Canadians got a glimpse of how one province plans to handle a phased reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday as Saskatchewan’s premier and top doctor offered details about a recovery plan they say will start in early May.
The question of how and when to reopen is one being debated across Canada and in many regions of the world that have seen some progress in slowing the spread of the novel virus, which first emerged in China in late 2019.
Saskatchewan’s premier outlined the province’s reopening plan on Thursday, saying COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will be critical. Scott Moe said the province had to find the “middle ground” that keeps case numbers low and people safe, while also allowing businesses to open.
WATCH | See how Saskatchewan plans to handle a phased reopening:
Restrictions will be gradually lifted in phases over a period of weeks, he said. All businesses and public venues will be required to keep following physical distancing and cleanliness rules — as will customers.
“We will carefully monitor the case numbers each and every day and we will adjust our plan accordingly if required,” Moe said.
According to a Johns Hopkins University database, there are now more than 2.7 million known coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 190,000 deaths. In Canada alone, there are more than 42,000 confirmed and presumptive cases, with more than 2,200 deaths. Some provinces, including hard-hit Quebec and Ontario, are still seeing hundreds of new cases daily, while others, including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, have seen several days with no new cases.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is set to release details of a four-phase reopening plan for that province Friday afternoon.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called for a national plan, expressing concern about a “possible patchwork approach across the country.”
The prime minister has said that the question of how to handle reopening will be led by the provinces, which have all had varying experiences with the virus.
Justin Trudeau has said that different provinces and territories will make different decisions around when and how to loosen restrictions. He said the federal government is working to co-ordinate “so that we are working from a similar set of guidelines and principles to ensure Canadians right across the country are being kept safe as we look to those next steps.”
As of 6 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 42,110 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 14,774 listed by provinces and territories as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of coronavirus-related deaths, which is based on provincial data, local public health information and CBC reporting, put the death toll at 2,232 in Canada, with two deaths abroad.
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Public health officials caution that the numbers don’t capture the full story, as they don’t include people who haven’t been tested or potential cases that are still being investigated.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has urged people to behave as though there is coronavirus in their community, even if there aren’t any officially recorded cases. There are no proven treatments or cures for the novel virus.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
A second poultry plant in British Columbia is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the chief provincial health officer, said two cases have been reported at a plant in Coquitlam. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
An iconic Alberta event, the Calgary Stampede, won’t go ahead this summer because of the coronavirus and restrictions to fight it. “Stampede is such an important part of who we are as a community, and it’s hard for me to even imagine what a July without a Stampede will look like,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “But this year, with this risk, we simply cannot continue to do that.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outlined a five-phase reopening plan on Thursday. The first phase will begin on May 4 and will lift some restrictions on outdoor activity and allow medical practices, ranging from dentists to physiotherapists, to reopen with precautions in place. A second phase, which includes restricted retail operation and businesses like hairstylists, is set for May 19. There are no dates attached to subsequent phases, which means the timeline for full resumption of places like restaurants, theatres and gyms isn’t yet clear. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says the province looks to be on track toward lifting some of the restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19 next month. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario, which has requested help from the federal government for long-term care homes, announced a plan Thursday to assist vulnerable people who don’t live in long-term care, including group homes for people with disabilities and shelters. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including a detailed timeline of how the province has handled COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
Nurses at one Quebec long-term care home say they are still facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, despite recent assurances from the province’s health minister that there was enough supply. When asked about reports of shortages, Danielle McCann suggested the issue could be around distribution and urged facilities facing shortages to reach out. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
In New Brunswick, the government is looking at how and when it will bring provincial employees back into offices. “We can find all kinds of innovative ways in government, in other businesses throughout the province. But the public health rules have to be part of that solution until we find a vaccine,” Premier Blaine Higgs said. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia reported four more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, all linked to long-term care homes. The province has now seen a total of 16 deaths linked to the coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, keeping the province’s total of confirmed cases at 26. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said more testing and strong screening measures at points of entry are important as the province looks to ease back restrictions. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
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Newfoundland and Labrador also reported no new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Following several days of no new cases reported in the province, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said authorities have begun considering ways to relax lockdown measures. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 9 a.m. ET
Announcing plans to begin reopening his state, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster cited the ongoing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.
“South Carolina’s business is business,” he declared this week as he lifted restrictions on department stores, florists, music shops and some other businesses that previously had been deemed nonessential.
At the same briefing, the state’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, seconded the importance of economic recovery but quickly inserted a note of caution: “The risk of exposure remains for everyone,” she said.
It is a scenario playing out across the country as governors wrestle with weeks of quarantine-fuelled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, and the simultaneous warnings of public health officials who say lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, as scattered groups of protesters have staged loud demonstrations in favour of rescinding quarantine orders, a recent public opinion poll finds that a majority of Americans believe it won’t be safe to stop following physical distancing guidelines anytime soon.
The dire hit to the economy is clear: Jobless numbers released Thursday show Depression-era levels of unemployment, with one in six American workers losing their job amid the pandemic. In South Carolina, more than 14 per cent of the labour force has claimed to be out of work due to the outbreak.
In Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys were being allowed to reopen Friday.
Most state leaders acknowledge they have not met many of the key benchmarks that federal guidelines recommend before reopening, such as having robust systems in place for testing and tracing the contacts of those who are positive for the virus.
The difference in how governors are responding to that reality depends largely on their political party, with a handful of Republican leaders moving eagerly forward despite the discrepancies, while most Democratic governors have slammed on the brakes.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 9 a.m. ET
In Muslim communities around the world, the pandemic was casting a shadow over the holy month of Ramadan — marked by daytime fasting, overnight festivities and communal prayer.
Ramadan begins for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims with this week’s new moon. Many Muslim leaders have closed mosques or banned collective evening prayers to ward off infections.
South Korea starting next week will strap electronic wristbands on people who ignore home-quarantine orders in its latest use of tracking technology to control its outbreak.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip on Friday said those who refuse to wear the bands after breaking quarantine will be sent to shelters where they will be asked to pay for accommodation.
Officials said around 46,300 people are under self-quarantine. The number ballooned after the government began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.
Japanese emergency medicine is starting to collapse amid dire shortages of protective gear and test kits that can quickly identify infected patients, putting medical workers at risk of infection. Some are refusing to treat suspected COVID-19 patients and even others suffering heart attacks and external injuries, representatives of health-care workers in acute medicine said Friday.
The limited number of advanced and critical emergency centres are overburdened with the surging patients and risk of coronavirus infections because many other hospitals are increasingly turning away suspected patients, said Takeshi Shimazu, head of the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine, and Tetsuya Sakamoto, who heads the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine, during a joint video news conference.
“We can no longer operate normally, and in that sense I say the collapse of emergency medicine has already started,” Shimazu said.
India’s prime minister says the country’s 1.3 billion people are bravely fighting the coronavirus epidemic with limited resources and the lesson they have learned so far is that the country has to be self-sufficient for meeting its needs.
Addressing the country’s village council heads through video conferencing on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country can’t afford to look outward to meet a crisis of this dimension in future. Self-reliance is the biggest lesson taught by the epidemic, Modi said.
India has so far reported 22,358 positive novel coronavirus cases and 718 deaths. India has been importing critical medical supplies, including protective gear, masks and ventilators, from China.
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Sweden threatened to close bars and restaurants that do not follow physical distancing recommendations by public health authorities.
“We see worrying reports about full outdoor dining and crowding. Let me be extremely clear. I don’t want to see any crowded outdoor restaurants in Stockholm” or elsewhere, Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told a news conference.
The Swedish government on Friday asked the country’s 290 municipalities to report on how restaurants and cafes follow the Public Health Authority’s advice. Sweden has opted for relatively liberal policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
While the health crisis has eased in places like Italy, Spain and France, experts say it is far from over, and the threat of new outbreaks looms large.
“The question is not whether there will be a second wave,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s Europe office. “The question is whether we will take into account the biggest lessons so far.”
In France, the government is leaving families to decide whether to keep children at home or send them back to class when the countrywide lockdown, in place since March 17, starts to be eased from May 11.
In Spain, parents face a similarly knotty decision: whether to let kids get their first fresh air in weeks when the country on Sunday starts to ease the total ban on letting them outside. Even then, they will still have to abide to a “1-1-1” rule: no more than one hour per day, within a one-kilometre radius of their house and with no more than one supervising adult.
Some German states were moving too quickly to reopen, said Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has won praise for how it has handled the pandemic and how its death toll has remained much lower than in other large European countries.
Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock, who has faced intense questioning over testing, promised to expand testing to all those considered key workers.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1. In Nigeria, the governors of the country’s 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.
In Africa, COVID-19 cases have surged 43 per cent in the past week to 26,000, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figures underscored a World Health Organization warning that the virus could kill more than 300,000 people in Africa and push 30 million into desperate poverty.
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