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Good evening – here are the coronavirus updates you need to know tonight.

Top headlines
  1. 500,000 Canadians applied for employment insurance this week as companies announced layoffs
  2. Ottawa to provide financial assistance to medical equipment companies
  3. Premier Doug Ford said schools in Ontario may not reopen this term. In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney announced economic measures to blunt the combined impact of the virus outbreak and plunging oil prices
  4. Italy reported its largest day-to-day rise in deaths with 627 reported today
  5. Britain shuts down pubs and other businesses for 30 days

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An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant in a parking lot as Tel Aviv prepares to open a drive-through coronavirus-testing complex.JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Number of the day

2.6 per cent

The federal government has received approximately 500,000 employment insurance applications in the past four days, a figure that represents 2.6 per cent of total Canadian employment. Only 27,000 applications were submitted during the same week last year.

  • The spike in EI applications comes as companies in nearly every industry have begun laying off workers. "This is going to be very, very bad,” said one economics professor.
  • On Twitter, one economist noted the number is in line with the percentage of job losses in July, 1932, the single worst week for layoffs during the Great Depression.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced additional income support for self-employed workers, or those who normally do not qualify for EI.

Coronavirus in Canada

934: cases in Canada reported; with 11 recoveries and 12 deaths reported.

The federal government will be providing financial assistance to companies to produce much needed medical equipment. “This initiative will help companies that are already making things like masks, ventilators and hand sanitizer to massively scale up production,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.

Elsewhere: Canada’s deficit could surge to $100-billion, economists warn. However, Canada has some fiscal elbow room, as much as $41-billion in spending or tax cuts according to a February Parliamentary Budget Officer report. What would be cause for concern, according to the PBO, is if emergency measures become regular spending when the crisis is over.

Coronavirus around the world

  • U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act to get needed medical supplies to the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak and the private sector mobilized against it.
  • Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, reported 627 new deaths Friday, its biggest day-to-day rise since the outbreak began, and said new cases also shot up. Italy has seen more than 4,000 deaths – surpassing that of China – and 47,000 infections. The soaring numbers came despite a nationwide lockdown.
  • Britain faces a “massive shortage” of life-saving ventilators. The country has between 5,000-8,000 ventilators for a population of 67 million. The country, slow at first to respond to the outbreak, has closed pubs, restaurants and other businesses for at least a month. 145 people with have died from COVID-19 so far in the U.K.
  • “You were close to a coronavirus carrier. You must go into isolation,” reads one text message sent by the Ministry of Health in Israel. The mass cellphone surveillance, previously a secret counterterrorism program, is a now being used as a public-health effort aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus and business:

What happened today?

Canadian companies are laying off thousands of employees in what’s expected to be the first wave of massive job losses as global demand dries up and businesses shut down.

Economists warn this is just the beginning. “My best guess is that we are very likely to do worse in March, 2020, than the worst month in the 1930s,” said one professor of economics.

What happened on the markets today?

The S&P/TSX Composite ended down 2.6 per cent, while the S&P 500 index dropped by 4.3 per cent, capping off the worst week for Canadian and U.S. stocks since 2008, each having lost 14 to 15 per cent.

What it means: Despite efforts by the Bank of Canada and federal and provincial governments, a dramatic slowdown in Canada’s economy is already underway.

Have you had to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus? We’d like to hear your story. Email:

Reader question

Question: Can I arrange playdates?

Answer: Sorry beleaguered parents, your snotty, noisy housemates may be distracting, especially if you’re working from home, but that’s still a hard no. Children are very hands-on when they play. You have to do the social distancing for them. Obviously, if you have more than one child they will interact, but minimize contact with the outside world.

The Globe’s health columnist André Picard answered additional reader questions. Need more answers? Email

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