Good evening, let’s start with the latest developments on the coronavirus outbreak:
Ottawa receives 500,000 new EI applications as coronavirus-related layoffs increase
The picture of the cratering labour market was arrived at through news of waves of layoffs until this afternoon, when Ottawa revealed that half a million people have applied for Employment Insurance benefits in the past four days alone. In the same week a year ago, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 27,000 applications were received.
At the same morning briefing where he delivered those figures, Trudeau announced that the federal government intends to mobilize the manufacturing industry to produce ventilators, hand sanitizer and other supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar efforts have been launched in the United States.
Ontario schools may not reopen this term as Ford mulls complete lockdown of province
In introducing online learning resources today, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province was preparing for the possibility that schools would not reopen this term. Schools in British Columbia and Alberta are closed indefinitely, but in Ontario they are so far only closed until the first week of April. Parents should be “prepared for pretty well anything,” added Premier Doug Ford, including the possibility of a province-wide shutdown.
Earlier today, Manitoba declared a state of emergency over the pandemic, while the federal foreign affairs ministry said it is trying to monitor as many as 4,000 Canadians who are still aboard roughly 70 cruise ships worldwide.
Efforts to contain outbreak have silenced some of the guns in the Middle East – for now
The tense borders where Israel and its neighbours often clash are experiencing a strange silence while authorities in the Middle East turn their attention to a shared enemy: COVID-19. As senior international correspondent Mark MacKinnon reports, it appears now is not the time for an escalation of violence. Officials from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel agree that preventing the spread of the coronavirus is their primary focus.
Elsewhere in the region, virus-weakened Iran will receive no mercy from the United States when it comes to economic sanctions. This week, the Trump administration blacklisted 12 companies for trading in petrochemicals with Iran. Closer to home, U.S. correspondent Adrian Morrow reports, President Donald Trump is using the pandemic crisis to take action against unauthorized entry to the United States that he has long wanted to take.
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Keep track: How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada, by province, and worldwide? Here are latest maps and charts.
Brandy Schillace: “Grief is personal, intimate, crushing. The tether bonding another life to ours has snapped and there is no going back to revisit old joys or old wounds; we can dial the number, but it doesn’t connect. Feeling raw and often shattered, we nevertheless have decisions to make, people to contact, events to plan. In light of the present crisis, there are even more questions and frightening realities to grapple with. Is it safe to gather in grief, as humans have been doing for centuries? Is it ethical to invite others to do the same?”
Lawrence Martin: “Mr. Trump has spent much of his term warring against Washington’s institutions. They were the swamp, the deep state. Now he has to rely on them. Eradicating an epidemic demands a public service that can do things such as organize quick virus-testing for millions. The disempowered bureaucracies have not been up to the task.”
Timothy Caulfield: “Not only is this the era of misinformation, it is also the era of distrust. ... Maintaining and building trust is both absolutely essential and a tremendous challenge. Trust is fragile, hard to earn and easy to lose. While much needs to be done to reverse the distrust trend, I’m hopeful the coronavirus crisis will help to nudge us in the right direction.”
More coronavirus developments from here and abroad:
- Layoffs will impact about 60 per cent of Air Canada’s flight attendant ranks, says the union that represents the workers. More than 5,000 will be laid off between Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge.
- Canadian pot distributors are making delivery of their product less convenient, owing to a surge in demand caused by pandemic-triggered social distancing.
- Israel has turned a secret counterterrorism program into a public health measure by using mass cellphone surveillance to track residents and then text them to say they need to self-isolate.
- Critics turned up the heat today on two U.S. senators who sold millions of dollars worth of stocks ahead of the Wall Street collapse triggered by coronavirus fears.
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ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Attack on Afghanistan base kills 27: A U.S.-Taliban agreement to reduce violence in the region faced a serious test today when 27 security personnel were killed by what Afghanistan calls armed Taliban fighters.
‘Everything’s going wrong at once’: The National FIlm Board’s senior management team is facing harsh internal criticism, but sources express hope that the current low point will bring an opportunity for change.
Relief for Vancouver renters? As market conditions change and demand rises, some Vancouver developers are leaping into the purpose-built rental market.
The Toronto Stock Exchange and Wall Street finished the day down in a fitting end to the worst week for stocks since the financial crisis of 2008. The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed down 318.71 points or 2.6 per cent today, while the Dow Jones industrial average was down 913.21 points or 4.5 per cent.
But in the REIT sector, executives are perplexed by how assets are being valued by the markets, and analysts tend to agree. “Market volatility may very well persist," said one analyst, "but on balance, we believe the appetite for real assets will continue to support the sector.”
- Eric Reguly: The business world’s coronavirus winners and losers
It’s time to spare a thought for our friends in Alberta
Gary Mason: “There may be some who will enjoy the irony of a province that delights in endlessly bashing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government suddenly finding itself at its mercy. Conversely, there will undoubtedly be others in Alberta who feel any bailout is only fair, given the wealth the province has transferred to the rest of the country over the years. I think both perspectives are useless at the moment.”
With a library card, here’s what you can access and stream from home in Halifax, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver
Not everyone can afford subscriptions to multiple sources of online content. Besides, why pay for entertainment and digital resources in a time of social distancing when your local library can hook you up with a wealth of resources that includes not just e-books and audiobooks, but also apps, courses and streaming services? Here’s a snapshot of what’s available from four public-library systems right now.
A collection of The Globe and Mail’s giant crosswords
Homebound and in need of a good puzzle? The Globe has compiled from its archives a selection of giant crosswords published in recent years. Dive in!
LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE (OR NO COMMUTE AT ALL)
Why has Thailand, a hub of Chinese travel, seen so few COVID-19 cases? Epidemiologists are puzzling over it
On Jan. 13, two days before Chinese authorities played down the risk of a new virus spreading between people, authorities in Thailand confirmed their first case of what is now called COVID-19.
Bangkok is one of Asia’s most important travel hubs. Before the outbreak, its airport had more scheduled flights from China than any other country, including 45 a week direct from Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly pandemic. Flights to Bangkok from Wuhan continued until the city began a full lockdown on Jan. 23.
And yet epidemiologists have been puzzled by the fact that Thailand has seen so few cases of COVID-19. While it spread at terrifying speed to tens of thousands of people in South Korea, Italy and now most other countries, the number of confirmed cases in Thailand remains comparatively small: 322, including 50 announced Friday, and just a single death. In nearby Malaysia, authorities have confirmed 1,030 cases and three deaths. Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, meanwhile, have ranked among the world’s most effective jurisdictions in combating the spread of the virus.
Those places all have relatively advanced systems for epidemic detection – Singapore is considered the global leader, while both Malaysia and Thailand have led their peers in Southeast Asia.
But those jurisdictions also share a geography of more southerly latitudes that bring hotter, more humid weather.
The most rapid spread of the virus has taken place in areas with cooler climates: central China, South Korea, Iran, Northern Italy and continental Europe.
It appears that cooler climates “allow the virus to spread further and faster than in the tropics,” said Lam Sai Kit, an emeritus professor at the University of Malaya who is one of Malaysia’s most prominent epidemiologists. "Of course, a lot of other factors are involved. Climate is one. But containment and mitigation measures – lockdowns – all these play a role in controlling the spread of the virus.”
Read Nathan VanderKlippe’s full story here.
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