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

Top headlines

  1. Ottawa speeds up processing on 1.6 million backlogged Employment Insurance claims
  2. Trudeau to recall Parliament for a ‘Team Canada effort’ on emergency relief
  3. Banks will start offering government-backed loans to small businesses next week

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

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Photo of the day

People in Chennai, India, gather for free food, standing on lines drawn in the street to maintain safe distance. The country's lockdown – the largest in the world – has brought its economy to a halt, raising questions about how long Prime Minister Narendra Modi can keep his supporters onside as hardships mount. By Wednesday, the country had recorded 1,590 cases and 45 deaths.

P. RAVIKUMAR/Reuters


Number of the day

$40,000

Banks will offering government-backed loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses as soon as next week. The loans will be interest-free until the end of 2022. The loans are part of a package of measures announced last week by the federal government to support small- and medium-sized businesses.


Coronavirus in Canada

At least 9,550 cases reported, which is more than double the number from five days ago. There have also been at least 1,460 recoveries and 107 deaths. Health officials have administered more than 255,753 tests.

  • In Ontario, Toronto’s health official issued a mandatory order to ensure people with COVID-19, and those suspected of having it, stay in self-isolation. Those who disobey could face fines up to $5,000 a day. Two more residents of the Pinecrest nursing home have died. Fourteen residents and the spouse of a resident have now died.
  • In Quebec, the Premier said one in four nursing homes in the province have at least one case of COVID-19. The government announced new travel restrictions which limit entry into the province to only those with essential work or medical reasons.
  • In Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, work is underway to build makeshift hospitals to accommodate the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients. In B.C., a convention centre will be converted; in Quebec, thousands of hotel rooms are earmarked; and in Ontario, hospitals will lease space in other buildings.
  • In Manitoba, some health-care workers have tested positive, leading to other health workers having to self-isolate.

What are the coronavirus rules in each province? A guide to what’s allowed and open, or closed and banned

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is recalling Parliament again. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the emergency bill passed last week needs legislative amendments to raise the wage subsidy.

  • The Prime Minister said the 75 per cent wage subsidy will only be available to employers who commit to paying the remainder of an employee’s salary.
  • At a press conference in Toronto, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the expanded wage subsidy will cost the federal government $71-billion.

Also today: The government will expedite the process to clear backlogged of 1.6 million EI claims.

  • Of the 2.13 million EI claims received over the last two weeks, only 430,000 have been processed.

The accelerated process will clear 400,000 claims per day.

And: Canada’s response to COVID-19 has been hampered for weeks by shortages of testing supplies and backlogs at laboratories, but the rollout of new Canadian-made testing technology means provinces may soon be able to ramp up testing in a significant way.

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It remains unclear, however, whether health officials will follow the advice of many infectious-disease experts and start using the new technology.


Coronavirus around the world

926,095 cases confirmed around the world; with 193,031 recoveries and 46,413 deaths reported.

  • India’s coronavirus lockdown has sparked mass migrations, an economic catastrophe and a crisis of faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As hundreds of thousands move from cities to the countryside, fears mount of new contagions and a worsening humanitarian disaster.
  • Japan will ban entry to foreigners from 73 countries and ask everyone arriving from abroad to quarantine themselves for two weeks as it struggles to contain the coronavirus; a senior minister warned the country had been pushed “to the brink.”
  • A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it said are “extremely effective” at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells, which eventually could be helpful in treating or preventing COVID-19. The country observed its first rise in cases in five days on Wednesday.
  • In the United States, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo cracked down even harder on public gatherings, calling residents who disregarded stay-at-home rules “selfish” as California’s Governor warned his state will run out of hospital beds by next month.
  • Prince Charles, who has recovered after testing positive for coronavirus, praised the selfless devotion of health care workers. Britain is in a state of virtual lockdown, with the public told they must stay at home other than for essential trips.
  • Watch: A group of American students have tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from their spring break trip in Mexico.
  • Watch: While most European countries go into lockdown, Sweden has allowed restaurants, bars and schools to stay open, simply asking citizens to observe social distancing.

Coronavirus and business:

What happened today?

Canadian medical device startups are getting major boost this week as the federal signed deals with domestic companies to secure medical supplies.

  • Ottawa announced deals with two startups: Spartan BioScience, which makes portable DNA testing machines, and Thornhill Research, which makes portable intensive care units.
  • Normally, government procurement deals take months to complete but the $78-million contract closed just five days after Ottawa signed a letter of intent with Spartan.

Observers in the innovation sector say the speed at which these deals have come together stands in stark contrast to normal times, when cash-starved startups either didn’t have the time to wait out long public-sector procurement cycles or found themselves frozen out as buyers turned to larger, more established suppliers.


Reader question

Question: We’re being asked to wash our hands constantly but why not wash our faces? Since our ears are connected to our nose and throat, why don’t doctors tell us to not touch our ears?

Answer: Regular handwashing is recommended. Not touching your face – and your mouth and nose in particular – is also important. That’s because the coronavirus enters the body principally through the mouth and nose. Viruses rarely enter the body through the ears – even those that give us earaches – because they are not an efficient entry point.

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


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 audience@globeandmail.com

Phil Tucker used his personal 3D printer to make a prototype for face shields.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

These Canadians are using their skills to make medical supplies

Phil Tucker downloaded a popular template for a medical face shield with a plastic headband – essentially a splash guard for your face – to make using his personal 3D printer. His printer’s been running ever since.

He is part of a group of Canadians using their expertise to produce much-needed medical supplies for the health care workers fighting COVID-19. Tinkerers have come together in a group called Project Northern Lights, an effort to design, build and deliver everything from masks to portable intensive care units.

The project has attracted a small army of developers, engineers and designers, all looking to help fight the pandemic. Read more.


Distractions

Here are some recommendations for what to read, watch and activities to do.

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Joel Plaskett to give virtual performance on The Globe website this Thursday

Joel Plaskett has done a lot of adapting in his life.

The Juno-award winning singer and songwriter spent the nineties playing power pop with his high-school best friends, the 2000s toying with Americana, rock and traditional folk, and the 2010s becoming an entrepreneur with his own studio and storefront. Along the way, he’s toured the country countless times, and won legions of devoted fans.

Now he’s staying isolated like the rest of us – just as he prepares to release 44, an ambitious quadruple-record box set that celebrates sounds and collaborators from across his career.

Join us for a special in-studio show Thursday night

Musician Joel Plaskett poses in Dartmouth, N.S. on Sunday, March 29, 2020. Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail


Information centre:

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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 globeandmail.com. 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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