After months of pressure, Ontario announces paid sick leave plan

The latest:

Facing months of increasing pressure, Ontario announced Wednesday that the province will provide a plan for paid sick days.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced he will introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. If passed, it would require employers to provide employees with up to $200 of pay for up to three days if they are missing work because of COVID-19.

This program would be retroactive to April 19, 2021, and effective until Sept. 25, 2021.

The province will also provide a program called the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit, under which workers could receive up to $1,000 a week for four weeks if they are sick with COVID-19.   

Employers will be reimbursed for costs they pay out as part of the benefit, McNaughton said, up to $200 a day for three days. 

For months, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has resisted bringing in a provincially-run program, arguing the federal sick leave program was adequate.

The province on Wednesday reported 3,480 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 2,281, with 877 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

WATCH | Nova Scotia enters lockdown: 

With COVID-19 stretching Nova Scotia’s health-care system to its limits, officials ordered a provincewide lockdown to try and prevent further spread of the virus. 2:01

As of 2:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,199,848 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 83,285 considered active. A CBC tally of deaths stood at 24,102.  

People in Nova Scotia are under new rules Wednesday after officials imposed a provincewide lockdown for at least two weeks to deal with an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials in the province reported 96 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — a new single-day high — followed by 75 on Wednesday.

The restrictions, which will be in place until at least May 12, call for strict rules around gatherings, sweeping closures and a shift to remote learning.

“We won’t hesitate to use whatever means that we need to do,” Rankin said, noting that he has confidence that, “Nova Scotians, by and large, will follow these orders.”

In New Brunswick, meanwhile, health officials on Wednesday reported eight new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. A lockdown that was in effect for nearly three weeks in the Edmundston and Upper Madawaska regions ended, though a lockdown at the Fredericton’s campus of the University of New Brunswick had to be extended through Sunday because of an outbreak at one of the residences.

The province lifted the order overnight Tuesday, placing that section of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, under the less restrictive orange COVID alert level.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, including its first case of the P1 COVID-19 variant of concern, which was first identified in Brazil. The province has confirmed 46 cases in April so far, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the majority of those have now been linked to variants.

The province has also had a case of the B1167 variant of interest, which first emerged in India, as well as several cases of the B1351 variant, first detected in South Africa.

There were two new cases reported by Prince Edward Island.

WATCH | Inside a Montreal ICU where COVID-19 patients are getting younger:

CBC News goes inside the intensive care unit of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital where doctors say everyone — no matter their age — needs to take COVID-19 seriously. 6:23

In Quebec, health officials on Wednesday reported 1,094 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations, as reported by the province, stood at 643, with 161 people in intensive care.

Across the North, Nunavut reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 50. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures for the day.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 189 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and three additional deaths, including two people in their 20s. The province is expanding vaccine eligibility to include more hard-hit regions. Individuals 18 and older living in the designated neighbourhoods, as well as people working in specified front-line jobs, will be able to book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the province’s supersites or pop-up clinics.

Saskatchewan reported 224 new cases and six additional deaths Tuesday, while Alberta reported 1,539 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional seven deaths due to the virus. 

WATCH | Millions of rapid COVID-19 tests unused across Canada:

The federal government has published data showing only four per cent of rapid tests supplied to the provinces and territories have been used. 2:02

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that the province would make all of its expected shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expected Monday, available to the two hardest hit areas in the province — the Wood Buffalo and Banff areas. Age of vaccine eligibility in the areas will be 30 and older for both the J&J and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. 

In British Columbia, health officials reported 799 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 500, with 164 in intensive care.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 2:00 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, volunteer math teacher Yanina Lopez helps Oscar Martinez at a makeshift school set up by Guarani language professor Edgar Villalba in the Bañado Norte slum of Asuncion, Paraguay, earlier this week. (Jorge Saenz/The Associated Press)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 148.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global reported death toll stood at more than 3.1 million.

In Europe, the European Commission’s lawsuit against drugmaker AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies began at a Brussels court, where the bloc’s lawyers pressed for immediate deliveries from all factories. The parties agreed to hold two more hearings on May 26.

The Netherlands on Wednesday became the latest European country to begin cautiously relaxing its lockdown even as infection rates and intensive care occupancy remain stubbornly high.

The Dutch follow Italy, Greece, France and other European nations in moving to reopen society and edge away from economically crippling lockdowns.

In the Middle East, Iran has found three suspected cases of the coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, its health minister said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan recorded more than 200 deaths in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

South Korea said it will offer some exemptions to mandatory quarantine measures for people who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19.

People try to secure a ticket to go back to their village a day prior to lockdown in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people left the Nepalese capital Wednesday, a day ahead of a 15-day lockdown imposed by the government because of spiking cases of COVID-19 in the country. (Niranjan Shrestha/The Associated Press)

In Africa, Egypt’s daily reported cases of coronavirus have surpassed 1,000 for the first time in months amid a surge in infections in the Arab world’s most-populous country. The health ministry recorded 1,003 cases and 61 fatalities in the past 24 hours.

In the Americas, Mexico will produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine domestically, its foreign minister said on a visit to Moscow.

A Senate inquiry into the Brazilian government’s handling of the pandemic kicked off on Tuesday, with lawmakers launching what may be a major headache for the president ahead of next year’s election.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

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