Coronavirus: Here’s what’s happening in Canada and the world on Thursday

Canada’s prime minister is set to address the public again Thursday, a day after announcing an $82 billion COVID-19 response package that includes measures ranging from wage subsidies and income supports to a temporary boost to the child benefit program.

Justin Trudeau, who is still in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is scheduled to speak outside his home at 11 a.m. ET. 

Trudeau on Wednesday also announced a joint deal with the U.S. to close the border to non-essential travel, a move meant to clamp down on COVID-19 while still allow the flow of critical supplies between the two countries. 

Canada and the U.S. are not the only nations clamping down on border crossings. As the world responds to the pandemic, countries are introducing a range of measures to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Hard-hit Italy is still on lockdown as it scrambles to slow cases and properly treat the infected. Australia and New Zealand recently announced broad border restrictions. And China, where the virus was first reported, said that even though it is making headway against the virus, it’s not yet in the clear.

The risk of new coronavirus cases occurring in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, has not been eliminated and infection risk still persists at community and clinic levels, a government official said on Thursday. Li Yang, an official from Hubei’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, made the comments at a press conference. They come after new local transmissions in China fell to zero on Wednesday. 

There are more than 219,000 cases worldwide, according to a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. For most of those people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus but some people who are infected — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — are at higher risk of facing a more severe illness, including pneumonia.

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, a move that allows the province to do things like secure supply chains. The province had already declared a public health emergency, but Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the state of emergency is part of an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to tackling the novel coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

In Alberta, the premier says social distancing measures will likely be needed until the end of May, saying the “velocity” of the virus’s spread around the world suggests “we can expect this to pose a very real threat to public safety for at least two or three months.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including the latest from the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Saskatchewan also declared a state of emergency to tackle COVID-19. The province banned public gatherings of more than 50 people, said restaurants and bars need to keep half their seats empty and said businesses that are allowed to remain open — including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations — must have processes that maintain “one-to-two-metre” separation. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba opened its first drive-in COVID-19 testing site on Wednesday. The site, located in Selkirk, allows patients with a referral to drive up and be screened. Then, if needed, they can get the necessary test without getting out of their car. Manitoba has not yet reported any community transmission cases, but the province’s top doctor says “we’re very, very likely” to see community transmission as more cases are imported. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba here.

Ontario’s health minister said the province is “very aware” of the need to step-up COVID-19 testing capacity after reports of wait times of up to four days for results. Christine Elliott said the wait is “not acceptable” and the province is working to ramp things up. Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday addressed the issue of panic buying, saying the call to place limits on certain products is a decision for retailers, but one that he is open to. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario here.

Quebec announced its first COVID-19 related death on Wednesday. The province’s director of public health said it was an elderly woman in the Lanaudière region who had been in contact with a person who had travelled. Though the woman had been in contact with someone who went abroad, Dr. Horacio Arruda said that doesn’t mean there is broader community transmission. “We’re not there yet.” Arruda noted that just because case numbers rise, “that doesn’t mean we’re losing the battle.” Read more about what’s happening in Quebec here.

New Brunswick’s premier urged people in his province to be cautious and embrace social distancing. Blaine Higgs said “this is not a drill” and called on people to avoid things like playdates and getting together with friends. The province says additional nurses are going to be staffing a key telehealth line starting Thursday after complaints about long waits. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick here.

Nova Scotia hospitals are strictly limiting visitors, with the health authority saying “multiple people waiting in hallways, family rooms or waiting rooms is not acceptable given requirements to social distance.” There are some exceptions, including around end-of-life care, pediatric patients and women in labour, the health authority said. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia here, including detail on more business closures.

P.E.I. has asked non-essential businesses to close as part of its plan to fight COVID-19. Things like grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, hardware stores and car repair locations can stay open, the premier said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I. here.

Newfoundland and Labrador has declared a public health emergency, and ordered several types of businesses — including gyms, movie theatres, arenas and bars — to close. “This is an unprecedented time,” Health Minister John Haggie said Wednesday. Read more about what’s happening in N.L. here

There were no confirmed cases in any of the territories as of Wednesday, but officials were still taking action. Nunavut declared a state of public health emergency, as did the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

As of 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, there were 727 presumptive and confirmed cases in Canada, with nine deaths and 11 listed as recovered.

Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Not all provinces are listing figures on those who have recovered.

  • Ontario: 214 cases, including five listed by the province as resolved and one death.
  • British Columbia: 231 confirmed cases, including five recovered and seven deaths.
  • Alberta: 119 confirmed cases.
  • Quebec: 94 confirmed cases, including one recovered and one death.
  • Saskatchewan: 16 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • New Brunswick: Two confirmed and nine presumptive cases.
  • Manitoba: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases. 
  • Nova Scotia: Three confirmed and nine presumptive cases.
  • Prince Edward Island: One confirmed case.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Three presumptive cases.
  • Repatriated Canadians: Nine confirmed cases.

Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

Describing himself as a “wartime president” fighting an invisible enemy, President Donald Trump invoked rarely used emergency powers to marshal critical medical supplies against the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also signed an aid package — which the Senate approved earlier Wednesday — that will guarantee sick leave to workers who fall ill.

Trump tapped his authority under the 70-year-old Defence Production Act to give the government more power to steer production by private companies and try to overcome shortages in masks, ventilators and other supplies.

Yet he seemed to minimize the urgency of the decision, later tweeting that he “only signed the Defence Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”

“Hopefully there will be no need,” he added, “but we are all in this TOGETHER!”

The mixed messaging came as Trump took a series of other extraordinary steps to steady the nation, its day-to-day life suddenly and fundamentally altered.

The Canada-U.S. border, the world’s longest, was effectively closed, save for commerce and essential travel, while the administration pushed its plan to send relief cheques to millions of Americans.

Trump said he will expand the nation’s diagnostic testing capacity and deploy a Navy hospital ship to New York City, which is rapidly becoming an epicentre of the pandemic, and another such ship to the West Coast. And the Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions through April to help the growing number of Americans who face losing jobs and missing rent and mortgage payments.

But as Trump laid out efforts to help the economy, markets plummeted. Gone were nearly all the gains that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had made since Trump took office.

WATCH: Trump on Canada-U.S. border

U.S. President Donald Trump says there was no tipping point that led to the suspension of non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border. 0:54

The administration announcements came on a fast-moving day of developments across the capital, its empty streets standing in contrast to the whirlwind of activity inside the grand spaces of the White House and the Capitol.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a second coronavirus response bill, which Trump signed Wednesday night. The vote was a lopsided 90-8 despite worries by many Republicans about a temporary new employer mandate to provide sick leave to workers who get COVID-19. The measure is also aimed at making tests for the virus free.

Meanwhile, the administration pushed forward its broad economic rescue plan, which proposes $500 billion US in cheques to millions of Americans, with the first to come April 6 if Congress approves.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country’s large elderly population, its overwhelmed health-care system and the delayed imposition of complete lockdown measures across the epicentre, Lombardy.

Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths since March 15, it is likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead when Thursday’s figures are released.

UN and Italian health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large elderly population, who are particularly susceptible to developing serious complications from the virus. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population after Japan’s and the vast majority of Italy’s dead — 87 per cent — were over age 70.

Trucks in traffic on the motorway on the A4 Dresden, near Bautzen, Germany, on Wednesday. The effects of the spread of the coronavirus are now also being felt on the roads in Saxony because of the controls at the border to Poland. (Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/The Associated Press)

In addition, virtually all of Italy’s dead had one or more underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension or renal insufficiency.

As of late Wednesday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported almost 71,000 cases, with 3,309 deaths. 

Europe is scrambling to slow the spread of the virus, with countries introducing a range of measures including tighter border controls, school and business closures and plans designed to boost ailing economies.

The British government plans to introduce a bill in Parliament on Thursday that will give authorities stronger powers to respond to the pandemic. The bill gives police and immigration officers powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health.

WATCH: Respirologist weighs in on human trials of COVID-19 vaccine

Though concerned about the availability of ventilators in Canada, Dr. Samir Gupta is encouraged by the first COVID-19 vaccine trials. 5:45

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