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Coronavirus information
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In this file photo taken on March 09, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The latest news:


9:50 p.m. EDT

Buoyed by positive COVID-19 news, B.C. looking at gradual route to reopening province

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the province’s success to date in containing the spread of COVID-19 is fuelling plans for how and when the province will reopen schools and businesses and resume elective surgeries in hospitals.

Mr. Horgan said it will still be weeks before those decisions will be made and any resumption of restricted activities will be gradual. But during a news conference Wednesday, he added: “When the startup begins, sometime in the not-too-distant future … I think we’ll be in a good place."

The province set aside funding late in March as part of a $5-billion pandemic response package to help restart the economy and the Premier said he is in regular talks with his economic-recovery task force about what is needed to revive hard-hit sectors, from tourism to forestry. In March, the province lost 132,000 jobs, and the unemployment figures are expected to climb.

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On Friday, the province will update its models projecting the spread of COVID-19, and Mr. Horgan said he expects to share positive data that will give British Columbians “cause for genuine celebration," even as other provinces and jurisdictions continue to struggle.

- Justine Hunter and Andrea Woo


8:15 p.m. EDT

Trump looking at easing restrictions at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. President Donald Trump signalled Wednesday that he’s prepared to support easing travel restrictions along the Canada-U.S. border sooner rather than later – although the feeling may not be mutual, given the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

Canada is “doing well” in its efforts to control the spread of the virus, Trump said during his daily media briefing at the White House.

In the same breath, however, the President – who makes no secret of his urgent desire to see the American economy come roaring back to life – seemed to equate Canada’s success with efforts in the U.S., a comparison sure to raise eyebrows north of the border.

“Our relationship with Canada is very good – we’ll talk about that. It will be one of the early borders to be released,” the President said. “Canada’s doing well, we’re doing well – so we’ll see.”

- Canadian Press

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4:50 p.m. EDT

COVID-19 outbreak at Markham group home for the disabled turns deadly

A massive COVID-19 outbreak that’s sickened all but five residents of an Ontario group home for the disabled has now turned deadly.

The family of resident Martin Frogley says he died in a Markham, Ont., hospital early this morning.

A family statement says he “passed peacefully” listening to music he loved.

Frogley was one of 42 people with either a physical or intellectual disability living at Participation House, a facility where a major outbreak of the novel coronavirus has caused chaos in recent days.

The Markham Stouffville Hospital, which is assisting the home, says 37 of the 42 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 13 staff are also infected.


4:00 p.m. EDT

Halifax lays off nearly 1,500 seasonal and casual workers, defers property tax

Atlantic Canada’s largest city is laying off nearly 1,500 casual, temporary and seasonal employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) says the 1,480 affected workers include more than 500 seasonal employees who are not currently employed, but will no longer be hired this spring and summer as planned.

Most of the workers are in the recreation department, while crossing guards and seasonal labourers are also being cut.

The municipality says it has also instituted a hiring freeze to help minimize layoffs.

It’s also decided to defer the deadline for personal and commercial property taxes to June 1.

However, Mayor Mike Savage is urging people to pay sooner if they can, saying property taxes represent 82 per cent of the city’s revenue.

“I don’t want to unduly alarm anybody, but the fact is we get our money from property tax,” said Savage. “And the rest of it — the other 18 per cent — we’re no longer collecting.”

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Savage said cities across the country are feeling the pinch and will require significant help from federal and provincial governments.

The municipality’s chief administrative officer, Jacques Dube, said while no permanent employees have been cut, it’s a move that could be possible in the future.

Dube said the municipal budget is being reviewed daily and adjustments “will have to be made going forward.”

The municipality employs about 5,000 staff.

- Canadian Press


12:40 p.m. EDT

Military seeks to re-enroll commercial pilots laid off due to COVID-19

The Royal Canadian Air Force is getting creative about finding new pilots.

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Commercial airlines across Canada have been temporarily laying off pilots in recent weeks as the industry struggles with plummeting demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the Air Force is hoping to snatch up some of those pilots to address its own shortage of experienced aviators.

Over the past few years, the Air Force had already been reaching out to former military pilots who have hung up their uniforms for commercial gigs as a way to help fill more than 200 empty positions.

With the commercial airline industry now in disarray, the Air Force is stepping up its efforts by highlighting the stability that comes with a career in the military.

Air Force spokesman Lt.-Col. Steve Neta says the early results have been encouraging as 26 former pilots have reached out in recent weeks to see about re-enrolling.

- Canadian Press

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12:35 p.m. EDT

Tam sees outbreak slowing down

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there is cause for cautious optimism that the COVID-19 epidemic is slowing down.

In late March, the number of cases doubled every three days. More recently, it takes about 10 days for the number of cases to double.

But Tam says that doesn’t mean that Canada can ease up on physical distancing measures.

She says coming down the other side of the epidemic curve will be like coming down a mountain in the dark. It must be done carefully and slowly, or the fall will be hard.

- Canadian Press


12:15 p.m. EDT

National economic shutdown to last weeks longer, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the partial shutdown of Canada has to last weeks more to get COVID-19 under control, using his strongest warning yet against loosening economic restrictions too soon as he unveiled expanded help for hard-hit workers.

In the last month, the national economy has contracted sharply as businesses have been ordered closed and Canadians told to stay home.

Preliminary data from Statistics Canada on Wednesday showed economic activity collapsed in March, suggesting the drop could be a record nine per cent.

In a fierce warning from in front of his residence in Ottawa, Trudeau says the country is still contending with the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Loosening controls too quickly could mean the country gives up the ground gained, he says.

That could cause even greater economic damage than the pandemic has already inflicted.

“With spring coming, people are looking outside, wanting to get out, wanting to this to be over — I understand that. It will be weeks more before we can seriously consider loosening the restrictions,” he said.

“As impatient as people are getting all across the country, we need to continue to hold on if what we’re doing as sacrifices are going to be worth it.”

- Canadian Press


11:50 a.m. EDT

World Health Organization chief regrets U.S. decision to pull funding

The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that he regretted President Trump’s decision to pull funding for the organisation, but called on world unity to fight the new coronavirus pandemic.

“The United States of America has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO and we hope it will continue to be so,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference. “We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in the funding to the WHO.”

WHO was still assessing the impact and would “try to fill any gaps with partners”, Tedros said. But now was the time for the world to be united in its common struggle against the outbreak, which he described as a “dangerous enemy.”

- Reuters


11:35 a.m. EDT

Ottawa to expand Canadian Emergency Response Benefit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is expanding to Canadian Emergency Response Benefit to people who earn some income, seasonal workers and those who have run out of Employment Insurance.

He says people who earn up to $1,000 per month will soon be able to access the benefit.

The prime minister says the government also plans to top up the pay of essential workers less than $2,500 per month.

He says that includes many people who work in long-term care homes.

- Canadian Press


11:20 a.m. EDT

Scheer says MPs should return to House of Commons to scrutinize COVID-19 measures

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has repeated his call to see MPs return to the House of Commons to question and scrutinize the Liberal government’s COVID-19 measures.

The House of Commons is currently suspended until April 20 and without a deal among the parties to extend this suspension or to come up with an alternative, such as virtual sittings, Parliament will resume on Monday.

Scheer says the government has many things to answer for, including why other countries are farther ahead of Canada in testing and contact tracing of COVID-19 as well as why Canada is still weeks away from a shipment of ventilators that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland promised almost over a month ago.

He says Parliament must resume so that Opposition parties can pose these questions and hold government accountable.

Changes were made to the Liberals’ wage subsidy bill in a special sitting of Parliament over the weekend thanks to suggestions by Opposition parties, which Scheer says proves the value of having MPs working in Ottawa on behalf of Canadians.

He said he is not against the idea of virtual sittings as a way to add additional opportunities for MPs to take part who cannot travel to Ottawa, but he says it is possible for a reduced number of MPs to sit in the House of Commons while respecting public health guidelines.

- Canadian Press


10:55 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports 494 new cases, 51 deaths

Ontario is reporting 494 new COVID-19 cases today, including 51 more deaths.

That brings the total cases in the province to 8,447, including 385 deaths and 3,902 that have been resolved.

There were just over 6,000 tests completed in the previous day despite a promise from the government to do 8,000 tests a day by today

.The number of tests under investigation also doubled in the past day – to 4,429.

- Canadian Press


10 a.m. EDT

Bank of Canada jettisons economic forecasts and unveils new bond-buying programs amid virus crisis

The Bank of Canada made the extraordinary move of omitting eagerly awaited new economic projections from its quarterly Monetary Policy Report Wednesday, saying that forecasting can’t be done “with any degree of confidence” in light of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead, the bank outlined in its quarterly update alternative scenarios that would affect the pace of recovery from the economic shock delivered by the pandemic, which has triggered government-imposed business shutdowns, massive unemployment and a severe slump in oil prices.

In terms of a near-term forecast, the bank would only say that its “scenario analysis” indicates that real gross domestic product would be between 15 and 30 per cent lower in the second quarter (April through June) than it was in the fourth quarter of 2019, after an estimated decline of 1 to 3 per cent in the first quarter, on a quarter-over-quarter basis. It also predicted that the second-quarter inflation rate would be “close to zero per cent,” slumping from slightly above the central bank’s 2-per-cent target in February, before the COVID-19 shock derailed the Canadian economy.

The Bank of Canada unveiled two new programs to purchase provincial and corporate bonds, as the central bank steps up its already considerable measures to support struggling credit markets.

In its regularly scheduled interest-rate announcement, the bank unveiled a Provincial Bond Purchase Program to buy up to $50-billion. It also announced a Corporate Bond Purchase Program, under which it will purchase up to $10-billion of investment-grade corporate bonds in the open market.

“Both of these programs will be put in place in the coming weeks,” it said.

- David Parkinson


Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press

9:45 a.m. EDT

Border crossing hours to be scaled back at 27 ports

Canada Border Services Agency is temporarily scaling back opening hours at several of what it describes as “low traffic” crossings along the border with the United States.

In all, 27 ports are affected; three in British Columbia, two in Alberta, eight in Saskatchewan, six in Manitoba and eight in Quebec.

The western crossings and two in Quebec will open later and close earlier while six other Quebec ports usually open around the clock will operate between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Revised hours take effect at midnight and Canada Border Services says the changes which are related to COVID-19 measures will continue until further notice as all non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. remains banned.

- The Canadian Press


8:30 a.m. EDT

Canada’s GDP shrinks a record 9 per cent in March

The Canadian economy was hit hard in March as COVID-19 started to upend business operations, resulting in what could be the worst monthly contraction on record.

In a flash estimate, Statistics Canada on Wednesday said gross domestic product shrank by roughly 9 per cent in March, which would be the largest one-month decline in records dating back to 1961. For the entire first quarter, GDP would decline by 2.6 per cent.

Under normal circumstances, Statscan would release its March GDP figures in May. However, given the economic devastation wrought by the novel coronavirus, Canada’s national statistical agency moved to release a timelier estimate of activity. Statscan stressed the estimates will change once more data is used in the full report released in May.

To date, very little economic data for March have been published. However, last week’s Labour Force Survey provided an early indication of the swift downturn resulting from COVID-19, with roughly 1 million people losing their jobs last month, and worse numbers expected for April.

In a separate report, the Conference Board of Canada on Wednesday forecast steep economic declines in all provinces in 2020, with Alberta faring the worst with a real GDP decline of 5.8 per cent.

- Matt Lundy


7 a.m. EDT

ER doctors call for sedatives for ventilator patients

Emergency room doctors are calling for health officials to ensure there are enough supplies of medical sedatives for patients going on a ventilator.

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians says ventilation is a physiologically complex, painful and anxiety-inducing process that requires medication for pain control and sedation.

The organization says health authorities should prepare by examining current stocks of necessary medication and identifying alternative options for analgesics.

The association is also calling on national authorities to manage the distribution of the sedatives and to incentivize domestic production.

- The Canadian Press


Ninety five-year-old Alicia Tamayo waves at her daughter, Betty Fernandez, and granddaughter, Romina Varella, April 14 at Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, where several residents died of the coronavirus.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

3 a.m. EDT

Plan for Ontario care homes comes today

Ontario will unveil an enhanced plan to fight COVID-19 in the province’s long-term care homes today.

Premier Doug Ford says the front line of the battle against the virus has shifted to the homes, with 93 outbreaks across Ontario.

Ford says the province will provide more details on the plan which will include more testing for residents and staff and increased infection control.

He says the province will stop people from working in more than one long-term care facility at a time to limit the virus’ spread.

- The Canadian Press


Ontario won’t set new electricity prices for summer

The Ontario Energy Board says it’s holding off on setting new electricity prices for the summer months.

It says it typically adjusts rates for homes and small businesses on May 1, but will defer that move this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It says holding prices at the winter rates set last November will give consumers access to more power at a lower price.

Premier Doug Ford previously passed an order freezing hydro rates at off-peak prices until at least May 7.

- The Canadian Press


2 a.m. EDT

New quarantine rules for travellers take effect today

Starting today all people returning to Canada will have to check in to a hotel or other designated site unless they have an acceptable self-quarantine plan.

The government says returnees -- whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not -- must have an appropriate isolation plan that includes access to food and medicine.

They will also be forbidden to live with vulnerable people, such as anyone older than 65 or with pre-existing health conditions.

If a returnee lacks a credible plan, they will need to quarantine in a location, such as a hotel, designated by Canada’s chief public health officer.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the measure means returning Canadians will need to plan ahead of time.

She describes it as “an additional layer” in Canada’s protective actions against COVID-19.

- The Canadian Press


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons, April 11, 2020.

ADAM SCOTTI/PMO/Reuters

House of Commons could resume with virtual sittings

Talks that would scrap the scheduled return of Parliament next week are getting underway.

All federal parties are grappling with how to keep democratic institutions together while Canadians continue to be urged to stay apart.

MPs agreed on March 13 to suspend Parliament as public health officials across the country began increasing restrictions on gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the agreement said Parliament would resume Monday, April 20th.

As the death toll from COVID-19 rises, and physical distancing measures remain in effect, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois all say that business as normal can’t resume.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says while all 338 MPs can’t gather, some compromise must be reached to allow regular “accountability sessions.”

A spokesman for Pablo Rodriguez, the leader of the government in the House of Commons, says the government believes in the importance of Parliamentary accountability.

Rodriguez’s office asked the Speaker last week to explore how the House of Commons could hold virtual sittings.

- The Canadian Press


Archives

April 14: Ontario, Quebec revamp staffing at nursing homes amid ‘wildfire’ COVID-19 outbreak

April 13: Outbreaks at seniors’ homes linked to almost half of COVID-19 deaths in Canada

Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell discusses the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic on refugees, conflict and the economy. Gladwell was in conversation with Rudyard Griffiths from the Munk Debates. The Globe and Mail

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