New federal aid and COVID-19 survival instinct; In The News for April 6

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 April 6 ...

COVID-19 in Canada ...

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OTTAWA — Applications open today for the new federal emergency aid benefit for Canadians who have lost their income because of COVID-19.

The Canada Revenue Agency will open its application portals this morning to those born in the first three months of the year, with those born in other months able to apply later in the week.

The agency is trying to keep demand from overwhelming its online and telephone systems.

More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in the last half of March as businesses across the country were forced to close or reduce their operations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Others are unable to work because they are required to self-isolate at home, or need to look after children whose schools and daycares are closed.

Canadians who sign up for direct deposit could get their first payment before the end of the week, while those who opt for printed cheques will get money in 10 days.

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MONTREAL — When a Quebec couple recently travelled to the far reaches of Yukon in a bid to escape the novel coronavirus, only to be turned away, it seemed a textbook case of pandemic-generated panic.

But while it was an extreme example, experts say the daily assault of information about COVID-19 can distort people's estimation of the risk the virus poses to them, which leads to both good and bad behaviour.

McGill University psychology professor Ross Otto says there is a well-established psychological principle that may explain the couple's decision to flee to the North.

In the early 1970s, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman posited that humans have trouble estimating the likelihood of something happening to them because they are influenced by examples that come readily to mind.

People may overestimate their chances of dying of terrorism, for example, because of how often that kind of violence is reported on the news. And, Otto said, they may underestimate their chances of dying of more common — but less talked about causes, such as bowel cancer.

Today, Otto says there is such a deluge of information about COVID-19 infections and deaths that "people are going to overstate or overestimate their own chances of dying of coronavirus-related causes."

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

WASHINGTON — The U.S. surgeon general says Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation's infectious disease chief warned Sunday that the new coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe.

Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean beginning to turn a corner.

"We're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel," Trump said at a Sunday evening White House briefing. Pence added, "We are beginning to see glimmers of progress."

The president, however, added that he thought the next two weeks "are going to be very difficult."

Earlier Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN, "This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly."

The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600. More than 4,100 of those deaths are in the state of New York, but a glimmer of hope there came on Sunday when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state registered a small dip in new fatalities over a 24-hour period.

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COVID-19 around the world ...

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to a hospital with the new coronavirus.

Johnson's office says he is being admitted for tests because he still has symptoms, 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

Downing St. says the hospitalization is a "precautionary step" and he remains in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26.

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NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there's been "a horrifying global surge in domestic violence" in recent weeks as fear of the coronavirus pandemic has grown along with its social and economic consequences.

The U.N. chief, who appealed on March 23 for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle COVID-19, said in a statement Sunday night it is now time to appeal for an end to all violence, "everywhere, now."

Guterres said that "for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes."

"And, so, I make a new appeal today for peace at home — and in homes — around the world," he said.

The secretary-general said in some countries, which he didn't name, "the number of women calling support services has doubled."

At the same time, he said, health care providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed, local support groups are paralyzed or short of funds, and some domestic violence shelters are closed while others are full.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.

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