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Analysis & Comment

COMMENTARY: Why do people cheat at social distancing?

As the world fights the novel coronavirus pandemic, our strongest weapon right now is physical distancing. Proven by studies and supported by history, staying home save lives.

In fact, bending this rule to meet even a few other people may undo our efforts.

While many have accepted the safety directions, some are still travelling. More people have died of COVID-19 in the United States than any other country, yet U.S. President Donald Trump has encouraged people to gather and Georgia’s governor supported the reopening of bowling alleys and nail salons. So why is it so hard for us to do what is right?

Subconscious biases affect our behaviour

As a doctor and a father, I get that we are all trying to keep a sense of normalcy for ourselves and our families. But the reasons we resist distancing are often beyond rationality: there are reflexive thoughts that drive our behaviour, often without our own awareness. And if we want to save as many lives as possible, our efforts have to take these subconscious biases into account.

For example, asking people to observe physical distancing may actually have the opposite effect for those who fear that compliance will lead to a restriction in their freedom. This is called reactance bias, and it is partly why in our society teenagers drink alcohol and some drivers resist seatbelts.

It is also why pandemic safety measures can be easily framed as a restrictive “lockdown” and why the U.S. president can incite people to unsafely meet up in order to “liberate” their state. Given how quickly and passionately protesters follow populist leaders, it is not surprising that many of the same bad actors seen in anti-science campaigns against vaccination and climate change are again preying on swift emotions like fear and disgust to manipulate us into acting before we think.

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Another way our minds mislead us is that we judge ourselves differently than we judge others. When we trip it is because the ground is uneven; others misstep due to clumsiness. Two-thirds of people say they are better than average drivers. We all need some esteem to allow us to feel capable in life, but the flip side of this self-centredness is that we downplay the risks of daily grocery trips or play dates because, well, it’s us.

The tales we tell

Stories, whether tales or in pictures, are also important in understanding our behaviour since we are wired to remember them much more than numbers. Dry statistics of deaths in Asia or Europe are difficult to comprehend because our brains cannot emotionally connect.

But stories are memorable and become compelling when they evoke basic emotions such as happiness, sadness and fear. The heartbreaking image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body lying on a Turkish beach is unforgettable, and elicited a much greater reaction than reports of Syria’s attacks on its citizens. Recently, Dr. Anna Carvalho’s decision to isolate from her family included a photograph of her children waving through their aunt’s window, making the plea to physically distance more real and immediate — factors that nudge us towards action.

Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein wrote, “Don’t appeal to man’s better nature — he may not have one.” More accurately, hundreds of cognitive biases such as those discussed here greatly affect the decisions we make, sometimes to our detriment. So if we are to change behaviour during this pandemic we must address both the rational and subconscious ways our minds work.

Effective communication

In order to build trust, leaders must be humble and honest. Familiar and regular communications from leaders like Drs. Bonnie Henry and Theresa Tam and Prime Ministers Trudeau and Ardern can have positive effects. Pro-science messages from diverse influencers like Hayley Wickenheiser, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Hadfield and Michael Bublé have resonated. And we need stories, lots of them, of the front-line workers risking their safety.

In turn, we must attempt to slow down and process our emotions and consider that bending the rules endangers others and lengthens the time of distancing restrictions. For those whose opinions have become part of their own self-identity, no fact will likely change their behaviour. Some personal liberties may have to be restricted for the greater good in the same way we legislate sobriety for drivers and helmets for cyclists.

Containing the COVID-19 pandemic will require more than the heroic measures of our front-line workers: we must all make difficult sacrifices. Success will not be easy, but to save lives we must take into account the hidden ways our brains work. We must use strategies that represent more reasoned logic than we tend to rely on, left to our own devices.The Conversation

Eric Cadesky, Clinical Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Economy

Manitoba film productions shuttered amid COVID-19 pandemic, but industry group points to future

The province’s burgeoning film industry has halted production as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the sector worldwide, leaving hundreds of local film workers out of a job in the meantime.

However, the provincially-funded corporation meant to bolster the film and music industries says Manitoba will weather the storm.

“We were one of the first industries to be completely shut down… by mid-to-late March, that was it,” said Nico Phillips, the president of IATSE Local 856, which represents over 550 film technicians plus permitted workers.

“We’re the craftsmen, the technicians that make motion pictures — film, television, you name it, we can’t work from home.”

Phillips noted screenwriters, directors and others can do preparatory work from home during the downswing — but with film sets shut down for the foreseeable future, his technical workers are out of luck.

Phillips said those people will have to depend on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, recently announced by the federal government for the millions of Canadians who have lost work since the COVID-19 pandemic ripped through the economy. He noted the union at the national level is lobbying for that benefit to be increased.


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Economy

Global stocks drift higher after China’s economy shows signs of rebound

Global shares were mostly higher after China reported strong manufacturing data, extending an overnight rally on Wall Street.

France’s CAC 40 added 1.5% in early trading to 4,443.47. Germany’s DAX gained 2.5% to 10,063.41, while Britain’s FTSE 100 jumped 2.2% to 5,685.74.

U.S. shares were set to drift higher, with Dow futures edging up 0.6% to 22,460.20. S&P 500 futures also rose, by 0.7% to 2,645.18.

Still, it was a welcome sign of resilience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose in morning trading but reversed course to dip nearly 0.9%, finishing at 18,917.01. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 also fell back, losing 2.0% to 5,076.80, while South Korea’s Kospi picked up 2.2% to 1,754.64. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng stood at 23,603.48, up 1.9% and the Shanghai Composite inched up 0.1% to 2,750.30.

India’s Sensex jumped 3.6% to 29,467.39. Shares rose in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

An official survey showed China’s manufacturing rebounded in March as authorities relaxed anti-disease controls and allowed factories to reopen. But an industry group warned Tuesday that the economy has yet to fully recover.

The purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics bureau and an official industry group rose to 52 from February’s record low of 35.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity increasing.

The overnight rally on Wall Street tacked more gains onto a recent upswing for the market, which is coming off the best week for the S&P 500 in 11 years, albeit after falling into bear market territory. Optimism is budding that the worst of the selling may be approaching, but markets around the world are still wary as leaders work to nurse their economies through the pandemic. The S&P 500 remains 22.4% below its record set last month, and oil tumbled to an 18-year low.

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“Despite some respite for markets overnight, uncertainty remains as the spread of the COVID-19 virus continues,” said Zhu Huani at Mizuho Bank, warning against too much optimism.

Now, she said, President Donald Trump also appears to be in sync with health experts about the need to restrict the economy to slow the spread of the virus. Trump on Sunday extended social-distancing guidelines, which recommend against group gatherings larger than 10, through the end of April. Earlier, he had said he wanted the economy open by Easter.

“Now that message is in line,” said Richardson. “All these things line up coming into this week, and that’s why you saw strong performance last week continuing today.”

Economists expect a number of weak reports on the economy to come in through the week. The lowlight will likely be Friday’s jobs report, where economists expect to see the steepest drop in the nation’s payrolls since the Great Recession.

The number of known infections around the world has topped 780,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has the highest number in the world, more than 160,000.

Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause pneumonia and require hospitalization.

More than 37,000 have died worldwide due to COVID-19, while more than 160,000 have recovered.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.10 to $21.19 a barrel. It fell 6.6% to $20.09 a barrel on Monday, after touching its lowest price since 2002. Oil started the year above $60 and has plunged on expectations that a weakened economy will burn less fuel. The world is awash in oil, meanwhile, as producers continue to pull more of it out of the ground.

Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 72 cents to $27.14 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was trading at $108.34, up from $107.76 on Monday. The euro was little changed, at $1.0996 from $1.0995.

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World News

International students rushing to get home in wake of border closures, COVID-19

Cassidy Rheaume arrived at her exchange in Australia thinking the only obstacle she would have to overcome were the wildfires. She had no idea her exchange would be cut short due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.

Rheaume got an email from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) on March 14, urging her to come home. Back then, she said she felt comfortable staying.

After reading the Canadian news, though, Rheaume said she realized how bad the situation was.

Rheaume’s mother booked a flight for her on March 18 and she returned home on March 19.

The economics student said USask was supportive throughout the process. She is now self-isolating at home in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Another international student, Shelby Tornato, returned to Saskatoon from Minot, N.D., on March 13.

She said this was after faculty advised students to go home in case the borders closed.

“My apartment is still in Minot so I still have to pay my rent there and figure out what I’m going to do. If I have to move home, how am I going to get all my stuff? It’s a lot of stuff up in the air and that’s kind of the worst part, just not knowing,” Tornato said she also left behind an on-campus job.

Jackson Wiegers was unsure about cutting her exchange in Perth short but after pressure from the government and USask, she decided to book a flight home to Saskatoon.

She said booking a flight was costly, but USask offered to pay the difference of an original return ticket if she had one.

Wiegers returned home on Sunday. She is now in self-isolation.

She said she is required to pay a termination fee of approximately 900 Australian dollars for her residence in Perth.

Ultimately, Wiegers said she is sad about leaving but said it’s for the best.

“I obviously have a life at home that I want to get back to and a job beginning in September.”

For accounting student Jenae Funk, a conversation with her history professor in Amsterdam about how serious the pandemic is led her to a decision to return home.

Funk had left for her exchange in January and although she knew about the novel coronavirus, she didn’t think it would spread “so quickly” and affect her exchange at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

She started thinking about returning home after waking up one morning last week to news of 500 cases appearing in the Netherlands.

“It was hard because when you’re on exchange you know you only have those six months to experience as much as you can, so the selfish part of me wanted to stay but then the more I thought about it the more I realized that was unsafe.”

The 23-year-old booked her flight home on Tuesday and arrived in Saskatoon Saturday night, where she is now in self-isolation.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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World News

Coronavirus RNA detected on cruise ship 17 days after passengers left: CDC report

Traces of the novel coronavirus were detected on a number of surfaces in cabins aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship up to 17 days after passengers disembarked, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

The CDC report, released on Monday, said RNA from the virus was found “on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated” but before disinfection procedures were conducted.

The report’s authors cautioned, though, that the data “cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces.”

The CDC says further study of COVID-19 transmission from inanimate objects “is warranted.”

What is RNA and what does this mean?

According to Alon Vaisman, an infection control physician at the University of Toronto, RNA is the “the basic building block of the genetic code for the virus.”

He said RNA being found on a surface does not necessarily mean that the virus is alive, just that the virus was there at some point.

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World News

Coronavirus: Manitoba cases remains at 20 after one more case, one case removed

Manitoba’s coronavirus numbers remain at 20, despite the addition of another presumed case.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said officials identified another case, a man in his 50s as a probable case.

However, another case has been ruled out, keeping our number of confirmed and presumptive cases at 20.

The latest case is related to travel, said Roussin.

Roussin said the current orders to keep crowds to 50 or less only applies to public spaces, not to workplaces.

The province will be moving to releasing numbers once a day. In the past 10 days, they had been releasing twice a day.

Lanette Siragusa of Shared Health said blood supplies are in much better shape, but said if people have 0-negative blood, they’re asked to continue to donate.

Wider testing is being planned, said Roussin, but won’t do so until capacity permits.

“I can tell you from an acute care perspective … we are at low volumes right now, low occupancy,” said Siragusa.

“We should continue to be vigilant, but w’ere not seeing COVID-19 in our hospitals right now.”

Manitoba currently has 20 cases of COVID-19. All have been transmitted via international and domestic travel.

One person has been hospitalized.

Manitoba declared a state of emergency last week.

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World News

Ontario announces 78 new COVID-19 cases, total hits 489 active coronavirus cases

Ontario health officials confirmed 78 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 489 active cases.

This is the highest single-day jump that Ontario has seen so far in new cases.

Six people have died in the province and eight cases have resolved.

The province’s latest death is a man in his 80s, who had no travel history or close contact with anyone else who has tested positive for COVID-19. He died at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay.

“Unfortunately, this man’s tragic passing highlights that we now have community transmission of COVID-19 in our area,” said Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, the health unit’s medical officer.

Monday’s list includes cases from Toronto, York Region, Peel Region, Halton Region, Durham Region, Hamilton, Sudbury, Ottawa, Simcoe Muskoka, Wellington Dufferin Guelph, Haliburton Kawartha Pineridge, Waterloo, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington and Eastern Ontario health units.

Six patients are listed as needing hospitalization.

Some of the hospitalizations include men and women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 70s.

The province has tested more than 28,000 people for the virus so far, and more than 8,000 people are under investigation.

More to come…


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World News

Coronavirus: Kahnawake and Kanesatake ramp up preventive measures

The Kahnawake COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force announced Saturday it would be enforcing additional measures amid the novel coronavirus outbreak in Quebec.

On Sunday, the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) along with the Kanesatake Health Center (KHC) and the Emergency Preparedness Team have asked that all stores close indefinitely following Kahnawake’s announcement.

Following the province’s recent mitigation measures, Kahnawake officials have asked that:

  • Both pharmacies remain open.
  • Residents remain in the territory and only travel outside the community for food or medicine/medical needs.
  • All tobacco factories and cigarette stores close until further notice.
  • All community gathering sites such as churches, longhouses, reception halls and other buildings facilities be closed to the public.

“In the new context of yesterday’s announcement by our sister community of Kahnawake to shut-down their local businesses, we are very much concerned that we will see a significantly larger influx of people at our community’s doorstep,”  Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon wrote in a press release. “This will in turn drastically increase the risk of exposure to our members and that of surrounding populations.”

Grand Chief Simon added that Kanesatake is among the vulnerable. More than 50 per cent of community members have underlying pre-existing health conditions and are more likely to experience serious complications when contracting the virus.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced on Sunday the mandatory closure of all malls and hairdressing salons, with the exception of pharmacies and grocery stores — effective as of midnight.

The province also announced that the closure of all elementary schools, high schools and daycares will be extended until May 1. Daycares open for the temporary keeping of children of essential care workers are the exception.

All restaurants are also being asked to close their dining rooms and allow for take-out only.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec climbed to 219 Sunday, with 24 people hospitalized, including 13 people in intensive care, and four fatalities.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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World News

Coronavirus: Indian migrant workers defying COVID-19 curfew, crowd trains

Indian migrant workers attempting to reach their home villages crowded a railway station in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, defying a 14-hour “people’s curfew” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi called to stem a surge in coronavirus cases in the world’s second-most populous country.

Modi asked India’s 1.3 billion people to stay at home on Sunday, but also to collectively cheer front-line health care workers at 5 p.m.

Shortly before 5, the cacophony in New Delhi, the capital, began as people on balconies and rooftops clapped, rang bells, banged pots and pans, played music recordings and exploded fireworks, sending crows and parakeets streaming from treetops, and stray dogs and cows into the deserted streets.

Late Sunday, the government of Delhi, a federal territory, issued weeklong stay-at-home orders, cancelling public transport services, closing shops, offices, factories and houses of worship, and allowing people to leave their homes only for basic necessities. Services such as police and health care were exempted from the rule.

Delhi joined the neighbouring state of Haryana, home to the multinational corporate hub of Gurugram, as well as the states of Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Telangana and the federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir with near-total bans on public movement.

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World News

Toronto paramedic, homeless person among active coronavirus cases in city

Toronto Public Health says they are actively investigating new coronavirus cases and that the city currently has 161 cases.

Included in the new cases, TPH said are a resident of a long-term city-run care home, a Toronto paramedic and a person experiencing homelessness.

Health officials said they are reaching out to those who may have been in close contact with each new case.

The paramedic is currently in self-isolation.

“Paramedics are highly-trained and receive instruction on approach, screening and assessment of those with symptoms of suspected infectious disease,” a city release said, adding all frontline workers are equipped with personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, eye protection and cleaning supplies.

A resident of the long-term care home Seven Oaks tested positive for COVID-19.

TPH said the confirmation “triggered outbreak protocols” at the facility and Seven Oaks staff is working with health officials to contain any spread of the virus.

Residents who live on the floor of the affected patient have been put into self-isolation and all staff are to wear protective equipment while on that floor.

The Ontario government issued a directive to limit visitors to long-term care homes, as seniors and those with underlying health issues are said to be most at-risk in regard to coronavirus.

A homeless person tested positive while staying at one of the shelter’s in Toronto. TPH said it has followed up with the facility in question to ensure proper protocols are being followed, including more aggressive cleaning and disinfection of the building.

Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) said it was already “implementing protections for individuals experiencing homelessness.” This included the opening of eight new facilities to create more social distancing.

Ontario currently has 301 active cases with five being resolved and two deaths.

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