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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

March 29th, 2020

The latest:

  • Trudeau to address Canadians again at 11:15 a.m. ET; CBC News will cover it live. 
  • Panama reverses decision to bar Holland America ship from transiting waterway. 
  • Canada now has 5,655 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases and 61 deaths. 
  • Ontario to crack down on price gouging on essentials, bans gatherings of 5 people or more.
  • Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she has recovered from COVID-19.
  • Trump backs away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • U.S., with more than 122,000 cases, surpasses China in number of infected.
  • U.K. households getting letter warning things will get worse before they get better.
  • A COVID-19 glossary: What the terms mean and some subtle differences.
  • INTERACTIVE / Tracking the spread of coronavirus.

A Holland American cruise ship hit with a COVID-19 outbreak will be allowed through the Panama Canal, as it heads for its final destination in Florida.

Since a stop in Chile on March 14, the ship has been turned away from several ports after reporting that some of those on board were suffering from flu-like symptoms. Panama on Saturday reversed its decision to block the ship from the canal.

Global Affairs Canada says there are 248 Canadians stranded aboard MS Zaandam, where some passengers have tested positive for the virus and four people have died. No Canadians on the vessel are reported ill.

Passengers of Holland America’s cruise ship Zaandam are transferred to the Rotterdam cruise ship in Panama City bay on Saturday.The Zaandam cruise ship has been stranded at sea since March 14 after several South American ports refused to let it dock due to dozens of people aboard having shown flu-like symptoms. (Ivan Pisarenko/AFP via Getty Images)

The Dutch-owned operator said on Saturday that it would be transferring asymptomatic people on board to Holland America’s sister ship the Rotterdam, which was also given permission to transit the Panama Canal.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says he has been co-ordinating with his Panamanian counterpart and will continue efforts to bring any non-infected Canadians home once the ship docks in Fort Lauderdale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will give his daily briefing to Canadians on the coronavirus pandemic at 11:15 a.m. ET. CBC News will cover it live right here.  

WATCH | A COVID-19 patient asks Canadians to obey doctors, government:

B.C. resident Erin Leigh, 38, is recovering from the novel coronavirus in hospital. She told CBC News she had never experienced an illness like COVID-19. 7:00

The number of cases of the respiratory illness stands at 663,740 across the globe, with more than more than 30,000 deaths. Canada now has 5,655 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, and at least 61 deaths, with 508 people recovered, according to figures compiled late on Saturday. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Saturday announced stiff new measures to prevent price gouging for important products during the COVID-19 crisis. He said individuals found guilty of price gouging could face fines of $100,000, while company directors could face fines of $500,000 as well as a year in jail. Corporations may be fined as much as $10 million.

Canada’s most populous province is also prohibiting gatherings of five people or more, replacing an order that barred public events of over 50 people. The new order does not apply to households with five people. Child care centres supporting health care workers and first responders are exempt. Funerals will be permitted with up to 10 people at one time.

A woman arrives at the COVID-19 assessment centre at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto on March 24. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Transport Canada on Saturday has laid out new rules, in effect on Monday, for domestic travel, meaning anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 won’t be allowed to board a domestic flight or inter-city passenger train.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 130,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins’ tally.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, says she has recovered from COVID-19 after contracting the illness while on a trip to the United Kingdom earlier this month.

WATCH | Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she’s recovered from COVID-19:

In a series of videos on Instagram, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she has been given a ‘clear bill of health’ from health officials. She thanked Canadians for their support and offered encouragement to get through the pandemic. 2:08

As the pandemic continues to shift westward, the situation has calmed in China, where some restrictions on people’s lives have now been lifted. Six subway lines have restored limited service in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.

China reported 45 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Saturday, down from 54 on the previous day, with all but one involving travellers from overseas, the country’s health authority said on Sunday local time. China also reported five new deaths on Saturday, all of which were in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the COVID-19 respiratory illness was first identified. A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said on Twitter on Saturday that the Bank of China donated medical supplies to Canada, including 30,000 medical masks.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne welcomed the donations, saying on Twitter: “In the face of a global pandemic, supporting each other is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

In February, Canada donated 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China as it grappled with the peak of its outbreak.

WATCH | Infected Canadian flight attendants speak out:

Airline crews tell CBC they didn’t feel adequately protected from COVID-19 after several employees test positive for the illness. 2:01

In the United States, New York remains the worst-hit city, but Americans are bracing for worsening conditions elsewhere, with worrisome infection numbers being reported in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. In New York City, home to more than a third of the country’s cases, the Javits Convention Center has been turned into a temporary hospital and will start treating patients Monday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants four more temporary hospitals set up to meet the growing number of coronavirus cases — more than 44,000 cases statewide and more than 500 deaths. The United Nations donated 250,000 protective face masks to New York City, and Cuomo delayed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

Members of the Rhode Island National Guard look for passengers getting off from a train from New York as it arrives Saturday in Westerly, R.I. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong travel advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had spoken with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, among others, who wanted the federal government to restrict travel from the New York metropolitan area to their states.

“They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” Trump told reporters.

The notion of a quarantine had been sharply criticized by Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

Trump later said on Twitter: “I have asked the @CDCgov to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government. A quarantine will not be necessary.”

The U.S. now has roughly 122,000 confirmed cases, the highest figure in the world. The U.S. death count crossed 2,100 on Saturday, more than double the level from two days ago.

Mexico’s deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell on Saturday called for all residents in Mexico to stay at home for a month, saying it was the only way to reduce the transmission rate. Mexican health authorities said the country had 848 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday, 131 more than the previous day, and 16 deaths.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a letter being sent to 30 million households in the U.K. that “things will get worse before they get better.” The government released the letter Saturday as Johnson continued to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of cases in the U.K. rose to 17,089, with 1,019 deaths.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, has said the fight against the pandemic is far from over and that it could include a second wave.

We have now completed tests for over 184,000 people in Canada, which is 84,000 additional people tested since Monday,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Saturday.

Air Canada lines up additional flights

Since March 21, Air Canada has operated nine special flights in collaboration with the federal government to bring Canadians home from various countries — three flights from Morocco, three from Peru, two from Ecuador and one from Spain. The airline issued a news release on Saturday, announcing the following flights for Canadians:

WATCH | Toronto doctor describes what it’s like on the COVID-19 front lines:

Dr. Joshua Tepper is the president and CEO of North York General Hospital in Ontario.  1:53

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

In British Columbia, the provincial government reported 92 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, boosting the provincial total to 884. On a more positive note, provincial health officer Doctor Bonnie Henry said 396 people have recovered from the illness in B.C. Read more in this analysis about how the curve could be flattening in B.C., but any definitive declaration of “turning the corner” cannot yet be made.

Mandatory curfews have been implemented in an Indigenous community in northeastern Alberta, and residents are being warned that member benefits could be lost — and even stricter provisions brought in — if they don’t comply. Determined to keep COVID-19 out of the community of about 750 people, Fort McKay First Nation and McKay Métis had put up a barrier near the entrance of the community. Members need to log in and out, and visitors are not allowed in. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including a story from Edmonton about a laptop drive aiming to connect marginalized people during the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH | Canmore, Alta., and other small towns worried about influx of visitors:

As some Canadians across the country go to cottage country to isolate with their families during the COVID-19 crisis, small town mayors worry about the stress it will put on local health-care systems. 1:49

Saskatchewan said there’s been a large increase in cases connected with a snowmobile rally held earlier this month. Health officials now say 18 cases in total have been linked to the event, and all of them are self-isolating at home. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba is expanding its COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic health workers, people who live in group care settings (including long-term care and remote work camps), inmates and more. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin also said all people living on First Nations in the province who are experiencing respiratory symptoms will be tested. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, which recorded its first death on Friday.

Messages on a sidewalk showing support for health-care workers are seen in Toronto on Saturday. (Alan Habbick/CBC)


Ontario is cracking down on price gouging for essential hygiene and medical supplies. On Saturday, Premier Doug Ford announced an emergency order bringing in immediate new fines and potential jail time. “I have zero tolerance for this kind of nonsense,” he said. The province has also banned gatherings of five people or more, effective immediately, with some small exceptions. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault is announcing police checkpoints as of this afternoon in eight regions outside major Quebec cities where the population is deemed more at risk. Guilbault says only essential travel will be allowed in those regions and that Quebec provincial police have also set up checkpoints near the Canada-U.S. border to intercept snowbirds returning to the province to ensure they understand there’s a 14-day quarantine. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick has announced a special line for health-care workers to call if they have symptoms. Public Health in the province is instructing health workers who’ve developed symptoms since March 20 to self isolate. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, including news on how many layoffs are being blamed on the pandemic, and how physical distancing is affecting parents of newborns.

In Nova Scotia, the head of the province’s telephone health service says anyone who gets a referral will get a COVID-19 test. Dr. Todd Howlett, medical director of 811, said the service is adapting to meet the demand created by the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island has reported a total of 11 cases of COVID-19, with two new cases, one woman in her 20s and another in her 50s who both travelled internationally. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

WATCH | How COVID-19 is affecting grocery stores:

As Canadians continue to grapple with physical distancing and how to deal with COVID-19, most grocery store workers still have to go to work and come in contact with others. 2:17

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are expressing concerns after finding the first case of community transmission of COVID-19. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a patient admitted to a hospital in St. Anthony, N.L., was one of the 18 new cases announced on Saturday. Fitzgerald describes the case as a significant development because the patient had no history of travel or exposure to a known case of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Health authorities in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec have confirmed a case of the novel coronavirus. Kativik Regional Police say a woman is in self-isolation while “sharing a house with others” in Salluit, a hamlet of about 1,200 people on the Hudson Strait. Residents of that community, as well as Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec are under a nighttime curfew, imposed Saturday.

Here’s what’s happening in the United States

From Reuters, updated at 5:00 a.m. ET

In the U.S., a 49-year-old prisoner in Oakdale, La., who was serving a 27-year prison term for a drug charge, became the first federal inmate to die from COVID-19, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced late on Saturday. A total of 14 inmates and 13 staff in federal prisons across the United States have fallen ill with the virus, according to the BOP’s website.

Cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing as hotspots of infection, while New York City continues to be pummelled. Nurses there are calling for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 52,000 people and killed over 700 in New York state, mostly in the city.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday warned residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut against non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

Health officials in Detroit, where poverty and poor health are longstanding problems. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths, as of noon Saturday.

“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.

WATCH | ‘We are fighting a war’ says Canadian nurse in Detroit:

Jenna Meloche lives in Amherstburg and works in Detroit where the number of COVID-19 deaths is rising. 2:05

On Friday, Trump signed a sweeping $2.2-trillion relief bill into law, only hours after it had been approved by the House of Representatives, after having been passed by the Senate earlier this week. 

He also invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co. to build much-needed ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford, Airbus and Rolls-Royce as part of efforts to fight coronavirus, an industry source told Reuters.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5:00 a.m. ET

The death toll in Italy reached surpassed 10,000 on Saturday, making it the highest of any country in the world. The number of fatalities surged Saturday by 889, bringing the country’s total to 10,023, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

Italy has the second highest number of cases, behind the United States. It surpassed China’s tally on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Vatican said Saturday that tests carried out in the residence where Pope Francis lives showed that the 83-year-old pontiff and his closest aides do not have coronavirus. Tests were made on 170 people in the Vatican and six were positive, including one who lives in the Santa Marta guesthouse.

WATCH | Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus:

Under darkness and rain, Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus 1:23

In France the next two weeks will be the toughest yet in the fight against coronavirus, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned on Saturday as his government raced to add intensive care beds and source protective gear. To free up intensive care beds in worst-hit areas, the army and emergency workers were this weekend stepping up the transfer of patients to less-affected regions, using a military helicopter and a specially adapted TGV train. 

By Saturday, the coronavirus had claimed 2,314 lives in France, with more than 37,575 confirmed cases, according to official figures.

In the United Kingdom, 17,089 people have tested positive and 1,019 have died of COVID-19 as of Saturday morning, the Department of Health and Social Care said on Twitter. Britons should be prepared for a “significant period” in lockdown, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

Members of Quebec’s provincial police force talk to a driver of a vehicle near the border of the United States in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

In Germany, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 52,547 and 389 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced his government will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday. In a publicly televised address, he said all workers are ordered to remain at home “as if it were a weekend” to “intensify” efforts to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Spain is approaching the end of the second week of stay-at-home rules and the closing of most stores, but workers were allowed to go to offices and factories if they were unable to work from home. Spain reported 6,528 fatalities on Sunday, up from 5,690 the previous day, and a total of 78,797 cases.

People practice physical distancing outside a grocery shop in London on Saturday. (Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press)

Ireland reported 14 deaths on Saturday, all in the east of the country and the most in a single day so far to bring the total number of fatalities to 36, the Department of Health said. The country also reported an additional 294 confirmed cases to bring the total to 2,415. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday ordered a lockdown until April 12. Travel more than two kilometres from home is banned, while all those over 70 are being instructed to “cocoon.”

In Russia, the mayor of Moscow urged residents on Saturday to stay home during the non-working week announced by President Vladimir Putin in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Russian authorities say they recorded 1,264 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a rise of 228, the largest daily increase since the start of the outbreak. The government says it will close all border crossings on March 30; the country has already grounded all international flights and declared next week a non-working week.

Health workers are seen with a patient at San Pedro hospital, in Logrono, northern Spain, on Saturday. (Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press)

In southern Finland, police are preparing to enforce the new regulation aimed at ceasing all unnecessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that includes the capital, Helsinki, according to Social Affairs Minister Krista Kiuru. The Nordic country has so far confirmed 958 coronavirus cases — the vast majority of them in Uusimaa — and five deaths. The exceptional move, which is set to end April 19, affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Switzerland’s infections topped 11,800 as the government pumped money into the economy and army medical units helped hospitals. Swiss authorities are lighting up one of their most famed landmarks, the Matterhorn, to show solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus.

People are seen at a railway station in Moscow on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Here’s a look at what’s happening in some other parts of the world

Forty-six passengers onboard the German cruise ship Artania have been reported as showing COVID-19 symptoms, according to Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Saturday. The Artania was allowed to pull into in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Thursday and sick passengers were taken off to be treated in Perth on Friday. The state government initially had not wanted the ship to dock and tried to divert it to a military base. There are more than 800 people onboard the vessel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized to the public on Sunday for imposing a three-week national lockdown, calling it harsh but “needed to win” the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented lockdown order, which came into effect on Wednesday to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies, is meant to prevent the spread of the virus from surging and overwhelming India’s already strained health care system. Indian health officials have confirmed 867 cases of the coronavirus, including 25 deaths.

The iconic Matterhorn mountain is illuminated in Zermatt, Switzerland. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the pandemic, saying the country was close to a national emergency as infections surged. The size of the package will exceed that compiled in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, which was worth a total 57 trillion yen ($740 billion Cdn), Abe said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike issued a plea following a surge in infections this week that she said put Tokyo on the brink of an emergency. She asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, particularly this weekend.

Japan reported 68 new cases on Sunday for more than 1,700 cases, excluding 712 from a cruise ship, with 55 deaths, public broadcaster NHK said Sunday. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, particularly this weekend. 

A security guard checks the temperature of a customer arriving at a supermarket during the partial lockdown in Malaysia on Friday, March 27 in Penang. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP via Getty Images)

Malaysia reported 150 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total to 2,470, the highest in Southeast Asia. The number of deaths from the virus outbreak rose by seven to 34, the health ministry said.

Iran has confirmed another 144 deaths from the coronavirus and says thousands more are in critical condition as the military completed work on a 2,000-bed field hospital in an exhibition centre in the capital. Iran has reported nearly 2,400 deaths among more than 32,000 cases.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control, despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities. Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere in the region.

In the continent of Africa, coronavirus has now spread to dozens of the 47 countries of the WHO Africa region, with 2,650 infected and 49 dead, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday. 

Saudi Arabia recorded 99 new cases on Saturday, taking its total to more than 1,200 coronavirus infections — the most in the Gulf Arab region, with four fatalities. On Sunday local time, the Kingdom said it was extending indefinitely the suspension of international passenger flights and workplace attendance in both public and private sectors among efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa has the most cases in Africa and as of midnight entered a three-week lockdown. In Johannesburg, police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos. Elsewhere, officers were captured in mobile phone footage whacking people with batons.

Workers arrange beds to prepare a quarantine centre at a sports complex in Gauhati, India, on Saturday. (Anupam Nath/Associated Press)

Indonesia authorities in Jakarta have extended a state of emergency for the next two weeks. The country has reported 102 deaths and 1,155 infections.

The United Arab Emirates extended on Saturday to April 5 a nightly curfew to sterilize public places to combat the coronavirus as neighbouring Qatar reported its first death from the disease.

Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday, as the number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

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‘All clear’: Sophie Grégoire Trudeau thanks well-wishers after recovering from COVID-19 – Global News

March 28th, 2020

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is officially clear of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has spawned into a global pandemic.

“I am feeling so much better and have received the all clear from my physician and Ottawa Public Health,” she said in a Facebook post addressed to Canadians on Saturday.

READ MORE: Sophie Grégoire Trudeau diagnosed with COVID-19; PM to remain in isolation

Grégoire Trudeau was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12. At the time, the Prime Minister’s Office said her symptoms were “mild” and that she would remain in isolation.

She was tested for the new coronavirus after she experienced symptoms upon her return from a trip to the U.K., where she had been carrying out speaking engagements.

1:01Coronavirus outbreak: Trump surprised to hear Justin Trudeau’s wife has tested positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump surprised to hear Justin Trudeau’s wife has tested positive for COVID-19

This also meant her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had to go into isolation, working from home for the last couple of weeks.

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Earlier on Saturday, Trudeau said his wife was feeling much better.

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“Sophie is feeling great. My family is doing well, my kids and myself, … we’re all doing well,” he said, adding that he would continue to work from home.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canada to ban sick travellers from domestic flights, intercity trains

“But like I said, we’ve asked people to stay home and work from home as much as possible, not go out if they don’t have to and that certainly is something that we’re doing and encouraging.”

In her Facebook post, Grégoire Trudeau thanked everyone who sent her well wishes.

“And to everyone who is suffering right now, I send you all my love,” she wrote.

Canada has more than 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday and Canadians have been instructed to practise social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: A look at the math behind social distancing amid coronavirus

1:22Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses wife Sophie’s COVID-19 diagnosis

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses wife Sophie’s COVID-19 diagnosis

“These are challenging times,” Grégoire Trudeau wrote. “I know it’s not easy to be alone — we are all social beings, me included!” She goes on to urge people to socialize virtually.

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“From social media to a simple phone call, there are so many ways for us to stay connected while we’re apart and actually deepen our relationships,” she wrote.

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

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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65% of reported COVID-19 cases in Canada related to community transmission: latest data – Global News

March 28th, 2020

Nearly two-thirds of reported COVID-19 cases in Canada as of March 28 are related to community spread, according to the latest data by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

As of Saturday, 65 per cent of 2,811 reported COVID-19 cases in Canada were linked to community transmission, while 35 per cent were “either exposed while travelling or exposed to a traveller returning to Canada.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What are community cases and should Canadians be concerned?

According to the Canadian government, a community case occurs when the virus has passed within a community, rather than contracted through travel.

This matters because, as Stephen A. Hoption Cann, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, has previously told Global News, it means the virus is in the community and “no one knows where it has come from or even how widespread it is in the community.”

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READ MORE: You can catch coronavirus without travelling. Here’s how

As of March 28, 2020, demographics, symptoms and outcomes were only available for 2,811 cases reported in Canada, providing a limited snapshot of who has caught the virus and how.

Around half — or 51 per cent — of  2,708 reported COVID-19 cases in Canada so far are male.

Around one-third of reported cases — 29 per cent — are in people 60 years or older. 

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People under the age of 19 comprise only four per cent of 2,708 reported cases.

1:45Dr. Hinshaw explains why Alberta is more focused on community transmissions of COVID-19

Dr. Hinshaw explains why Alberta is more focused on community transmissions of COVID-19

A cough appears to be the most commonly reported symptom, with 78 per cent of reported cases indicating so.

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Other commonly reported symptoms are chills — 53 per cent — and headaches — 53 per cent.

The Public Health Agency of Canada website also says 213 people have been hospitalized so far, including 69 in intensive care units.

READ MORE: Trudeau encouraged by B.C. coronavirus data, but warns ‘we’re not out of the woods yet’

Community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, first appeared in British Columbia.

As of Saturday, the province had 884 cases and a total of 17 deaths. Ninety-two of those cases were announced on March 28.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Developing a rapid COVID-19 test is in the works in Canada, globally

B.C.’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix both said despite that major increase in new cases, the province was still on the same path shown in modelling data released Friday that made them “cautiously optimistic” the curve might flatten soon.

5:00B.C.’s top doctor announces new orders to help reduce COVID-19 spread

B.C.’s top doctor announces new orders to help reduce COVID-19 spread

But they added it’s crucial for everyone to continue social distancing measures to make that a reality.

B.C. health officials had released new modelling data on Friday that showed the transmission rate in the province had dropped by double digits as people were ordered to stay at home while most businesses shuttered.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he is encouraged by B.C.’s data but Canadians are still urged to continue social distancing measures.

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READ MORE: B.C. ‘cautiously optimistic’ about COVID-19 forecast, but warns hospitals could still be overwhelmed

Earlier on Saturday, during an update from federal ministers on Canada’s response to the virus, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that cases in the country have now topped 5,000.

Tam also said that as of now, over 184,000 people in Canada have been tested for the disease.

1:15Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces new measures on domestic flights and intercity passenger trains

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces new measures on domestic flights and intercity passenger trains

Seven per cent of cases need hospitalization, three per cent are critically ill and 1 per cent of cases so far have been fatal, according to Tam, who gave an update on the severity of cases.

“Because although there will be day-to-day fluctuations, a sustained trend of increased severity could point to a higher rate of infection in vulnerable populations, or the health system is being overwhelmed,” she said.

— With files by Global News reporters Hannah Jackson, David Lao, Sean Boynton

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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A provincial breakdown of COVID-19 in Canada: 5,576 cases and 61 dead as of Saturday – National Post

March 28th, 2020

Cases of COVID-19 in Canada have nearly doubled from Friday figures. Here’s a breakdown from some of the provincial updates.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting that another COVID-19 patient has died.

That brings the total number of deaths linked to the virus in the province to 19.

But health officials aren’t reporting any new cases since their update earlier in the day.

They say there have been 1,144 cases in the province, including those who have died and eight people who have recovered.

Quebec

Quebec is reporting 2,498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province and four more deaths, bringing the provincial tally to 22.

Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault is also announcing police checkpoints as of this afternoon in eight regions outside of major Quebec cities where the population is deemed more at risk.

Guilbault says only essential travel will be allowed in those regions and says Quebec provincial police have also set up checkpoints near the Canada-U.S. border to intercept snowbirds coming back to Quebec to ensure they understand there’s a 14-day quarantine.

Guilbault says out of 164 people hospitalized, 57 people are in intensive care.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is reporting 30 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and officials say there’s been a large increase in cases connected with a snowmobile rally held earlier this month.

The province says in a news release that the new cases bring the total number in Saskatchewan to 134.

On Wednesday, health officials warned anyone who had attended the Lakeland Snowmobile Club Wilderness Rally Supper on March 14 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. to immediately self-isolate, following news that a person who was at the rally tested positive for COVID-19.

The province now says 18 cases in total have been linked to the event, and all of them are self-isolating at home.

Nova Scotia

There are 20 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, including two related to long-term care facilities in the province.

The announcement brings the total number of cases in the province to 110.

An employee at R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish has tested positive, as has an employee at Lewis Hall, a private retirement living community in Dartmouth.

The province says all residents, their families and staff at both facilities have been notified, and there are no cases of COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities at this time.

British Columbia

The B.C. government says there are 92 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, for a total of 884.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says 81 people are hospitalized, including 52 in intensive care, and there has been one additional death.

She says cases are continuing to increase among people who have been exposed in the last two weeks, and physical distancing remains critically important.

Henry says on a positive note, nearly 400 people have recovered from the disease in B.C.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are expressing concerns due to its first case of community transmission of COVID-19.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a patient admitted to a hospital in St. Anthony, N.L., was among the 18 new cases announced on Saturday.

Fitzgerald describes the case as a significant development because the patient had no history of travel or exposure to a known case of COVID-19.

Her announcement has brought the total number of cases in the province to 120, the second highest level per capita in Canada.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick has announced six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 51.

The province says in a statement the new cases are under investigation and “further details will be forthcoming.”

The province also announced a special line for health-care workers to call if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Public Health in New Brunswick is instructing health workers who’ve developed symptoms since March 20 to self isolate.

Manitoba

Manitoba is announcing an additional 25 probable cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases in the province to 64.

The total number of deaths reported in Manitoba from the virus remains at one.

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No more domestic travel by plane or train for those showing coronavirus symptoms, Trudeau says – CBC.ca

March 28th, 2020

Domestic travel by plane or train will soon be off the table for anyone exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday, as part of additional measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness across the country.

The restrictions come into effect at noon ET on Monday and apply to anyone showing signs of the virus, which include a cough, fever and difficulty breathing.

Those travellers will no longer be able to travel by air or rail between provinces and cities anywhere in Canada. 

“It will be important for operators of airlines and trains to ensure that people who are exhibiting symptoms do not board those trains,” Trudeau said during his daily address to Canadians. “It will be a Transport Canada rule that will be enforced, but at the same time, we’re telling people stay home if it’s not absolutely essential for you to travel.”

The prime minister added that the federal government would be providing airlines and rail companies with “further tools” to bar those showing symptoms from getting on planes and trains. 

The ban, Trudeau said, does not apply to interprovincial bus travel, which is regulated by provincial and municipal governments. 

In a statement provided to CBC News, Transport Canada recommends that operators of bus services “follow the guidance of the relevant provincial or local authority to reduce risk for their passengers.”

Companies to conduct health checks

To roll out the new measures, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing guidance to air operators and rail companies on conducting health checks on passengers boarding flights and trains within Canada or departing from Canada. 

As of Monday, passengers can expect to be asked a number of health questions aimed at identifying the “visible signs of illness” and will be refused boarding should they present symptoms. 

According to a news release from Transport Canada, passengers will be denied boarding “for a period of 14 days, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the traveller’s symptoms are not related to COVID-19.”

The restrictions apply to aircraft with 10 seats or more, while commuter trains are exempt from the measures.

Intercity passenger rail operators subject to the additional screening include:

  • Via Rail Canada Inc.
  • Great Canadian Railtour Company Ltd.
  • Keewatin Railway Company.
  • Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
  • White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.
  • Transport Ferroviaire Tshiuetin Inc.

WATCH | Canada’s status after two weeks of lockdowns:

After two weeks of physical distancing and widespread closures, here’s a look at where Canada is in its battle against COVID-19 and the disease’s possible trajectory. 2:03

Njoo: ‘We know people can hide symptoms’

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said details on how companies are expected to enforce the restrictions will be shared “in the coming days.”

But screening at points of transit — whether border crossings, airports or train stations — isn’t completely foolproof, cautioned Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer. 

“It’s never a 100 per cent guarantee that we’re going to stop further transmission of infection,” he said.

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo cautioned Saturday that screening measures can only go so far when it comes to containing the spread of COVID-19. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Njoo said personnel at train stations and airports will be keeping an eye out for travellers who look “unwell,”  but conceded that it’s possible to mask symptoms. 

“We know people can can hide symptoms by, for example, taking a Tylenol to mask a fever,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s not just the responsibility of governments, airline companies, train companies. It’s a responsibility of every Canadian.”

Caseload grows across the country

The number of cases in Canada grew to more that 5,400 on Saturday, though there is some evidence that Canadians staying at home and practising safe distancing is working to contain the spread.

British Columbia’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday that according to modelling in the province, physical distancing restrictions are starting to slow the spread of new COVID-19 cases.

“I’m trying not to over-call it, but I do believe we’ve seen a flattening, a falling-off of that curve,” Henry said. 

On Saturday, Trudeau called the prediction “promising news”, but said it was not a reason for complacency.

Tam echoed the prime minister’s words later in the day, along with her own warning.

“If the trends are slowing down a bit, our key message though is not to sort of relax. Our key message actually is to double down, absolutely double down, and that right now is an absolutely critical time,” Tam said. “If you look at those numbers you realize that we’re definitely not out of the woods and [we’ve] got to keep going.”

Trudeau family continues to isolate

The prime minister’s announcement Saturday comes as his own 14-day period of self-isolation concluded this week, though Trudeau said that, on the advice of medical professionals, he plans to continue working from home. 

“We’ve asked people to stay at home and work from home as much as possible and not go out if they don’t have to,” Trudeau said. “And that certainly is something that we’re doing and encouraging.”

His wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, received a positive COVID-19 test result earlier this month following a visit to London.

“Sophie is feeling great. My family is doing well. My kids and myself…we’re all doing well,” the prime minister added.

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Those with COVID-19 symptoms will be barred from domestic flights, intercity trains: Trudeau – Global News

March 28th, 2020

Anyone showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus will now be banned from boarding domestic flights and intercity passenger trains, the prime minister announced at a press conference Saturday.

Speaking from outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government has now formalized its updated rules for domestic travel across Canada.

READ MORE: Live updates — Coronavirus in Canada

“As of Monday at noon, people showing any signs whatsoever of COVID-19 will be denied boarding at all domestic flights and intercity passenger trains.”

His announcement came during an update on Canada’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Asked why buses and coaches that also travel across provincial lines were not subject to the same measures, Trudeau responded that the new restrictions would only apply to industries that are under federal jurisdiction.

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“Some industries are not under federal jurisdiction but we do recommend and in fact we are putting rules in place to make sure people do not take any trips anywhere if they have COVID-19 symptoms,” said Trudeau.

During an update from federal ministers on Canada’s response to the virus, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that cases in the country have now topped 5,000.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

On Friday Trudeau announced the federal wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak would be jumping up to 75 per cent.

Trudeau had previously announced a 10 per cent wage subsidy, but conceded that it wasn’t enough.

“It’s becoming clear that we need to do more — much more — so we’re bringing that percentage up to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses,” Trudeau told reporters. “This means people will continue to be paid even though their employers have to slow down or stop their businesses.”

1:59New federal help for small and medium-sized businesses

New federal help for small and medium-sized businesses

Meanwhile on Friday, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said Canada’s fight with COVID-19 is far from over, and that it could include a second wave.

Dr. Howard Njoo said Canada is in it “for the long haul.”

READ MORE: Trudeau promises 75% wage subsidy for businesses hit by coronavirus pandemic

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“It’s definitely months. Many months,” Njoo estimated Friday as the number of novel coronavirus cases in Canada surged.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), as of 6 p.m. ET on Friday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Canada had topped 4,600.

The PHAC said more than 170,600 Canadians have been tested for the virus.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) also offered an update on Friday, saying four flights repatriating citizens from Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador were set to arrive in Canada.

Additional flights repatriating Canadians from Spain and Poland were also set to arrive on Friday.

Story continues below advertisement

“We are working to help as many Canadians as possible return home, but some may remain outside of the country for an indeterminate amount of time,” the release reads.

According to GAC, as of Friday, more than 411,400 Canadians had registered abroad.

0:54Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says U.S. putting troops near Canadian border would be a ‘mistake’

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says U.S. putting troops near Canadian border would be a ‘mistake’

But, because registration is voluntary, GAC said it is “not a complete picture of Canadians outside the country.”

GAC said as of Friday, 232 emergency loan applications had been approved, with an additional 800 applications being processed.

–With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and The Canadian Press

View link »

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

March 28th, 2020

The latest:

The Chinese city of Wuhan — where the novel coronavirus outbreak first emerged late last year — began lifting a two-month lockdown on Saturday, as the number of cases of the infection worldwide approached 600,000.

Wuhan restarted some subway services and reopened borders, allowing some semblance of normality to return and families to reunite.

Authorities had taken strict measures to stop people from entering or leaving the industrial city of 11 million people in central China. Families were confined to their homes. Bus and taxi services were shut, and only essential stores were allowed to remain open.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus cases were reported on the mainland on Friday, all involving so-called imported cases. Mainland China now has 81,394 cases, with the death toll rising by three to 3,295, the commission said. China closed its national borders to most foreigners two days ago amid fears of a second wave of infections.

A medical worker wearing a hazmat suit uses a swab on a woman to check if she has coronavirus on a health clinic in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on Saturday. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

In New York City, considered the epicentre of the outbreak in the U.S. with more than a third of the country’s cases, the Javits Convention Centre has been turned into a temporary hospital and will start treating patients on Monday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants four more temporary hospitals set up to meet the growing number of coronavirus cases. New York state has seen the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., more than 500. There are about 1,600 people in intensive care. Cuomo says state hospitals need 30,000 more ventilators.

Across the U.S., there have been about 1,600 deaths from the virus out of 100,040 cases reported as of Friday, a number that surpasses the count in China.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, says the fight against the pandemic is far from over and that it could include a second wave. His comments on Friday come as the number of cases in Canada surged to 4,757, including 55 deaths. Quebec’s COVID-19 caseload has soared to more than 2,000, more than double Ontario’s 993 cases.

More than a dozen Canadian flight attendants are sick with COVID-19, with one recently released from an intensive care unit in Calgary, CBC News has learned. Seven WestJet employees and five at Air Transat are also confirmed cases. The flight attendants’ union at Air Canada is calling for full protective suits for all air crews. This past week in the U.S., a flight attendant with American Airlines died after contracting the virus.

WATCH | Infected Canadian flight attendants speak out:

Airline crews tell CBC they didn’t feel adequately protected from COVID-19 after several employees test positive for the illness. 2:01

At sea, four passengers have died aboard a cruise ship now anchored off the coast of Panama and two people aboard the ship have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the cruise line said Friday, with hundreds of passengers unsure how long they will remain at sea.

Global Affairs Canada says it is aware of 248 Canadians on the ship — 247 passengers and one crew member.

Holland America Line confirmed Canadians are not among the four dead.

Holland America Line said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday there are many projections around how the COVID-19 crisis will unfold — but those projections all “hinge on choices” Canadians have made in the past few days and will make in the days ahead.

WATCH | Trudeau says severity of the COVID-19 pandemic depends on Canadians’ actions:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says projections of how serious the COVID-19 pandemic could become in Canada depend on Canadians’ own actions. 1:17

“We know we’re talking about weeks and possibly months,” Trudeau said. “But I am very optimistic that we’re going to get through this in the right way, because Canadians do what they need to do to be there for each other and to keep us all safe.”

He said the government, which had previously announced a temporary 10-per-cent wage subsidy, will boost that to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses — a move many in the business world, as well as labour groups and opposition politicians, had called for.

“We’re helping companies keep people on the payroll so that workers are supported and the economy is positioned to recover from this,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the subsidy for small- and medium-sized businesses would be backdated to mid-March. More details about the plan for small businesses, including a loan program, will be released in the coming days, he said.

WATCH Dr. Howard Njoo says Canada’s fight against COVID-19 could last many months:

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo says Canadians should expect the COVID-19 crisis to last not just days, but many months. 1:16

Also Friday, the Bank of Canada made an unscheduled announcement, dropping its benchmark rate by 50 basis points to 0.25 per cent in an effort to support an economy hit hard by the outbreak.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said the whole world is being impacted by the COVID-19 shock, but said some economies are being affected also by the oil price competition between Russia and Saudi Arabia. That means the Canadian economy has two shocks to deal with, he said.

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

In British Columbia, people who ignore COVID-19 public health orders face a fine of up to $25,000. The province has also banned reselling essential supplies, including cleaning materials and personal protective equipment. Read more about what’s happening in B.C., including a note of cautious optimism from health officials who said Friday that physical distancing restrictions are succeeding.

Alberta announced the immediate closure of all non-essential businesses Friday, including close-contact businesses such as hair salons and barber shops, tattoo and piercing studios and esthetic services, and limited public gatherings to 15 people or fewer. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including a story from Edmonton about a laptop drive aiming to connect marginalized people during the coronavirus pandemic.

A sign announcing a business closure is seen in Toronto on Friday. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Saskatchewan is releasing more information about COVID-19 cases in the province, including information on residents who have recovered after testing positive. The province, which has reported 95 cases, lists three cases as recovered. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, which announced a new appointment-only testing site in Regina. 

Manitoba is expanding its COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic health workers, people who live in group care settings (including long-term care and remote work camps), inmates and more. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin also said all people living on First Nations in the province who are experiencing respiratory symptoms will be tested. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, which recorded its first death on Friday.

An infectious disease specialist in Toronto is warning that “it’s almost inevitable” that hospitals in Ontario are going to see a surge in COVID-19 casesDr. Andrew Morris says it’s not yet clear exactly when it will happen but said the best estimates suggest clinicians will “start seeing a rise in the next week or so,” and will see cases continue to increase for weeks, if not months. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where one city has set up a new snitch line for reporting physical-distancing violations.

WATCH | WW II veteran dies from COVID-19, family unable to say goodbye:

The family of a Second World War veteran who died from COVID-19 was unable to visit him in the hospital to prevent further spread. 1:47

In Quebec, Premier François Legault is urging anyone who is in a position to help to volunteer at places like food banks, which are seeing an increase in demand. And Montreal declared a local state of emergency over fears of a COVID-19 outbreak among the city’s homeless. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including the story of a nurse working at one of Montreal’s testing sites.

WATCH: Drone video of Montreal shows once-bustling public spaces nearly empty

As people isolate themselves around the world due to the coronavirus, drone footage taken over Montreal shows what things look like from high above. 0:58

New Brunswick’s premier says between 25,000 and 30,000 people in the province have already lost their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are facing a situation unlike we have ever experienced before,” Blaine Higgs said Thursday. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, including an effort to connect laid-off workers with food manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand.

In Nova Scotia, the head of the province’s telephone health service says anyone who gets a referral will get a COVID-19 test. Dr. Todd Howlett, medical director of 811, said the service is adapting to meet the demand created by the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island has reported a total of nine cases of COVID-19, including at least one who has recovered. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Alberta Health Services employees speak with drivers at a drive-thru testing facility in Calgary on Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)


In Newfoundland and Labrador, the health minister says the province’s public health emergency could last months. “I am pretty sure that it’s going to be some time in June,” John Haggie said. “Whether or not we make a Canada Day celebration, time will tell.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yukon’s government is banning residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Air North, meanwhile, is laying off more than half of its workers and reducing service because of the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

Here’s what’s happening in the United States

From Reuters, updated at 5:00 a.m. ET

U.S. doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak came under increasing stress on Friday as the number of cases skyrocketed and hospital staff were forced to ration care for an overwhelming number of patients, a day after the U.S. surpassed a grim milestone, becoming the country with the highest number of infections in the world.

One emergency room doctor in Michigan said he was using a single paper face mask for an entire shift due to a shortage and that his hospital would soon run out of ventilators, the machines needed by sufferers of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, to help them breathe.

After claiming on Thursday that he believed the numbers of ventilators being requested by states were sometimes exaggerated, U.S. President Donald Trump promised an announcement later Friday on the purchase of additional ones.

On Friday, Trump signed a sweeping $2.2-trillion relief bill into law, only hours after it had been approved by the House of Representatives, after having been passed by the Senate earlier this week. 

He also invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co. to build much-needed ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo talks about staying ‘in your bubble’:

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo says Canadians should think of physical distancing like a two-metre conceptual zone of protection — or a “bubble.” 0:38

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

Italy on Friday registered the most deaths since the country’s outbreak exploded five weeks earlier, adding 969 more victims to raise the world’s highest COVID-19 toll to 9,134. Lombardy accounted for 541 of them.

Italy also surpassed China in total confirmed cases, and stands behind only the United States. But the National Institutes of Health also said there had been a slowing of infections in recent days, suggesting that a national lockdown was starting to show an effect after 2½ weeks. 

WATCH | Trump orders GM to make ventilators:

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order under the Defence Production Act mandating carmaker General Motors to produce ventilators for hard-hit hospitals 0:58

France is extending its nationwide confinement measures another two weeks past the original end date of Tuesday, until April 15. Saying “we are only at the beginning” of the virus wave, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the extension Friday. The move comes after the head of the French Hospital Federation said hospitals in and around Paris will be swamped within 48 hours, with the peak not expected until April. France has reported nearly 1,700 deaths, the fifth-highest number of any country worldwide, including a 16-year-old schoolgirl from the Essonne region, the youngest person in the country to die from COVID-19.

Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose overnight by 769 cases to 4,858, the health ministry said on Friday, a new record in the number of fatalities recorded in 24 hours. The total number of those infected rose by more than 7,800 on Friday to 64,059.

A movie theatre with a billboard announcing its closure is seen in Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ireland on Friday ordered a lockdown until April 12, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar telling citizens to leave home only for grocery shopping, brief exercise or essential family visits. Travel more than two kilometres from home is banned, while all those over 70 are being instructed to “cocoon.”

“I’m appealing to every man, woman and child to make these sacrifices for the love of each other … Show that you care for your family and friends: Stay home,” Varadkar told a news conference.

In Germany, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 48,582 and 325 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

Poland has temporarily closed its borders to thousands of cross-border workers. The measures take effect Friday and require cross-border workers to stay on one side of the border until April 11, just before Easter. Except for trucks and trains carrying goods, anyone crossing into Poland will be put on 14-day quarantine. The country has confirmed 1,244 cases of infection and 16 people have died.

In southern Finland, police are preparing to enforce the new regulation aimed at ceasing all unnecessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that includes the capital, Helsinki, according to Social Affairs Minister Krista Kiuru. The Nordic country has so far confirmed 958 coronavirus cases — the vast majority of them in Uusimaa — and five deaths. The exceptional move, which is set to end April 19, affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Switzerland’s infections topped 11,800 as the government pumped money into the economy and army medical units helped hospitals. Swiss authorities are lighting up one of their most famed landmarks, the Matterhorn, to show solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in some other parts of the world

Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday, as the number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead. 

Iran has confirmed another 144 deaths from the coronavirus and says thousands more are in critical condition as the military completed work on a 2,000-bed field hospital in an exhibition centre in the capital. Iran has reported nearly 2,400 deaths among more than 32,000 cases.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control, despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities. Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere in the region.

People practice social distancing while lining up to buy supplies from a shop in Barcelona on Friday. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has taken the view that protecting the country’s economy takes priority over physical distancing measures.

“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview on Friday night. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”

He accused some of Brazil’s 26 governors of playing “a numbers game to favour political interests” in their reporting of cases and said the death toll from COVID-19 in the state of Sao Paulo seemed “too large” at 68 out of 1,223 cases.

South Korea said it will block any passenger with even a mild fever from entering the country starting next week to counter a rise in coronavirus cases linked to arrivals from abroad. Health Ministry official Koh Deuk-young on Friday said all airlines flying to South Korea from Monday will be required to screen passengers for fevers and deny boarding to anyone with a temperature higher than 37.5 C. Koh said airlines will refund tickets for those who are denied flights.

South Korea in past weeks has been scrambling to strengthen border controls, including enforcing two-week quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States and Europe amid broadening outbreaks in the West.

A doctor takes a sample from a driver at a drive-thru testing point for the novel coronavirus in a parking lot in Halle, Germany, on Friday. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has told U.S. President Donald Trump that China “understands the United States’s current predicament over the COVID-19 outbreak and stands ready to provide support within its capacity.” The official Xinhua News Agency said Xi delivered the message in a call to Trump on Friday, in which he also urged the U.S. to “take substantive action in improving bilateral relations.”

In the phone call, Xi “suggested that the two sides work together to boost co-operation in epidemic control and other fields, and develop a relationship of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win co-operation,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The virus outbreak was first reported in China in December and now appears to have peaked in the country, even while the government remains on guard against imported cases.

South Africa has announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus as the country’s cases rose above 1,000. The health minister said in a statement that the deaths occurred in Western Cape province. South Africa has the most cases in Africa and as of midnight entered a three-week lockdown. The military is in the streets helping to enforce measures that include bans on alcohol sales. Concerns are high about water supply in crowded, low-income townships.

A member of the Iranian army walks past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients in Tehran. (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)

Mexico reported 717 cases and 12 deaths as of Friday night. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been criticized for not taking the epidemic seriously enough, but in recent days has made more of an effort to urge Mexicans to stay at home and be aware of the symptoms. On Friday, he announced 17 military-operated hospitals that will increase the number of intensive care beds are nearing completion.

Indonesia’s coronavirus cases surpassed 1,000 in the biggest one-day jump as the government ordered mass testing across the country to contain the disease’s spread. The government on Friday confirmed 153 new COVID-19 cases, with 87 deaths. Indonesia has planned to distribute about a half million test kits across the archipelago nation, which is home for 270 million people.

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Ontario may have missed a third or more COVID-19 cases as testing backlog has grown, Star analysis finds – Toronto Star

March 28th, 2020

According to the official count, the COVID-19 outbreak is growing rapidly in Ontario. But even as the number of confirmed patients has gone up sharply this week, a Star analysis has found the outbreak may be one-third larger, or more, than has been officially reported.

As of Friday morning, the province has reported a backlog of more than 10,000 patients who have been tested for COVID-19, but have not yet learned whether they have the virus.

Friday was the first day in more than two weeks that the backlog fell as Ontario completed more tests than it took in. Still, the number of uncompleted cases has grown sharply over the last seven days — nearly doubling from 5,475 to 10,074.

That increase shows a provincial testing system that has been “going underwater,” said David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“It’s like being at the supermarket, in a line with a new cashier and watching the checkout queue get longer and longer,” Fisman said. “They’re not keeping up.”

How many positives were missed as the test backlog accumulated at the provincial labs? One way to tell is to look at how often a positive result has been found among those tests that were completed — known as the per cent-positive rate. The number is a common metric used in studying flu outbreaks, Fisman said.

Since the outbreak began, 3.3 per cent of Ontario’s total completed tests have come back positive, according to a Star analysis of the province’s data. If the testing backlog were to have the same rate of positives — which researchers say is likely — it would account for another 333 missed cases of COVID-19.

In other words: If Ontario’s testing capacity had kept up with the backlog, the official record of positive COVID-19 cases would be more than a third higher than the 993 cases reported as of Friday.

“The situation is worse than what we’re seeing in the news,” said Jeff Kwong, a family doctor and also an epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“It’s worrisome that we have this backlog because we don’t have a good sense what the situation is today,” Kwong said. Instead, the province has a picture of who contracted the virus last week — when the tests were taken.

That’s a long time to wait on top of a delay that’s already baked into the virus’ incubation period of up to two weeks, Kwong said.

“To not have accurate numbers that are timely is a problem,” he said. “I just don’t know what we can do about it. The labs are already working as hard as they can with the resources they have.”

In the last seven days, the province has completed an average of about 2,400 tests a day, according to its published numbers.

The province says it is working with hospital, academic and private laboratories to aggressively ramp up testing capacity. Through this network, Ontario now has the capacity to do as many as 3,000 tests per day, and has a goal of hitting 5,000 daily tests by the end of the week, said Helen Angus, Ontario’s deputy minister of health.

Angus said the province is forecasting that its total testing capacity will increase to 18,900 tests per day across public hospital and community labs by April 17.

“I think as we expand the number of tests obviously we’ll have a better sense of the prevalence in the population,” Angus told reporters Thursday.

Eight hospital labs, two commercial labs and four Public Health Ontario labs are testing for COVID-19. The province says it expects there to be between 25 and 30 labs in operation when peak capacity is reached in mid-April.

For now, priority must be given to the sickest and most vulnerable patients and those who treat patients, and that COVID-19 tests for these priority individuals are being completed within two days at the Public Health Ontario lab, a health ministry spokesperson said. For others not identified as priority patients, the spokesperson said, the target turnaround time is “up to four days.”

On Friday, Ontario reported another 135 confirmed positive cases — its second-highest daily total, behind Thursday.

With 3,400 reported test results, Friday also saw the highest single-day total of completed COVID-19 tests. As a result, the backlog fell by 891 cases — a sign the province’s lab capacity may finally be catching up to growing demand.

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The Star’s study of the backlog is based on the province’s positive rate for the outbreak as a whole. But there’s good reason to think the 3.3 per cent rate is low, Fisman said, as the positive rate in an epidemic tends to go up as the disease spreads throughout a community.

In New York, with an outbreak that’s much further along than Ontario, for example, some 28 per cent of tests have come back positive, according to Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator.

And indeed, the Ontario tests appear to be returning positives more often over time: The results reported this week have been positive in 4.5 per cent of cases. If the backlog results were to come back positive at that rate, it would return another 440 cases missed as the COVID-19 epidemic has spread in the province.

There are other reasons to think the Ontario epidemic is much larger, Fisman said. Epidemiological models based on the number and timing of the province’s 18 reported deaths so far, for instance, suggest an outbreak of several thousand cases, he said — plus, the fact Ontario is not testing nearly as widely as other jurisdictions clearly show the province is missing many more mild or asymptomatic cases.

So far, Ontario has tested 210 patients per 100,000 people; in Alberta, that number is 831 per 100,000.

Even in China, where the full weight of a dictatorship was put toward stopping COVID-19, recent estimates say authorities missed as many as 80 per cent of cases.

“We’re clearly way below that,” Fisman said.

Earlier this week, the Quebec government reported a dramatic jump in COVID-19 cases as the province began counting tests done by hospital labs, eliminating the requirement that they be verified by a central facility.

That jump is good, Fisman said, because it shows a more accurate picture of the outbreak in that province.

In Ontario, as the testing backlog has grown, many more people with the virus may have been sitting unaware in self-isolation at home, or in a hospital or long-term care home.

It’s a problem that’s made worse by a lack of detail in the data that is being reported, like not knowing the date a sample was taken from the people who later test positive, or even where they live.

On Friday, for the first time, Ontario did not report any case-by-case detail on the 135 people who tested positive, instead writing: “Information for all cases today is pending.”

Without better access to data, researchers can’t model where Ontario’s epidemic is headed, Fisman said. “It’s like ‘Jaws’. You don’t know Jaws is there until one of the paddle boats gets swallowed.”

He added: “Any way you slice and dice it, we’re missing a ton of disease.”

Ed Tubb

Ed Tubb is an assignment editor and a contributor focused on crime and justice. He is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @edtubb

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Physical distancing has halved spread of COVID-19 in B.C., official modelling suggests – CBC.ca

March 27th, 2020

Health officials say physical distancing restrictions in B.C. are successfully beginning to slow the number of new COVID-19 cases in the province, perhaps by as much as half.

But despite the “glimmer of hope,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and other officials stressed that the province is not out of the woods and the health-care system still needs to be prepared for an inevitable surge in hospitalizations.

“I’m trying not to over-call it, but I do believe we’ve seen a flattening, a falling-off of that curve,” Henry said Friday, referring to the growth of new COVID-19 patients in B.C.

“What we need, though, is for everybody to continue to pay attention to these [physical distancing] measures so we can continue to prevent transmissions in our communities … for the coming weeks.”

The hopeful news came as part of a report released Friday, which found that the province’s health-care system is “reasonably” prepared to handle a surge in critical care cases related to COVID-19 if the flatter trajectory continues.

The report said 17 of the biggest hospitals in B.C. have now been identified as primary COVID-19 treatment sites.

Officials say those hospitals are ready to meet demand, even if the local outbreak were to mimic the severe scenario seen in China’s Hubei province.

If the situation in B.C. deteriorated to the point where the 17 hospitals could not keep up, as was the experience in Italy, the province said additional centres are being prepared to care for the overflow.

Watch: Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines the modelling B.C. is using to make predictions around hospital capacity:

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. modelling shows that while the spread of COVID-19 appears to be slowing, the next two weeks are critical. 1:20

Compared to China, northern Italy

A number of health-care officials compared the estimated trajectory of new cases in B.C. with the case growth previously seen in two of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks: in northern Italy and China’s Hubei province.

Both regions have been epicentres of the pandemic, with tens of thousands of cases and hospitalizations.

Taking those two regions’ experiences as examples of worst-case scenarios, B.C. looked at its own health-care system to determine whether the province has enough beds and ventilators in case it goes down a similar path.

Henry said the data is for planning purposes, cautioning that it is not a prediction.

‘Cascading’ approach

B.C. said there is a likely scenario of the province’s outbreak ending up below or at the same level seen in the Hubei province, where the pandemic originated in the city of Wuhan.

The report found the 17 provincial hospitals identified as primary care centres would be prepared enough to handle that kind of outbreak. They are the biggest hospitals across all of B.C.’s health authorities, with the highest level of expertise and capacity for critical care.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix points to a modelling graph showing different COVID-19 scenarios on March 27, 2020. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A briefing offered Friday, however, said that network would be overwhelmed if B.C.’s outbreak reached a level like northern Italy’s. Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. is developing a “cascading” approach to free up additional hospital beds in case that happens, though it is not looking likely based on Friday’s modelling.

The province believes it should have enough ventilators to meet demand, even if it follows Italy’s extreme pattern, assuming 80 per cent of patients in intensive care units (ICU) need to use them.

Dix said there are at least 1,272 ventilators in the province, with more on order.

The report found the most populated areas of the province are better equipped for a bigger outbreak, with Northern Health seeing the lowest amount of ventilators. It also said Interior Health and Island Health will have higher percentage of critical care hospitalizations because their populations are generally older.

Restrictive measures working, province believes

The province believes restrictive measures around travel, large gatherings and physical distancing introduced between March 12 and 16 are saving B.C. from an outbreak scenario like China’s or Italy’s.

Without those measures, officials believe B.C. would be seeing a 24 per cent daily increase in cases — or 215 new cases per million people, every day.

Instead, the report said, B.C. has only seen a 12 per cent daily increase since physical distancing began, or about 130 new cases per million people.

That growth rate is lower than those of northern Italy and the Hubei province.

Officials cautioned B.C. could still see a spike, if an outbreak happened in a remote community or a vulnerable care home. 

Henry has also warned the 14-day incubation period is not over for people who were infected with the novel coronavirus before the restrictions began. She said it will be at least another week before we see the full effects of physical distancing.

B.C. has proactively freed up more than 3,900 hospital beds by deferring non-essential surgeries, something that didn’t happen in overwhelmed countries like Italy. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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Canada ‘urgently’ discussing asylum seeker deportation issue with U.S. – CBC.ca

March 27th, 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is seeking assurances from the United States that it won’t deport asylum-seekers turned back by Canada at its borders through temporary pandemic containment measures.

As part of the temporary agreement to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus across the shared border, Canada agreed last week to return asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country outside of official border points —a stark departure from Canada’s former policy of allowing them to stay and file refugee claims.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told Reuters it plans to send those returned migrants back to their countries of origin.

“In the event an alien cannot be returned to Mexico or Canada, CBP will work with interagency partners to secure return to the alien’s country of origin and hold the alien for the shortest time possible,” said spokesman Michael Niezgoda in an email.

“That is an issue which we are currently discussing urgently with our American partners,” Freeland said during a news conference on Parliament Hill today.

“It is very important to Canada to abide by our international commitments … including when it comes to refugees.”

“We are aware of the problems of refoulement,” Freeland said, referring to the forcible return of refugees to countries where they might face violence or persecution. “And it was and continues to be important for Canada to have assurances that that would not happen to people returning to the United States.”

Watch: Chrystia Freeland addresses plight of asylum seekers:

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is seeking assurances from the United States that it won’t deport asylum-seekers turned back by Canada at its borders through temporary pandemic containment measures. 1:52

When asked if Canada would rethink the temporary policy in light of the United States’s stance, Freeland said she would not negotiate in public.

“But let me be clear about Canada’s position, which is it is important for us to abide by our international commitments when it comes to the treatment of refugees,” she said.

The issue of cross-border migrants isn’t the only one the federal government wants to resolve with Washington right now.

Trudeau says talks continue with U.S. about border troops 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today his government is still in talks with the United States about a proposal to station American troops near the shared border.

Canadian officials voiced their opposition on Thursday after sources began leaking information about the proposal. Later that day, a Wall Street Journal report, citing a source, said Trump was going to drop the proposal.

WATCH:  Trudeau says talks continue with U.S. about border troops

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says talks continue with the United States about a proposal to station American troops near the shared border. 0:42

When asked about the newspaper article during his daily news briefing outside his home Friday morning, Trudeau would only say that talks continue.

“When we have more information, we’ll share it,” he said. “We continue to to engage closely in back-and-forths with the American administration on many, many issues around the border.”

President Donald Trump was asked about the possibility of sending reinforcements to the northern border during a press conference Thursday evening.

“We have very strong deployments on the southern border, with Mexico. We had some troops up in Canada. But I’ll find out about that,” he said, before suddenly launching into a tangent on steel tariffs.

The two countries already have a mutual ban in place on non-essential travel across the border, which includes trips for recreational purposes.

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