The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is “unacceptable” that one of the agency’s managers ignored advice and vacationed in Jamaica last fall.
Iain Stewart said that although the trip taken by Dominique Baker in November was not related to her work for the federal agency, its employees are expected to heed public health advice not to travel.
Baker has now removed a blog post from her personal style blog and videos from her Instagram account about an all-expenses paid trip she took to an expensive resort in Montego Bay in November.
Her bosses were alerted to the trip just as a series of stories emerged about politicians and health officials ignoring the warning not to travel while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.
Baker is the manager of the office of border and travel health — a Public Health Agency of Canada program tasked with keeping communicable diseases out of Canada and reducing public health risks to travellers.
Baker has not responded to an email requesting comment.
Her trip was paid for by Air Canada Vacations as part of its work hiring social media “influencers” to promote their tours. The November 24 blog post Baker published about the trip is no longer online.
The federal public health agency “takes these matters very seriously,” Stewart said.
“PHAC has consistently told Canadians they should avoid travel during the pandemic,” he said. “To have employees disregard this travel advice is unacceptable. As a general principle, we expect PHAC employees to encourage Canadians to follow public health advice, not to engage in non-essential travel.”
He said the agency became aware of the trip after photos were posted on social media as part of a campaign to promote international vacations.
“When the situation was brought to PHAC’s attention, the matter was acted upon immediately and a review was initiated. We will not comment further to respect the employee’s privacy.”
Baker’s videos included a description of what it was like to fly during the pandemic, and the precautions taken by the airline and the hotel to keep people safe.
Stewart also was asked whether there was an ethical issue with an employee accepting a free trip. He said the agency has a Values and Ethics Code which requires employees to declare any “real, potential or apparent” conflict of interest.
Stewart did not say if Baker is being disciplined for the trip, or if she declared any conflict related to it.
In the last two weeks, the list of federal and provincial politicians and health officials whose international vacations have gone public has grown long. Several MPs and provincial legislature members and staffers have been demoted from cabinet or have lost roles on committees and as cabinet aides as a result.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed frustration earlier this week about Canadian politicians who were failing to lead by example and ignoring the request not to travel internationally.
Canada’s border is closed to non-essential travellers, but there is nothing stopping Canadians from leaving if they wish. Canada cannot stop Canadians from returning, though they must quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival back in Canada.
As of Tuesday, all international travellers coming to Canada must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test but still must quarantine upon arrival.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday Canada does not want to join the small list of countries that require citizens to get permission before leaving the country, but he said anything that helps convince Canadians not to travel right now is “something we’re prepared to look at.”
Premier Doug Ford blasted the “unacceptable” number of daily COVID-19 tests being done in Ontario as the province confirmed 550 new cases of the virus and the number of dead surpassing 200.
“What’s unacceptable is the number of tests we are doing,” Ford said at a news conference Wednesday. “My patience is running thin.”
Minister of Health Christine Elliott said Tuesday Ontario currently has the capacity to run as many as 13,000 tests daily, but the province’s 100 dedicated testing centres have not been submitting that many swabs each day.
At first there weren’t enough assessment centres, then there was not enough lab capacity, then the supplies of reagent — key for testing — were low, but those issues have been dealt with, Ford said.
Now, he says, the province needs to “get a move on it.”
‘No more excuses’
“We need to start testing everybody possible,” Ford said, especially front-line health workers including those working in hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as first responders, police and paramedics.
Ford also said all seniors at long-term care homes should be tested, as well as all vulnerable people across the province.
Doug Ford says his patience has ‘run thin’ over the unacceptably low number of tests being done in Ontario. 1:44
“We have to keep testing the public too, it’s all hands on deck now,” Ford added. “There’s no more excuses, we need to get it done, bottom line.”
The premier added that he will be following up with his team later today to make sure there’s a clear plan in place to boost the daily tests to 13,000, but did not say if any accountability measures might be in place if the testing does fall short.
Total of deaths in Ontario tops 200
The number of confirmed cases of the virus jumped by 11.6 per cent on Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 5,276.
It is the largest single-day increase in cases since the outbreak began.
The official tally includes 174 deaths, though CBC News has compiled data from regional public health units across the province and counted at least 215 COVID-19-linked deaths.
Some 1,102 people are awaiting test results.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows there were just 2,568 new test results provided on Tuesday. That’s roughly half the daily target of 5,000 that the government promised to achieve in late March, and far short of the 19,000 tests per day promised for the third week of April.
The slower-than-promised pace continued Wednesday, with Ontario announcing 3,237 new test results.
Testing capacity has grown significantly, health officials say
Public health officials acknowledged Wednesday that lab capacity has grown significantly and that the push is now on to get more people to take the test at community assessment centres.
“The bottom line is we want to do more testing, we’re working very hard now to increase the testing,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, when asked about guidelines that restrict tests, even for some who display COVID-19 symptoms.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said there’s an expert group that will report very shortly on a strategy to expand the number of tests and further increase the capacity of testing centres.
Although Williams said the increased capacity will make long-term care workers and residents a priority, he added health officials also hope to expand testing within Indigenous populations, prisons and the province’s homeless population.
Williams also said the fewer tests seems to coincide with fewer people using the province’s telehealth service and its online assessment tool, which tells people whether they meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing.
“It may be evidence of some flattening,” he suggested, admitting he preferred to “be optimistic” in believing it could be due to fewer travellers and fewer people with symptoms.
“We’re not trying to limit (testing),” he insisted.
Williams cautioned that testing too widely would produce “biased” data that skew too heavily toward negative results when the goal is to reflect the population-at-large.
He also said global demand for testing and laboratory supplies is still high, requiring continued rationing, even as criteria is expanded to include milder symptoms.
Province asks for 40% of federal 3M mask order
At the press conference on Wednesday, Ford also said he’s more confident now than a few days ago when it comes to the province’s access to personal protective equipment.
He also said he is expecting Ontario to receive 40 per cent of the federal government’s order of 500,000 3M masks.
Nearly 60 long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks
Health authorities are tracking 58 COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities across the province.
There are also 45 confirmed cases among residents, 13 confirmed cases among staff, and an additional 56 probable cases at the home.
In Bobcaygeon, Ont., another resident of Pinecrest Nursing Home has died, bringing the death toll there to 28.
Mary Carr, the facility’s administrator, confirmed the most recent fatality to CBC News.
And in Oshawa, Ont., there have been seven deaths at Hillsdale Terraces long-term care centre, up from three deaths reported on Friday.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to seriously sicken hundreds.
The latest data shows that of the 605 people who have been hospitalized:
246 are in intensive care units.
195 are on ventilators.
The Ministry of Health also offered the following breakdown of total cases since Jan. 15:
46.1 per cent of cases are male, while 53.3 per cent are female.
36.4 per cent of cases are people 60 years of age and older.
Greater Toronto Area public health units account for nearly 52 per cent of cases.
Toronto to receive thousands of masks to replace faulty ones
The province will replace thousands of faulty masks the City of Toronto was forced to recall, Mayor John Tory said during the city’s daily COVID-19 update on Wednesday.
The city recalled some 240,000 poorly-made masks that had been given to front-line workers, which had already been used by over 200 long-term care staff.
Tory said the province will replace 200,000 of the faulty masks in “another example of the good cooperation between the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario.”
Province announces new workplace safety measures
Ford also announced the implementation of enhanced workplace safety measures for essential businesses during the outbreak.
Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s labour minister, said on Wednesday the province can expect more safety inspections as well as a higher capacity for workers to voice concerns.
He also said the province is hiring retired inspectors to followup on those concerns.
“Our government is working day and night to support you,” McNaughton told those working jobs deemed essential.
Essential construction projects extended to 24 hours per day
The province is also extending construction hours for essential health-care construction projects to 24 hours per day.
Those projects include building hospital expansions, COVID-19 assessment centres and temporary structures amid the pandemic.
New portal for health-care workers gets thousands of applications
Meanwhile, Ford said 8,000 people have already signed up for the province’s new online portal, which matches skilled front-line workers with employers.
The province says the Health Workforce Matching Portal will allow health-care providers with a range of experience —including retired or non-active health-care professionals, internationally educated health-care professionals, students, and volunteers with health-care experience — to join in the province’s fight against COVID-19.
The portal, launched Tuesday, has already matched 1,000 people to potential jobs, Ford said.
Dealership offers RVs to hospital staff who can’t go home
The owner of several RV dealerships in Durham Region is offering up dozens of RVs to hospital staff who can’t go home.
Although the dealerships are closed to the public, a small team has volunteered to stay and help frontline workers.
“We are doing this in order to help support our first responders who need ways to get to work [and] home,” said Bob Verwey, president of the Owasco Group in Durham, Ont.
Verwey said the dealership has as many as 70 RVs and trailers on offer to hospitals in Oshawa and Ajax for doctors and nurses to live in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s doctors and nurses are demanding that the federal government do more to protect front line workers against COVID-19, calling a critical lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Organizations representing front line workers delivered a blunt warning Tuesday that lives are at stake, and pleaded for more transparency and urgent federal action during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons health committee.
MPs on the committee are holding regular hearings via teleconference on the government’s response to COVID-19.
Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Canada was caught flat-footed by the pandemic and now everyone is scrambling to ensure public health capacity can meet an expected surge in demand.
Calling it a “dark reality,” he said he’s hearing from physicians that the inadequate supply of surgical masks, N95 respirators, face shields, gowns and gloves is even more alarming than initially thought.
“The toll that is paid for this uncertainty weighs heavily on health care workers across the country,” he said.
“They are scared. They are anxious. They feel betrayed. They don’t know what supplies are available.”
Buchman said he’s concerned about the problem of keeping enough doctors and other health professionals on the job, given the heightened threats they face of sickness and physical and mental burnout, and the risk they might refuse to work due to a lack of protective gear.
Physicians working in hospitals handling COVID-19 cases don’t know how long current supplies will last, and many are being asked to ration or re-use supplies, he said, adding that anxiety is heightened by a lack of information and transparency around inventories.
‘Lives are on the line’
“Asking health care workers to be on the front lines of this pandemic without the proper equipment is unacceptable. Shortages must be addressed immediately and information about supplies must be disseminated. People’s lives are on the line,” he said.
“Would we expect a firefighter to enter a burning building, risking his or her life, without adequate protective equipment to keep them from harm? Physicians and other front line health care workers have a call to duty. They are willing to place themselves in harm’s way. But they have rights too – and that is their right to be protected when they put themselves at risk of harm.”
Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians also conveyed “disturbing” reports about shortages and rationing of protective equipment.
“The pandemic has not peaked and the virus will be with us for some time. We need to continue to build our supply and distribution chains coast to coast so all front line staff have the appropriate PPE to provide care safely,” he said.
Preserving masks per shift
Drummond said “preservation” measures, such as limiting nurses to two masks per shift, might be considered rationing.
He also cautioned against “excessive anxiety” and said he hopes the government will deliver on its promise to deliver more protective gear and supplies.
Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said she finds it “striking” that, just a few months ago, governments and managers deferred to the clinical and professional judgment of health care workers to decide what’s needed to keep patients and workers safe — yet now they’re “locking up personal protective equipment to keep it away from health care workers.”
“When faced with this level of uncertainty around a new coronavirus, especially around something so fundamental as how it spreads, we should start with the highest level of protection for health care workers – not the lowest,” she said.
“Front line workers across the country who are directly involved in the care of presumed and confirmed COVID-19 patients are not being provided with the PPE they need to do their jobs. That’s simply outrageous and unacceptable in a world-class health system like ours.”
Silas said that, since its inception in the wake of the SARS outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not made workplace safety a primary focus and has “failed over and over to consider and appropriately protect the health and safety of health care workers. “
She said the government should invoke the Emergencies Act to ensure supplies and equipment are deployed where needed across the country.
Buchman said he salutes the government’s call to enlist retired professionals and others to help in the battle against COVID-19, but he also warned that older people are at greater risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they become infected. He said that must be considered in the context of a shortage of PPE supplies.
“We do have to be careful about what we’re asking,” he said.
The Chicago Blackhawks announced assistant coach Marc Crawford’s suspension will extend through Jan. 2., 2020 on Monday.
Crawford was put on leave by the team two weeks ago after allegations of physical abuse from former players such as Sean Avery and Brent Sopel surfaced in the media. He will resume his full duties as assistant coach once the suspension is over.
The Blackhawks said in a statement that a thorough review was conducted alongside independent legal counsel, and that Crawford’s prior behaviour was not condoned by the team.
“Through our review, we confirmed that Marc proactively sought professional counselling to work to improve and become a better communicator, person and coach. We learned that Marc began counselling in 2010 and he has continued therapy on a regular basis since. We believe that Marc has learned from his past actions and has committed to striving to reform himself and evolve personally and professionally over the last decade.”
The Blackhawks added that they found no such incidents had occurred with Crawford since he joined the team.
Crawford, in a statement, apologized for the past incidents and confirmed that he had “regularly engaged in counselling over the last decade where I have faced how traumatic my behaviour was towards others.”
“I got into coaching to help people, and to think that my actions in any way caused harm to even one player fills me with tremendous regret and disappointment in myself. I used unacceptable language and conduct toward players in hopes of motivating them, and, sometimes went too far,” Crawford said.
“As I deeply regret this behaviour, I have worked hard over the last decade to improve both myself and my coaching style.”
‘I am and will continue to be a part of the solution’
Avery said Crawford kicked him after he was whistled for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty when he played for Crawford with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2006-07 season. Sopel said Crawford kicked him, choked him and grabbed the back of his jersey and pulled it back while with Vancouver.
The issues with Crawford emerged after Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned following accusations he directed racial slurs at a Nigerian-born player with one of Chicago’s minor league teams a decade ago. Others claimed Peters kicked and punched players behind the bench during his recent time with Carolina.
The 58-year-old Crawford joined head coach Jeremy Colliton’s staff in June. Crawford was the interim head coach for Ottawa at the end of last season. He also has served as the head coach for Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Dallas, leading the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Crawford said he wants to make the game better and encourages anyone impacted by him to reach out to him.
“There is an important discussion happening in hockey right now,” Crawford said. “I am and will continue to be a part of the solution moving forward. These conversations will set the course for future generations. I commit to being sensitive to the process, and most of all, listening to individual perspectives and feelings.”
Quebec Premier François Legault says wait times for abortions of more than four weeks in some regions of the province are “unacceptable,” and that the government is working to improve the situation.
“There’s a lot of work to do: there are people to hire, like attendants and nurses,” Legault said. “What’s missing is organization. I couldn’t tell you it will all be fixed in a year.”
Abortion access advocates have denounced long wait times for surgery in the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions of Quebec, resulting in patients travelling to Montreal for surgery.
“We want to make a complaint to the [Health Ministry’s] commissioner of complaints, and we may also talk about going to the Protecteur du citoyen,” said Karine Angers, director general of abortion rights group SOS Grossesse.
In Quebec City, patients will wait two to three weeks before obtaining a first appointment at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université Laval (CHUL) and the Hôpital Saint-François d’Assise. Surgery will take place within seven days of the first appointment, according to CHU de Québec spokesperson Bryan Gelinas.
In Chaudière-Appalaches, the entire territory is served by a single institution, the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis, and the abortion clinic is only open once a week. Patients communicate with the hospital, and the abortion will occur in one appointment if the patient chooses the surgical method.
Conversely, there are nine institutions in Montreal that offer abortion services — on top of four clinics specializing in women’s health — where the delays are usually 10 working days or fewer.
There are no clinics specializing in women’s health in the Quebec City region or in Chaudière-Appalaches.
In December 2018, the absence of a doctor at the CHU de Québec, combined with statutory holidays on which abortion clinics are closed, posed some serious challenges.
One woman complained to the CHU de Québec and the Chaudière-Appalaches Integrated Health and Social Services Centre’s complaints and quality services commissioner.
In the document, which was obtained by Radio-Canada, the complainant says she contacted the region’s three resources on Dec. 17.
The CHUL didn’t have a time slot available until Jan. 14, the Saint-François d’Assise had no slots until Jan. 15, and at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis, there was no availability before Jan. 16.
Finally, the complainant got an appointment in Montreal three days later.
The CHU de Québec’s Gélinas said the situation was exceptional.
However, Quebec’s federation for birth planning (FQPN) said the situation is ongoing.
“We hear on the ground that there are still people who find themselves in a situation where they have to wait more than four weeks,” said FQPN coordinator Mariane Labrecque.
Traveling to Montreal for an abortion
Abortion patients from the Quebec City region will sometimes travel to Montreal to get an abortion, according to the medical director of Montreal’s Fémina clinic, Claude Paquin.
“There are some who will decide to take their car, come to Montreal, and deal with everything in one visit that lasts about three hours,” Paquin said.
“Women appreciate having one single visit, one single appointment, in specialized clinics. I think it could be extended to CLSCs and hospitals.”
SOS Grossesse’s director general says the lack of accessibility to abortion outside major centres is not new — but Angers noted an increase in the number of calls from patients who say they live with the psychological repercussions of the wait.
“A woman does not want to be pregnant, but she has to live several weeks with something she does not want in her body,” Angers said.
The organization is reaching out to patients who have had difficulty accessing an abortion to see what can be done. So far, nine anonymous patients have answered the call.
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock gathered his players at Toronto’s practice facility Friday morning.
That part shouldn’t come as a surprise — teams usually meet before hitting the ice to break down video, go over special teams or talk about an upcoming opponent.
This particular conversation, however, had a different feel following an embarrassing 7-3 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning roughly 12 hours earlier where a lot went wrong, and not much went right.
“It’s just like a family discussion. It’s just honest,” Babcock said when asked about the tone of the meeting. “The reality is we weren’t good enough. There’s nowhere to hide here. Like any good family, that’s what it’s like.
“You keep each other accountable.”
WATCH | Leafs suffer ‘unacceptable’ loss to Lightning:
Tampa Bay’s top line records 11 points in 7-3 victory over Toronto. 1:41
Having all of a sudden dropped three straight home games, including the last two in regulation, Toronto (2-2-1) will look to get back on track Saturday in Detroit against the Red Wings (3-1-0).
But no matter the opponent, the Leafs will need to be better across the board following an effort that left much to be desired and had some fans streaming to the exits at Scotiabank Arena with 13 minutes remaining in the third period.
“Our meeting was more important than our practice,” Babcock said following a brisk 30-minute session. “We didn’t have enough detail, didn’t have enough battle, didn’t have enough work. Any way you look at it, they outplayed us. They were quicker, they won more races, they won more battles, they looked like they had more structure.
“That’s unacceptable. We have to fix that.”
Toronto captain John Tavares, whose first goal of the season was one of Thursday’s lone positives, called the loss that saw his team give up two power-goals on three chances and surrender 11 points to Tampa’s top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point a “learning experience.”
“You want to continue to have a pulse on things,” Tavares said of his approach to the first mini crisis as the Leafs’ outright locker-room leader. “We want to nip a game like [Thursday] in the bud and move forward. We haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted over the last three games.
“It’s not our standard or our expectation.”
‘Bound to be some duds,’ says Morgan Rielly
Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly, who was victimized on Tampa’s third goal in a wild first period that saw the visitors come out with a 4-3 lead, said there are bound to be some duds in an 82-game schedule.
“It’s about how you respond to that, how you react, and how you adjust and limit those [performances],” he said. “You have to deal with the fact mistakes are going to happen, things aren’t always going to go your way.”
The Leafs blew a 4-1 lead before losing 6-5 in a shootout to the Montreal Canadiens last Saturday, but felt good about their game in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
Those vibes didn’t continue against last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, who came in on a two-game slide of their own.
“Any time you play like we did, the first thing is the coach didn’t do his job,” Babcock said. “We’re up 2-1 with eight minutes left in the first period, but we didn’t stay playing, we got rattled, we didn’t keep digging in.”
Can’t get by on talent alone
Leafs blue-liner Cody Ceci said Thursday showed that talent doesn’t mean much if a team isn’t willing to work.
“We can’t skill our way through every single game,” Leafs blue-liner Cody Ceci added. “There’s other teams that are just as skilled as us. If they work harder than us, they’re going to win.
“A bit of a wake-up call … it’s good to have it this early.”
Toronto winger Kasperi Kapanen, who has struggled at times to find chemistry on a line with Tavares and Mitch Marner in place of the injured Zach Hyman, said it’s important to push forward.
“We just weren’t at our best,” he said. “A bad game that we’ve got to learn from and at the same time forget.”
The Leafs didn’t suffer a three-game drought until Feb. 21 last season, and know their attention to detail — especially in the defensive zone — needs to be a lot better after getting badly exposed against Tampa.
“There were definitely points where they outworked us, and that’s unacceptable,” Rielly said. “And then there were points where we just didn’t execute and were working hard — we wanted it, but we just couldn’t execute.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it captured British oil tanker Stena Impero in the Persian Gulf on Friday after Britain seized an Iranian vessel earlier this month, further raising tensions along a vital international oil shipping route.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said said Iran’s seizure of the Stena Impero — as well as a Liberian-flagged vessel that was boarded by armed personnel in the Strait of Hormuz — was “completely unacceptable” and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
“We will respond in a way that is considered but robust,” Hunt said. “We are not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation but we are very clear that it must be resolved.
“If freedom of navigation is restricted Iran is the biggest loser, it is in their interests to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”
Hunt said he had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo to discuss the situation, and expected to speak to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, who he said was currently on a plane.
The U.S. military said that unarmed surveillance aircraft were in international airspace, monitoring the Strait of Hormuz and had been in contact with U.S. ships in the area.
“We have patrol aircraft operating in international airspace monitoring the situation within the Strait of Hormuz,” said Lt.-Col. Earl Brown, a U.S. Central Command spokesperson.
“U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has been in contact with U.S. ships operating in the area to ensure their safety,” Brown said.
Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management said in a statement that the British vessel was approached by unidentified small craft and a helicopter while the vessel was in international waters in the strait.
The Revolutionary Guard’s website, sepahnews.com, said the British tanker was seized Friday by Revolutionary Guard forces for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and has transferred the vessel to an Iranian port.
The report did not elaborate what port it was transferred to. IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, said the tanker had turned off its tracker and ignored warnings.
The Stena Impero’s British operator, however, said the vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.
There are 23 people aboard and there have been no reported injuries, according to the statement from Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management.
“The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew,” the statement read.
An Iranian news agency said the other tanker, the Mesdar, had not been seized but had been issued a warning. Its British operator, Norbulk Shipping, said the Liberian-registered vessel had been boarded by armed personnel and it was for a while unable to contact the vessel.
“Communication has been re-established with the vessel and master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well,” it said.
‘Nothing but trouble’
Hunt said Britain’s ambassador in Tehran was in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and that Britain was working closely with international partners.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Iran is “nothing but trouble,” but added that he thinks that the standoff with Tehran will eventually work out “very nicely.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said “Iran is showing their colours” with the seizures. He said “Iran is in big trouble right now” because its economy has been crippled by economic sanctions and said it would be easy to straighten out the problem, or to make it worse.
Relations between Iran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.
“The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behaviour,” White House national security council spokesperson Garrett Marquis said.
Earlier, Britain said it was urgently seeking further information after the tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia, suddenly changed course after passing through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.
“We condemn unreservedly the capture of Stena Impero as she transited the Strait of Hormuz earlier today,” Bob Sanguinetti, the chief executive of the U.K. Chamber of Shipping, said in a statement.
“This incident represents an escalation. Whilst we call for measured response, it is also clear that further protection for merchant vessels must be forthcoming to ensure enhanced security to guarantee free flow of trade in the region.”
Refinitiv data on its movements showed it had been en route to Jubail in Saudi Arabia. Another map tracking the location of the Stena Impero showed it making a sharp turn in the Strait of Hormuz, at the southern entrance to the Gulf, and heading toward Iranian waters.
U.S., Iran disputing drone incident
Tehran and Washington, meanwhile, continued to spar Friday over Trump’s claim that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf in another escalation of tensions between the two countries.
The Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases, and denied there was any confrontation with a U.S. vessel the previous day.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.
Trump fired back on Friday from the Oval office, saying: “No doubt about it. We shot it down.”
A senior Trump administration said earlier during a briefing that the U.S. has “clear evidence” that it shot down a drone on Thursday and warned it will destroy any Iranian drones that fly too closely to its ships.
Later Friday, Iran’s state television aired footage that it said disproved Trump’s assertion.
The video, published by the Revolutionary Guards, showed aerial views of warships. The television station said the drone had captured the footage, and timing notations showed the drone was still filming after Washington said it had been downed in the Strait of Hormuz.
Watch the footage Iran says disproves U.S. claim:
Iran state TV aired footage Friday it said disproved U.S. President Donald Trump’s assertion that the U.S. navy destroyed an Iranian drone. 1:09
The strategically vital strait is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and serves as the passageway for one-fifth of all global crude exports. Oil prices ticked upward Friday on the news.
Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone closed to within about 900 metres of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
Trump blamed Iran for “provocative and hostile” action, and said the U.S. responded in self defence.
Neither Trump nor the Pentagon spelled out how the Boxer destroyed the drone. CNN reported the ship used electronic jamming to bring it down rather than hitting it with a missile.
After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and imposed economic sanctions on Tehran, the Iranians pushed back on the military front, shooting down a U.S. drone on June 20.
Trump said he had ordered a retaliatory military strike, but called it off at the last moment because the risk of casualties was disproportionate to the downing by Iran, which did not cost any U.S. lives.
Adding to the economic pressure on Tehran, the U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday it was imposing sanctions on what it called a network of front companies and agents involved in helping Iran buy sensitive materials for its nuclear program. It said the targeted individuals and entities are based in Iran, China and Belgium.
Zarif suggested in New York as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that Iran could immediately ratify an agreement to allow broader inspections of its nuclear facilities by UN inspectors if the U.S. dropped its sanctions.
China urged Washington to consider the offer, calling it “a positive signal that Iran is willing to seek a compromise solution.”
The Pentagon said Thursday’s incident happened in international waters while the Boxer was entering the Gulf. The Boxer is among several U.S. navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the North Arabian Sea for weeks in response to rising tensions.
The Iranians and Americans have had close encounters in the Strait of Hormuz in the past, and it is not unprecedented for Iran to fly a drone near a U.S. warship.