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A vehicle crosses the international border bridge in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada on March 20, 2020.John Morris/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

11:30 p.m. EDT

Pandemic pushes B.C. to move forward on safe take-home drug supply strategy

British Columbia is moving to provide drug users with a take-home supply of regulated substances as part of its COVID-19 pandemic response strategy for vulnerable populations.

The City of Vancouver and drug policy experts have called for “safe supply” for some time, but reluctance from regulatory bodies and the province restricted the provision of drugs such as hydromorphone and methadone to clinical settings that require witnessed daily ingestion.

As the new coronavirus swept the globe, health officials issued directives for people to restrict their movements, stay home and self-isolate when necessary, presenting a major obstacle to people with chronic substance use disorders who are unable to stockpile their prescription medications.

In B.C., the extraordinary circumstance of having two active public health emergencies – COVID-19 and an overdose crisis caused by a toxic supply of drugs – made safe supply a reality.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said the move is particularly aimed at supporting people in places such as Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

– Andrea Woo

11:00 p.m. EDT

Conservatives suspend leadership race due to pandemic crisis

The federal Conservative party has suspended its leadership race as the country is gripped by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In the face of mounting pressure to put a halt to the race, the Conservatives’ Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) decided late Thursday to pause the race, the party confirmed in a post on Twitter.

The leadership convention was set for June 27 in Toronto, but as the coronavirus’s impact on people’s health, everyday life and the economy grew, many Conservatives believed it was untenable for the race to continue.

“With all non-essential businesses now closed in ON and QC including our [headquarters], LEOC now finds that it is no longer possible to meet the deadlines necessary to process memberships and donations, or print, process and count ballots in time for a June 27 announcement,” reads the statement from the party.

Two leadership debates scheduled in April are also cancelled and the deadline for people to sign up as party members is being moved to May 15, according to the statement.

The committee will reassess the situation again on May 1.

– Marieke Walsh

10:00 p.m. EDT

U.S. won’t post troops at Canadian border, Ottawa opposed

The United States has decided against sending U.S. troops to its border with Canada after the Canadian government said it “strongly opposed” the proposal designed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday evening that the Trump administration spiked the plan because of Canada’s objections.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland stressed earlier in the day that Canadian officials made their opposition to the idea “very, very clear to our American counterparts.”

“In terms of what we are doing about it, we are very directly and very forcefully expressing ... that in Canada’s view, this is an entirely unnecessary step which we would view as damaging to our relationship,” said Ms. Freeland during Thursday’s ministerial briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.

A senior Canadian official with knowledge of the plan said it would have stationed 1,000 troops about 30 kilometres from the border with ground-based sensor technology to track unauthorized crossings. This information would be relayed to border guards to intercept people.

– Janice Dickson, Adrian Morrow

8:40 p.m. EDT

Alberta working to find more bed space in hospitals

Alberta reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with more people affected at a long-term care centre and the government working to find more bed space in hospitals.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there are eight new cases, for a total of 13, at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. An 80-year-old woman living at the facility died of the coronavirus earlier this week.

The others at the centre who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus “are self-isolating and receiving care,” Hinshaw told a news conference.

She said overall, 486 people in Alberta have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 21 people are being treated in hospital, with 10 currently in intensive care.

Twenty-seven of the total number have since recovered.

Two people have died.

– The Canadian Press

7:00 p.m. EDT

Ottawa considers shutting down Service Canada centres as employees refuse to work

The federal government is considering a shutdown of its national network of Service Canada centres where citizens can apply in person for employment insurance, Old Age Security, pension benefits and passports, The Globe and Mail has learned.

On Wednesday, nearly 60 per cent of the 317 centres were closed, said Mike Maka, a spokesman for Ahmed Hussein, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development who oversees the department.

All but 10 of the 101 centres in Ontario were closed, as well as most of those in Alberta, British Columbia, and nearly half of the 80 locations in Quebec, according to the Service Canada website.

– Sean Silcoff, Tom Cardoso

6:00 p.m. EDT

Netflix lowers video quality to lower demand on internet bandwidth

Netflix is lowering video quality for its subscribers in Canada to reduce soaring demands on internet bandwidth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The streaming giant says it will introduce changes designed to slash its data traffic by 25 per cent.

The company says the lower bandwidth streams of Netflix programs should still deliver the usual quality of each plan whether it’s ultra-high definition 4K, high-definition or standard definition.

The move comes as telecom companies see a rise in data usage with Canadians self-isolating at home.

Netflix already introduced bandwidth measures in other regions, including Europe, India and Australia.

– The Canadian Press

5:50 p.m. EDT

Ottawa allows safe supply of drugs in Vancouver Downtown Eastside

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the federal government is allowing for a safe supply of drugs to be distributed in an effort to flight the overdose crisis in the Downtown Eastside.

Stewart says the city’s Downtown Eastside has two health emergencies, and to properly battle COVID-19 a solution needs to be found for the poisoned drug supply.

The mayor says he’s grateful the federal government is allowing a safe supply solution to move ahead and the province is hard at work to determine how it will roll out.

He says Vancouver’s community action team is standing by to help those who aren’t connected to the health-care system to ensure they can access safe drugs.

– The Canadian Press

4:15 p.m. EDT

Vancouver opening emergency response centres

Vancouver is opening two emergency response centres in its downtown to provide additional spaces for homeless people.

The city says the centres will operate on a referral basis to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

City manager Sadhu Johnston says the opening of the facilities is “an unprecedented use” of community centres, but it’s aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and reducing demand on the health-care system.

– The Canadian Press

3:30 p.m. EDT

Manitoba delays cut to sales tax

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is pushing back a promised cut to the provincial sales tax, because of the financial strain of fighting COVID-19.

Pallister says the novel coronavirus is taking a toll on the economy, and the province will drain hundreds of millions of dollars from its rainy day fund within three months.

Pallister also says the province is looking at borrowing more than a billion dollars, and will not proceed with a bill now before the legislature that would reduce the sales tax to six per cent from seven.

Manitoba has recorded 36 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and health officials say social-distancing measures are bound to remain in place for some time.

– The Canadian Press

1:30 p.m. EDT

91-year-old Quebec man dies in seniors’ home

A 91-year-old man from Quebec’s Laurentians region is the eighth person to succumb to COVID-19 in the province.

Regional health authorities confirmed the man, who lived in a seniors’ home, died Wednesday.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the province now has 1,629 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 290 from the day before.

Provincial health authorities had confirmed two additional deaths Wednesday, and Montreal’s public health department announced later in the day the city’s first COVID-19 death.

– The Canadian Press

1 p.m. EDT

B.C. bans food, medicine resale

The British Columbia government is taking what is says are “unprecedented steps” to protect supply chains for goods and services, and stop the resale of food and medical supplies.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued a series of orders today to establish a unit to co-ordinate the distribution of goods and services, and he is allowing deliveries to be made at any time of the day.

The resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and cleaning products has also been banned.

Municipal bylaw officers will be allowed as well to enforce orders limiting the size of gatherings and business closures.

– The Canadian Press

12:30 p.m. EDT

U.S. considers putting troops at Canadian border

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau says Canada and the United States have discussed the possibility of putting American troops near the border.

Mr. Trudeau was asked at his daily press briefing Thursday about a Global News report that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration wants to put military troops near the Canada-U.S. border over fears of the COVID-19 pandemic and border security.

When Mr. Trudeau was asked if he thought this measure was necessary and whether anyone from his government has discussed the move with Trump’s administration, he confirmed conversations have taken place.

“Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way, we have been in discussions with the United States on this,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The Prime Minister avoided elaborating further, but emphasized Canada’s position.

“We have highlighted that the fact that the Canada-U.S. border is the longest unmilitarized border in the world is something that has benefited our two countries and both economies tremendously and we feel that it needs to remain that way,” he said. ​

– Janice Dickson in Ottawa

12:05 p.m. EDT

Newfoundland and Labrador legislature gathers for emergency session

Newfoundland and Labrador legislators will sit today for an emergency session to pass legislation responding to social and economic upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendments will include protections for employees’ jobs if they must take time away from work as a result of COVID-19 and ensuring renters cannot be evicted if they are unable to pay rent.

The legislation will also introduce 200-million-dollars in contingency to cover impacts of reduced oil prices and adjust deadlines for annual reports and audit reviews.

Borrowing capacity will also be increased to respond to revenue volatility during the pandemic.

– The Canadian Press

11 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports spike in new cases

Ontario is reporting 170 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 858.

That’s the largest single-day spike in cases by far.

At least 12 of the new cases are hospitalized, including two people in their 20s.

- The Canadian Press

11 a.m. EDT

Pandemic response must uphold human rights: B.C. commissioner

British Columbia’s human rights commissioner is urging policy-makers, employers, landlords and service providers to keep human rights principles at the core of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s such a scary time and it’s so important that we don’t let our fear metastasize into discrimination,” Kasari Govender said in an interview.

Her office recently released a policy statement focused on COVID-19 that’s intended to provide guidance under the B.C. Human Rights Code to ensure an adherence to human rights protections.

It outlines specific advice, such as reminding landlords they cannot turn away an applicant, harass a tenant or evict someone who has or appears to have COVID-19.

It stipulates that employers must accommodate employees who are considered particularly vulnerable to the virus, including elderly or immuno-compromised people.

Landlords, employers and service providers are also prohibited from making decisions based on whether a person comes from or appears to come from a “COVID-19 hotspot,” such as China or Italy.

Parents who need to care for their children because schools are closed cannot be discriminated against, and the statement notes that additional childcare needs are likely to disproportionately affect women and single parents.

“We must be vigilant about how racism, economic inequalities and classism, ableism, ageism and misogyny may all be factors in how people are treated and how people experience the pandemic,” it reads.

The pandemic is also exposing the extent to which people are falling through the cracks of Canada’s social safety net, said Govender.

- The Canadian Press

10:40 a.m. EDT

CMHC expanding insured mortgage purchase program

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is expanding its insured mortgage purchase program to $150 billion as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The move to help bolster the financial system is an increase from an initial plan for $50 billion announced March 16.

The expansion is part of the emergency measures passed by the government to deal with the fallout of the novel coronavirus and the steps taken to slow its spread.

CMHC has said the insured mortgage pools already carry government backing, so there is no additional risk to taxpayers.

Ottawa had a similar program to buy insured mortgages during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

In buying the insured mortgages, CMHC helps provide funding for the banks that they can then use for other loans to help businesses and other borrowers.

- The Canadian Press

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A Halifax Transit bus arrives at a terminal in Dartmouth, N.S., in this file photo.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

10:17 a.m. EDT

Halifax transit mechanic tests positive

The union for Halifax transit workers is calling for a pause in service and better safety measures after a garage mechanic tested positive for COVID-19.

Union president Ken Wilson is advocating for a shift in policy where the bus service is limited to retail, health and other essential workers.

Halifax Transit director Dave Rage says maintenance staff on the evening shift were sent home as the building is thoroughly cleaned, and today’s morning shift was advised not to report to work.

The City of Halifax issued a release saying Public Health has identified people who were in close contact with the garage worker, and will direct those people to spend two weeks in self-isolation.

- The Canadian Press

8 a.m. EDT

Nestle Canada gives temporary raises

Nestle Canada is giving a temporary raise to its employees in its factories and distribution centres across the country as deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food producer says the workers will receive a temporary increase of $3 per hour, retroactive to March 16. Salaried employees in the factories who cannot work from home will also receive a bonus.

Nestle’s brands include Lean Cuisine, Boost, Nesquik, Haagen-Dazs, Kit Kat and Nespresso.

It says in the event of any temporary shutdown related to COVID-19, up to eight weeks’ full pay will be provided for all hourly and salaried staff affected.

Workers in its retail operations which have been temporarily closed will also receive full pay up to eight weeks.

Nestle has 3,200 employees in approximately 18 locations across Canada.

- The Canadian Press

Agriculture sector scrambling

Canada’s agriculture sector is warning of higher prices and potential food shortages if it it isn’t designated an essential service and allowed to do business as usual during the COVID-19 crisis.

Already people worried about food staples have emptied some grocery store shelves, although governments have all said supplies are secure.

"We’re in unknown territory. We have concerns about potential problems,” said Todd Hames, president of the Alberta Wheat Commission. “That’s why we need to have governments recognize that farming is an essential service supplying food for the world.”

Hames, who has a grain farm near Marwayne in east-central Alberta, said railways, the Port of Vancouver and companies that supply fuel and farm implements also need to remain open with spring seeding only weeks away.

It’s especially important since there have been delays in getting grain to market due to strikes and rail blockades, he said.

Canada’s cattle industry saw a sharp drop in prices when the coronavirus pandemic was declared, although they have stabilized in recent days.

- The Canadian Press

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A view of members taking part on screen during an unusual G20 Leaders Summit to discuss the international coronavirus crisis on March 26, 2020, in Canberra, Australia. The emergency G20 virtual summit was convened for world G20 leaders to discuss the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.Gary Ramage/Getty Images

4 a.m. EDT

Trudeau, G20 leaders to confer on international response to pandemic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will confer today with leaders of the world’s biggest economies about the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He’ll be taking part in an video conference with leaders of the G20, who are expected to talk about co-ordination of international efforts to contain the virus and cushion the devastating blow to the world’s economy.

He’s also expected to use his daily news conference outside his residence, where he continues in self-isolation after his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19, to highlight the billions worth of direct financial aid the federal government is providing to help Canadians and businesses weather the crisis.

Legislation enacting $52 billion worth of financial aid and another $55 billion worth of tax deferrals was approved Wednesday by Parliament but the money won’t actually start flowing for another few weeks.

The government is hoping to start delivering the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — $2,000 per month for up to four months for anyone left without income due to the pandemic — by April 6.

Other measures, like a temporary boost to the Canada Child Benefit, are expected to take until May to reach Canadians’ pockets.

-The Canadian Press

A round of applause for health-care workers

People in Vancouver are following in the footsteps of Italians by opening their windows and applauding health-care workers each night.

Reverend Gary Paterson lives in the city’s west end and says it began as a handful of people clapping and cheering at 7 p.m.

He says it’s now become a strong wave of applause that sweeps across the neighbourhood, and it’s catching on elsewhere, too.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Help is encouraging residents to do the same, and New Westminster resident Fiona Burrows says she and another neighbour started honking horns on Monday and within a day, other neighbours joined in.

-The Canadian Press

Homeless are facing extra challenges, advocates say

Advocates and front-line workers say the COVID-19 pandemic could explode within Toronto’s homeless population.

They say government actions to curb the spread of the illness may have the opposite effect on those who live without housing.

A number of drop-in and respite sites have closed, while others must limit their numbers inside.

Many feel people cannot practise safe social distancing inside those sites, nor can they easily go the bathroom or wash their hands because many food banks, restaurants and coffee shops have shut.

-The Canadian Press

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

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March 25: Toronto closes off municipal green spaces, concerns about spread in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

March 24: Government, opposition reach deal on emergency aid package

March 23: Nearly half of Canada’s COVID-19 cases now acquired through community spread

March 22: Canada refuses to go to Olympics unless postponed; Trudeau not at point of declaring federal emergency

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