- Ottawa to unveil nearly $30-billion in economic aid
- Banks will allow hard-hit customers to defer mortgage payments by up to six months
- Canada, US to close border to non-essential travel
- Alberta suspending some surgeries to redeploy medical staff to coronavirus duties
- Ontario’s top health officials say they are still short of COVID-19 tests
- Quebec warns no emergency shelters for spring flooding amid outbreak
- Saskatchewan changes rules around sick leave as it reports another COVID-19 case
- Alberta declares state of emergency in response to COVID-19
- B.C. declares state of emergency, closes schools with no indication when classes will resume
- Toronto shuts down city hall, sends home non-essential staff
- LNG Canada, Whistler-Blackcomb among B.C. businesses hit by coronavirus fallout
- Manitoba’s licensed daycares, casinos closing in fight against virus spread
- Liberal government looks to Emergencies Act for more powers to fight COVID-19
- Commons likely to sit again to pass economic response to COVID-19, Trudeau says
- Quebec gives individuals, businesses more time to submit tax returns
- Ontario Premier declares state of emergency
- Major Canadian banks are limited hours, reducing branches
7:32 p.m. EDT
Calgary orders returning travellers to self-isolate
The City of Calgary has issued a mandatory order for travellers returning from international destinations to isolate themselves for two weeks. The city declared a state of emergency on Sunday and the self-isolation order adds to a number of restrictions put in place then.
The order applies to any international traveller, regardless of their method of travel, for whom Calgary is their final destination. It does not apply to people with connecting flights or who don’t leave the airport. Calgary’s airport is one of only four in the country accepting international flights following restrictions imposed by the federal government earlier this week.
Calgary Police Chief Tom Sampson said travellers affected by the order must take ”“all reasonable steps” to isolate for 14 days. A police spokesman, Staff-Sgt. Scott McCann, later said there are no plans to enforce the order with penalties, but, like an evacuation order, the department hopes people get the message.
-- James Keller
7:01 p.m. EDT
B.C. declares emergency after three new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday
British Columbia has declared a public health emergency after reporting three new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday.
The province now has had seven fatalities during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said six of the deaths stem from a care home in North Vancouver.
A man in his 80s died on Monday in hospital in the Fraser Health region, she told a news conference.
The province also recorded 83 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. to 186.
-- The Canadian Press
6:24 p.m. EDT
Hudson’s Bay to close all Canadian stores for at least 2 weeks
On Tuesday, Canada’s oldest retailer, Hudson’s Bay Co. announced it would shut its doors, closing all stores across Canada. The company said in a statement that it would reassess whether to open again in two weeks. It said it would pay store staff for all shifts scheduled during that two-week period. HBC-owned Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Off Fifth stores would also close, the company announced.
-- Susan Krashinsky Robertson
5:55 p.m. EDT
Alberta suspending some surgeries to redeploy medical staff to coronavirus duties
Alberta is rescheduling non-urgent and elective surgeries to redeploy medical staff to front-line duties. Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the decision as she explained the rationale for the province’s declaration of a public state of emergency. The province is using the declaration to impose a series of new restrictions on daily life, such as shutting down bars and nightclubs, significantly restricting the capacity of restaurants and other businesses, and limiting public gatherings to 50 people.
“I understand the tremendous impact all of these measure will have on all of this,” she said. “We will get through this together but we need your help and support in following these orders and all other public-health guidance.”
The Alberta Dental Association and College also announced Thursday that all non-emergency dental procedures would be suspended immediately.
Dr. Hinshaw said she tested negative for COVID-19 after she went into isolation due to a sore throat. She delivered a briefing on Monday through a video link, explaining that she was following the same advice she has given Albertans.
Alberta has added another 23 confirmed cases, bringing the provincewide total to 94 in all regions of Alberta. Five patients are in hospital, two of them in intensive care.
-- James Keller
5:45 p.m. EDT
Ontario’s top health officials say they are still short of tests
Even as Ontario declared a state of emergency to deal with COVID-19, David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says the health system still does not have enough testing equipment to check all the patients it would like for the virus.
However, health officials say they are working to purchase more test kits as they try to overcome a shortage of the required swabs – a shortage caused by high global demand, and the fact that they were being made Northern Italy, which is hard-hit by the virus.
They are also working to ramp up the province’s labs to allow for up to 5,000 tests a day. They can handle almost 2,000 a day now.
“The fact that we want to get to 5,000 tells us that we don’t think there’s enough tests in Ontario,” Dr. Williams told reporters.
-- Jeff Gray
5:25 p.m. EDT
Quebec warns no emergency shelters for spring flooding amid outbreak
Quebec’s public security minister has warned that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the province will not be able to open emergency shelters in the event of spring flooding this year.
“The current pandemic is changing the way we do business, and managing a possible spring flood will be no exception,” Genevieve Guilbault said in a statement.
Due to the risk of contamination from the novel coronavirus, the province won’t open shelters for those affected by flooding as it did last year when thousands were forced from their homes.
-- The Canadian Press
5:20 p.m. EDT
Saskatchewan changes rules around sick leave as it reports another COVID-19 case
The Saskatchewan government is changing labour laws to provide unpaid leave for workers during a public health emergency.
The government made the announcement as it confirmed its eighth positive COVID-19 test, one more than a day earlier.
Health officials say the new case is someone in their 50s who was tested in Regina after returning from a dental conference in Vancouver.
The labour law changes remove a requirement that someone must work at least 13 consecutive weeks at a job before qualifying for sick leave.
They also remove the provision that requires a doctor’s note to qualify for sick leave.
-- The Canadian Press
4 p.m. EDT
Alberta declares state of emergency in response to COVID-19
Alberta joined Ontario Tuesday afternoon in declaring a state of public emergency in response to COVID-19.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the emergency management committee of cabinet authorized him Monday evening to use “all powers necessary” to keep Albertans safe.
“This declaration is meant to empower authorities under the Public Health Act to more effectively manage the pandemic response,” Mr. Kenney told reporters.
“Decisive action is needed, and we are taking that action.”
Alberta is also implementing new measures on social distancing. The province is banning any organized gathering of more than 50 people, and all Albertans are prohibited from going to public recreation facilities, and private entertainment facilities – such as casinos, bingo halls, bars, theatres and children’s play centres.
The list of prohibited gathering spots also includes arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries, fitness centres, and community centres.
The order does not apply to the Alberta legislature, to health care facilities, grocery stores, airports and other essential services.
-- Kelly Cryderman (full story here)
3:30 p.m. EDT
B.C. closes schools with no indication when classes will resume
B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced the province’s schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are closed, with no indication of when classes will resume.
Rob Fleming, the B.C. education minister, said work is still underway to determine how education will be delivered in the coming weeks.
“This is temporary,” he said. “Today, under the direction of the provincial health officer, we are directing all schools to immediately suspend in-class instruction.”
He said every student will receive a final mark, and all students due to graduate this year will graduate. “We don’t have all the answers today, this is a fast-moving situation.”
-- Justine Hunter and Caroline Alphonso (full story here)
3:20 p.m. EDT
Toronto shuts down city hall, sends home non-essential staff
Toronto is shutting city hall and sending home non-essential staff, Mayor John Tory said Tuesday.
He said that jobs such as emergency services, water provision, garbage collection and transit operation will continue, but that staff deemed non-essential would be off work effective Tuesday. They will continue to be paid.
“We will recall city staff on a priority need basis,” said the mayor, who is in isolation at his condo followed a recent trip to London and made the announcement in a press conference carried by video link. “We are doing this in the interest of setting an example.”
It was not immediately clear how many people would be affected by the change. City hall was one of the few municipal buildings that remained open after a wave of facilities were shuttered on the weekend. Also being closed is Metro Hall.
-- Oliver Moore
3:05 p.m. EDT
LNG Canada, Whistler-Blackcomb among B.C. businesses hit by COVID-19 fallout
LNG Canada is cutting its workforce in half over the next several days on the construction of a new plant in Kitimat, B.C., to help local communities deal with COVID-19.
The company says most of the cuts are being made by reducing the number of workers flying in on rotation but, if necessary, staff could be cut to levels required only to maintain site security and environmental controls.
Also, Vail Resorts, the U.S. owner of several ski hills including Whistler-Blackcomb, says the B.C. resort and all its properties are closing for the season, effective immediately.
The announcement came just days after Whistler announced a one-week shutdown to assess the situation.
More than half a dozen other ski resorts across B.C. have also announced closures.
-- The Canadian Press
2:50 p.m. EDT
Manitoba’s licensed daycares, casinos closing in fight against spread of COVID-19
Licensed daycares and preschools in Manitoba are to close by the end of the day Friday to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
“Manitobans can beat this issue if we just keep working together,” Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday.
Pallister said officials are working to ensure that front-line workers will have child-care support. Home daycares can remain open because they already have a limit of eight children per home.
-- The Canadian Press
1 p.m. EDT
Liberal government looks to Emergencies Act for more powers to fight COVID-19
The Liberal government is looking at powers contained in legislation known as the Emergencies Act to see if there are other actions it should take to protect Canadians amid the coronavirus crisis.
Legal and public health experts have pointed to powers afforded in the act including the declaration of what is known as a “public welfare emergency.” The legislation outlines it can be declared when “on reasonable grounds” a public welfare emergency exists and there is the need to take special temporary measures to deal with it.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a Tuesday news conference that turning to the Emergencies Act will be a “last resort."
–Kristy Kirkup (full story here)
11:51 a.m. EDT
Parliament to be recalled to pass COVID-19 emergency measures, Trudeau says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Parliament will be recalled for a brief emergency session to pass legislation to help jobless Canadians as Ottawa prepares to unveil a major economic aid package Wednesday.
Mr. Trudeau told a news conference Tuesday that cabinet is putting the final touches on an economic stimulus package for Canadians and businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
Many of the economic measures, including Employment Insurance changes and temporary economic aid for self-employed workers, will require legislation to get “money into the pocket of Canadians,” he said.
– Robert Fife, Bill Curry and Daniel Leblanc (full story here)
11:40 a.m. EDT
Quebec gives individuals, businesses more time to submit tax returns
Quebec is giving individuals and businesses more time to submit their tax returns, the latest in a series of measures Canada’s second most populous province is taking to dampen the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The filing deadline for some 2 million individual taxpayers has been extended by one month to June 1 while the deadline of some 500,000 businesses remains April 30, Quebec finance minister Eric Girard said Tuesday. In both cases, if money is owed to the government, payment does not have to be made until July 31, he said.
“We’re providing more oxygen for individuals and businesses,” Mr. Girard told reporters in Quebec City Tuesday.
–Nicolas Van Praet (full story here)
10:50 a.m. EDT
Canada’s big banks to limit hours, reduce branches
Canada’s six large banks will limit operating hours and reduce the number of branches that are open to support social distancing measures amid the spread of novel coronavirus, the Canadian Bankers Association said Tuesday.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said late Monday night that it would close 206 ‘adviser centres’ which do not offer over-the-counter cash or banking services to clients. CIBC’s other 816 banking centres will remain open to customers, although will operate with reduced, weekday hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
While other large banks have yet to announce measures, the CBA said Tuesday morning that the banks “will be working together to temporarily limit operating hours and reduce the number of branches, while maintaining critical services for customers."
–Mark Rendell (full story here)
10 a.m. EDT
TSX rises at open
Canada’s main stock index edged up on Tuesday after hitting a four-year low in the previous session, tracking a broader recovery in equity markets following several sessions of losses due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 158.48 points, or 1.28%, at 12,518.88.
9:21 a.m. EDT
Quebec closes provincial legislature
Quebec political leaders have announced the provincial legislature will be closed until April 21 after today’s sitting due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Simon Jolin-Barrette, the government house leader, made the announcement today alongside counterparts from Quebec’s other major political parties. Jolin-Barrette says the suspension is to limit the spread of novel coronavirus and to allow legislators to work from home.He says legislature members also need to be available to constituents in their ridings.
8:49 a.m. EDT
Half of small firms report a drop in sales due to COVID-19: survey
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says that half of its members responding to a survey have seen sales drop because of the novel coronavirus.
And 42 per cent of respondents said sales will fall to zero if face-to-face contact with customers is not possible.
For those businesses experiencing a sales drop, the average loss is 66,000. Forty-three per cent of survey respondents have cut hours for staff and 20 per cent have laid off workers.
The online survey had 8,730 respondents but is not a random poll and does not have a statistical measure of error.
8:35 a.m. EDT
Ontario declares state of emergency
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is declaring a state of emergency this morning to force bars and restaurants to close in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Mr. Ford addressed reporters at an 8:30 a.m. press conference.
He said any event involving more than 50 people were banned, and all recreation faciltiies, libraries, private schools, licensed daycare centres and bars and restaurants – except for those offering takeout and delivery – must close, as must all theatres.
But he said groceries, convenience stores, pharmacies and other workplaces would continue to operate.
“We must act decisively, we must not delay,” Mr. Ford said.
The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, had recommended that bars and restaurants switch to takeout or deliver only on Monday afternoon, as governments across the country and in Ottawa brought in new measures to try to combat the virus.
But emergency powers would allow the province to force establishments to shut their doors, hours before St. Patrick’s Day normally crowds bars with partiers.
– Jeff Gray and Laura Stone
7:15 a.m. EDT
Uber suspends shared rides
Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday began suspending shared rides on its ride-hailing platform in the United States and Canada to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The pooled option, which allows riders to book trips at lower prices by sharing the car with up to three other passengers travelling in the same direction, has been disabled for users opening the apps in the two countries. “Our goal is to help flatten the curve on community spread in the cities we serve,” senior vice president Uber Rides and Platform Andrew Macdonald said in a statement. - Reuters
5:11 a.m. EDT
Asian shares bounce after Wall St dive, recession warning
Shares reversed early losses in Asia on Tuesday after the U.S. stock market plunged to its worst day in more than three decades and huge swaths of many economies came to a standstill, with businesses and travel shut down due to the virus outbreak.
Australia’s benchmark led the gains, jumping 5.8% after a 7% plunge on Monday as investors snapped up miners and banks. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 climbed 0.8% at one point but barely eked out a gain, adding less than 10 points. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong likewise surged but then logged a modest gain of 0.4%. Shares also rose in Thailand and India, but fell in other regional markets.
“Market experts actually originally predicted at least a 1,000 point crash for the Hang Seng index. But surprise, surprise, there was bottom fishing. Investors went bargaining hunting,” said Francis Lun, a stock analyst in Hong Kong.
U.S. futures were nearly 4% higher.
5 a.m. EDT
Irish pubs mourn business loss as coronavirus busts St. Patrick’s Day
On what would typically be the highest revenue day of the year, Irish pub employees on St. Patrick’s Day are fearing an indefinite future without income as the threat of coronavirus caused restaurants and bars to close nationwide.
11:30 p.m. (March 16)
Cineplex closes its doors
Canada’s largest movie exhibitor Cineplex Inc. says it’s closing all of its 165 theatres nationwide until at least April 2 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The chain also was to temporarily shutter entertainment complexes the Rec Room and Playdium effective Monday night. Chief executive officer Ellis Jacob says Cineplex leadership has closely monitored the escalating spread of COVID-19 in Canada, while taking measures that included cleaning surfaces more frequently and selling fewer tickets at each screening to encourage social distancing.
-The Canadian Press
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