governor said.

At an earlier briefing on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while progress on key indicators of the outbreak had been made, the situation is not quite where it needs to be to allow for a relaxing of physical distancing measures.

“June is when we’re potentially going to be able to make some real changes, if we can continue our progress.”

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This northern European city has moved its bars and restaurants outside. Will customers follow?

After six excruciating weeks of being in a near lockdown, Lithuanian restaurateur Eimantas Lumpickas is relieved to finally have customers to serve again — but he’s never done it quite like this.

For the first time, all of his tables are outdoors.

Some are in a newly created seating area on the sidewalk and others will soon be in a park down the street, 40 metres away, that’s never seen table dining in the past.

“The restaurant is alive again,” said Lumpickas, as he relocated the tables and chairs outside of Drama Burger, an upscale gastro café in Vilnius, the capital of the Baltic nation of 2.7 million people. “The plan of course is brilliant,” he said.

“We are listening to the government’s guidance, we are keeping the distance between the tables, staff are wearing masks and gloves and using sanitizers.”

Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of Vilnius, says more than 200 businesses have applied to move their tables and restaurants outside. He says the city plans to provide quick approval. (Mykolas Alekna)

Just shy of two weeks into Vilnius’s outdoor dining experiment, Lumpickas says his customers are clearly happy to be out socializing again, though he remains uncertain how profitable this new arrangement will be.

“The government has only allowed us to sit two people [together] or families so there is still not the usual crowd,” he said.

“And the weather was not that great.”

Giant café

The mayor of Vilnius has touted the idea of turning his city into a “big open air café” as a measure that can allow restaurants to start serving customers again without the health risks from COVID-19 that come with being too close together inside. Infectious disease experts say it’s generally much harder to contract the virus in outdoor settings, provided people maintain a two-metre distance from one another.

“I would say it’s already working,” said Remigijus Šimašius, who showed up for his interview on a bicycle.

Vilnius has a quaint old-town feel, with narrow cobblestone streets and brightly painted buildings. While putting tables on sidewalks outside cafes is fairly common, this experiment envisions something far grander, with parks, paved squares, parking lots and closed-off streets also being made available.

Restaurateur Eimantas Lumpickas plans to set up 10 tables in this park around the corner from his restaurant. With another 15 tables on the sidewalk, he says it should provide him with the volume of customers he needs to remain in operation. (Mykolas Alekna)

More than 200 [businesses] already declared they do want to use these spaces,” said Šimašius in an interview with CBC News.

“This simple measure is a very important innovation — very simple but very, very important [during] this time of our fight with the COVID virus and quarantine,” said Šimašius.

Restaurants and bars in Vilnius have been reopened for outdoor customers for two weeks. (Mykolas Alekna)

While many Canadian cities have been allowing restaurants to cater to takeout orders, only a few (such as those in Manitoba) have allowed customers to be served outside, on outdoor patios.

Canada’s restaurant industry worries that when businesses are eventually allowed to reopen indoor seating, spacing requirements may only let them operate at 50 per cent capacity. So the prospect of spreading into streets and other public areas could be the difference between being profitable or not.

Restaurants threatened

“We like the idea,” said Charles Gauthier, president of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. He has been touting a similar concept.

“I think if we don’t do it, we risk losing the flavour of our city.”

Gauthier says it’s inevitable that some city streets will have to become narrower for vehicles so that there will be more space on the sides for other activities.

“It will likely involve removing the curb lane, just to maintain that social distancing,” he told CBC News in an interview.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, one of 13 global mayors appointed to a COVID-19 recovery task force, says it’s essential for cities to get more creative as they try to adapt to the challenge of living with the virus.

Shared streets

“There are less cars running right now, and I think it’s time to rethink how we share the public space outside,” she told CBC Radio’s The Current in an interview this week.

She said they are creating “family and active streets,” where motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are “equal.”

Cool or rainy weather is one of the biggest concerns about hosting customers outdoors. (Mykolas Alekna.)

Former Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian, a longtime proponent of getting cars off roads to make way for other activities, says Vilnius’s approach speaks to the experimentation that’s needed going forward.

“All of this is kind of a puzzle exercise — treating the life between buildings in our cities as the space to do a lot of things. And if we don’t rethink the amount of space we’ve surrendered to cars, there isn’t going to be enough space for any of these other things.”

Best case

“I think it’s the best you can actually do in this scenario,” said Vilnius IT worker Tomas Kasnauskas, who was out for lunch with his wife and their dog over the weekend when the sun was out.

“But I hope one day we have umbrellas,” he added, underscoring the unpredictability that the weather may have on the success of Lithuania’s dining experiment.

A street closed off to vehicles is pictured in Vilnius. (Mykolas ALekna)

“It’s not insurmountable,” said Vancouver’s Charles Gauthier of the challenges posed by bad weather, adding that multiple companies have approached him about solutions.

Gauthier says suppliers of tents and heaters, often used in the movie industry, have told him there are many ways to make outdoor dining enjoyable, even when the weather doesn’t co-operate.

In Vilnius, some of the staff and customers CBC News spoke to also expressed concerns that having even a limited number of people gathering together might lead to another wave of infections.

“We are worried that if there is some virus expansion, we might be closed again,” said Simonas Gedutis, of the Paviljonas bar and café.

Still, Gedutis said he believes even with the need for staff to wear masks and gloves and have regular temperature checks, some form of outdoor dining will likely become the norm for restaurants in cities all over the world.

“It’s a really good starting point to operate.”

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Spain to let children outside after more than a month under strict coronavirus lockdown

Relieved Spanish parents welcomed on Wednesday a decision allowing children out on short walks for the first time in more than a month as the government voted to extend Spain’s lockdown until May 9.

With Europe’s second highest death toll of 21,717 and the world’s second-most recorded infections at 208,389, Spain’s tough restrictions have included a controversial ban on children leaving their homes since mid-March.

However, on Tuesday night, the government bowed to public pressure — including pot-banging protests on balconies — and said those under 14 would be able to take short walks outside under supervision from the weekend.

Parents welcomed the concession, although it came late for some, after nearly six weeks cooped up at home.

Tantrums ‘in crescendo’

“The escalation of anxiety, tantrums, irascible behaviour … have been in crescendo,” said Dr. Iban Onandia, 35, a neuropsychologist in the Basque province of Bizkaia, adding that children had paid an “indecent” price during the lockdown.

“The truth is that the educational system we have is not up to the job either because they’ve left many children to their own devices, including my own,” said the father of two children, aged four and two.

A dance instructor teaches online at home with her daughter during the lockdown in Madrid on April 3. (La Jara Center via Getty Images)

Ramon Motta, a Madrid-based maitre d’hotel with two daughters Carla, 11, and Ariadna, 8, resorted to setting up a tent in their fifth-floor apartment to keep them entertained.

“We have Disney Plus, Netflix and video games, but you don’t want your kids spending five, six, seven hours in front of a screen, yet at the same time there’s not much else to do,” he said.

“After such a long time locked in, kids and parents start losing patience pretty quickly. A couple of times Carla went into a tantrum.”

Children under 14 will be allowed outside between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. for up to one hour a day and must be accompanied by an adult with whom they live, according to a provisional government document seen by La Sexta television.

Children can “run, jump and exercise” but will not be allowed to use play parks and must respect social distancing rules, says the document, which is still under debate and could change.

Spaniards optimistic nightmare is easing

As his left-wing coalition marked 100 days in office, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sought parliamentary approval to prolong a state of emergency until May 9 — the third such extension.

With the epidemic seemingly past its peak, the lockdown could start to be phased out toward the end of May, although measures will be eased gradually, he told lawmakers.

The photographer’s son and daughter watch a live stream during the girl’s birthday party on April 13 in Barcelona. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

A slowdown in infections and deaths has Spaniards optimistic their nightmare may be easing. The official tally, however, fails to account for those who were more than likely killed by the virus but never tested.

The Madrid region on Wednesday released its own tally, showing 4,275 extra deaths confirmed or suspected as COVID-19, or 56 per cent more than health ministry data. Nearly 4,000 of these were care home residents.

Nevertheless, officials were increasingly focused on restarting the flagging economy.

Tomato-throwing fiesta off

In another sign of nascent recovery, vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen’s Spanish unit SEAT, which employs around 15,000 people, said it plans to resume production from April 27, although with 3,000 coronavirus tests a week on its workforce to minimize risk.

Nissan  also said on Wednesday it would restart production in Barcelona from May 4.
Spain was set to receive the highest level of orders ever for a euro zone bond sale — 15 billion euros ($ 22.96 billion Cdn) — as debt for stimulus programs drew high demand.

But in a blow to tourism, authorities in the Valencian town of Bunol postponed the 75th annual Tomatina festival, where thousands gather every August to pelt each other with fresh tomatoes.

It was the first cancellation since 1957.

On Tuesday, the San Fermin bull-running fiesta in Pamplona was also suspended, for the first time in four decades.

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