Good morning, these are the top stories:
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus:
Nearly half of Canada’s COVID-19 cases are now being acquired through community spread, a significant shift as the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths mounts across the country.
One reason for the spike is that COVID-19 is now spreading widely across Canada and is no longer confined to travellers returning from overseas.
Public-health experts say Canada faces a crucial few weeks during which hospitals will have an influx of severely ill patients that will strain their resources.
The Liberal government announced late Monday that it has agreed to change draft legislation that proposed to grant itself sweeping powers to tax and spend without parliamentary approval until the end of next year, through an emergency spending bill.
While a draft version of the bill includes sections aimed at adopting some of the fiscal measures announced last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, it would go well beyond those measures and includes provisions that would give the minority government the power to act unilaterally for 21 months.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement late Monday announcing the Official Opposition will not support a bill that gives the government unlimited powers to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote.
“In a crisis, broad, all-party agreement is essential, especially when the government has a minority in the House of Commons,” he said. “We will authorize whatever spending measures are justified to respond to the situation, but we will not sign a blank cheque.”
Just after 11 p.m. Eastern, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez announced that changes would be made to the bill.
Meanwhile, the Ontario and Quebec governments have announced the near-complete shutdown of their provinces’ economies. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced plans for non-essential businesses to close across the province, but said food, medicine and “essential products” would remain available.
The order would come into effect tonight at 11:59 and last for 14 days, but could be extended if necessary.
Quebec Premier François Legault made a similar announcement, mandating that all non-essential businesses in Quebec were to close Tuesday night until April 13. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, media and a few other services will be allowed to stay open. Companies that can operate with employees working remotely can also continue.
Today, Ontario is expected to announce it is temporarily slashing hydro rates for families, farmers and small businesses to help offset the costs of working from home and self-isolation.
Province to province
On Monday morning, the RCMP began stopping vehicles going from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, questioning drivers and ordering them into self-isolation under the terms of a state of emergency that Nova Scotia declared on Sunday. The government made exceptions for commercial trucks, medical staff and other essential services, while some out-of-province drivers opted to turn back. It is believed to be the first time that travel across the provincial boundary has been restricted since before Confederation.
The United States
Running directly counter to the warnings of public health officials and virtually every other top politician fighting the outbreak, Donald Trump suggested that the United States should back off on measures meant to control the spread of the virus as soon as next week because social distancing is hurting the economy.
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” the President said.
Trump spoke on the same day the United States reached 43,000 confirmed infections and more than 500 deaths with no end in sight. Several more states imposed shutdowns, placing about 100 million Americans under social restrictions.
Meanwhile, Congress tried to negotiate a US$1.6-trillion economic stimulus package that would include bailouts for industries affected by closings, and cash payments for Americans. Senate Democrats refused to help the Republican majority pass the bill until provisions were included to ensure bailout funds weren’t used to help executives and shareholders rather than front-line workers.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a near total lockdown of the country for at least three weeks as Britain grapples with how to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, which is moving at a rapid pace. People can go out only to buy food, exercise once a day, visit a doctor or travel to work if their job can’t be done at home. All shops other than grocery stores have also been closed, and gatherings of more than two people banned.
The South African government is mobilizing its military to enforce a strict 21-day lockdown on the entire country. The ban on citizen movement, beginning Thursday night, will become the biggest lockdown on the African continent. And it is being imposed at an earlier stage than in most other countries worldwide that have tried the same strategy. South Africa has not been hit as badly by the novel coronavirus as many other countries. But based on global trends and its own projections, the government believes it could see hundreds of thousands of cases in South Africa within a few weeks if nothing is done.
Even with the largest manufacturing industry on Earth, a fast-growing capacity to build medical devices and a history of making the goods the world needs at record speed, Chinese manufacturers and international buyers are warning against placing too much faith in China’s manufacturing colossus.
“They’re meeting the demands of the Chinese people. But is there any extra for the rest of the world? There is, but there’s not much,” said Stephen Budisa, a Canadian-Australian who owns Panxi Trading Co., which has sought to source protective masks and suits.
Coping, and Copland
Last week, home-bound members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra recorded an excerpt from Aaron Copland’s uplifting Appalachian Spring, which was originally commissioned in 1942 with a world deep at war. The calming melody of the excerpt was inspired by the traditional Shaker song, Simple Gifts. Each of the 29 musicians played their parts individually and remotely from their various domiciles, united only by a metronome and a common cause. The resulting video was posted Sunday on YouTube.
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- What can I do about COVID-19?
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- If you think you have the virus
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- How to self-isolate
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Global equities rebounded almost 2 per cent on Tuesday, off near four-year lows, and the dollar slipped as investors pinned hopes on unprecedented stimulus steps by the U.S Federal Reserve and other policymakers to ease strains in financial markets. The prospect had not cheered Wall Street for very long on Monday, with losses of 2-3 per cent on major indexes, but the mood improved on Tuesday, possibly as many other central banks and governments looked set to join the fray. Wall Street futures pointed to stocks opening 4 per cent higher, while a pan-European equity index also rallied a similar amount.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
What happens after the pandemic curve flattens?
Michael Wolfson: “Planning for the phase after – the time we begin relaxing the social-distancing measures – can and should start happening now.” Michael Wolfson, PhD, is a former assistant chief statistician at Statistics Canada and a member of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa
TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON
All hail Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, original king of social distancing
With HBO having just aired the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Barry Hertz looks at how the superlatively awkward cringe-comedy from the maestro of misanthropy offered a rather spooky bit of prescient television. Curb has always revealed, and revelled in, our desire to embrace our inner crank. And if we didn’t learn and adopt the power of Larry’s leave-me-alone philosophy then, well, we’d best embrace it now. Our self-isolating society demands it.
Binge-watching guide: The recent shows you need to catch up on, all available to stream
Whether you’re looking for serious-minded or fun content, critically acclaimed shows or overlooked gems, TV critic John Doyle has recommendations for you – all available on streaming services, online or on demand
MOMENT IN TIME
Starting in the 16th century, fur trapping and trading became one of the main economic motivators keeping Europeans in North America. The beaver had a fine pelt prized in Europe for making hats, and the furs created a new industry that involved British, French and Indigenous people. As trading posts and forts spread, loyalties shifted, creating a turbulent time of alliances and igniting a battle for domination of the industry. Eventually, beaver populations fell almost to the point of extinction before Europe lost interest in the fur. In the 1920s and 30s, Grey Owl, a British immigrant who falsely claimed Indigenous heritage, wrote books and gave lectures appealing for the conservation of the species. Restrictions on beaver trapping were subsequently introduced. On this day in 1975, the beaver was declared an official symbol of Canadian sovereignty. The history of Castor canadensis is an essential component of the history of Canada itself, as the fur trade was a significant factor in the country’s exploration and settlement. Today, the iconic animal is common on coats of arms, brand logos, stamps, the nickel and, most importantly, in the wild. – Julianna Perkins