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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top coronavirus stories:

Return to work will be graduated, likely months off, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that efforts to return Canadians to work will happen in a “measured, graduated way” that allows for more economic activity without causing further outbreaks.

He said that it would be a “few months, probably” before Canada can consider relaxing protective measures that have most people staying at home and many businesses closed or working at partial capacity. Other highlights from his daily press briefing:

  • Canada summer jobs program: Companies that didn’t meet the original deadline of Feb. 28 are able to apply for funding. The subsidy will cover up to 100 per cent of the cost of hiring students. The program is extend until February, 2021, as many summer jobs will be delayed.
  • Canada emergency wage subsidy: Trudeau confirmed revisions to draft legislation that will give employers greater flexibility to access the program, as first reported by The Globe and Mail. Employers will be able to use January or February as the comparison months under certain conditions, instead of the same month in 2019. For March, companies will only be required to show a 15-per-cent reduction in revenue, not 30 per cent.

In business news: Air Canada says it will tap the wage subsidy program retroactively to March 15 to “retain or return” employees laid off amid the pandemic. On March 30, it said half its workforce – 16,500 flight attendants, pilots, service agents and others – would be laid off, but today did not say how many would be rehired.

Canada’s largest airline’s move stands in contrast to that of Tim Hortons parent, Restaurant Brands International, which said yesterday it would not apply for the 75-per-cent wage subsidy for any of its corporate staff, saying that big businesses are not the best focus for the funding. RBI earlier lobbied Ottawa to expand the subsidy from the originally proposed 10-per-cent level, arguing that its franchisees are small businesses in need of support.

In other company news, Maple Leaf Foods is suspending operations in its poultry plant in Brampton, Ont., after three employees there tested positive for COVID-19. The company says it’s deep cleaning the facility as it completes an investigation.

What some business are doing to help customers during the pandemic:

  • Allstate Insurance Company of Canada is spending $30-million in car insurance rebates for all its customers.
  • Vancity credit union is temporarily cutting credit-card interest rates to zero and deferring minimum payments for those facing financial difficulty.
  • And as reported earlier this week, Royal Bank of Canada has retrained hundreds of staff to build custom financial relief plans for personal banking clients who are in the most severe financial stress.

International developments: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at a London hospital, but his condition has been improving.

In China, today marked what state media called the “unsealing of Wuhan,” a watershed end to a 76-day lockdown of the city where the coronavirus pandemic began. In photos: A look at Wuhan as it reopens to cheers

In Africa, leaders are rallying to the defence of the World Health Organization and its Ethiopian director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump attacked the agency. At a news conference yesterday, Trump threatened to freeze U.S. funding for WHO, alleging it “called it wrong” by failing to move aggressively enough in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The personal toll: The outbreak has forced Jean Truchon, a Montreal man who was instrumental in challenging the country’s assisted-dying laws, to hasten his own death. The 51-year-old, who was in a long-term care facility, received medical aid in dying yesterday afternoon.

And last night, the world found out that esteemed singer-songwriter John Prine, whose works include Angel from Montgomery, Sam Stone, Hello in There and scores of other tunes, had died at 73 from COVID-19 complications. You can read Brad Wheeler’s appreciation here.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Sanders drops presidential bid: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has ended his challenge for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination, conceding the race to former vice-president Joe Biden and saying he wanted to focus his efforts on combating the coronavirus pandemic.

BlackBerry uncovers China-backed hackers: BlackBerry says its researchers have uncovered how China-backed hackers have been able to extract data from many of the world’s servers for a decade – largely without being noticed by cybersecurity.

MARKET WATCH

World equity markets moved higher and oil prices stabilized today on hopes the coronavirus pandemic is getting close to peaking and that more government stimulus measures could be on the way.

Canada’s main stock index gained, lifted by energy shares tracking stronger oil prices. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 311.57 points or 2.29 per cent at 13,925.71.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 779.71 points or 3.44 per cent to 23,433.57, the S&P 500 gained 90.57 points or 3.41 per cent to end at 2,749.98 and the Nasdaq Composite added 203.64 points or 2.58 per cent to close at 8,090.90.

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TALKING POINTS

Alberta separation was a bad idea to begin with – but COVID-19 has shown it’s never going to happen

“As Albertans stare at the possibility of an economic downturn that’s reminiscent of the Great Depression, some of them are realizing that they could use a little help from their friends – even the ones they don’t particularly like.” - Max Fawcett, journalist

How will British government keep calm and carry on – with their leader in the ICU?

“What is clear is that there is only the prime minister; there is no option of an acting or temporary PM. In short, you are prime minister until you resign or you die. You can farm out the work to others if you like, but you still remain the person nominally in charge.” - Simon Usherwood, politics professor, University of Surrey, U.K.

Removing seniors from care homes is not the solution to coronavirus fears

“So what should we do? We should protect seniors where they live. ... Going forward, we need new consistent policies for homes across the country that lay out clear information on outbreak prevention and control in seniors’ facilities.” - Roger Wong, clinical professor of geriatric medicine, University of British Columbia

LIVING BETTER

Looking to enhance customer service and increase profitability, Canadian restaurants have long asked for the ability to offer customers wine and beer with their take-away and delivery orders. That wish was granted when numerous provincial governments temporarily changed liquor laws to help bars and restaurants stay afloat and keep staff employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how it works. Sign up here to get the latest on wine and food delivered right to your inbox every Wednesday with the Good Taste newsletter.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE - OR SOME PHYSICAL DISTANCING DOWNTIME

(Photo by Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

The science behind why everyone is suddenly baking bread

If you’ve seen an influx of sourdough starters on your Instagram stories, you’re not alone. Over the past three weeks, Google Trend searches for “bread” have hit all-time highs, #breadmaking has garnered nearly half a million posts on social media and grocery stores are facing flour shortages.

“Eating carbohydrate foods like bread stimulates insulin, which raises the uptake by the brain of the essential amino acid, tryptophan,” says Harvey Anderson, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. “Tryptophan in the brain increases production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes calm and sleep in times of stress. So enjoy your fresh bread, just don't eat the whole loaf at one time.”

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from first-year psychology? The five-level pyramid is another reason we’re indulging in carb therapy. Providing warm food for ourselves and others incites a primal sense of security, while learning a new skill elicits positive feelings of accomplishment related to personal growth. During periods of high stress and hardship, the motivation to fulfill these needs becomes stronger. Read Louise Johnson’s full story here.

Read more: 21 upscale comfort food recipes for trying times.

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