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

Top headlines
  1. Air Canada temporarily lays off more than 16,000 as pandemic takes toll on air travel.
  2. Trudeau says businesses, non-profits, charities all eligible for wage subsidy.
  3. Nine residents die, 34 staff suffer symptoms as coronavirus devastates Bobcaygeon, Ont. nursing home

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People wearing face masks hug on the East Lake in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre of China's coronavirus disease.ALY SONG/Reuters

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Air Canada will start to temporarily lay off 16,500 people – half its work force – this week.

  • “Other than returning the remaining Canadians home and continuing a skeleton operation, we will be essentially ‘closed for business’ for most of the quarter,” said an internal Air Canada memo obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Also today: WestJet said it is cancelling all transatlantic and U.S. routes until May 4. The company has seen 6,900 departures including early retirements, resignations and both voluntary and involuntary leaves.

The airline sector has shed thousands of jobs since the pandemic hit. Almost half the world’s airlines will run out of cash and fail unless governments provide bailouts, a global air carrier group said last week.

Coronavirus in Canada

7,312: cases reported, which is more than double the number from five days ago. There have also been 959 recoveries and 69 deaths.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer said there is a surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta pose the greatest concern.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered additional details on the government’s 75-per-cent wage subsidy announced late last week.

  • The subsidy will be available to large and small companies as well as charities and non-profit organizations in an effort to keep employees on the payroll and help businesses survive.
  • “If your businesses revenues have decreased by at least 30 per cent because of COVID-19, you will be eligible for this subsidy," the Prime Minister said.
  • The wage subsidy will be backdated until March 15.

The estimated fiscal cost of the new program will be announced later.

Also: The Prime Minister said the Canadian Armed Forces stand ready to assist provinces if they request support, but noted that so far the military has not been asked to intervene.

Coronavirus around the world

766,380: cases confirmed around the world; with 160,494 recoveries and 36,877 deaths reported.

  • In the United States, the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 30,000 people in New York City, is beginning to take a toll on those who are most needed to combat it: the doctors, nurses and other workers at hospitals and clinics. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the House to approve a fourth bill boosting the economy and strengthening the response to the virus.
  • China ramped up efforts to heal the world’s second-biggest economy as health authorities reported a further drop in new coronavirus cases, although the country remains wary of carriers of the disease coming from abroad and infected people who exhibit no symptoms.
  • Police in India fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of migrant workers defying a three-week lockdown against the coronavirus that has left hundreds of thousands without jobs and hungry, authorities said.
  • Watch: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, began self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms just days after Johnson himself tested positive.
  • Thieves stole a painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh early on Monday from the Netherlands’ Singer Laren Museum, which is closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Prince Charles ended his self-isolation after testing positive for the virus last week.
  • The sudden rise in the number of virus cases in Tokyo and the government’s strong actions immediately after the Olympic postponement have raised questions in parliament and among citizens about whether Japan understated the extent of the outbreak.

Coronavirus and business:

What happened today?

Hundreds of Canadian airline employees are in quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19 and at least 14 have tested positive for the virus, prompting calls for better protection and training from the unions representing flight attendants and pilots.

  • The union which represents flight attendants is calling on airlines and the federal government to provide flight crews with face shields and gowns in addition to better training on the safe use of masks and gloves to prevent more employees from contacting the virus.
  • Airline employees need access to COVID-19 tests with quick results, said the union which represents pilots at WestJet, Air Transat and several smaller domestic carriers.

Flight attendants are required to go into a 14-day paid period of quarantine if there is a confirmed case of the coronavirus on their flight. There have been 188 flights in Canada with a COVID-19 case from March 13 to March 20, according to the federal government.

Also: Two more Canadian banks cut prime rates by 50 basis points.

  • National Bank and Laurentian joined the Big Five banks in decreasing lending rates to match the Bank of Canada’s unscheduled interest rate announcement last Friday.
Coronavirus and the markets:
  • On Bay Street: The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 2.76 per cent.
  • On Wall Street: The Dow rose 3.19 per cent. The S&P 500 gained 3.35 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite finished the day up 3.62 per cent.

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

Reader question

Question: Do people with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell?

Answer: There are reports that early symptoms of COVID-19 can include anosmia (loss of smell) and dysgeusia (loss of taste). But the principal symptoms remain a dry cough, chills and fever.

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

More Globe reporting and opinion:

An act of kindness

Have you witnessed or performed acts of kindness in your neighbourhood? Share your stories, photos and videos and they might be included in the Globe and Mail. Email

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Almeera Khalid is the first in her family to graduate from a Canadian university. Her school, the University of Toronto, cancelled spring convocation because of coronavirus.Melissa Tait

Love is not cancelled: How Almeera Khalid celebrated graduating university

When she was stuck on a long commute or immersed in her studies, Almeera Khalid would sometimes let her mind drift to the flowing black gown she would wear at convocation. She had imagined the moment she would cross the stage at the University of Toronto’s picturesque Convocation Hall, clutching her diploma. “I just really wanted my family to be there and see, this is what I was working toward Those times when I didn’t know I could do it, this is exactly what I was working for. I could walk down the stage and know that it was worth it,” she said.

The moment held extra poignancy because Ms. Khalid is the first in her family to graduate from a Canadian university. She works full-time to pay her way through school and commutes 90 minutes each way from her family’s home in Mississauga.

The University of Toronto, like many Canadian schools, has been forced to cancel spring convocation as part of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The event typically brings more than 50,000 people to campus over 32 ceremonies, so doesn’t comply with efforts to promote physical distancing.

Many students have asked the university to consider holding convocation at a later date and the university is considering what options may be available. Although they understand and support the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, Ms. Khalid said it’s still difficult to hear that the moment they’ve worked toward may not happen.

Ms. Khalid, 21, who is graduating with a double major in criminology and ethics, said she plans to go to law school eventually.

“A lot of my friends and I, we still have our old high-school gowns, so we are going to do our own graduation if it’s not [held by the university],” she said.​


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