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A pharmacy fills prescriptions after movement restrictions came into effect due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the border town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

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While the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, many frontline health-care workers are forced to isolate as they care for patients infected with the virus. See how Dr. Kanna Vela is coping with being away from her family as she treats patients in Ajax and Scarborough, Ontario hospitals.

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

If you are returning to Canada from anywhere, you need to self-isolate: Here’s how

Explainer: What you need to know about COVID-19 and its toll around the world

9:00 p.m. EDT

Alberta to release COVID-19 projections early next week, Kenney says

Alberta will release its COVID-19 projections early next week, Premier Jason Kenney said Friday as he announced five more deaths and a ban on visitors to hospitals.

There were an additional 107 confirmed cases in the province, bringing the total number to 1,075.

The five deaths include a woman in her 20s with no immediately apparent underlying health conditions. A total of 18 people have now died of the disease in Alberta.

“The total number of infections and deaths will, undoubtedly, continue to rise in the days and the weeks to come, but so will the number of recovered cases,” Kenney said.

Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, said visitors will be banned from Alberta hospitals in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. She said some exemptions will be made on a case-by-case basis for child patients and women who are giving birth.

- Canadian Press

7:45 p.m. EDT

Patients paying higher dispensing fees as pharmacists limit prescription amounts

A new policy that has pharmacists restricting patients to a 30-day supply of their medications means some people are having to pay dispensing fees two or three times over.

The policy was put in place to prevent drug shortages while manufacturers struggle to produce enough product during the COVID-19 crisis.

But that means patients who would normally receive 90-days’ worth of prescription medications are now paying the dispensing fee three times instead of one in some provinces.

“All of a sudden they’re going to see their cost for prescriptions go up 200 per cent,” said Kathleen Finlay, the founder of the Center for Patient Protection.

In most places, those dispensing fees are between $5 and $15. But some people have multiple prescriptions, multiplying the cost, she said.

- Canadian Press

7:15 p.m. EDT

Woman in her 20s dies of COVID-19 in Alberta

An Alberta woman in her 20s has died of COVID-19 in what is the youngest reported fatality in Canada.

The province’s chief medical officer, Deena Hinshaw, said it’s not clear if the woman had underlying medical conditions.

Dr. Hinshaw said the death underscores the potential risk for young people from a disease that can cause severe symptoms, or even death, in young and otherwise healthy patients.

Public-health officials have said older patients with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk, but they have also warned that young people should not think they are immune. A 34-year-old man in Alberta died earlier this week and there have been other cases of people in their 40s.

Alberta has added 107 cases, bringing the provincial total to 1,075. There have been five new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 13.

- James Keller

5:25 p.m. EDT

Toronto facing cash drain of $65-million a week

Toronto is facing a $65-million per week shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is warning that its financial cushion will run out by June.

The city announced the financial pressure Friday afternoon, as well as confirming that its spring recreation programs would be cancelled.

“Our focus is going to be on maintaining the services that you rely on, and making sure that we won’t be asking you to pay more money by proposing any kind of additional tax increases,” Mayor John Tory told a briefing. “We know that you’re in no position through all of this [for us] to be looking at that as an option.”

The city says the financial gap is due to reduced revenue from transit fares and deferred city fees and taxes, plus higher costs on shelters, overtime and personal protective equipment.

Mr. Tory said that he is continuing to talk to Queen’s Park and Ottawa about financial assistance.

The city has limited ways to fill this gap, short of transfers from higher levels of government. Covering a single $65-million shortfall would require an annual property tax increase of roughly two per cent. An ongoing series of these shortfalls puts the city, which by law cannot run a deficit on its operating budget, into unusual territory.

City Manager Chris Murray said that there was some financial wiggle room in the current budget, but that “by roughly June we’ll have expended those dollars.”

- Oliver Moore

2:25 p.m. EDT

Ontario closing more businesses effective Saturday to limit spread of COVID-19

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says more businesses will be closing in the province in the wake of grim projections about the spread of COVID-19.

Ford says the new closures will take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday and will include all industrial construction except for essential projects such as hospitals.

The announcement comes after public health officials released figures showing between 3,000 and 15,000 could die in Ontario over the full course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same projections showed the death toll could have reached 100,000 if no action had been taken.

Ford says the figures show that physical distancing saves lives and the Progressive Conservative government is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect Ontarians.

The province has recorded more than 3,200 cases of COVID-19 as of today, including 67 deaths.

- Canadian Press

12:35 p.m. EDT

GST credit payments to low-income earners to arrive one month earlier

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government will deliver more aid to low-income Canadians through the GST credit a month sooner than planned.

The government initially announced the money would be available in May, but Trudeau now says the money will be delivered this month.

Every qualifying adult will receive up to $300, plus $150 for each child.

Additional help is expected to arrive this month in the form of a new emergency benefit valued at $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

An association representing Canada’s banks says they will help clients enrol for direct deposit from the Canada Revenue Agency, or update their account information with the federal agency, to speed up payments of federal financial aid.

Online applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit open April 6, and anyone already approved for employment insurance benefits is supposed to be automatically moved over to the new benefit with no need to reapply.

- Canadian Press

11:30 a.m. EDT

Ontario nursing home records four more deaths from COVID-19

The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

The province has said there are many other outbreaks in such facilities across the province — at least 26 in long-term care homes and eight in retirement homes.

Overall, Ontario is reporting 462 more COVID-19 cases today, including 14 more deaths.

Provincewide, there are now 3,255 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 16 per cent from Thursday, including 67 deaths in total.

The number of resolved cases jumped by more 30 per cent today, to 1,023 from 831 on Thursday.

- Canadian Press

  • Students sit in a classroom as grade three students in middle school and high school return after the term opening was delayed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, in Huaian in China's eastern Jiangsu province.STR/AFP/Getty Images

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11:25 a.m. EDT

Scheer questions Hadju’s comments on Chinese data

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer criticized Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s comments this week in which she said questions about the veracity of China’s COVID-19 data were feeding into conspiracy theories.

“I continue to believe that any government that operates in an autocratic fashion, a Communist government that denies basic human rights to its own people, that stifles dissent and squashes the free press should be distrusted.

"And it’s puzzling to me why a Canadian minister would vouch for a government of a country that operates in that fashion. It’s extremely troubling,” Mr. Scheer told reporters Friday during a conference call from Regina.

"Our security partners around the world have flagged problems with the information that is coming out of the government of China. I don’t know why this current government always feels the need to defend the actions of the Communist government in China, but it is very concerning.”

- Bill Curry

11:20 a.m. EDT

Military deploying to northern Quebec for COVID-19 help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Forces are being sent to northern Quebec to help communities there prepare to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.

He says the federal government is answering a call from the Quebec government.

In his daily appearance outside his Ottawa residence, Trudeau also said the federal government is sending $100 million to organizations that feed people who can’t afford to feed themselves, such as food banks and the Salvation Army.

And he says the federal government has an agreement with Amazon to use its distribution network to send medical supplies to meet provincial needs.

- The Canadian Press

10:52 a.m. EDT

Scheer calls for more oversight of government’s COVID-19 response

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for the Liberals to be more transparent about their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

He wants the government to release all of the data on the spread of the novel coronavirus and its implications, as well as facts and figures on supplies, hospital beds and other response measures.

He says the Trudeau government claims to be guided by the evidence, so it is time to release that evidence.

Scheer is also calling for the daily briefings from the prime minister and government ministers to start looking more like statements in the House of Commons.

He says the Opposition ought to be able to directly question the government, and wants video sessions that would give that opportunity.

Scheer says his party wants to be part of a Team Canada approach to pandemic response, but that doesn’t mean not asking tough questions and demanding accountability.

- The Canadian Press

10:11 a.m. EDT

Marine industry to salute health care workers tonight

The growing movement in British Columbia and across Canada to salute health care workers by clapping and making noise each evening at 7 p.m. will gain even more volume tonight.

A statement from the Chamber of Shipping, the voice for the marine industry on Canada’s west coast, says all ships in B.C. waters will sound their horns in solidarity.

The statement says the audible celebration is noteworthy because ship crews are also working to maintain essential transportation networks.

The chamber says vessels move critical cargo directly supporting medical efforts or supplying communities to ensure they continue to function.

- The Canadian Press

8:20 a.m. EDT

Banks say they’ve deferred more than 10 per cent of mortgages

The Canadian Bankers Association says the country’s six largest banks have deferred more than 10 per cent of the mortgages in their portfolios as borrowers affected by COVID-19 seek financial help.

The association says almost 500,000 requests for mortgage deferrals or to skip a payment have been completed or are in process.

Canadian banks announced a mortgage deferral program over two weeks ago in a move to help those hurt by the steps taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The six largest banks said they would allow customers to defer mortgage payments for up to six months among other changes.

Open this photo in gallery:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers questions during the daily briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday April 2, 2020.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

4 a.m. EDT

Ontario’s move puts pressure on feds to reveal national COVID-19 projections

Canadians should brace for some grim numbers today as Ontario reveals its projections for how bad the COVID-19 pandemic could get in the country’s most populous province and how long it could last.

Premier Doug Ford’s decision to let Ontarians in on the “stark” best and worst-case scenarios will put pressure on the federal government to provide a national picture of the potential progression of the deadly virus, which by Thursday had already infected more than 11,000 Canadians and resulted in almost 200 deaths.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that such national modelling is coming “soon” but requires more data from provincial and territorial governments — a subject he discussed with premiers during a more than two-hour first ministers’ conference call Thursday evening.

Federal officials are hoping the national projections will be available within the next five days.

Three weeks ago, Health Minister Patty Hajdu estimated that 30 to 70 per cent of Canadians could become infected — somewhere between 11 million and 26 million people.

In an interview late Thursday with The Canadian Press, Hajdu said that estimate hasn’t changed.

She noted that wide spread of the disease is not necessarily a bad thing since it will eventually result in “herd immunity.” But how many will die depends on how many get sick all at the same time, and to what degree those numbers overwhelm the ability of Canada’s health system to care for people.

At the moment, Canada’s death rate stands at about one per cent of those who’ve tested positive for the disease. But that could shoot up as a surge in cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

Hajdu said compiling a national picture of the potential progression of the virus is complicated by the fact that the federal government has to work with data provided by 13 different provincial and territorial governments using a variety of reporting techniques. Ottawa is offering to help those jurisdictions that don’t have the capacity to keep up with the detailed data flow necessary to do accurate modelling, she said.

Projecting a national death rate “wouldn’t really be telling the true picture,” she argued, suggesting it would make more sense to have 13 separate projections for each province and territory.

“It’s not that I’m trying to hide things from Canadians at all,” Hajdu said.

“I just don’t want to get out ahead of ourselves without a full set of data ... It’s very important that we do that work so that we’re not presenting any kind of, I guess, misleading or even sometimes inflated perspective.”

In the absence of national projections, Trudeau is expected to reiterate today his message that the scope and duration of the pandemic is in Canadians’ hands: the more they abide by orders to stay home and keep their distance from others, the sooner this will be over.

He is also expected to announce federal funding to help provide services for vulnerable people during the crisis — with more announcements in the same vein to come.

- The Canadian Press

2 a.m. EDT

Navy to adopt strategies to avoid viral outbreak

Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Art McDonald says a number of “mitigation strategies” are being adopted to limit potential exposure to COVID-19 in order to prevent a similar incident like that on a U.S. aircraft carrier, where so far 93 sailors have tested positive for the virus.

Those include restricting shore leave in foreign ports, making special arrangements for eating on board ships and practising physical distancing on shore and at sea by limiting traditional practices such as musters.

Four Canadian warships are also being recalled, two each from the Caribbean and West Africa, due to COVID-19 while McDonald said all but the most critical sailing plans are being cancelled for the next two months.

Two ships on each coast will remain at sea to stay ready to respond if needed.

Military planners are also looking at ways to keep service members from transmitting COVID-19 to communities where they are asked to respond.

- The Canadian Press

12 a.m. EDT

Region of Peel ‘accidentally’ mails wrong COVID-19 test results to 16 people

The Region of Peel in Ontario is apologizing after it “accidentally” mailed letters to 16 residents saying their COVID-19 test results were negative when, in fact, they were positive.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, interim medical officer of health, says the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He says his team is working quickly to notify these people and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation.

Loh says an investigation found that several positive test slips were mixed with a batch of negative results received from labs.

He says the error was not noticed until after the notification letters were mailed.

Loh says they have made changes to their process to ensure that this does not happen again.

- The Canadian Press


April 2: Global coronavirus cases top 1 million; Advocates say COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

April 1: Canadians on cruise ships to come home; Third death in Saskatchewan, new cases include jail staff

March 31: Ontario, B.C., Quebec begin building makeshift hospitals; Toronto cancels all public events through June 30

March 30: COVID-19 devastates Bobcaygeon, Ont. nursing home; Ford extends Ontario’s state of emergency; Trudeau says businesses, non-profits, charities all eligible for wage subsidy

March 29: Canada to make sure Chinese masks meet quality standards, Trudeau says; 5,866 COVID-19 cases nationally, 63 deaths

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