Canadian officials acknowledged some regions of the country could be closer to reopening parts of the economy than others, but continued to stress a careful approach as the border closure with the hard-hit United States was extended for another 30 days during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Let us be very clear, while we want to be optimistic, we need to be absolutely cautious,” Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Saturday.
Despite continuing grim news, glimmers of hope emerged this week as provinces and cities reported slower growth of COVID-19 cases, and officials began discussing moves toward a “new normal.”
In British Columbia, officials suggested some restrictions could be eased in the coming weeks in light of numbers showing a flattening of the COVID-19 curve.
Prince Edward Island, where 23 of the province’s 26 confirmed COVID-19 cases have recovered, is also looking at easing restrictions on activities while maintaining self-isolation rules for those entering the province.
Toronto Mayor John Tory met with city officials Saturday to discuss when regular life can restart in the country’s biggest city, though he warned that the time has not come yet.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province’s approach will be based on health advice and will only move forward with reopening with medical officials’ green light. He added that there are various scenarios playing out across the province.
“What’s happening in a big urban centre like Toronto may not be happening in rural areas,” Ford said.
He said that loosening restrictions over time will have to be done in a careful and methodical way, and said it would be “twice as hard” as the current lockdown.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs also floated May 1 as a possible date for lifting some restrictions in the province — if new case numbers remain low and recovery rates stay high.
Across Canada, more than 507,000 people have been tested for COVID-19, with about six per cent confirmed positive, Duclos said.
About 7.6 million applications for financial assistance under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) have been processed, he said.
As of Saturday evening, Canada had 33,383 presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases. The provinces and territories that provide data on recoveries listed 11,219 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths linked to COVID-19 based on provincial reports, regional public health information and CBC reporting listed 1,529 deaths in Canada. There have also been two reported coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad.
For travellers, the federal government is rolling out new rules requiring that all air passengers wear face masks covering their noses and mouths while in transit.
Parliament mulls reconvening
The federal government on Saturday pledged $306 million to Indigenous businesses, for interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions, he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest update comes as more than 2.3 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 158,691 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Trudeau also stressed he does not think it is a good idea for the House of Commons to resume business as usual on Monday — with all 338 MPs, along with their staff, clerks, interpreters, security and cleaners.
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An agreement needs to be reached before then on scaled-back sittings if the plan is to change. Federal political parties are to continue negotiating Saturday about when and how Parliament should reconvene in the middle of the pandemic.
Trudeau’s Liberals are proposing one in-person sitting each week, with a small number of MPs and extended time for longer questions and more thorough answers than would normally be allowed during the daily question period. More sittings would be added as soon as the technical and logistical requirements for virtual meetings can be worked out.
All opposition parties appear satisfied with that proposal, except for the Conservatives.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding up to four in-person sittings each week, with fewer than 50 MPs in the chamber, to hold the government to account for its response to the health crisis and the resulting economic fallout.
WATCH | Trudeau announces extension of U.S. border restrictions:
Except for two single-day sittings to pass emergency aid bills, Parliament has been adjourned since mid-March.
Canada and the U.S. are extending the closure of the border to non-essential travel for another 30 days, Trudeau said Saturday.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a package of new measures Friday that also will require people flying in Canada to wear masks at all Canadian screening checkpoints whenever maintaining two metres separation from others is not possible.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said Saturday three more people died of the virus, all from long-term care facilities. The announcement came a day after Henry and other health officials released modelling data showing B.C. is flattening the COVID-19 curve to the point where plans are underway to loosen some provincial restrictions. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported 239 new cases on Friday, a spike Premier Jason Kenney said is the result of expanded testing. Alberta’s chief medical officer also confirmed hundreds of cases are linked to a meat packing plant in High River, accounting for 15 per cent of the province’s total. The plant run by Cargill is one of the two primary beef suppliers for McDonald’s Canada. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan reported no new deaths in a Saturday briefing. The province now has care homes in two communities where more than one person is infected with COVID-19, health officials said Friday, after there had been no coronavirus cases in the province’s intensive care beds for several days in a row. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba reported three new cases on Saturday. The new number comes a day after the province announced its number of recovered cases surpassed its active cases for the first time. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including an analysis of how the provincial government is handling the outbreak.
Manitoba’s top doctor <a href=”https://twitter.com/roussin_brent?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@roussin_brent</a> announces three new cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> bringing the province’s total to 253. The death count remains at five. He says seven people are in hospital and four are in the ICU. A total of 140 people have recovered and there are 108 active cases.
In Ontario, Toronto Mayor John Tory met with city officials Saturday to discuss how and when businesses and municipal services can reopen. No clear timeline was announced. Ontario’s current set of emergency measures last until May 11. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where 485 new cases were reported Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 10,010.
In Quebec, Canadian Armed Forces members with medical training are arriving to help in the province’s long-term care homes. About 125 nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel have been sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Premier Legault said he took “full responsibility” for the “deteriorating” situation in the province’s long-term care homes. Such facilities are struggling with staffing as a number of workers have fallen ill, while the senior residents of those homes have been dying at an alarming rate. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has floated May 1 as a possible date for lifting some restrictions in the province — if new case numbers remain low and recovery rates stay high. The province reported one new case of COVID-19 on Saturday in the Fredericton area. Eighty-seven people from New Brunswick have recovered from the virus. The province has 118 confirmed cases. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia is reporting three more deaths, along with 43 new positive tests. A government news release says the three recent deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax on Friday.
Premier Stephen McNeil says the government is working with the home on an emergency plan to protect residents from the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
My greatest fear with this virus was that it would make its way into our long-term care homes. I was so sad to learn of this devasting loss of life. We are working with Northwood to implement an emergency plan to isolate the virus and protect your loved ones. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19NS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19NS</a>
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 Friday, keeping the provincial total at 26 cases. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I, including what the premier had to say about how the easing of restrictions might work.
The Northwest Territories isn’t saying who is on its COVID-19 enforcement task force and Yukon reported one new case on Friday. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North, including the efforts at a micro-manufacturing centre in Inuvik to create items essential workers need.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 2:45 p.m. ET
U.S. governors, eager to rescue their economies and feeling heat from demonstrators and President Donald Trump, are moving to ease restrictions meant to control the spread of the coronavirus, even as new hot spots emerge and experts warn that moving too fast could prove disastrous.
Stores in Texas can soon begin selling merchandise with curbside service, and hospitals can resume nonessential surgeries. In Florida, people are returning to beaches and parks. And protesters are clamouring for more.
Protests against stay-at-home orders organized by small-government groups and Trump supporters were planned for Saturday in several cities after the president urged supporters to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.
But protests were planned in Republican-led states, too, including at the Texas Capitol. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott already has said that restrictions would begin easing next week.
Meanwhile, infections kept surging in the Northeast.
Rhode Island, sandwiched between the hot spots of Massachusetts and New York, has seen a steady daily increase in the number of infections and deaths, with nursing home residents accounting for more than 90 of the state’s 118 fatalities. The state’s death rate of around 10 people per 100,000 population is among the highest per capita in the nation, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.
Massachusetts had its highest number of deaths in a single day on Friday with 159. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said it would be premature for states to begin lifting restrictions when deaths are still climbing.
Trump, whose administration waited months to bolster stockpiles of key medical supplies and equipment, appeared to back protesters taking to the streets in several U.S. states to vent their anger with the economy-strangling restrictions.
Trump is pushing to relax the U.S. lockdown by May 1, a plan that hinges partly on more testing.
Public health officials said the ability to test enough people and trace contacts of those who are infected is crucial before easing up on restrictions, and that infections could surge anew unless people continue to take precautions.
The U.S. on Saturday had more than 700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 37,086 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. leads the world in number of deaths and cases.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 4 p.m. ET
Italy’s commissioner for the coronavirus, Domenico Arcuri, is cautioning against pitting health concerns versus economic worries when deciding to ease lockdown rules, saying, “without health, the [economic] revival will disappear in the batting of an eyelash.”
Health experts say easing must be gradual. Italy has nearly 23,000 deaths, the most in Europe, and more than 172,000 known cases.
Authorities in Lombardy and other northern regions, but also Sicily in the south, have been pressing the central government to quickly ease restrictions on factories and many other businesses. The government decree that shut down non-essential industries and businesses runs through May 3.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says the government will seek to extend the country’s state of emergency by two weeks to fight the coronavirus outbreak but will start easing the total confinement of children. Sanchez says children will be allowed “to get out of their houses for a period on a daily basis,” but the specifics need to be ironed out with experts. He says rolling back the national lockdown will only come when the country’s embattled health system is ready for possible rebounds. The state of emergency extension until May 9 needs to be approved by parliament.
The country on Saturday reached 20,000 deaths — with 565 deaths reported in the last 24 hours — and total infections increased to more than 190,000. Only the United States and Italy have more deaths.
France registered 642 more deaths from coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 19,323, the fourth-highest tally in the world, although the number of people in hospital declined for a fourth day running.
Meanwhile, the country’s lower house of parliament approved an emergency budget overnight that takes into account the government’s €110-billion ($167-billion Cdn) plan to save the economy from virus-related collapse. The budget includes bonuses for medical staff, funds to help struggling workers and families, and aid to businesses including strategic industries like aviation and car manufacturing. The bill goes to the Senate on Tuesday.
British authorities reported 888 more coronavirus-related hospital deaths on Saturday, bringing the total to 15,464. The latest daily figure from the health department is higher than the previous day’s 847 deaths by 41. Britain posted a record high daily death toll of 980 a week ago.
Ahead of her birthday, Queen Elizabeth says she doesn’t want a gun salute because she doesn’t think it’s appropriate during the coronavirus pandemic. The monarch, who turns 94 on Tuesday, decided not to publicly mark the occasion in any special way, including the artillery salute traditionally performed on her birthday.
Sweden has reported 111 new COVID-19 deaths, with total deaths now at 1,511, and health officials say 13,822 people have confirmed infections. Most of the infections and deaths have been recorded in Stockholm, which has 897 fatalities.
On Friday, the Swedish government defended its approach of pursuing relatively liberal policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic, saying it shared the “same goals” as other nations fighting COVID-19. The government has advised the public to practise social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants remain open. Only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.
Africa’s cases have surpassed 20,000, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths across the continent surpassed 1,000 on Saturday.
Fifty-two of Africa’s 54 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, and the World Health Organization has expressed concern that local spread is increasing.
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In Myanmar’s biggest city, authorities have ordered a six-hour curfew in a bid to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The Yangon Region Government announced the 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew will start Saturday night. Several of the city’s neighbourhoods were put under lockdown, with all people required to stay at home except for essential workers, and only one person per household allowed to buy necessary supplies. Myanmar announced Thursday a ban on gatherings of more than five people.
Public health authorities confirmed Saturday six new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 94 and five deaths. Myanmar was among the last countries in Southeast Asia to confirm any COVID-19 cases, likely because of lack of testing. The public health infrastructure is considered one of the weakest in Asia.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said a large number of migrants on a deportation flight to Guatemala from the U.S. this week were infected with the coronavirus, adding that U.S. authorities had confirmed a dozen cases. Giammattei said 12 randomly selected people on the deportation flight tested positive for coronavirus when examined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He suggested more on the flight had tested positive as well.
Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.
An increase of 3,783 cases in the last 24 hours also pushed Turkey’s confirmed tally within a few hundred of China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.
The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.
Japan, alarmed by rising deaths and the spectre of the collapse of the medical system, is scrambling to expand testing with drive-thru facilities and general practitioners helping to collect samples.
Japan conducted about 52,000 polymerase chain reaction tests in March, or just 16 per cent of the number carried out in South Korea, according to data from Oxford University.
While the measures marked a shift in policy, it remains to be seen how effective they will be, experts say, as Japan struggles with red tape, staff shortages and the absence of centralized decision-making with no single agency co-ordinating the response to the disease. Japan’s total infections stand at more than 9,800, with 207 deaths, according to a tally by public broadcaster NHK.
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