Some of the latest developments:
- The official national tally of confirmed cases is at least 250.
- Saskatchewan announced four new presumptive cases late Saturday.
- Nova Scotia and the three territories are the only areas that have not confirmed a case.
- Quebec, Ontario announced new restrictions on who can visit long-term care facilities.
- Trump tests negative for coronavirus.
- CBC/Radio-Canada and TV distributors make 24-hour news channels widely available.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases in Canada has prompted a wave of restrictions aimed at protecting seniors as officials made more insistent calls for travellers to return home without delay.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, announced Saturday he held a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump following a news conference in which U.S. officials raised the possibility of grounding all domestic flights south of the border.
The threat was part of the growing alarm over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered an unprecedented number of closures and other measures meant to protect the population.
The most notable new measures on Saturday targeted seniors and their loved ones in Quebec and Ontario. Both provinces announced rigid new restrictions on who could visit long-term care facilities in those provinces.
Quebec Premier François Legault took things one step further by advising anyone over the age of 70 to stay home until further notice and implementing a provincewide ban on visitors to hospitals and seniors’ residences.
“I know it’s tough because when you have your mother or grandmother, you’d like to visit her,” Legault said at a news conference. “But it’s not a good idea to visit people and take the risk that they get the coronavirus.”
In Ontario, chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams urged long-term care residences to bar access to all but “essential visitors.” That group was defined as the relative of anyone who is dying or gravely ill, as well as the parent or guardian of a sick child or youth.
“The safety and well-being of our vulnerable residents is our top priority,” reads a memo Williams sent to the province’s long-term care facilities.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada called upon Canadians currently abroad to hasten home while they still have the chance as countries around the world impose ever-tighter travel restrictions.
Word from Ottawa came as Canadians travelling in Europe scrambled to book flights ahead of looming border closures in many European Union countries.
The advice marks an escalation for the government, who previously urged Canadians to cancel or postpone non-essential trips.
“Airlines have cancelled flights. New restrictions may be imposed with little warning. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected,” the ministry said in an email to registered Canadians abroad.
“Find out what commercial options are still available to return to Canada. Consider returning to Canada earlier than planned if these options are becoming more limited.”
More than 150,000 infected worldwide
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 9 as cases began to spike in countries around the world.
But Canadian public health officials continue to describe the risk to the public as relatively low as they urge hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.
WATCH | Trudeau warns against leaving the country:
The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed upwards of 5,600 globally, including one person in British Columbia.
Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to the general population is low.
However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.
The growing number of cases has prompted widespread closures of schools and universities, mass cancellation of large-scale events, multimillion-dollar economic stimulus packages from governments, and the suspension of the Parliament until April 20.
Here’s how Canadian provinces and territories are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak
For full detail about what’s happening in every province — including those that do not yet have cases — visit your local site.
Ontario remains at the epicentre of the national outbreak. The provincial government reported 24 new cases of the disease on Saturday, with at least six of the cases linked to recent travel outside of Canada. At a COVID-19 assessment centre in Ottawa, hundreds of people turned up for screening only to be turned away because they did not meet the testing criteria. Anyone who didn’t have a cough or fever, and who had not recently travelled out of the country or been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 were turned away. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the top public health official in British Columbia, said her province is struggling with needless testing as the number of cases continues to climb. She reported nine new positive tests on Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 73. “For most people, you do not need a test,” Henry said at a briefing in Vancouver. “We want to make sure that testing is available for all who do need it.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C. here.
Alberta’s top public health official, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said 10 new cases were reported in the province on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 39. Of the new cases, she said one patient in Edmonton and one in Calgary are in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta here.
Officials in Quebec reported seven new cases in the province, bringing the total to 24. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec here.
Manitoba confirmed its fourth case on Saturday and announced that its students would also be out of school for an extra two weeks. No new cases were announced Saturday, and all four confirmed cases are believed to have been contracted through travel. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba here.
P.E.I. had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Saturday, a woman who recently returned from a cruise and is currently in self-isolation at home. The province has put up signs on its Confederation Bridge and at Charlottetown Airport directing all international travellers to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I. here.
The Northwest Territories’ chief public health officer said that the territory started planning for a pandemic weeks ago, basing strategy on lessons learned from the 2009 spread of H1N1. As the territory’s health systems can be overburdened in the best of times, there are plans for “alternative sites” for care, such as school gyms, community halls and “isolation tents.” Read more about what’s happening in the N.W.T. here.
Saskatchewan has announced four more presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s current total up to six. The Ministry of Health announced the new cases late Saturday. Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer is expected to speak to the new cases Sunday. Starting Monday, events with more than 250 people will not be allowed, nor would events with more than 50 where someone in attendance had recently travelled internationally. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan here.
New Brunswick announced its second presumptive case on Saturday to go along with its sole confirmed case, which was announced on Wednesday. The province has also moved to close schools for two weeks, with an exemption for daycares. “I want to be proactive,” Premier Blaine Higgs said. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick.
Newfoundland and Labrador announced its first presumptive case of COVID-19 on Saturday. The province launched a website on Saturday to present COVID-19 information to the public. The province has seen a number of event cancellations, but others have gone forward as planned, like the St. John’s Farmers Market. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland and Labrador here.
There are no confirmed cases in Nova Scotia, though the province has still requested gatherings be limited to no more than 150 people. The Nova Scotia Health Authority has opened a number of COVID-19 testing sites while 20 Halifax firefighters will self-isolate after returning from training in the U.S. Like B.C., the Nova Scotia Supreme Court has suspended jury trials in the province, and both Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University have suspended in-person classes. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia here.
The government of Nunavut has cancelled all non-essential duty travel for its employees and requested that residents avoid both international travel and non-essential travel within Canada. All circuit court has been cancelled, meaning all court in communities outside of Iqaluit will be postponed, while stores have introduced purchase limits to reduce panic buying. There have been no cases of illness in the territory, though the government said in a news release that it has a pandemic plan and health centres have the necessary resources to respond to cases of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Nunavut here.
Politicians in Yukon sparred over how the territory’s tourism industry would be affected by COVID-19. On Thursday, tourism operators asked for a $2.5-million stimulus package to offset expected losses, while the government came under fire from opposition parties for downplaying the threat posed to Yukon’s economy. There have been no cases found in the territory, but health officials said they are ready. Read more about what’s happening in Yukon here.
As of Saturday, Canada was reporting at least 250 cases. To date, the death of a resident of a B.C. long-term care facility is the only known death linked to COVID-19 in Canada.
- Ontario: 103 confirmed (five cases resolved).
- British Columbia: 73 confirmed, including one death (six cases resolved).
- Alberta: 39 confirmed.
- Quebec: 24 confirmed.
- New Brunswick: Two confirmed.
- Manitoba: Four confirmed.
- Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: Four confirmed.
- Saskatchewan: Six presumptive.
- Prince Edward Island: One confirmed.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: One presumptive.
- Total: 250 confirmed, seven presumptive, 11 resolved.
Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.
Trump announced Saturday that the United States will expand its European travel restrictions to include Britain and Ireland as the U.S., armed with new tools against the pandemic, braced for it to get worse before it gets better. The government’s top infection expert warned that COVID-19 may surge within the nation in coming days.
Under the restrictions on European travel, American citizens, green card holders and others are still allowed to return home to the U.S., but will be funnelled to 13 airports and be subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders.
“If you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it,” Trump said.
Trump also said he had taken the coronavirus test following several interactions with people who are infected. Hours later, the White House announced that the president’s test was negative.
WATCH | Trump declares national emergency:
The White House also began testing the temperatures of everyone who’s been close to Trump; he told reporters that his own temperature was normal and he was feeling fine.
The House approved legislation early Saturday to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate still must vote on the package. Trump supports it. As well, he declared a national emergency Friday, unleashing as much as $50 billion US for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.
There was little hope of a quick turnaround.
“We will see more cases and we will see more suffering and death,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, “particularly among the vulnerables.” Yet he said “we still have opportunities” to lessen the severity of the pandemic.
The U.S. has recorded at least 51 deaths and roughly 2,500 confirmed infections.
Here’s what’s happening in the worlds of business, entertainment and sport
Toronto-based theatre titan Mirvish Productions announced Saturday it would be suspending performances effective immediately and lasting until at least April 12. The cancellations include performances of Hamilton, one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the year. Refunds will be available for affected ticketholders.
Cirque du Soleil, creator of many of the most popular shows in Las Vegas, said Saturday that it is temporarily suspending its productions in Las Vegas as well as around the world because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The World Curling Federation announced it would be cancelling the men’s curling world championship in Glasgow, Scotland, at which Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue was set to compete starting on March 28.
Vail Resorts said it would shut down its 34 ski resorts for at least one week, including Whistler Blackcomb in B.C.
Here’s what’s happening in Europe
From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 12 a.m. ET
Spain locked down its 46 million citizens and France ordered the closing of just about everything the rest of the world loves about it — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the cafés and restaurants — as governments took increasingly desperate measures to put more space between people and contain the virus.
In a nationally televised address Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez detailed the battery of exceptional measures put in place as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in infections.
Later Saturday, Spain’s government said Sanchez’s wife has tested positive for coronavirus. Begona Gomez and the prime minister are in good health, the goverrnment said.
Two ministers of Sanchez’s cabinet, the minister of Equality and the minister of Regional Affairs, had already tested positive earlier this week. The others member of the Cabinet have tested negative.
In a lockdown similar to the one already imposed in Italy, people will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. All schools and universities were closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels and other non-essential retail businesses.
WATCH | Spain declares state of emergency:
“From now we enter into a new phase,” Sanchez said after a cabinet meeting that lasted over seven hours. “We won’t hesitate in doing what we must to beat the virus. We are putting health first.”
Spanish authorities said the number of infections climbed past 5,700, half of them in the capital, Madrid. That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120. Spain has the fifth-highest number of cases, behind China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
Paris followed other cities in shuttering major tourist attractions, and France announced the closing of all restaurants, cafés, theatres and nonessential shops starting Sunday. France has recorded at least 3,600 infections. It has banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home.
France pressed ahead with plans for nationwide municipal elections on Sunday but ordered special measures to keep people at a safe distance and to sanitize surfaces.
In Italy, the worst-hit European country, the number of deaths climbed past 1,400 and infections surged roughly 20 per cent overnight to more than 21,000 because of what authorities characterized as irresponsible behaviour by people still socializing despite the nationwide lockdown. Many Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, decided to close playgrounds and parks, too.
Premier Giuseppe Conte has said production — particularly of food and health supplies — must not stop. On Saturday, union and industrial leaders reached an agreement to keep factories running.
At noon, people around Italy came out on their balconies, terraces or gardens or leaned out their windows to clap for several minutes in a gesture of thanks to medical workers.
In Britain, the death toll nearly doubled from the day before to 21, and the number of people infected rose to over 1,100. Ireland had 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Friday. Greece’s infection total approached 230 with three deaths, and police there arrested 45 shopkeepers Saturday for violating a ban on operations.
Denmark closed its borders and halted passenger traffic to and from the country. Travellers will be turned away at the border if they are unable to show that they have “a legitimate reason” to enter — for example, if they are Danish citizens or residents.
Poland planned to close is borders at midnight and deny all foreigners entry unless they lived in Poland or had personal ties there. The Czech Republic and Slovakia took similar action. Lithuania said it was introducing border checks at the frontiers with Poland and Latvia.
Russia said its borders with Norway and Poland will be closed to most foreigners beginning Sunday.
Here’s what’s happening in China and South Korea
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 12 a.m. ET
The spread of COVID-19 in China has slowed dramatically, according to the National Health Commission. After reporting thousands of new cases per day only a month ago, the commission said Sunday that there were 10 new deaths and 20 new cases.
Wuhan is now the only city in Hubei still designated “high-risk.” Several Hubei municipalities are gradually resuming public transportation and reopening businesses. Parks, museums and art galleries have reopened in Shanghai.
In South Korea, the country’s war against the coronavirus is broadening despite a notable decline in new cases. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun is urging vigilance after the emergence of infection clusters in areas including Seoul and warning of the possibility that the virus re-enters the country from abroad amid widening outbreaks in the West.
Chung’s comments during a government meeting on Saturday came as infections continued to slow in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which has reported daily increases of 60 to 70 cases over the past three days after averaging around 500 new cases per day a week ago.
South Korea reported 76 new cases, bringing its total to 8,162 cases.
WATCH | South Korea praised for handling of COVID-19 outbreak:
Here’s a look at some other COVID-19 news from around the world
From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 12 a.m. ET
In the Philippines, new restrictions for metropolitan Manila — home to more than 12 million people — that went into effect Sunday mean the suspension of domestic travel by land, air and sea to and from the capital region. Large gatherings like concerts, movies and cockfighting are prohibited and most government work in executive department offices will be suspended in the metropolis for a month. School closures at all levels were extended and curfew was in the works.
Iran’s death toll reached 611, with nearly 13,000 infections, including senior government officials.
New Zealand announced that incoming passengers, including citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, with few exceptions.
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