Slovakia closes off five Roma settlements due to coronavirus

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Slovakia has closed off several Roma settlements in the eastern part of the country after reports of a cluster of coronavirus cases in five of them, highlighting difficulties faced by Europe’s largest ethnic minority during the pandemic.

Roma communities across eastern Europe are impoverished, plagued by high unemployment and historically the target of discrimination, and the coronavirus outbreak has many feeling more vulnerable.

In Bulgaria, some Roma have complained of being locked in ghettos because of strict curbs on movement. In Hungary, Roma leaders said this week the pandemic threatened their already precarious living conditions.

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic announced on Wednesday that at least 31 people had tested positive for the coronavirus. The Slovak authorities said they would ensure food deliveries and access to healthcare in the enclaves, despite restrictions on movement.

“The measure came into force at midnight. It applies to five locations in two villages and one town,” said Renata Hudakova from the regional public health authority in Spisska Nova Ves.

Slovakia started widespread testing in Roma settlements on April 3 amid concerns crowded living conditions and inadequate hygiene could accelerate infections.

“It is not a hostile act. We want to protect people who are in quarantine as well as those who were in contact with them,” Matovic told the media in the town of Krompachy, where three of the closed settlements are located.

Andrea Najvirtova, head of the rights group People in Need, expressed concern over deepening poverty in the Roma areas as a result of the quarantine as well as nationwide curbs on public life.

“They live in poverty and many have lost their sources of income, such as seasonal work, and their children had free meals in schools, which are now closed. The measures should take this into account,” she said.

Slovakia has identified more than 1,000 locations with 260,000 inhabitants it considered at high risk because of high density of population and poor living conditions.

Officials say that hundreds of Roma returning from western Europe in recent weeks may have arrived infected with the novel coronavirus.

“(It) will spread much faster in the Roma communities,” said Peter Pollak, member of the European Parliament from Matovic’s Ordinary People (OLANO) party and of Roma origin.

Slovakia has reported 682 cases of the coronavirus and two deaths, with 101 new cases reported on Tuesday.

Slovakia has already banned international passenger transport, closed schools and most shops and banned all public events. The government also restricted free movement of people as of Wednesday until next Monday, to curb internal travel during Easter holidays in the majority-Catholic country.

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'Sadness in my heart': Residents of China's Hubei, freed from lockdown, face suspicion

BEIJING (Reuters) – Driving to a factory in China’s southeastern province of Fujian to meet a friend, Ye Jing was stopped by a security guard soon after returning from two months of lockdown in Hubei, the province hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

“His whole manner and actions changed,” the shoe factory manager said, after the guard spotted her Hubei licence plate and asked where she was from.

“He immediately went to put on gloves and distanced himself from me. And he wouldn’t let me in.”

Ye reassured the guard that she had tested negative for the virus, but he responded, “I don’t trust your test results.”

She added, then, “I really felt sadness in my heart.”

Ye is just one of many people from the central province who say they face fear and rejection after its capital of Wuhan lifted on Wednesday a lockdown against the virus that had stretched more than two months.

The move allowed those with a green health code, a QR code that contains their health information, to leave the city. Curbs elsewhere in Hubei were lifted late last month. [nL4N2BW044].

But since leaving, say many Hubei residents, they have faced discrimination in the job search.

“When they see I’m from Hubei, they immediately say sorry, or they directly say you’re not suitable,” said a 25-year-old from the province, who would give only her last name, Li.

She said she had sent her resume online to nearly 50 firms since mid-March, after a job offer fell through during the outbreak, which has spread globally since emerging in China last year to infect 1.4 million and kill 83,400 worldwide.

News reports and social media posts reveal many instances of stricter treatment for Hubei people, whether landlords who refuse to rent to them or tougher quarantine measures.

Li Guoqiang, a Hubei lawyer who offers free advice to those facing discrimination, said he understood employers’ concerns, given the potential impact if staff caught the virus.

“If there’s a single case in returning to work, then a whole company must stop,” Li said.

‘HUBEI PEOPLE ARE NOT A VIRUS’

Chinese state media have lauded people from Wuhan and Hubei as heroes. In late March, an anchor for state broadcaster CCTV hosted a segment urging people not to discriminate against those from Hubei but show them “kindness and understanding” instead.

“Hubei people are not a virus,” was the phrase around which CCTV built a social media campaign.

As more people leave Hubei and China’s economy returns to normal, many have recently become worried about the risk from “silent carriers”, or those who don’t show symptoms, cases that China only began reporting last week.

Ye Xiaotian, 25, who recently returned to the southern city of Xiamen from his hometown in Hubei said he waited 30 minutes to be interviewed for a job at an internet marketing firm, Xiamen Piaoxue Internet Technology Inc. on April 1.

Then he was told it was not accepting candidates from Hubei.

“They said the epidemic situation is quite severe and Hubei people are coming from a place where the epidemic is quite severe,” Ye added.

Xiamen requires a virus test for arrivals from Hubei, which Ye had done at a central facility that cleared him to go about his daily activities. But that was not enough to allay the fears of those worried about test accuracy.

“He didn’t tell us he was from Hubei,” said a man who described himself as a project leader at the firm.

“We would have told him immediately, don’t come here now,” the man, who gave his surname as Wang, told Reuters. “If he came after 14 days, it would be OK.”

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

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Taiwan rejects as 'groundless' accusations it attacked WHO chief

Taipei says Tedros’ claim that racist slurs against him had originated from Taiwan are ‘imaginary’ and ‘irresponsible’.

Taiwan’s has condemned what it described as “groundless” accusations from the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) that racist slurs against him had come from the island, amid deteriorating relations with the UN’s health agency.

In a statement on Thursday, the territory’s Foreign Ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and a high degree of regret, and raised the most solemn protest”. Taiwan is a “mature, highly sophisticated nation and could never instigate personal attacks on the director-general of the WHO, much less express racist sentiments,” it added. 

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Taiwan’s 23 million people have themselves been “severely discriminated against” by the politics of the international health system and “condemn all forms of discrimination and injustice,” the statement said.

Taipei has been barred from the United Nations and the WHO, due to pressure from China which claims the island as its own and even stripped of its observer status at the annual World Health Assembly. 

On Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan’s foreign ministry of being linked to a months-long campaign against him amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At a press briefing, Tedros said that since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, he has been personally attacked, including receiving at times, death threats and racist abuse.

“This attack came from Taiwan,” said Tedros, who is a former Ethiopian health and foreign minister and the WHO’s first African leader.

He said Taiwanese diplomats were aware of the attacks but did not dissociate themselves from them. “They even started criticising me in the middle of all those insults and slurs,” Tedros said. “I say it today because it’s enough.”

‘Groundless, imaginary’

The accusations were “groundless” and “imaginary”, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said, calling on Tedros to apologise for his “irresponsible” comments.

Taiwan condemns any form of discrimination and any attacks on the internet against the WHO’s boss have nothing to do with Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry nor have been instigated by it, the ministry added.

Taipei has been proud of its early and so far effective measures against the coronavirus, logging just 379 cases and five deaths to date, far lower than many of its neighbours.

Taiwan has never been ruled by China’s Communist Party, but Beijing claims the island and has long blocked it from the UN and membership of its agencies.

Taiwan says the WHO ignored its questions at the start of the coronavirus outbreak and has not shared with member states information Taiwan provided on the coronavirus, including details on its cases and prevention methods.

The Geneva-based agency has been in a difficult position regarding Taiwan for some time and its staff have faced uncomfortable questions about the matter that have become more pointed in recent weeks. Confronted with them, the organisation released a statement last week saying that it was taking into account Taiwan’s contributions to the virus fight.

“The question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO Member States, not WHO staff,” it said.

Global influence

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Donald Trump’s administration has seized the opportunity of the coronavirus pandemic to boost Taiwan’s status in the international arena.

The State Department announced last week it had convened a virtual conference to promote “expanding Taiwan’s participation on the global stage”. Just days before, on March 26, the White House announced that Trump signed a law requiring the US to press for Taiwanese recognition in international forums and to take unspecified action against countries that “undermine the security or prosperity of Taiwan”.

China has made clear its displeasure, noting “the frequent exchanges between the US and Taiwan in the recent days” and ridiculing Washington’s praise of Taipei.

“It seems that the US standard is not that high since Taiwan has donated two million masks and then becomes a model of democracy and a true friend of the US,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last Friday.

“In the current extraordinary period, mutual assistance and support are all welcomed. But I still want to remind the US and Taiwan that if someone tries to take advantage of the epidemic to impair China ‘s core interests, they must be cautious.”

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Australia moves to protect Indigenous people from coronavirus

Experts fear COVID-19 may inflict greater toll on remote Indigenous communities due to limited access to medical care.

Darwin, Australia – Lajamanu is on the edge of the Tanami Desert in Australia’s Northern Territory. Located on the traditional lands of the Warlpiri people, and 11 hours’ drive south of the region’s capital, Darwin, it is one of the country’s most remote communities.

Now COVID-19 is adding to its isolation: the only road into the community has been closed, effectively sealing the community of 600 residents, most of whom are Indigenous, off from the rest of the world.

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“The government sent health workers to Lajamanu to explain about the virus, and we have a good doctor in the community who has been here for a couple of years now,” said Steve Jampijinpa Patrick, a Warlpiri elder. “But people are still quite scared of it, and entry to the community is now closed so no one can come in or out.”

Like elsewhere across Australia and the world, essential services continue in Lajamanu. However, social life has temporarily shut down. The arts centre, a major community hub, has been closed, as has the local youth programme.

“Many people, especially the older ladies, are sad about the arts centre closing, because that’s where they come each day,” Patrick said. “But we know that we need to stay safe from this virus. We are thinking of moving out to camps and outstations near town to try and stay away, but it will be lonely if our friends and family can’t come and visit us.”

With just over 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 51 deaths, Australia has so far avoided a catastrophic spread of the virus that causes the respiratory illness. The federal government has put the country on a “war footing” to contain the virus, banning international arrivals and imposing tough curbs on movement across the continent.

However, concerns about the disease’s potential impact on Australia’s Indigenous communities remain high.

Indigenous people, who make up 3 percent of the country’s 24.6 million population, remain below the national average in terms of life expectancy. Those living in remote or very remote communities have shorter life spans than people living in urban areas – partly because social determinants of health, including employment and housing, are far more limited in such places, according to a recent government  report .

Isolated communities

These figures are significant, as the most recent census statistics detailed that almost 20 percent of Aboriginal people in Australia live in remote areas, some of which are extremely isolated and have limited access to medical services.

For some, the nearest hospital may be hundreds of kilometres away, according to Dr Jason Agostino, medical adviser to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Lecturer in General Practice at the Australian National University.

“While some residents of remote communities have good access to primary healthcare, the issue with COVID-19 is that many community members will require hospitalisation and ventilation,” he said. “Community members at high risk of complications from COVID-19 will need to be evacuated to regional centres immediately.”

 

Agostino also pointed out that many communities do not have appropriate accommodation in which to quarantine those who have the virus. Without this, the highly infectious illness could spread rapidly through the local population.

“Many communities have come up with plans to either evacuate cases early, or to house suspected cases of COVID-19 in alternate housing,” he said. “However, there is no consistent national plan to support communities to put these actions into place.”

Chronic diseases high

Another issue yet to be adequately addressed is the need for a funded plan for “surge” staffing in communities.

“Many remote clinics run off a small team of clinical staff, often just a handful of Aboriginal health workers, nurses and general practitioners,” he said. “There is a real risk there will be inadequate staff to support healthcare in the community if COVID-19 enters.”

These concerns were echoed by Dr Mark Wenitong, Public Health Medical Advisor for Apunipima Cape York Health Council, which represents 17 remote communities in the state of Queensland, which borders the Northern Territory. 

“Given that we have higher rates of chronic disease in young people, we have overcrowding (of houses) and small, discrete communities where people interact often, it will be a nightmare if we can’t manage (COVID-19) properly,” he said.

“At the moment, our communities are really ramping up for the first cases. That said, there’s not a lot of capacity for community assets for isolation or quarantine, but communities are working through this and they have to do this themselves through local disaster management plans.”

Travel restrictions are a key part of the containment strategy.

 

As a response to the pandemic in late March, the Northern Territory, and the states of Queensland and South Australian restricted travel to Indigenous communities.

The state government of Western Australia (WA) has taken things a step further, with a “hard border” closure to all residents of other states from April 5. In addition, WA authorities are regulating travel across the state itself, with the entire Kimberley region – along with the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and parts of the Shire of East Pilbara – now closed to all outsiders.

These extraordinary measures mean that a third of the geographical area of Western Australia, a state the covers 2.6 million square kilometres, is now effectively under quarantine.  It also means that almost 90 percent of its remote communities are sealed off.

“We cannot take any chances here. Kimberley residents living in remote Aboriginal communities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and they need to be protected”, state Premier Mark McGowan said in a press statement on April 2.

Despite such wide-ranging precautions, concerns remain about the continued presence of outside workers near Aboriginal communities across Australia.

Outsiders banned

Much of the regional economy is built on the resources sector, and, in some cases, this involves “Fly In, Fly Out” (FIFO) workers. Such workers travel from more populated parts of the country to work at sites which are often in or near the lands of Indigenous people.

Japanese energy giant Inpex recently confirmed that one of its employees who had been working on an offshore rig in WA tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a quarantine of associated workers in the Kimberley region’s largest township, Broome. The state government has now banned workers coming from other states, although flights continue in the region for “essential” workers.

In Australia’s east, Queensland announced a similar ban on interstate FIFO workers on April 4.

“Queensland has no known cases in our remote regional communities, and restricting these workers from entering the state will remove a possible transmission route’, said Anthony Lynham, Queensland’s minister for mines.

Back in the Northern Territory, resources company Origin Energy announced a hiatus to its mining operations in central Australia, citing “health authority requirements for social distancing” and a need to separate territory and interstate team members on site.

However, with Australia’s coronavirus pandemic yet to reach its peak, it remains to be seen if the preventative measures taken by both private companies and government will be enough to ensure the safety of Indigenous communities.

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Easter weather forecast: UK bank holiday weather – Thunder and showers in weekend washout

Across the UK, warm temperatures and sunny skies have dominated the weather in recent days with highs of 22C this past weekend. However, this good weather is not forecast to continue – with showers and potentially thunder on the cards this Bank Holiday weekend. Despite the recent warm weather, Britons are being urged to abide by the lockdown conditions and not venture outside unless for essential reasons.

Cooler air is on the way for the UK this weekend, which will knock the hot temperatures away from the time being.

The Met Office wrote on Twitter: “Some showery rain is likely this #Easter weekend, and as cooler air moves in there will be a drop in temperatures, though it will still be warmer than average for most.”

In their Easter forecast, the Met Office says that while the weekend will start warm, it will cool down into next week with the possibility of showers and thunderstorms.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist, Frank Saunders, said: “The Easter weekend starts dry and warm for many with temperatures possibly reaching as high as 24C in parts of London and the south-east on Bank Holiday Friday and Saturday also.

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“As the weekend continues there is an increasing risk of showers, some of which could be heavy or thundery.

“By the start of next week, although it will be drier and sunnier again it will definitely feel cooler with temperatures reaching the mid-teens at best.

“Many of us will see plenty of dry, settled weather with sunny spells next week, with the driest conditions most likely in central and northern areas of the UK.

“Temperatures look likely to be slightly above normal with the warmest conditions likely in the south.

“There will be a return to a risk of frosts overnight in places, especially in central and northern areas.”

Met Office spokesman Craig Snell also said this weekend will get to a warm start, with temperatures of up to 24C in parts of the UK on Good Friday.

He said: “For many parts of England and Wales, we will see a dry day with plenty of sunshine and temperatures possibly reaching the low to mid-20s in central southern England.”

Mr Snell added to the north it is likely for cloudy conditions with the risk of showers.

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He said: “Across Scotland and Northern Ireland there will be more clouds in the sky and the risk of showers.

“Temperatures will also be lower in the high teens.”

On Saturday, clouds and showers impacting the northern half of Britain will head eastwards throughout the day.

Mr Snell said: “The west will have more clouds and the risk of rain on the heavy side and temperatures just that little bit cooler on Saturday.”

With the weather warming up again next week, bookmakers Ladbrokes have cut odds on April being the hottest on record.

Ladbrokes have cut odds from 6/4 to just 10/11 on this being the hottest April ever recorded.

Elsewhere, it remains just a 3/1 shot that the hottest April day ever is recorded before the month is out, with the record currently being 29.4C.

Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Apati said: “It looks as though we’re set for a record-breaking month of April sunshine.”

Met Office Forecast for the rest of this week

Thursday

Much of England and Wales fine and warm but some eastern coastal counties much cooler.

Northern Ireland brightening and warming up, while Scotland more mixed, some rain in the northwest.

Outlook for Friday to Sunday

Fine and warm for much of England and Wales Friday and Saturday, with the risk of some heavy showers, these more widespread Sunday.

More unsettled for the north and west.

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Judge acquits driver who struck and killed RCMP officer on bicycle on Alberta highway

An Alberta judge has found a driver not guilty of charges relating to the death of an off-duty Mountie on a bicycle.

Const. Austin MacDougall, an avid cyclist, was on a racing bike along Highway 16 west of Edson on the night of July 5, 2017, when a pickup truck swerved onto the shoulder and struck him.

The officer was thrown into a ditch and died immediately.

Dustin Lyle Jensen, the driver of the truck, admitted to killing the officer but pleaded not guilty to charges of dangerous driving causing death and failing to provide a sample after a fatal accident.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Brian Burrows acquitted Jensen on both counts.

The judge ruled there was reasonable doubt about whether an officer smelled alcohol on Jensen’s breath after the accident, and that sun and shadows made it difficult for the driver to see the cyclist.

“There is no basis for concluding that a reasonable person would have seen that Cst. MacDougall was on the shoulder and taken special care to avoid the risk of collision by not inadvertently swerving onto the shoulder,” Burrows wrote in a decision released Wednesday.

“In my view, it has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this tragic collision resulted from a marked departure by Mr. Jensen from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person.”

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Syrian air force behind chemical attacks – OPCW

The chemical weapons watchdog has concluded that the Syrian air force carried out three attacks in March 2017 involving the nerve agent Sarin or chlorine.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said 106 people were affected by the incidents in the opposition-held village of Latamina

The latest findings were the first to be released by the new Investigation and Identification Team (IIT).

The government has denied ever using chemical weapons.

However, a joint UN-OPCW mission had also accused government forces of using Sarin in an attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed more than 80 people, just days after the incidents in nearby Latamina.

It also concluded that government forces had used chlorine as a weapon on other occasions during the civil war.

The IIT was established by OPCW member states last year after Russia – whose forces are backing the Syrian military – vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to extend the joint mission’s mandate.

It was tasked with identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria, as determined by the separate OPCW Fact-Finding Mission.

For its first report, the IIT focused on incidents in Latamina, about 40km (25 miles) north-west of the city of Hama, in late March 2017.

Investigators interviewed witnesses, analysed samples and remnants collected at the sites of the incidents, reviewed the symptoms of casualties and medical staff, examined imagery, and consulted experts, according to the OPCW.

On the basis of the information obtained, the IIT concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that:

The IIT Co-ordinator, Santiago Oñate-Laborde, said: “Attacks of such a strategic nature would have only taken place on the basis of orders from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command.”

OPCW Director General Fernando Arias underscored that the IIT was “not a judicial or quasi-judicial body with the authority to assign individual criminal responsibility”.

“It is now up to the [OPCW] Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United Nations Secretary-General, and the international community as a whole to take any further action they deem appropriate and necessary,” he added.

The IIT has also asked to investigate six other incidents in which the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission has concluded a toxic chemical is likely to have been used as a weapon.

They include one in the then besieged opposition-held town of Douma on 7 April 2018, which medics said killed more than 40 people.

The FFM said last year that data gave “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place”, and that the “chemical contained reactive chlorine”. But it did not assign blame because it was not in its mandate to do so.

The US, UK and France accused Syrian government forces of using chemical weapons in Douma. But the government and Russia said the incident was “staged” by rescue workers.

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Trump humiliation: WHO warns US President to ‘behave’ amid controversial virus response

The US president was told to “behave” amid the coronavirus outbreak following a string of controversial decisions intended to curb its spread. The warning, from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) top official, was issued in response to Trump’s criticism of his performance during the pandemic.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters of the need for world leaders to properly address the virus should they want to avoid a new wave of fatalities.

He said: “We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave.

“When there are cracks at national level and global level, that’s when the virus succeeds.

“For God’s sake, we have lost more than 60,000 citizens of the world.”

It comes as WHO have experienced similar criticism from US officials for giving credence to false reports of the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak.

The reprove resulted in Trump threatening to pull the plug on US aid to the WHO, which he described as “China-centric”.

During last night’s coronavirus briefing, he said: “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO.

“I’m not saying I’m going to do it.”

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“We will look at ending funding.”

Mr Ghebreyesus quickly dismissed the criticism, however.

Of this, he said: “I know I didn’t address your question specifically.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.

“We shouldn’t waste time pointing fingers.

“We need time to unite.”

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Trump’s most recent controversial decision came as he removed Inspector General (IG) Glenn Fine who was set to oversee the government’s $2.3trillion (£1.9trillion) coronavirus response.

The move caused fear among Congressional Democrats about the oversight of the relief package issued to alleviate the country of its impending economic crisis.

It is Trump’s most recent attack against the federal watchdogs whose job it is to prevent government waste, fraud and abuse following his removal last week of the intelligence community’s IG.

He has also sharply criticised the IG who oversees the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr Fine was only named as chairing the committee last week, which included the government’s response to coronavirus including health policy and the largest economic relief package in US history.

Trump has since designated the role to the Environmental Protection Agency’s IG to be the new acting Pentagon IG, a spokeswoman said.

This means that Mr Fine is not eligible for the role overseeing the coronavirus package, known as the Cares Act.

Democrats in Congress have said the most recent move from the president has reinforced their determination to intervene in the unfolding pandemic.

They are currently attempting to oversee the massive spending package passed last month to prop up the economy as the country grapples with the disease.

Meanwhile, senior Republican have taken aim at the WHO in recent days, similarly accusing the outfit of favouring China.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Floria Republican, said on Tuesday: “The Chinese Communist Party used the WHO to mislead the world

“The organisation’s leadership is either complicit or dangerously incompetent.”

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B.C. creates relief fund for kids with special needs during COVID-19

Raising and educating a child while in the middle of a pandemic is major challenge. And when that child has a disability, it can be especially daunting.

Amanda Flentjar’s son has autism and, like most families, she can’t access the usual supports for him because of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Worried that therapy funds could expire, she launched an online petition, calling on the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development to ease funding qualification dates and restrictions.

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“It’s already a stressful situation and we feel forgotten by the ministry,” the Comox Valley mom said.

It’s not just parents of kids on the autism spectrum who are struggling. Stephanie Richards’ son has Down syndrome.

“Our kids are already behind in the school system, receiving limited support and having trouble staying on track,” Richards said.

“With these closures and not being sure how we’re going to be able to access education, it’s definitely a big concern weighing on us.”

Late Tuesday, the province announced that it’s establishing an emergency relief fund for children and youth with special needs. It will provide $225 a month for three months to support 50 per cent more eligible families who are waiting for services.

The funds can be used for help with meal preparation, grocery shopping, home-making services, caregiver relief support, or counselling services.

Also, requirements to qualify for autism support funds will be eased, allowing more money to be used for equipment and in-home learning.

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