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

Top headlines
  1. Nearly one million Canadians have applied for employment insurance after sweeping shutdowns.
  2. Liberals pull controversial tax-and-spend measure from emergency aid bill.
  3. Ontario to slash hydro rates as work force stays home.
  4. The World Health Organization says the United States could become new coronavirus epicentre.

Have questions about the coronavirus? Email The Globe’s paywall has been removed on coronavirus news stories.

Employees eat their lunch while staying two meters away from each other at an automotive manufacturer in Wuhan, China. The Dongfeng Passenger Vehicle Company resumed production while following epidemic prevention and control rules.

wanghe/Getty Images

Number of the day

5 per cent

Nearly one million people, or 5 per cent of all employees in Canada, applied for unemployment benefits in the past week.

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  • The government received an estimated 929,000 EI claims in the week of March 16-22, during a period of escalating social isolation requirements across the country. The national unemployment rate may have nearly doubled in just seven days.

Layoff numbers could climb again as Ontario and Quebec implement bans on all non-essential businesses tonight.

Coronavirus in Canada

2,583: cases in Canada reported; with 112 recoveries and 25 deaths.

In Ottawa, the House met briefly at noon, then suspended. Behind-the-scenes negotiations continued on emergency spending legislation. As of 6:30 p.m. ET, no deal had yet been reached. This is a developing story, check here for updates.

Earlier today: “I believe in our democratic institutions,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at his daily press conference. Late last night, the government removed from the draft spending bill a measure that would allow tax-and-spend powers without parliamentary approval for 21 months. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the move a “power grab.”

Also today: As Ottawa prepares a multibillion-dollar oil and gas sector bailout, an open letter from environmental and labour groups called on the federal government to make workers and families, not corporations, the top priority. “Giving billions of dollars to failing oil and gas companies will not help workers,” the letter said. Actions requested in the letter include:

  • Income support for oil and gas workers, including more access to EI;
  • Retraining programs in “emerging low-carbon sectors"; and
  • Money to hire workers to clean abandoned wells.

Bailout funds should be in line with established federal priorities, namely fighting climate change, said Julia Levin of Environmental Defence.

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Coronavirus around the world

  • The United States has the potential to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic because of a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said. Despite the surge in cases, President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. economy should open up again by mid-April.
  • Britain’s newly imposed lockdown has gotten off to a confusing start with growing uncertainty over who should go to work and how the measures will be enforced.
  • As social distancing measures ease up throughout China, Beijing’s roads and restaurants are growing crowded and scientists warn a second coronavirus wave is “inevitable.”
  • A sudden drop in foreign tourists due to coronavirus has forced the closing of dozens of elephant parks and similar tourist attractions, putting more than 1,000 elephants in Thailand out of work and endangering their futures.
  • Watch: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government would impose a nationwide lockdown from midnight for 21 days to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Two front-line Italian COVID-19 doctors share their stories of fatigue, sorrow and hope with The Globe’s Eric Reguly

Around the world: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized countries to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus and business:

What happened today?

The S&P/TSX Composite Index surged 11.96 per cent, lifted by hopes of a federal stimulus packages.

Also today: Small-business owners are scrambling to pay next month’s rent with minimal revenue coming in. Landlords say they also have bills to pay. Business groups say the government should cover some rent for affected small businesses.

  • Previously, business groups called for Ottawa cover a significant share of employee wages to prevent mass layoffs.

Elsewhere: Rob Carrick has tips for financial survival during the pandemic. Three things to do this week:

  • Stop the self-flagellation about your stock market losses;
  • Create a “wartime” family budget to slash costs where required;
  • Prepare for your bank to get nosy about your finances.

This is Rob Carrick’s Pandemic Personal Finance Update, practical tips and actionable ideas to manage personal finances during difficult times. Email your questions to

Reader question

Question: What do Ontario and Quebec consider “essential” businesses in a coronavirus pandemic?

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Answer: Ontario and Quebec have ordered all non-essential businesses to be closed, at least in physical offices or stores.

An overview of key similarities for “essential services":

  • Food: Grocery and convenience stores are open, as are restaurants (takeout and delivery only) and businesses involved in food production or delivery. That includes pet-food stores.
  • Liquor: The LCBO and SAQ will continue to operate, but check with the stores near you to find out how their hours are affected.
  • Laundry: Laundromats and dry cleaners are open.
  • Utilities: Energy, water, telecom and garbage-collection utilities will continue to run. Check with your local municipality to learn more about whether billing for those utilities has been waived or postponed near you.
  • Shelters: Both provinces have deemed shelters for homeless people and victims of domestic violence essential.

Emergency measures have restricted business in other provinces, but these bans in Ontario and Quebec are the furthest-reaching so far. The full definition of essential services from governments in Ontario and Quebec is available in our guide.

In Ontario, the ban takes effect tonight at 11:59 p.m.; in Quebec, the ban takes effect tomorrow, 12:01 a.m.

Need more answers? E-mail

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In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

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