Here are some of the latest developments in the coronavirus outbreak:
- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam says the total number of novel coronavirus cases in Canada stands at 407, up from 324 reported earlier Monday.
- British Columbia is reporting three additional deaths from COVID-19, all stemming from an outbreak at a care home in North Vancouver.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is closing its borders to most people who are not citizens or permanent residents to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Bank of Canada offers fresh support for the financial system.
- Businesses, workers urgently need financial help from Ottawa, David Dodge says.
- The TSX dropped 11 per cent at the open; follow the latest market news here.
- Canadian border agents to start warning all air travellers of 14-day isolation period.
- Ontario reported 32 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 177.
6:25 p.m. ET
Quebec offers aid to workers who need to self-isolate
Quebec is pledging a sweeping aid program to fight the economic shocks brought on by the novel coronavirus, starting with new help for workers.
Premier François Legault’s government on Monday said it wants people who’ve come back from international travel, those showing symptoms of the virus or those who have been in contact with an infected individual to quarantine themselves even if they stand to lose revenue.
The premier said his government would offer non-taxable financial assistance worth $573 per week to workers who need to self-isolate and do not qualify for federal employment insurance or other programs offered by their employers.
“If you have to isolate yourself please do it, don’t hesitate for financial reasons,” Mr. Legault told reporters in Quebec City. Jean Boulet, Quebec’s labour minister, urged employers to show comprehension and flexibility towards their staff.
Quebec estimates it could cost the measures could cost the government $150-million, using certain assumptions like the length of the compensation required and the number of workers. The Red Cross will manage the program.
The measures are the first of what are expected to be a series of aide measures unveiled by Quebec in coming days.
Mr. Legault said additional help is coming for companies lacking liquidity, saying the government will offer loans to help. He said Quebec will also increase its public investments as the private sector retrenches in the face of the COVID-19, with plans to accelerate spending on infrastructure projects like health care facility expansions and roadwork.
Quebec has taken drastic measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 on its territory, closing schools and daycares, banning gatherings of 250 people, ordering bars, theatres and gyms to close and asking restaurants to cut their capacity by half.
- Nicolas Van Praet
4:20 p.m. ET
Ontario to ask bars, restaurants to voluntarily close
Just hours after Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his health experts did not believe restaurants and bars should close in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the province’s chief medical officer of health said it was time for these businesses to voluntarily shut their doors.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Dr. David Williams said new information from federal officials – including the move to restrict entry into Canada and the advice to limit gatherings of more than 50 people – meant that Ontario would now ask all recreation centres, libraries, daycare centres and bars and restaurants to close. Restaurants can move to takeout or delivery only.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, echoed the announcement, adding that theatres and nightclubs should also close and warning that businesses that fail to shutter voluntarily could face orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
The province’s associate medical officer of health, Barbara Yaffe, said most of the increase in new cases – 32 across the province in the last 24 hours – were linked to U.S. travel. But she said the number of new cases being investigated means she cannot rule out “community transmission” – that the disease is now spreading locally.
- Jeff Gray, Laura Stone
2:40 p.m. ET
Alberta’s chief medical health officer in self-isolation
A doctor who has become the face of Alberta’s medical response to the novel coronavirus outbreak is in self-isolation.
“I am currently experiencing mild symptoms consistent with the common cold, likely due to the long hours that I, and many in our health-care system, have been working in recent weeks,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical health officer, said on Twitter on Monday.
“My symptoms are not consistent with COVID-19; however, in line with the advice I am providing to all Albertans, I am self-isolating and working from home until my test results are confirmed.”
Hinshaw was set to deliver the latest provincial update later Monday via video-conferencing.
Hinshaw has been delivering daily updates on COVID-19 cases and precautionary measures since the first case was reported in Alberta on March 5.
She has been praised for her straightforward demeanour and for relaying as much information as possible, while urging Albertans to remain calm and practise basic hygiene such as hand-washing.
Alberta has 56 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and is undertaking broad isolation measures to halt the spread.
2:30 p.m. ET
B.C. announces three more deaths from COVID-19 as 30 more cases reported
British Columbia is reporting three additional deaths from COVID-19, all stemming from an outbreak at a care home in North Vancouver.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says the province is also reporting 30 additional cases today, bringing the total to 103.
The only other death in Canada was in B.C. at the Lynn Valley Care Care Centre in North Vancouver, where there has been a cluster of cases.
1:45 p.m. ET
Canada closing borders to most people who are not citizens or permanent residents
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is closing its borders to most people who are not citizens or permanent residents to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Mr. Trudeau says exceptions will be carved out for diplomats and people with family in the country. The ban will not apply to U.S. citizens.
He says airlines will also be required to refuse passage to people with symptoms.The federal government is mandating air carriers to screen passengers with symptoms of the novel coronavirus out of lines so they don’t board planes home.
He says the country is taking “increasingly aggressive steps” to keep everyone safe.
1:30 p.m. ET
Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador to suspend classes
The Saskatchewan government said Monday it is suspending all pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 classes indefinitely over concerns about COVID-19.
The government says the shutdown is to take effect Friday. It says classes will wind down over the next few days, but “parents who are able to keep children home should do so immediately.”
Saskatchewan is also extending its ban on large gatherings of 250 people or more to places of worship.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, schools and regulated daycare centres will close indefinitely starting this week. Premier Dwight Ball says the government changed course on school closures after observing trends in other provinces.
The group representing the province’s teachers had criticized the government for leaving schools open, saying it was inconsistent with other preventive measures aimed at avoiding large gatherings.
1:05 p.m. ET
Toronto Transit Commission cancel St. Patrick’s Day promotion
The Toronto Transit Commission has cancelled a promotion that would have seen people riding for free on some of the city’s busiest streetcar routes on Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, in a bid to reduce the risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
The promotion, sponsored by spirits maker Jameson Irish Whiskey, would have allowed free use of the 504 King and 501 Queen streetcars, as well as the 514 Cherry Street car that overlaps King on part of its route. Together these routes carry around 150,000 riders on a typical weekday.
Early Monday afternoon the TTC pulled the plug, saying the move was “in order to support ongoing public health efforts around social distancing.”
- Oliver Moore
12:58 p.m. ET
Bank of Canada announces new supports for financial system
The Bank of Canada unveiled new supports to keep Canada’s financial system flowing and support mortgage markets, as central banks step up efforts to avert a liquidity and lending crunch amid tumultuous markets.
The bank issued a notice Monday that it will broaden the eligible forms of collateral under its term repo facility, under which the central bank temporarily buys treasury bills from dealers as a means to provide a “backstop” for financial institutions’ funding needs. It also said it “stands ready, as a proactive measure,” to purchase Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs) to ensure “that this important funding market functions well.”
The moves follow other measures the bank made last Friday, in conjunction with an emergency interest-rate cut, aimed at maintaining liquidity in Canada’s financial system as the growing COVID-19 crisis strains global markets.
- David Parkinson
12:55 p.m. ET
Canadian Blood Services appeals for donors
Canadian Blood Services is appealing for blood donations, following a spike in appointment cancellations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We urge all healthy eligible donors to book and keep appointments,” the organization said in a press release Monday. “The need is constant for blood, stem cells, plasma and organ and tissue donors.”
While Canadian Blood Services said our national blood inventory is currently strong, they said the increase in cancellations is worrying given that other countries affected by the pandemic have reported shortages.
“Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe,” they said. “Our robust cleaning and infection-control practices protect all donors, staff and volunteers. All prospective donors are also carefully screened for any symptoms of illness, including very mild ones. This screening occurs during both appointment booking and upon arrival at the donor centre or event. Those with any symptoms are not allowed to donate blood and are instructed not to visit.”
The organization said they are taking guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and will update any recommendations accordingly.
- Molly Hayes
12:25 p.m. ET
Air Canada halves capacity, withdraws guidance amid ‘severe drop in traffic’
Air Canada says it is halving its flight capacity in the second quarter and withdrawing its earnings forecast for 2020 and 2021 amid a “severe drop in traffic” due to the novel coronavirus.
Chief executive Calin Rovinescu says COVID-19 is presenting the global airline industry with “unprecedented challenges.”
Air Canada says capacity reduction in Pacific markets for the month of April will likely hit 75 per cent.
The Montreal-based company says lower jet fuel prices along with cost-saving measures such as layoffs will offset up to 60 per cent of its total revenue loss for the second quarter.
11:59 a.m. ET
Businesses, workers urgently need financial help from Ottawa, David Dodge says
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is being urged to build a financial bridge for businesses and Canadians impacted by the coronavirus in a major economic package that is currently scheduled for Wednesday.
Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Morneau needs to make more credit available for small businesses and provide temporary income to Canadians who are not entitled to collect employment insurance.
Mr. Morneau is readying an economic stimulus package that is also likely to include measures to delay tax collections, Mr. Dodge said. One government source, who was grant anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said a 30-day delay in tax filings for individuals is being considered.
11:40 a.m. ET
Ontario says jobs of quarantined workers will be protected
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that his government was drafting legislation to protect the jobs of workers forced into quarantine or self-isolation by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well the jobs of those who need to care for children locked out of schools or daycares.
He did not issue orders to close restaurants, bars or malls as some health experts have urged – but he did not rule such measures out, saying the government was taking advice from its public health experts.
Monte McNaughton, Mr. Ford’s Minister of Labour, said the coming legislation would protect jobs of those who cannot work due to COVID-19 for as long as the disease persists. He said it would be “crystal clear” that workers would not be required to show sick notes if they cannot show up for work.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the government would no longer issue a full budget as planned in March 25, but would instead release an economic update that would include added health spending to combat COVID-19. Mr. Ford has already announced a $100-million contingency fund for health costs.
The measures came minutes after Ontario’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by 32 to a total of 177, according to numbers posted on the province’s website. That’s a smaller increase than the 43 new cases announced in the province Sunday morning. Five cases are listed as resolved.
11:10 a.m. ET
Banks, telecoms offer help for customers facing financial hardship as virus crisis deepens
Some Canadian banks and telecommunications companies are offering relief to customers impacted by the spread of novel coronavirus, waiving fees and offering flexibility on certain payments.
Bank of Montreal is encouraging customers “directly impacted by COVID-19 and experiencing financial stresses” to reach out to the bank for assistance. National Bank of Canada said it has programs available to help customers affected by natural disasters, and the bank is inviting customers impacted by COVID-19 to “get in touch.”
Rogers Communications Inc. announced Monday that it will not suspend or disconnect services for customers “experiencing financial difficulties over the next 90 days,” and that it would offer them “more flexible payment options.” Bell Canada said that it is “waiving extra usage fees for all residential Internet customers until April 30th,” to assist Canadians who are working from home because of COVID 19.
11:01 a.m. ET
Canadian Music Week postponed
This year’s Canadian Music Week conference and expo has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled to happen May 19 to 23 at a variety of venues in downtown Toronto, the annual event is now planned for Sept. 8 to 13.
The full CMW line-up of performers had yet to be announced. The few artists that had been revealed included Corb Lund and Russian punk provocateurs Pussy Riot, who already called off their North American tour.
The postponement is the latest disruption in a Canadian music industry already rocked by the last-minute cancellation of this year’s Juno Awards in Saskatoon. The SOCAN Awards, an annual event that celebrates achievements in songwriting, composing and music publishing, will no longer take place on March 30 in Toronto. The Canadian Folk Music Awards, set for early April in Charlottetown, is off.
10:11 a.m. ET
StatsCan suspends media lockups
Statistics Canada said on Monday it would suspend all media lockups for data releases until further notice, citing the need for staff to work from home given the coronavirus outbreak.
On days when data is released, Statscan allows reporters access to a lock-up in a room with no access to cell phones or wireless. Media are able to write stories but cannot transmit them until communications are restored at 8.30 a.m. Eastern time
9:45 a.m. ET
TSX plunges at the open
Canada’s main stock index sank 11% to a four-year low at the open on Monday, as oil prices tumbled and a second emergency rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve raised fears of a recession in the world’s largest economy.
9:33 a.m. ET
Rogers waives long-distance fees within Canada
Rogers Communications Inc. is waiving long-distance fees for mobile voice calls within Canada until April 30 as part of its response to the coronavirus outbreak. Unlimited Canadawide long-distance voice calling is included with many mobile plans but Rogers says the feature will be extended to other customers of its Rogers, Fido and Chatr brands. The Rogers and Fido brands will also waive roaming fees outside Canada for consumers with postpaid plans and for small businesses until April 30. The change is among several measures announced by Rogers, Bell and Telus, as well as other players including Shaw, Videotron and Eastlink since officials increased their COVID-19 containment efforts last week.
9 a.m. ET
Border agents to start warning all air travellers of 14-day isolation period
The Canada Border Services Agency says it is beginning to add new measures at all of Canada’s international airports, after Canadian travellers returning from international flights decried on social media the lack of screening.
The agency said new enhanced measures continue to be added, and include new screening questions for all travellers arriving from “any international destination.” The CBSA tweeted photos of computer kiosks displaying the new questions.
One display shows the question: “Do you currently have a cough, difficulty breathing, or feel you have a fever?” Read full story here
8:46 a.m. ET
Airlines call for emergency funding
The world’s largest airlines, including Air Canada, have banded together to call on governments to help offset soaring losses due to the new coronavirus outbreak. In a joint open letter the oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance members, which include nearly 60 airlines, urged governments and regulators “to evaluate all possible means to assist the airline industry during this unprecedented period.”
“The unprecedented circumstances triggered by the coronavirus outbreak pose an existential threat not only to the airline industry but more generally to global trade and commerce, and social connectivity,” said Jeffrey Goh, chief executive of Star Alliance which includes Air Canada.
“As airlines stretch their limits to manage the crisis, it is equally critical for governments and stakeholders to avoid further burdens and step up with measures, as some have, that will ensure the future of the travel industry.”
8:20 a.m. ET
The Federal Court of Canada is cancelling all general sittings of the court until at least March 27.
Only urgent motions or requests will be heard as the court tries to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Hearings, special sittings and case conferences already scheduled for teleconference will proceed.
If a shorter hearing was scheduled in person, a joint request by all parties to move it to a teleconference can be made.
7:29 a.m. ET
Toronto’s mayor John Tory launches task force
Toronto Mayor John Tory has launched a task force to aid the local economy through the “devastating impacts” of the COVID-19 pandemic, with initial measures so far set to include a tax-payment grace period for local businesses, and the creation of a “substantial contingency fund” for industries hit hardest.
“These are unprecedented times and we must take unprecedented action to help our residents and our economy now and in the future,” the mayor said in a press release Monday morning. “We will get through this pandemic by listening to our professional medical experts. I'm confident we will get through the economic impact of this pandemic by listening to people and doing the smart, responsible things we can do to help them.”
The Economic Support and Recovery Task Force's first set of meetings will take place Monday, with representatives from the hospitality and film sectors. Meetings are also being scheduled with faith and community leaders, BIAs, universities, social services and not-for-profits, organized labour, tech, and big business.
Among the initial measures announced, the mayor said they will be “extending a grace period for tax and other City of Toronto payments for businesses (payment and payment penalties) first for 30 days as of March 16, 2020.”
He also said that city employees who were scheduled to work at city-run daycares, museums and recreation centres that have now closed will still be paid.
A contingency fund will be established, and he said they will also “be facilitating entry into the EI System for those impacted by the pandemic. The City will work with companies and employees to ensure they are fully aware of how to apply for their rights under employment insurance.”
The city’s small business advisory services will be expanded to assist businesses as they plan to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
The mayor also noted Monday that he is advocating to both the provincial and federal governments for penalty waivers around late HST payments.
“It’s important to note that Toronto’s economy is in a very strong position and the City’s finances are stable with significant reserves set aside,” the mayor said. “The creation of the Task Force will help to keep Toronto in a good position and help to protect our success.”
6:44 a.m. ET
Iran cases surge
Iran has confirmed 1,053 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, according to health officials
5:56 a.m. ET
Coronavirus tally around the world rises
Reuters reports that almost 170,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 6,509 have died, with cases and deaths outside China overtaking those in the country where the outbreak began.
4:52 a.m. ET
Global markets hammered
Shares open sharply lower in Europe following central bank moves in U.S., Asia with Paris falling 6.7%, London down 5.8%.
March 15: Coronavirus latest news
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