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Pedestrians walk in the rain along Ste. Catherine street Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Latest headlines:

How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada, by province, and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge, left, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday, April 27, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. Quebec Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe, right, looks on.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

9:40 p.m. EDT

Canadian doctors notice recent uptick in so-called COVID toes cases in children

A Toronto doctor is suggesting that parents look at their children’s feet to see if there are unusual lesions around the toes that could be a sign of possible COVID-19 infection.

Dr. Elena Pope, the pediatric dermatology section head at the Hospital for Sick Children, said there has been an uptick in skin presentations of this nature – so-called COVID toes – in otherwise asymptomatic kids over the last few weeks in North America.

“The kids are not really bothered by those lesions and I think that’s why it took a while for this to come to the forefront,” she said. “If they were not bothered by it, they maybe didn’t actually report it to their parents … most of the lesions disappear on their own. They fade over time.”

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Pope said there have been some cases where fingers are affected as well. The lesions have a red or purple colour and look similar to frostbite.

The Canadian Pediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) issued a public health alert to clinicians this week, advising that these skin lesions should prompt COVID-19 testing. Pope and Dr. Irene Lara-Corrales, a pediatric dermatologist at Sick Kids, helped craft the alert.

- Canadian Press

8:40 p.m. EDT

Union trying to stop Alberta meat plant with COVID-19 outbreak from reopening

A union is trying to halt the planned reopening of an Alberta beef-packing plant that has been the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak.

There have been 921 cases of the virus at the Cargill plant south of Calgary, which has 2,000 workers.

Cargill announced April 20 it was temporarily shutting down for two weeks.

It said earlier this week that one shift would resume work on Monday with bolstered safety measures.

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Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw has said Alberta Health Services officials have done on-site inspections and have been assured the facility is safe.

But Thomas Hesse with the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 401 says workers are scared and it has sought a stop-work order from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety.

The union has also filed an unfair labour practice complaint against Cargill and the Alberta government.

Hesse said the Labour Relations Board and OHS have the power to shut the plant down quickly, and both sides are having discussions.

- Canadian Press

6:50 p.m. EDT

Alberta launches Canada’s first COVID-19 mobile contact-tracing app

Alberta is launching a voluntary mobile app to expand contact tracing for COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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It’s believed to be the first of its kind in North America and is based on similar apps in Singapore, South Korea and Australia.

The app, once downloaded, uses Bluetooth to identify any other nearby phones that have the same app.

Anyone with the app who later contracts COVID-19 will be asked to upload the data to Alberta Health Services, which will use it to reach out to those who came in contact with the person.

The government says no identifiable information is exchanged between users.

It says any data that is collected is encrypted on the phone, and mobile numbers are never revealed to other app users.

Officials say they are working closely with the information and privacy commissioner and that no geo-location data will be collected.

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The plan is not mandatory; users can opt in or out.

- Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

Thousands apply for B.C.’s $1,000 tax-worker benefit in first minutes available

Finance Minister Carole James says thousands of people applied for British Columbia’s $1,000 tax-free emergency benefit in the first minutes of the program going online today.

She says more than 16,000 people registered to receive the one-time B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers in the first 45 minutes.

James says the program is part of the province’s $5 billion plan to help people, businesses and organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also available to people in B.C. who are receiving the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit of $2,000 a month.

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To get the B.C. benefit, people must have been a resident of the province on March 15, be eligible and approved to receive the federal benefit, be at least 15 years old on the application date, and have filed or agreed to file a 2019 tax return.

James says people receiving provincial income or disability assistance are not eligible for the benefit.

- Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

COVID-19 outbreak at Amazon warehouse in Alberta

Alberta is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 at an Amazon warehouse north of Calgary.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical health officer, says there are five cases at the site at Balzac.

Overall there are 218 new cases of the illness in the province, bringing the total to 5,573.

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Hinshaw says an additional three people have died — all at continuing care centres that also have outbreaks of COVID-19.

So far, 92 people have died in Alberta and 2,359 people have recovered.

- Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

COVID-19 outbreaks in 23 First Nations prompting concerns

Federal officials say the next two weeks will be crucial in trying to determine the scope and severity of the spread of COVID-19 in First Nations communities.

Cases of the virus have begun to present within Indigenous communities across Canada, including the first case in Nunavut – something health officials have been bracing for, given the many vulnerabilities among Indigenous populations.

Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health at Indigenous Services Canada, says it’s too early yet to determine the severity of these outbreaks and whether the situation will worsen.

An outbreak in the Dene village of La Loche in Northern Saskatchewan has prompted deployment of rapid testing and health workers to the area to help contain the spread.

Wong says federal officials are working closely with First Nations leaders, provinces and territories to stop the spread of the virus that is now known to be in 23 Indigenous communities across Canada.

He says officials will be watching closely over the next two weeks in the hopes they see the current rise in cases on First Nations begin to curve downward.

- Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

Saskatchewan dealing with fast-spreading COVID-19 outbreak in far north

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says a rapidly spreading outbreak of COVID-19 in a remote northern community is concerning.

Dr. Saqib Shahab says 19 of the 26 newest cases come from in and around La Loche, a Dene village about 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, where the virus is spreading through community transmission after initially arriving by travel from northern Alberta.

Health officials say they have ramped up testing and contact tracing, and staff will be going door-to-door to connect with residents.

Despite an outbreak in the north and at two hospitals, Shahab says the rest of the province remains quiet.

The government has declared an outbreak at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert after a patient tested positive for COVID-19.

The CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority also says officials should have informed people sooner about an outbreak at a hospital in Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan-Alberta boundary where staff and patients have been infected.

Saskatchewan has had 415 COVID-19 cases, with 297 people recovered.

- Canadian Press

1:35 p.m. EDT

Quebec targets 100,000 tests a week

Quebec says it will begin administering about 100,000 COVID-19 tests per week as the province gradually reopens.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of public health, said today the province’s new testing strategy will be up and running – administering up to 14,000 tests a day – by the end of next week.

Arruda estimates about 3 per cent of Quebec’s population has been infected with COVID-19, representing about 250,000 people.

He says Quebec currently administers about 7,000 tests a day.

- Canadian Press

12:50 p.m. EDT

Tam says Canadians should seek medical assistance for other ailments

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says despite the pandemic, Canadians should seek whatever treatment and help for any other health concerns they have.

She says physical distancing seems to have worked to bend the curve of COVID-19 cases in the country and public health experts across the country have been impressed by how thoroughly Canadians have followed their advice and orders.

But she says it’s also important to get other conditions treated, even if it means consulting a doctor only by phone or online.

She added that everyone needs to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep, despite the stress and limitations imposed by the pandemic.

- Canadian Press

12:45 p.m. EDT

Freeland asks landlords to work with tenants on rent payments

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is calling on landlords to show compassion to renters facing difficulty meeting their May 1 deadline because of COVID-19 difficulties.

She says if a tenant has lost income, now is a good time for a landlord to support their neighbours and their country in a time of crisis.

Freeland says it is also a time for banks to be thoughtful about the mortgage payments that landlords must pay.

- Canadian Press

11:50 a.m. EDT

Nova Scotia’s death toll rises by one to 29

Nova Scotia is reporting another death related to COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 29.

The death occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality.

The province is reporting 12 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 959.

There are 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 237 residents and 105 staff.

Nova Scotia is renewing its state of emergency for another two weeks, to run until May 17.

- Canadian Press

10:45 a.m. EDT

Quebec education minister nixes half days, masks for teachers returning to class

Quebec’s education minister says elementary schools will be open for full days when they begin reopening in mid-May.

Jean-Francois Roberge told a virtual parliamentary session Thursday that the idea of half days proposed by opposition parties wasn’t a compromise he was willing to make.

He says it would cut students’ total time back in class in half in most of the province, to about three weeks instead of six.

The province announced earlier this week it would reopen elementary schools outside Montreal on May 11 and in the Greater Montreal area on May 19, with high school students returning in the fall.

The government has stressed that a return to class will be voluntary and classes will have a maximum of 15 students.

Opposition legislators grilled Roberge on the lack of a firm plan, but the minister insisted the province is not improvising.

He says in the event of staff shortages at elementary schools, his department is looking at drawing on teachers and janitors from high schools and using those facilities to house overflow elementary students if needed.

He also said public health officials haven’t recommended giving teachers masks, but said teachers could wear a scarf in class.

- The Canadian Press

10:34 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports 421 new COVID-19 cases and 39 more deaths

Ontario is reporting 421 new COVID-19 cases today, and 39 more deaths.

The province has now seen 16,608 cases, an increase of 2.6 per cent over the previous day.

The total includes 1,121 deaths and 10,825 resolved cases.

Figures on COVID-19’s impact in long-term care homes, which come from a separate database than the provincial numbers, show 26 more residents died in the past day.

There are now outbreaks at 166 long-term care homes, up from 163 on Thursday.

In the previous day there were 16,532 tests completed, an increase of 3,604 tests over a 24 hour period.

- The Canadian Press

Her Majesty's Penitentiary, a minimum-security facility in St. John's, is seen in a 2011 file photo.

Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

10:20 a.m. EDT

Inmates released under public health emergency

Newfoundland and Labrador has released 65 inmates under the public health emergency declared March 18th.

The Department of Justice says 53 inmates have been released from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s — and 12 women have been released from the Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville.

Inmates were released through a combination of time served, court-led processes and temporary absence options.

There have been no COVID-19 outbreaks in the province’s correctional centres.

- The Canadian Press

8:20 a.m. EDT

PEI restarts non-urgent health-care services

Prince Edward Island is poised today to become the second province to cautiously begin a gradual return to normal.

It will restart priority, non-urgent health-care services, including some elective surgeries and certain health providers, including physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors. And it will begin allowing outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households.

PEI’s chief public health officer says it’s unlikely the government will allow any large gatherings this summer — and that includes concerts, weddings and festivals.

P.E.I. follows New Brunswick’s move last week to allow limited golfing, fishing and hunting; interactions between two families; and a return to school for post-secondary students.

Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are also planning to ease some restrictions.

Quebec, which has seen the largest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, is set to reopen retail stores outside Montreal on Monday, with those in Montreal to follow on May 11. Schools and daycares outside Montreal are set to re-open May 11 as well.

The federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, unveiled earlier this week national guidelines for re-opening shuttered businesses and allowing Canadians to resume more normal activities.

- The Canadian Press

7 a.m. EDT

Montreal institute to test robot that uses UV rays to disinfect

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre says it will soon conduct the first Canadian test of a robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect.

The Montreal institute moved to order the robot just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging in China and Europe to see if the technology could be useful to Canada. A first robot arrived Monday for testing purposes.

The robot will also be tested in other Quebec locations before a decision is made on purchasing the $120,000 device.

“We are going to test its mobility, if it is able to go to our rooms, in all corners, if UV light touches all parts of the room, and in addition if the robot is able to enter the bathrooms (in private rooms) and completely disinfect them,” said Dr. Bruce Mazer, interim executive director and acting chief scientific officer of the research institute.

The robot can also be used to disinfect an operating room. Its effectiveness will also be tested on various objects, such as sheets, stretchers and even N95 masks.

- The Canadian Press

6:30 a.m. EDT

C.D. Howe says Canada has entered a recession

The C.D. Howe Institute’s Business Cycle Council says Canada has entered a recession due to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a report released today, the council says the economy peaked in February before the steps taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus brought the economy to a standstill.

A commonly used definition for a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative quarter-over-quarter economic growth.

However, the C.D. Howe council defines a recession as a pronounced, persistent, and pervasive decline in aggregate economic activity and it looks at both GDP and employment as its main measures.

It says by that measure, the preliminary economy data suggests the country has entered a recession.

The March jobs report showed more than a million jobs were lost in the month, while a preliminary estimate by Statistics Canada suggests the economy contracted by nine per cent in the same month.

- The Canadian Press

China's ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu attends a news conference at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, November 22, 2019.

Blair Gable/Reuters

4 a.m. EDT

China likes Canada’s ‘cool head’ amid U.S. ‘smears’ over COVID-19, says envoy

China’s envoy in Ottawa says that while the United States is “smearing” his country over COVID-19, the People’s Republic appreciates Canada’s “cool-headed” co-operation on battling the pandemic.

Ambassador Cong Peiwu also says he wants Canadians to know that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are healthy and getting good treatment in Chinese custody.

The two Canadians have been detained for more than 500 days and China cut off their visits from Canadian diplomats earlier in the year as part of its efforts to limit access to prisons during the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Cong said he has heard nothing new about a proposal by Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to allow diplomats to conduct a “virtual” visit using the internet to check on Kovrig and Spavor.

They were imprisoned in December, 2018, after Canada arrested Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant, plunging Sino-Canadian relations to a new low.

Cong says Canada and China are working closely to fight the pandemic, and that he is awaiting a report from his government on how a million face masks that Canada imported from China were found to be inadequate for health-care workers.

-The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee to discuss outbreaks on reserves

The federal government will be under pressure today to explain what it’s doing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading like wildfire through First Nations reserves and remote Inuit communities in the North.

A trio of ministers is scheduled to be grilled by MPs at a virtual meeting of the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee.

Their appearance comes one day after Nunavut identified its first positive case of COVID-19.

First Nations reserves and remote communities are considered among the most vulnerable areas, due to over-crowded living conditions and the lack of ready access to health-care services.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned yesterday about the growing risk to Indigenous communities.

She says the government ramp up testing and contact tracing to find where chains of transmission are occurring.

As the situation grows more worrisome for Indigenous communities, Prince Edward Island is poised to become today the second province to begin a gradual return to normal.

PEI follow’s New Brunswick’s move last week.

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