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COVID-19 aid for farmers and rescuing Cirque du Soleil; In The News for May 5


In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 5 ...


COVID-19 in Canada ...

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is expected to announce today significant, targeted financial support for farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement will come just as some farmers are making decisions about whether to plant crops and others are considering whether they need to cull their cattle, pigs and poultry because of the reduced capacity of meat processing plants, which have proven particularly vulnerable to the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The federal government has taken some small steps to cushion the blow to farmers but Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has been promising for several weeks that more aid is coming.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has been warning that financial assistance is urgently needed to protect against food shortages in Canada.

Two weeks ago, the federation urged the government to make food security a top priority, second only to protecting the health of Canadians.


In other Canadian news ...

OTTAWA — Crew members on board a Halifax-class frigate personally witnessed last week's helicopter crash that killed six Canadian Armed Forces members off the coast of Greece, the Department of National Defence has confirmed.

The revelation Monday follows initial military reports that the Cyclone helicopter was missing after contact with HMCS Fredericton was lost, suggesting the aircraft was far from the warship when it went down in the Ionian Sea.

It also comes as the Forces prepares to hold a ramp ceremony on Wednesday for those on board the Cyclone even though the remains of five of the fallen have not been recovered and identified.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed to The Canadian Press that some of the crew on board HMCS Fredericton watched as the Cyclone helicopter went into the water while returning from a NATO training exercise.

Le Bouthillier did not say how many crew members saw the crash nor did he say how close the helicopter was from the frigate at the time. However, he said "as part of their investigation, the flight-safety investigation team will conduct interviews with these eyewitnesses."

The investigation team is proceeding without information from the Cyclone's flight-data and voice recorders, which Le Bouthillier said have already been airlifted back to Canada and are now being analyzed by the National Research Council.


Also this ...

VANCOUVER — The head of a Vancouver biotech firm says there's another valuable shield available in the fight against the COVID-19 virus which could buy time as researchers race to develop a vaccine to fight the virus.

Carl Hansen of AbCellera Biologics says the company's platform has already identified 500 disease-fighting antibodies in the blood sample of one of the first patients to recover from the virus in the United States.

Those discoveries could be used to create medicine for vulnerable populations until a vaccine is available.

AbCellera is partnering with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to develop a treatment for COVID-19 with the goal of beginning clinical trials in July.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $175 million in funding for AbCellera this weekend.

The funding will also cover the company's plans to build technology and infrastructure for antibody therapies against future pandemic threats.


COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is making ever louder pronouncements casting blame on China for the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to sidestep domestic criticism of the president's own response, tarnish China's global reputation and give the U.S. leverage on trade and other aspects of U.S.-China competition.

President Donald Trump has vowed to penalize China for what U.S. officials have increasingly described as a pattern of deceit that denied the world precious time to prepare for the pandemic. The opening salvo isn't in the form of tariffs or sanctions, but in a one-sided accounting of China's behaviour that could yank the Chinese lower on the global reputation metre.

The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House have all launched public efforts in recent days to lay bare what they say is clear evidence that China tried to mask the scale of the outbreak and then refused to provide critical access to U.S. and global scientists that could have saved lives.

Trump and allies repeat and express confidence in an unsubstantiated theory linking the origin of the outbreak to a possible accident at a Chinese virology laboratory. U.S. officials say they are still exploring the subject and describe the evidence as purely circumstantial. But Trump, aides say, has embraced the notion to further highlight China's lack of transparency.


COVID-19 around the world ...

SEOUL — South Korea has reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus cases since Feb. 18 as the country restarts professional sports and prepares to reopen schools.

The three fresh infections and two more virus-related deaths bring South Korea's totals to 10,804 cases and 254 fatalities.

Infections have slowed over the past month amid tightened border controls and waning transmissions in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which reported zero new cases today.

Schools will reopen in phase starting with high school seniors on May 13.

The pro baseball season started without fans in the stands, while soccer will kick off under similar conditions on Friday.


COVID-19 in Entertainment

MONTREAL — Quebecor Inc. says it wants to "rescue" Cirque du Soleil by purchasing a controlling stake in the struggling company and bringing its ownership back home to Quebec.

In a letter sent to four federal ministers from Quebec, the telecommunications company says it is in funding talks with Quebec's pension fund manager as well the Fonds de Solidarite FTQ and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Quebecor says in a separate press release it is ready to spend "several hundred million dollars" to revive operations at the circus producer, which has halted all 44 shows worldwide and laid off 95 per cent of its employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conglomerate adds that it has been unable to obtain financial details for Cirque du Soleil, citing "blockage" by management.

Cirque du Soleil is reported to be exploring various options to stay solvent, with debt restructuring and bankruptcy protection among the potential options.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020

The Canadian Press

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