Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world April 15


The latest:

More than 1,000 deaths in Canada have been linked to the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to a CBC News tally of deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.  

The spread of the contagious respiratory illness has strained health systems, caused deadly outbreaks at long-term care homes and sparked strict public health measures aimed at slowing its spread.

The list, based on publicly available data from provinces and local health units, and CBC’s own reporting, put the toll at 1,054 at 1:15 p.m. ET Wednesday. Cases were first reported in Canada in late January. 

Even with the higher toll, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Wednesday that there is evidence the spread is slowing.

Tam noted the number of cases in the country is now doubling every 10 days or so, compared to every three days in late March. But she warned it was too soon to ease physical distancing measures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at his media briefing that it will be “weeks more” before the government can seriously consider loosening public health restrictions, saying lifting rules too quickly could result in more cases and losing the progress Canada has made in the fight so far.

There are more than two million recorded coronavirus cases worldwide, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University, with more than 128,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus around the world.

Canada has more than 28,300 presumptive and confirmed cases.

Trudeau on Wednesday announced the government is expanding the list of people who are eligible to receive the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) established to help those who are out of work because of the pandemic and the measures put in place to fight it.

The prime minister also said the federal government will work with provinces and territories to boost the pay of essential workers making less than $2,500 a month, citing staff at long-term care homes as an example.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday that the issue of boosting the salary for lower-paid essential workers will be discussed on an upcoming call with premiers, with the hope of finding a resolution quickly. 

Easing of rules will vary ‘from region to region’

Trudeau again emphasized his message of staying home as much as possible and ensuring that public health measures aren’t lifted too soon. He said a “one size fits all” approach won’t work for a country as diverse as Canada, but said no matter the region, it’s key to get through the first wave of COVID-19 before starting to lift some of the rules.

“How that release works will vary from region to region, from industry to industry,” he said. “Co-ordination at the federal level and how we do that is going to be very important.”

A resident cries as she speaks to her son on the sidewalk at the Residence Floralies in the Montreal borough of LaSalle on Wednesday. At least a dozen residents have died of COVID-19 in the last three weeks. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau said he knows people want to get outside and understands the struggles people are facing, but added it will be “weeks more” before government can consider loosening restrictions.

“It would be terrible if we were to release restrictions too early and find out we’re suddenly back in another big wave of COVID-19,” he said, calling for an extremely careful approach to relaxing restrictions.

“It’s not happening yet,” the prime minister said. “If we reopen too soon, everything we’re doing now might be for nothing.”

Canada-U.S. border discussion

At a news briefing Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump was asked about relaxing restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border. The two countries have kept the border closed to all non-essential traffic since March 20. 

“Our relationship with Canada is very good. We’ll talk about that,” Trump said. “It will be one of the early borders to be released. Canada is doing well. We’re doing well. We’ll see.”

Reduced services at some border crossings

Late Tuesday, the Canada Border Services Agency announced it is reducing service hours at 27 lower-traffic land border crossings on a temporary basis, saying the COVID-19-related measures will begin at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

A truck drives over the Seaway International Bridge from the U.S. into Canada at Cornwall, Ont., March 25, after movement restrictions came into effect due to the novel coronavirus. There are no Ontario border posts on the CBSA list of crossings that will temporarily see reduced service hours. (Christine Muschi/Reuters)

The CBSA said in a statement that the measures, which affect crossings in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec, will remain in effect until further notice. 

The government announced in mid-March that it was closing the border to most non-citizens — but that initial announcement had several exceptions, including for Americans. Days later, Canada and the U.S. announced a temporary closure to all non-essential traffic in a push to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

WATCH | Trudeau announces new quarantine measures for incoming travellers:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that, effective midnight Tuesday, anyone who enters Canada from abroad and does not have an isolation plan will be taken to a quarantine site. 0:48

The announcement from CBSA comes after the government announced stepped-up quarantine rules for incoming travellers. Under the new order, people must present a plan to self-isolate and demonstrate (whether or not they have symptoms) that they won’t be in contact with vulnerable people, including “adults aged 65 years or over and people with pre-existing medical conditions.”

The measures come as case numbers mount and several provinces struggle to deal with outbreaks in long-term care facilities. As of 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Canada had reported 28,379 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19. The provinces and territories that post data about recovered cases list 8,992 cases as resolved or recovered. A tally of COVID-19 deaths maintained by CBC News has recorded 1,070 deaths in Canada, with another two coronavirus-related deaths abroad.

Health officials have cautioned that people should behave as though COVID-19 is in their community, even if there are no documented cases, particularly since recorded cases don’t capture information on people who have not been tested or are still under investigation.

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada and around the world. 

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia’s state of emergency has been extended another two weeks as the province works to flatten its infection curve and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, the Berkley Care Centre in North Vancouver reported five COVID-19-related deaths. The provincial health ministry said the facility has at least 17 confirmed coronavirus cases, including those who died. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta reported 126 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, for a total of 1,996. There were no new deaths reported in the province. Premier Jason Kenney announced $53 million in additional funding to help deal with mental health problems and addictions related to the pandemic. Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, meanwhile, announced a new online portal dedicated to mental wellness during the pandemic. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported three new cases on Wednesday. The province now has a total of 304 cases, with four deaths and 205 recoveries. The province’s top doctor said he’s “extremely happy” about low numbers of new COVID-19 cases in recent days. But Dr. Saqib Shahab said on Tuesday that people must be mindful of how quickly cases can surge back. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. However, two probable cases were ruled negative, leaving the total number unchanged from Tuesday at 246. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario had a total of 8,447 cases as of Wednesday, an increase of 494. There were 51 more deaths related to COVID-19, for a total of 445.

Among the new cases overall, 221 have been linked to long-term care homes, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Wednesday. As for community transmission, Williams said the province “may be over the peak,” but there is a need for more data analysis to clarify the matter. Read more about new measures in the province to curb the spread of the respiratory illness in long-term care facilities.

On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said students will not be back in class on May 4 as planned, citing advice from the province’s chief medical officer of health. 

WATCH | My mother is dying from COVID-19 in long-term care:

Leane Conti’s mother, Carole Stewart, is now in palliative care and has been told she may only live another 72 hours after testing positive for COVID-19 at Montreal’s Herron long-term care home. The facility is among one of Canada’s hardest hit by the pandemic, where 31 people died in the span of a month. 4:36

Quebec reported 52 new deaths on Wednesday for a total of 487. It has confirmed 14,800 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 612. Premier François Legault says the province needs 2,000 health-care workers to make up for shortages in long-term care homes.

WATCH | Ontario premier vows to throw ‘everything we’ve got’ at helping long-term care homes during COVID-19

Doug Ford promises new equipment and ‘COVID-19 SWAT teams’ to help manage deadly outbreaks in LTC homes across the province. 1:12

New Brunswick reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing its total to 117. The province says it has increased testing capacity  but the demand isn’t there. The province’s chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell cautioned against a false sense of security, saying it’s important to look at the numbers as they evolve in coming weeks. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia’s number of cases rose to 549 on Wednesday, after 32 new positive tests were announced. Read more about how the Halifax Regional Municipality is axing nearly one-third of its jobs and cancelling summer programs.

WATCH | Bleach, vinegar or wipes? What’s the best way to disinfect surfaces?

Andrew Chang looks at whether it’s best to use bleach, vinegar, wipes or soap and water to disinfect hard surfaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:02

Prince Edward Island reported one new case on Wednesday, a man in his 30s, bringing the total number of cases to 26. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced three new cases on Wednesday, a day after registering zero for the first time since March 19. The new cases bring the province’s total number of cases to 247. Read more about how the province is broadening its testing criteria for the virus.

Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon will receive millions in funding from Ottawa to boost local health-care systems and social services. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Trump on Wednesday suggested some states will be able to partially lift restrictions on business and social life ahead of the previously projected date of May 1.

Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence will hold a call with state governors Thursday to discuss details, the president said at a late afternoon news conference.

“We have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump told reporters. “It’s very exciting.”

WATCH | Some good news from around the world on Wednesday:

With much of the world struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still some good-news stories to report. Here’s a brief roundup. 4:25

He made the pronouncement on the second day in a row that U.S. deaths increased by a record number, rising by at least 2,371 on Wednesday to top 30,800, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. had 605,390 cases, versus 579,005 on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

“We’re getting there, America,” Pence said. “We see great signs of progress, from the West Coast to the East Coast.”

Governors in the U.S. Midwest are talking about regionally co-operating to reopen their economies as the coronavirus pandemic begins to ease, echoing a similar approach being taken by states on the east and west coasts, Illinois officials said on Wednesday.

Governors in harder-hit states — New York, California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan — said there was a need for more widespread testing before starting to lift the coronavirus shutdown, which has thrown millions out of work with the closing of restaurants, businesses and schools.

Order for using more masks in New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order directing his state’s 19 million residents to wear masks or substitutes when in any public situation where maintaining social distancing is not possible. Residents will have three days to comply.

“If you are going to be in public and you cannot maintain social distancing then have a mask, and put that mask on,” Cuomo told a news briefing. The state is the epicentre of the U.S. outbreak.

Earlier in the day, Trump reaffirmed he is cutting off U.S. funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of WHO’s “coverup and mismanagement” of the coronavirus outbreak. On Tuesday, he criticized the UN agency’s response to the outbreak, saying it “failed in its basic duty” after the virus emerged in China.

WATCH | ‘We alerted the world on January the 5th:’  WHO defends its record on COVID-19:

U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would suspend funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic while touting plans to restart the U.S. economy ‘soon.’ 2:03

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the agency is reviewing impacts of any funding withdrawal and is still committed to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres previously responded to Trump’s announcement by saying now is not the time to end support for the World Health Organization, calling WHO “absolutely critical” to the global effort to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 3:05 p.m. ET

Spain has recorded 523 new deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, while infections shot up again for the first time in five days. Wednesday’s new 5,092 infections, or a three per cent day-to-day increase, brought the total of confirmed cases to 177,633. The country’s overall death toll stood at 18,579, the world’s third-worst after the United States and Italy, Health Ministry data showed.

This week, Spain eased the conditions of Europe’s strictest lockdown, allowing manufacturing, construction and other non-essential activity in an attempt to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.

Retired British Army captain Tom Moore, 99, has been raising money for health workers by attempting to walk the length of his garden one hundred times before his 100th birthday this month. (Peter Cziborra/Reuters)

The British government is promising to test thousands of nursing-home residents and staff for the coronavirus, as it faces criticism for failing to count care-home deaths in its tally of victims. The government said it will begin to routinely test care workers and will also test any residents who show symptoms. Currently, only the first five symptomatic residents of a home are tested to determine whether there is an outbreak.

British officials are also under fire for failing to conduct more tests for COVID-19. The government has promised to change that and has set a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, a more than five-fold increase. 

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said new procedures will be introduced so that “wherever possible” people will have a “chance to say goodbye” to loved ones dying with COVID-19. He said he wept when he heard 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab died from COVID-19 earlier this month without a parent at his bedside.

The government will make an announcement on Thursday about its review of physical distancing measures, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, repeating that advisers do not believe Britain has passed the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH | Denmark begins reopening primary schools and daycare centres:

The World Health Organization has defended its handling of the coronavirus outbreak after President Donald Trump orders withdrawal of U.S. funding for the organization. 2:55

France reported a decrease in numbers of COVID-19 patients at hospitals for the first time since the outbreak began. National health agency chief Jerome Salomon said there were about 500 fewer people infected with the virus at hospitals than the day before. Numbers of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units also dropped for the seventh straight day. The overall death toll from the disease in France has risen to 17,167, including 10,643 at hospitals and 6,524 in nursing homes. Salomon urged the French to keep enforcing strict confinement rules with the lockdown of the country extended to May 11. “We must remain vigilant,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that physical distancing rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus would remain in place until at least May 3, but some shops could reopen next week. Speaking after talks with the governors of Germany’s 16 states, Merkel told reporters that the measures had brought a “fragile intermediate success” in the fight against the pandemic.

Medical staff take care of a COVID-19 patient on Wednesday in the intensive care unit at the University hospital of Aachen, western Germany. (Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images)

Merkel said the government recommends citizens wear protective face masks while shopping and on public transport, and that schools across the country would be allowed to open gradually, starting from May 4.

The coronavirus has spread rapidly within Singapore’s large migrant worker community, highlighting what rights groups say is a weak link in the city state’s containment efforts.

The crisis likely knocked China’s economy into its first decline since at least 1992 in the first quarter, raising the heat on authorities as mounting job losses threaten social stability.

In Spain, authorities announced the school year will end in June as usual and that almost all high school students will get a pass grade. Spain cancelled classes for 8.2 million school children last month; students are using distance learning tools.

Japan’s prime minister is under pressure to take bolder steps, with calls from his political partners to hand out more cash to more people. 

WATCH |  Respirologist discusses what to consider before loosening isolation measures:

The gradual reopening of schools and daycare centres in Denmark is seen as too risky by some parents who’ve decided to keep their kids at home.  1:54

South Koreans began going to the polls on Wednesday, wearing masks and plastic gloves as part of strict safety measures in one of the first national elections held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

India has agreed to sell hydroxychloroquine tablets to Malaysia, with New Delhi partially lifting its ban on exports of the anti-malarial drug. Pakistan, meanwhile, said it would reopen construction activity that provides a lifeline for the largest number of its people after agriculture.

Volunteers from a Sikh temple distribute free food to homeless people during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Mexico has announced an urgent campaign to recruit medical workers, but the effort sometimes lacks co-ordination. Experts have estimated Mexico is short thousands of workers, from nurses to specialized doctors.

The northern Nigeria economic powerhouse state of Kano will impose a seven-day lockdown, a spokesperson for the governor said on Tuesday.

Namibian borders will remain closed and a partial lockdown in force until May 4, its president said. 

WATCH | How to handle physical distancing in tricky situations:

“We don’t quite have the tests that we want right now,” says Dr. Samir Gupta, and that complicates the idea of “immunity passports.” 5:20

Read more at CBC.ca