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Christopher Mio and Meghan Hoople found themselves jobless and wanting to help in the wake of COVID-19 isolation in Toronto. After flyering their neighbourhood with a free-of-charge offer, they received an outpouring of support and requests from people in need.

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  • A pair of geese walk down an empty sidewalk in front of the new Calgary Public Library that is closed due to the coronavirus outbreak in Calgary.TODD KOROL/The Globe and Mail

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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

11:00 p.m. EDT

Ottawa to exempt temporary foreign workers from some COVID-19 travel rules

The federal government says it will exempt temporary foreign workers from some COVID-19 travel restrictions because of their importance to the Canadian economy.

On Wednesday, Transport Canada announced a rule that foreign nationals can’t board flights into Canada other than transborder flights.

The government said Friday that exemptions to that rule will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home.

Travel by temporary foreign workers will also be considered essential travel for land border restrictions.

The government said the exemptions will apply to seasonal agricultural workers, fish-seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.

The government said these workers will face health screening before travel and must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

“Today’s announcement will ensure both a robust response to addressing the spread of the virus, and that our farmers, fishers and other producers have the workers they need, when they need them, to strengthen Canada’s food security and provide other vital services,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a release.

- The Canadian Press

9:00 p.m. EDT

Starbucks to close nearly all Canadian locations, only drive-through and delivery to be open

Referring to managing the coronavirus as “the single biggest challenge many of us have faced in our lifetime,” Starbucks Canada has announced it will be closing nearly all of its locations, offering drive-through and delivery services only.

The company made the announcement on Friday, but added that some cafes near hospitals and other health care centres will remain open to serve staff.​ Starbucks also noted that the change only applies to company-owned stores, while licensed partners will make their own decisions for the locations they run. The change was made after a week of retail store closures, and after many restaurants and coffee shops including Starbucks had already scaled back operations in response to concerns about the pandemic.

- Susan Krashinsky Robertson

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An air crew walks past an empty Starbucks at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on March 17, 2020 in Montreal, Canada.JOCELYNE ZABLIT/AFP/Getty Images

7:05 p.m. EDT

Fine, arrest for not complying with isolation in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says people who know of anyone not self-isolating after returning from international travel can now call police.

Moe announced sweeping new restrictions Friday aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. He said the public health recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning from international travel is now mandatory.

“This doesn’t mean that you go to the grocery store or go to the drug store or go fill up with gas and then you go home and self-isolate. This means you go home. And you stay home now,” he said at a news conference.

“If you don’t do this, you’re now breaking the law.”

Those who refuse to follow the order could face up to a $2,000 fine or arrest, Moe said, adding that he believes that most people will comply.

Almost all of Saskatchewan’s 26 COVID-19 cases are related to foreign-travel, which is why it’s essential those returning self-isolate, he said. Six new cases were revealed Friday.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said he’s heard anecdotal stories of people who have not self-isolated.

“It’s concerning,” he said. “We need people to recognize how serious this is and we think this should grab their attention.”

- The Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

Alberta announces economic efforts to soften impact on oil and gas prices

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced several economic measures designed to blunt the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent crash in oil prices.

The province is temporarily waiving fees collected by the Alberta Energy Regulator from the industry, which will amount to $113-million. As well, it will extend oil-and-gas tenures that were set to expire in 2020 by one year to give resource companies more time to raise capital and plan.

"This will be, I believe, the most challenging time in our economy for several decades,” Mr. Kenney said.

Alberta announced 49 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the province’s total to 195. Five of those cases are patients in intensive care – up from a total of two on Thursday. The U.S. remains the number one source of new infections, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Mr. Kenney said health officials have told him the coronavirus peak for the province is four to five weeks away. He said the goal is for cases to peak at a level still below the maximum capacity of the health care system, and projections from Alberta Health Services indicate “we will achieve that goal.” The Premier said this is thanks to prudent planning by AHS, the stockpiling of equipment and 50 new ventilators on order.

- James Keller and Kelly Cryderman

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

6:20 p.m. EDT

Canada surpasses 1,000 cases of coronavirus

There are 1,085 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada. This includes 41 presumptive, 1044 confirmed including 12 deaths, and 11 resolved.

As the nationwide number of cases surpassed 1,000, the federal government announced it would be supporting businesses to shift their operations to focus on products needed to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

- The Canadian Press

3:00 p.m. EDT

Ottawa receives 500,000 new applications for Employment Insurance as coronavirus-related layoffs increase

A half-million Canadian workers have filed for Employment Insurance benefits in the past four days alone, as evidence of the deep job losses related to COVID-19 quickly piles up on the government’s doorstep.

Officials in Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed Friday that the department has received “approximately 500,000 EI applications” over the past four days. The confirmation followed comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his morning press conference in which he referred to the 500,000 figure, saying that it compared to just 27,000 in the same week a year ago.

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe noted that 500,000 jobs represents 2.6 per cent of total Canadian employment - which he said is about in line with the percentage of job losses in July, 1932, the worst month for job losses during the Great Depression.

- David Parkinson

1:05 p.m. EDT

Saskatchewan opening daycares for COVID-19 responders

The Saskatchewan government will be opening daycare spaces in schools for children of front-line health workers responding to COVID-19.

It says priority will be given to parents of school-aged children who work in hospitals, testing sites, primary care areas and labs.

Other essential staff like firefighters and police officers, as well as social services employees who provide income assistance and child protection, are also eligible.

Education Minister Gord Wyant says in a statement that he is thankful to daycare workers in the schools who will be providing the service.

Schools in Saskatchewan officially shut their doors today, and their daycares are to open Monday for the health workers.

As of Thursday, the province had a total of 20 cases of COVID-19.

- The Canadian Press

12:55 p.m. EDT

Ottawa monitoring 70 cruise ships still sailing with as many as 4,000 Canadians on board

The federal government is trying to keep tabs on as many as 4,000 Canadians still on board cruise ships sailing around the world amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, says the department is aware of about 70 ships still at sea with Canadian passengers on board.

Cruise ships have been a major part of the COVID-19 story since the novel coronavirus began spreading in January, with multiple ships under quarantine or refused docking privileges after passengers tested positive for the disease.

There are at least 70 Canadians trying to make their way home from Atlanta after flying there overnight on an American repatriation plane from a cruise ship docked in France, while more than 300 Canadians remain stuck on board the Norwegian Jewel, which is now hoping to dock in Hawaii after it was forbidden to do so in Europe.

- The Canadian Press

12:45 p.m. EDT

Manitoba government declares state of emergency due to coronavirus outbreak

Manitoba has declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Brian Pallister says it was not an easy decision, but the declaration is necessary to protect the health and safety of all Manitobans.

It puts new measures in place that limit pubic gatherings to no more than 50 people, including at places of worship, restaurants and bars.

Pallister says Manitobans have been doing well and practising social distancing.

As of Thursday, there were 17 cases of the novel coronavirus in the province.

- The Canadian Press

12:15 p.m. EDT

Worker at Toronto jail in hospital being tested for COVID-19: union

The union representing Ontario’s correctional workers says an employee at a Toronto jail is being tested for COVID-19.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says a male worker at the Toronto South Detention Centre is in hospital as he awaits results.

The union’s president, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, says the employee returned from a trip to Europe before public health officials recommended two weeks of self-isolation after travel.

Thomas says the employee went back to work but voluntarily went into self-isolation when the public health guidelines changed.

He says three other staff members who came in contact with the employee were sent home to self-isolate.

(EDS NOTE: This is a corrected version of an earlier story that said the employee had tested positive for COVID-19)

- The Canadian Press

11:25 a.m. EDT

Ottawa to boost efforts to secure supplies of medical gear

The federal government is unveiling a plan to have companies quickly produce supplies of needed medical equipment to cope with the rapidly multiplying cases of COVID-19 across Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the plan will provide support to manufacturers that want to retool their assembly lines to build ventilators, masks and other personal protective gear.

And it will also help those already producing the products to quickly scale up.

Ottawa has been working in close collaboration with provinces and territories, who deliver health care, to determine where gaps exist in the system and to try to fill them before they become a significant problem.

Trudeau also says that the government is in discussions with airline to repatriate Canadians who are overseas, and the first flight will leave this weekend from Morocco.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand, and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains are to provide more details at a briefing this afternoon.

- The Canadian Press

11:20 a.m. EDT

Irregular migrants to be turned away at Canadian border, Trudeau says

Asylum seekers crossing into Canada on foot from the U.S. will be turned back as part of the border shutdown between the two countries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement hours before the closure to all but essential travel is to go into effect.

The Liberal government had previously been planning to place the border crossers into mandatory self-isolation.

That plan had come after calls from the Quebec government for the federal government to ensure those crossing irregularly into Canada would follow the same isolation protocols as other international travellers.

Trudeau says the move to instead turn them away is an exceptional measure to protect Canadian citizens and it is temporary.

Thousands of people have been crossing into Canada from the U.S. for at least three years using unofficial entry points to get around a deal that forbids people from lodging asylum claims at land border crossings.

- The Canadian Press

11:10 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports 50 new cases

Ontario is reporting 50 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total in the province to 308.

That is the largest single-day increase in new cases. The total includes five resolved cases and two deaths.

No information is listed for about half of the new cases, but two people are listed as being hospitalized and four are in a long-term care home in the Durham Region.

-The Canadian Press

10:50 a.m.

Cannabis stores adjust to spike in demand

Provincial cannabis distributors across the country are making changes to protect consumers and employees and to help deal with a spike in demand during COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario Cannabis Store says it has suspended same-day and next-day deliveries because of a “higher-than-normal” volume of orders.

The OCS, the Quebec pot distributor Societe quebecoise du cannabis and B.C. Cannabis Stores also warn that Canada Post is no longer delivering parcels that require a signature or proof-of-age to customer doors.

-The Canadian Press

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A customerwears a mask while shopping at The Green Cross cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.Haven Daley/The Associated Press

10:45 a.m.

Yukon works into night to pass budget

Urgency related to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted politicians in Yukon to work into the night to pass the territory’s latest budget.

After voting unanimously to bring the Liberal government’s $1.6-billion budget forward for early consideration, it was debated and passed shortly before 11 p.m.

The legislature, which resumed March 5, has now been adjourned until October 1.

Premier Sandy Silver says passage of the budget means Yukon can focus all resources on fighting COVID-19 and provide spending assurances for the medical community, health, social services and the economy.

-The Canadian Press

10:20 a.m.

Banks and insurance companies move to online annual meetings

Canada’s biggest banks and insurance companies will hold their annual meetings online after jointly obtaining a court order amid intense concern about in-person gatherings.

Social distancing protocols and temporary bans on gatherings of more than a handful of people spurred by the novel coronavirus outbreak have made planning for the spring annual general meeting (AGM) season difficult. On Friday, eight of the country’s largest banks and its three largest insurers announced they received authorization from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice permitting them to conduct their annual meetings “in whole or in part, using electronic means.”

The banks and insurers said the order allows them to conduct meetings by webcast, teleconference or other electronic means, which can be used in addition to an in-person meeting or replace it entirely. The parties involved said they would announce specific arrangements individually.

-Christine Dobby

10:10 a.m. EDT

Desjardins to raise contactless payment limit

Desjardins Group said, starting Friday, it would increase its contactless payment limit on Desjardins point-of-sale terminals from $100 to $250 in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Desjardins said in a statement that credit cardholders could take advantage of the temporary increase in pharmacies, grocery stores and convenience stores. The change will affect a total of 6,000 merchants.

-Terry Weber

10:15 a.m. EDT

N.B. nurses may be asked to redeploy

As the spread of COVID-19 evolves in New Brunswick, the province’s nurses union has told its membership that it has signed a mobility agreement with the province.

In a letter to membership, union president Paula Doucet says the agreement that also involves CUPE and NBU will allow the government to redeploy members of the public service as needed to help in the crisis.

Doucet says the agreement doesn’t include long-term care nurses at this point.

She says some registered nurses may be asked to help in another facility or unit for a period of time if needed.

-The Canadian Press

10:15 a.m. EDT

N.S. courts extend deadlines for paying fines

Nova Scotia courts are giving people more time to pay fines for summary offence convictions and say no one will be automatically convicted for not dealing with their outstanding parking or driving offences.

Chief Judge Pamela Williams, of the Provincial and Family Courts, has directed an extension of all fine payment deadlines to 90 days beyond the existing due dates.

Court officials have also been working with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to address default convictions for summary offence tickets and parking tickets and the registry is suspending issuing certificates of default for a 60-day period, effective March 16th..

Officials say the measures are to ensure that no one is required to attend court or visit a courthouse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

-The Canadian Press

9:45 a.m. EDT

A Canadian has died in Japan from complications related to COVID-19

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed the news on Twitter and shared his condolences with the family of the as yet unnamed Canadian.

The federal government is providing consular assistance to the deceased’s family.

-The Canadian Press

7:10 a.m.

Foreign Affairs Minister tests negative

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne has tested negative for COVID-19.

He made the announcement this morning on Twitter.

Champagne had flu-like symptoms after travelling abroad and took the test yesterday as a precautionary measure.

-The Canadian Press

6:45 a.m.

Toronto relaxes bill payments for city services

Toronto Mayor John Tory has expanded and extended a grace period for city fees such as property taxes and water and garbage bills, giving all residents and business an extra 60 days to pay.

The mayor had said Monday that there would be a 30-day extension for city payments by businesses, including taxes, effective that day. On Friday he lengthened the grace period and broadened it to include residents. The 60-day period remains effective Monday.

“Residents and businesses who find themselves facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can defer their next property tax instalment without penalty,” Mr. Tory, who is in isolation after a recent trip, said in a statement issued by his office. “Property tax accounts will be adjusted as necessary to reflect these relief measures.”

- Oliver Moore

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Ventilators are seen at a plant in Switzerland March 18, 2020.ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters

5:15 a.m. EDT

Ottawa to announce new measures to secure ventilators, masks

The federal government is expected to announce today additional efforts to secure supplies of needed medical equipment to cope with the rapidly multiplying cases of COVID-19 across Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hinted at new measures to come, including involving industry and the military in the production of ventilators, masks and other personal protective gear.

He said the federal government is also expediting access to test kits to determine whether individuals have been infected with the novel coronavirus and other medical devices.

Ottawa has been working in close collaboration with provinces and territories, who deliver health care, to determine where gaps exist in the system and to try to fill them before they become a significant problem.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says there has been no specific request for ventilators yet but the federal government is trying to pre-empt that by acquiring things that may be needed as the number of cases surge.

The cabinet committee on COVID-19 was to have been briefed about procurement of supplies by Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

-The Canadian Press

5:15 a.m. EDT

First responders reassessing how they respond to medical calls

First responders across the country say they’re putting measures in place to preserve their capacity to deal with emergencies as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

In Vancouver, Fire Chief Darrell Reid says the department is preparing to stop responding to medical calls unless they are urgent.

He says triaging calls will help preserve the fire department’s capacity to respond to major fires and other emergencies.

In Halifax, Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum says dispatchers are not sending firefighters to COVID-19 calls.

While they typically go out in teams of four, he says only two firefighters will work on a patient in the case of a medical call now.

And he says firefighters are equipped with protective gear and a screening tool kit to help them identify potential COVID-19 cases.

The RCMP says the novel coronavirus has not affected how police respond to emergencies. However, some detachments are closing counter service and other activities in their offices, in consultation with local authorities.

-The Canadian Press

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A protective plexiglass screen prototype is installed in a Sobeys in Mississauga on March 19, 2020.Sobeys/Handout

5 a.m. EDT

Sobeys to install plexiglass barriers at checkouts

Sobeys parent company Empire Co. Ltd. has ordered thousands of plexiglass screens to install at store checkouts, in an effort to provide some separation between staff and customers.

The new screens will be accompanied by stickers on the floor instructing customers to stay two-metres apart while lining up. Empire’s plan is just one example of how grocery retailers are working to enact social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Grocers are balancing the need to stay open and keep Canadians supplied with essential goods, with concerns about acting as potentially risky gathering places where the virus could spread.

-Susan Krashinsky Robertson

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Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Mar 19, 2020.Fred Lum

12:45 a.m. EDT

Air Canada lays off more than 5,000 flight attendants

A union official says Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants as the country’s largest airline cuts routes and parks planes due to the coronavirus.

The carrier is laying off about 3,600 mainline employees as well as all of Air Canada Rouge’s 1,549 flight attendants.

The layoffs, which will take effect by April, affect roughly 60 per cent of flight attendants at the two segments.

Air Canada joins other Canadian companies laying off thousands of employees in what’s expected to be the first wave of massive job losses. On Thursday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it is laying off 8,900 workers in Canada because of a pause in production, while Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group temporarily laid off most of its work force, 4,679 people.

–The Canadian Press

Layoffs, salary, EI and more: Your coronavirus and employment questions answered

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Marh 19: Pandemic kills Ontario, Alberta residents; border restrictions to kick in Friday night, PM says

March 18: Trudeau unveils sweeping new aid package; U.S.-Canada border to close to all non-essential travel

March 17: Ontario, Alberta, B.C. declare states of emergency; B.C. closes schools to combat virus spread

March 16: Total number of cases in Canada stands at 407; Ontario asks bars, restaurants to close

March 15: U.S. Fed cuts interest rates to near zero, Trudeau says more screening being put in place

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