The number of reported cases of COVID-19 in Canada has passed 11,000, a new milestone in a growing outbreak that has public health officials fighting to slow the spread of the disease and hospitals trying to prepare for an expected surge in patients.
The new total comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the need to stay at home a “duty” for Canadians.
Trudeau was set to chair a meeting with the country’s premiers on Thursday and said there will be a discussion around co-ordination, data sharing, and modelling and analysis.
“I know a lot of people are still wondering when this will get better, or how much worse it might become,” the prime minister said Thursday. “You want to see the numbers and the predictions.”
Trudeau said he knows people want more details so they can plan accordingly and that the government would have more information soon, but he didn’t offer a timeline on when a detailed analysis of models might be made public.
“Those analyses depend directly on … Canadians’ behaviours,” said Trudeau, again reiterating his call for people to follow guidelines around measures like physical distancing and staying home.
“These kinds of things will have a direct impact on which of the various models that are out there will be the one we take.”
Speaking outside his home at Rideau Cottage, the prime minister said: “If you listen to doctors, if you stay home, if you stay away from other people, we won’t overwhelm our hospitals.”
WATCH | Trudeau explains what new data is coming:
There is a “range” of projections, he said, but “highlighting that range is not as useful or important as being able to get clearer numbers and clear analysis of what we are likely to face.”
“But everything that we are going to face will be directly linked to how people behave today.”
WATCH | Canada’s top science adviser talks about the peak yet to come:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, told reporters that his government will be presenting the modelling that has been done for his province on Friday, saying he feels he must be fully transparent with the people of Ontario.
“It will be stark,” he said. “It will be a real wake-up call.”
Thursday afternoon, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced his province’s health officials would do the same, presenting their modelling information early next week.
Spread likely wider than recorded cases
Globally, the number of cases surged past one million Thursday, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
The Baltimore-based university has been tracking the recorded cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that first emerged in China.
The database, which shows a worldwide total of more than 980,000 cases, draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization, national and regional health agencies and media reports. But experts say the real spread of the virus is likely wider than suggested by recorded cases.
The real figures are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, differences in counting the dead and large numbers of mild cases that have gone unreported. Critics say some governments have been deliberately under-reporting cases in order to avoid public criticism.
Most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, but some people — particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions — face an increased risk of severe disease and death.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, on Thursday said at least 50 deaths in the country are linked to long-term care homes, senior residences and “other care facilities.”
But she also reiterated that COVID-19 spares “no one” and urged caution across age groups.
In Canada, provinces and territories are implementing ever-tighter public health measures and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, as well as planning ahead for an expected surge in hospitalizations.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller confirmed there are 15 cases in Indigenous communities and that the government is providing an additional $305 million to those communities to help deal with the outbreak.
WATCH | Health minister says Canada ‘likely did not have enough’ protective gear:
“There is a historical mistrust of government in a number of Indigenous communities,” he said, noting that mistrust can be a barrier to getting important messages out about how best to tackle the spread of the virus.
But he said: “This is a gap that must be filled by Indigenous leadership and they are filling it exceptionally well.”
Freeing up hospital beds
In Alberta, health officials have delayed surgeries, expanded ERs and made moves to allow Alberta Health Services to free up beds for an expected increase in COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Neil Collins, who has been handling the coronavirus response for emergency departments in the Calgary health zone, told CBC Calgary that “we are preparing for an increase that will certainly test our capacity.”
Premier Jason Kenney said this week that things “will get worse before they get better,” but also said the province’s health system has the equipment and staff needed to cope with the peak of the outbreak, which the province says could come in May. Kenney has said his province plans to present a “fairly detailed briefing” on its modelling for the pandemic in Alberta.
Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., is installing a temporary 93-bed structure on its grounds to help prepare for an uptick in cases. The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra, says the pandemic response unit will allow the hospital to keep its critical-care and high-acuity beds for the sickest patients.
In Sudbury, Ont., Health Sciences North recently admitted its first COVID-19 patient. The hospital had already cancelled elective surgeries and is making moves to free up beds.
WATCH | Physician says his hospital is ready, but concerned:
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says COVID-19 presents a “serious” health risk in Canada, noting that though risk varies in different communities, the risk to Canadians is “high.” The federal public health agency, which has been monitoring the situation and evolving research around the novel coronavirus, said in its public page on risk: “If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health-care resources available to Canadians.”
Canadians abroad may not all get home
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Thursday spoke about ongoing efforts to repatriate Canadians and said he understands the anxiety of people who are still stranded abroad.
“We are working literally around the clock and doing everything we can to bring you home as quickly as possible.”
Canadians who have been stuck on cruise ships in the Caribbean are finally going to be able to head home Friday.
Canadians who are not symptomatic will be able to return to 🇨🇦 tomorrow on an <a href=”https://twitter.com/HALcruises?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HALcruises</a> charter following health screening.<br><br>Upon arrival they will be screened again and subject to a mandatory 14 day self-isolation.<br><br>If 🇨🇦passengers are symptomatic they will be treated locally.
But Champagne went on to say the government is facing an “unprecedented challenge” as it deals with issues such as airport and border closures.
“I must, however, repeat something I have said before. Unfortunately, despite our very best efforts, it will most likely not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home.”
He called on people who are still abroad to follow local public health recommendations and said “we will assist you in every way we can.”
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
As of 7:00 p.m. ET Thursday, provinces and territories had reported 11,283 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 166 deaths. The number of deaths went down after Ontario health officials concluded that eight deceased patients who tested positive for COVID-19 did not actually die of the illness but from other health issues. The provinces and territories that provide data on the cases considered resolved listed 1,979 cases as recovered. There have also been two COVID-19-related deaths of Canadians abroad: one in Japan and one in Brazil.
Public health officials have cautioned that the numbers likely don’t capture the full scope of the outbreak because they don’t include people who haven’t been tested and potential cases still under investigation. Get a deeper look at what’s happening in your area through the CBC case tracker.
British Columbia has its first COVID-19 case in a correctional centre. An inmate in the interior of the province tested positive. “This is something we have been concerned about and planning for,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters. “There has been an active surveillance program, and this is the first test that has been positive.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, issued new guidelines to care homes and facilities, including strict requirements for reporting cases. There are currently nine outbreaks in long-term care centres in the province. Alberta also reported two more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday as its overall case numbers rose to 968. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
New figures suggest the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has secured some additional ventilators but still has hundreds more on order in case of a potential surge of serious COVID-19 cases. The health authority says it has 332 invasive ventilators (including ventilators used in critical care, sub-acute and anaesthetic environments) and 118 non-invasive ventilators. Another 1,383 ventilators are on order. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba health officials are dealing with outbreaks in one of the province’s care home and in a Winnipeg hospital. Nearly 40 health-care workers from the Health Sciences Centre have been sent home to self-isolate after coming into contact with an infected individual, which officials say could affect hospital services. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Roughly 1 in 10 reported COVID-19 cases in Ontario are health-care workers. Data published by the provincial Ministry of Health after an inquiry by CBC Toronto indicates that health-care workers account for at least 229 of the province’s 2,793 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s premier wants police to be less tolerant of people who are flouting the rules of physical distancing. François Legault says he’s hearing of companies that remain open and is warning those not following public health regulations will be hit with fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick’s premier said the province’s state of emergency has been extended for another two weeks. Blaine Higgs said his province will also put up barriers where needed to discourage people from congregating in public spaces. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
The top doctor in Nova Scotia is reminding people to stick close to home. Dr. Robert Strang said people shouldn’t be focused on how to get back to their regular activities, but should instead look to “minimize our interaction with others to protect each other.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S, including the story of YMCA workers checking in on local seniors.
WATCH | N.S. couple talks about self-isolating after travel:
Prince Edward Island is stepping up screening at the Confederation Bridge. “Don’t come if it’s not essential. You are going to be turned away,” said Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador is offering funding to help essential workers with child care. Premier Dwight Ball said the program will allow families “to avail of an alternate arrangement in a safe, regulated environment with guidance from public health.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Yukon has reported a sixth case of COVID-19, but says so far three people have recovered. In the Northwest Territories, the public health emergency has been extended. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
WATCH | Canadians prepare for an extended period of isolation:
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 8 p.m. ET
The Democratic Party on Thursday postponed its U.S. presidential nominating convention until August, after front-runner Joe Biden warned it would most likely not take place in July as scheduled. Republicans, meanwhile, are expressing confidence their convention will take place as scheduled in August; U.S. President Donald Trump said last week there is “no way” it would be moved.
It was also announced that last week more than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The stunning report Thursday from the United States Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the U.S. and abroad having almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world. The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week.
At a COVID-19 briefing late Thursday, White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said incoming infection data suggests not enough Americans are abiding by guidelines to stem the spread of the virus. The U.S., with a population of about 327 million, has recorded more than 5,800 deaths and more than 240,000 infections.
From New York to Los Angeles, U.S. officials are warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is ahead. In hot zones, such as New York and New Jersey, 35 per cent of tests conducted are positive for COVID-19, Birx said.
New York state’s coronavirus death toll doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already complained that U.S. states are competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines, or being outbid by the federal government.
Trump acknowledged that the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses is nearly depleted. “We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific,” he said.
On Thursday, the president invoked the Defense Production Act to aid companies building ventilators. In a memo released by the White House, Trump directed the U.S. health and human services secretary to use his authority to help facilitate the supply of ventilator materials for six companies, including General Electric Co., Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. and Medtronic Plc.
The act was also invoked for an order for 3M to make masks.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said even a “tucked-in bandana” could slow the spread of the virus, as he suggested his citizens wear homemade masks or scarves and reminded people to keep their distance.
“I know it will look surreal,” he said, donning a mask. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this.”
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside. He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus without realizing it.
At the briefing, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said updated CDC guidance on the wearing of face coverings and masks will come in the next several days.
Trump, who said he took a new rapid test for coronavirus because he wanted to see how fast it would be, indicated he would support such a recommendation. “If people wanted to wear them, they can,” said the president, who again tested negative. “If people wanted to use scarves, they can.”
As hotspots flared in New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city, New York, was the hardest hit of them all, with crematoriums extending their hours, and city officials are surveying cemeteries elsewhere in the state for temporary interment sites. Cuomo said Thursday that there have been 1,157 hospitalizations in the state, only slightly behind Wednesday’s tally of more than 1,400.
“It’s like a battlefield behind your home,” said 33-year-old Emma Sorza, who could hear the sirens from the swamped Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, N.Y.
At the task force briefing, Trump said that the Javit Center in New York City will be converted to a COVID-19 hospital staffed by the military at Cuomo’s request. The same would be done with facilities in Louisiana and Dallas.
Cuomo said projections suggest the crisis in New York will peak at the end of April, with a high death rate continuing through July.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit Italy, Spain and parts of Europe
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5 p.m. ET:
The head of the World Health Organization’s office in Europe says figures show that more than 95 per cent of people who have died of COVID-19 on the continent have been aged over 60. But Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for severe disease, noting: “The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong.”
In an online news conference Thursday in Copenhagen, Kluge said “young people are not invincible” — echoing similar recent comments from WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
WATCH | How young people may be fuelling the spread of COVID-19:
The UN health agency says 10 per cent to 15 per cent of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe infection.
“Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said.
He said recent statistics showed 30,098 people have been reported to have died in Europe, mostly in Italy, France and Spain.
“We know that over 95 per cent of these deaths occurred in those older than 60 years,” he said, with more than half aged over 80. Kluge said more than four in five of those people had at least one other chronic underlying condition, like cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes.
“On a positive note, there are reports of people over the age of 100 who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 and have now — since — made a complete recovery,” he said.
Spain hit a new record Thursday in virus-related fatalities with 950 deaths in 24 hours, which came as the country is seeing the growth of contagion waning, health ministry data showed. The total number of deaths by Thursday was 10,096.
New coronavirus infections rose by nearly eight per cent overnight to 110,238, placing Spain neck and neck with Italy, the country that has had the worst outbreak in Europe. Health authorities have been saying that the pace of contagion has dropped from a daily average of 20 per cent until March 25 to less than 12 per cent after that date, more than 10 days after Spaniards were ordered to stay at home. The government has acknowledged that the real number of infections could be much higher because Spain only has the capacity to do between 15,000 and 20,000 tests per day.
Italy added another 760 dead to its coronavirus toll, bringing the count in the country with the most deaths to 13,915. New infections continued to level off, three weeks into what was the West’s first nationwide shutdown. Pressure on hospitals in hard-hit Lombardy continued to ease, with more than 800 people recovered and 165 fewer people hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to a day earlier. Intensive care units are still saturated, but overall, Lombardy added just under 1,300 new cases, with about half of those being treated at home.
Confirmed cases in Germany have risen to 84,600, while 1,097 people have died of the disease. Cases rose by 6,156, compared with the previous day, and the death toll climbed by 140.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of the month to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Putin said there are exceptions for essential industries to keep operating, and grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. He said that it would be up to the regional authorities to decide which sectors should keep working in their areas.
He said Russia’s virus-prevention strategies have bought time and helped slow down the outbreak in the country, but he also warned that infections haven’t yet peaked. Russia had reported 3,548 cases and 30 virus-related deaths as of Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. Experts have questioned how accurate those numbers are, given Russia’s vast size and shared borders with China and Europe.
France’s death toll jumped to more than 5,400 on Thursday, as the country started including fatalities in nursing homes in its data. A provisional tally showed that 884 people had died in nursing homes, raising the toll significantly only a day after France became the fourth country to pass 4,000 deaths.
Britain has written off 13.4 billion pounds ($23.6 billion Cdn) of historic debt that hospitals owe in order to free up resources in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the country would ramp up the number of tests amid widespread criticism that they were doing far too few.
And in the Netherlands, measures to limit the outbreak appear to have halved the rate of infection but need to be continued to be really effective, a top health official said.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit China, South Korea, Iran and some other areas of concern
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
China logged fewer reported new infections on Thursday while at the same time measures restricting movement have been tightened in some parts of the country because of a fear of more imported cases. Meanwhile, an increased focus on asymptomatic carriers is stoking fears among the population, despite the fact that the number of such cases fell sharply on April 1 to 55, from 130 the day before. China has faced questions about how it records cases and reports case numbers.
South Korea will allow coronavirus patients to vote by mail as parliamentary elections begin this month. The country is still grappling with a steady rise in infections, reporting 89 new infections on Thursday, raising the total tally to 9,976, while the death toll rose by four to 169. Roughly 4,000 patients receiving treatment will be able to cast their ballots by mail while the National Election Commission is urging all voters to wear masks in polling stations, make use of sanitizers and gloves, and practise physical distancing.
Experts in Japan say the country is on the brink of a medical crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being derided on social media for offering cloth masks instead of declaring a coronavirus state of emergency. The prime minister returned to power in 2012 promising to revive growth with a policy mix dubbed Abenomics, and he has promised a huge fiscal package to counter the outbreak’s blow to the economy. “If you declare an emergency, it is definitely the end of Abenomics, the end of ‘economy first,'” said Jesper Koll, CEO of fund manager WisdomTree Japan.
With more than 50,400 reported cases, Iran has more than half of total coronavirus infections reported in the Middle East and over 3,600 deaths. In a rare acknowledgment of the severity of the outbreak by a senior Iranian official, President Hassan Rouhani said the new coronavirus may remain through the end of the Iranian year, which just began late last month, state TV reported Thursday.
“The corona issue is not an issue that we can say it will be ended [on a specific] day,” Rouhani said. “It is possible corona will be with us for the coming months. It is possible it will be with us by the end of the year. We always have to follow healthy protocols provided by the health ministry.”
Neighbouring Iraq has thousands more confirmed COVID-19 cases than the 772 it has publicly reported, according to doctors closely involved in the testing process and other senior officials. Three doctors, who work in pharmaceutical teams helping test suspected COVID-19 cases in Baghdad, each said that confirmed cases of the disease, based on discussions among fellow medics who see daily results, were between about 3,000 and 9,000 although they each gave different estimates. A health minister and political official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said confirmed cases were likely in the thousands. Iraq’s health ministry, the country’s only official outlet for information on COVID-19, could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country will pull out of its three-week lockdown in phases. The shutdown, which ordered 1.3 billion people indoors and brought Asia’s third-largest economy to a shuddering halt, is due to end on April 14. It has left millions without jobs and forced migrant workers to flee to their villages for food and shelter. India has had 1,965 confirmed infections, of whom 50 have died — low figures by comparison with the United States, China, Italy and Spain. But the big worry is the emergence of a cluster in Delhi because of a gathering held by a Muslim missionary group last month that has spawned dozens of cases across the country, officials said.
Taiwan has announced it is planning to donate 10 million face masks, plus medicine, to medical staff in countries that are fighting coronavirus. The self-governed island claimed by Beijing has been seeking to showcase its own handling of the outbreak as it pushes back against China’s efforts to isolate it diplomatically.
Zambia has recorded its first death from coronavirus, and the number of confirmed cases has risen by three to 39, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said on Thursday. Meanwhile Rwanda, the first sub-Saharan country to impose a coronavirus lockdown, has now extended it by two weeks. Altogether, Africa has now registered almost 6,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 200 deaths. The continent is already suffering a huge economic impact from lockdowns aiming to contain the virus and a sharp fall in global demand for commodities. To keep food aid flowing after most countries shut their borders, the United Nations food agency negotiated a humanitarian corridor through South Africa to countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Namibia.
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