Ontario premier warns province’s inventory of personal protective equipment could run out in a week

The latest: 

Eligible Canadians who lost income because of COVID-19 could start applying Monday for a new emergency benefit program as the government tries to keep people afloat during a pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives worldwide and prompted a frantic scramble to secure critical supplies. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, said in a statement that delays in global shipments and restrictions at the U.S. border have “severely strained Ontario’s inventory” and left Canada’s most populous province with “roughly a one-week supply” of critical personal protective equipment (PPE).

Speaking outside Rideau Cottage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is in constant contact with the provinces about PPE and other important supplies. The government is also in talks with the U.S., he said, and has reiterated that critical supplies flow both ways across the border.

Conversations between the premier, federal government and American officials have been “progressing well,” the statement from Ford said, which went on to say that “we are optimistic that the U.S. government will grant Canada an exemption” from a presidential order that limits the export of certain products.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called the flow of medical-related supplies across the border “very” reciprocal, adding that members of the government had “positive” conversations with U.S. counterparts over the weekend.

“Both countries benefit from this and both countries would lose out if hurdles were to be put in the way of that flow of health-care support between our two countries,” she said Monday. 

During his daily news conference, Trudeau spoke at length about the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), which opened to applications early Monday morning to people born in January, February and March. The system, run through the Canada Revenue Agency, staggers the application window for people born in later months as the week goes on. 

The emergency funding program, which offers eligible applicants $2,000 a month for a period of up to four months, is just one of the measures the Canadian government has launched to try and buoy families and businesses feeling the fallout from the virus, which has to date resulted in nearly 1.3 million reported cases around the world.

Trudeau said his government knows not everyone is getting the help they need through CERB and other programs. He said in the days ahead, the government will announce additional measures aimed at helping gig workers, contract workers, and workers who are getting 10 or fewer hours per week. What those measures would be and how they would work was not immediately clear.

The prime minister also talked about measures to help post-secondary students who can’t find summer jobs and workers who are still on the job but earning less than they would if they were on the CERB. There were no details on those programs, either.

The prime minister thanked people performing critical services in the health care, trucking and food sectors, but urged people who don’t need to be out to stay home. 

“What the next weeks and months look like depends on you,” Trudeau said, urging people to take actions to protect the vulnerable and keep the health-care system from being overwhelmed.

Earlier Monday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he couldn’t agree more with the government’s decision to move forward with a “Team Canada” approach to the outbreak — and said Conservatives have been part of that approach since “Day 1” of the crisis. 

Scheer focused his remarks on the charitable sector, saying that while need is soaring, donations have “dramatically declined.” He said Conservatives want the government to temporarily increase the tax credit for charitable giving in 2020, and remove the capital gains tax on charitable donations of private company shares and real estate. He also called on the government to release its coronavirus projections and modelling, as well as further details around how it plans to meet needs for critical medical equipment.

According to a database maintained by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, nearly 71,000 people have died as a result of the virus, which was first reported in China’s Hubei province in late 2019. The true numbers are certainly much higher due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.

WATCH | Making ethical decisions about medical care during a pandemic:

Doctors are preparing to have to make decisions about who gets access to beds or life-saving equipment if the health-care system becomes overloaded because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:59

More than 15,800 of the cases are confirmed in Canada, with cases recorded in every province and territory except Nunavut. As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Monday, CBC News has counted a total of 307 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada. The provinces and territories that offer information on people who have recovered listed more than 3,280 cases as resolved.

Public health officials have cautioned that the numbers, which don’t include the deaths of two Canadians abroad, don’t provide a full picture of the outbreak, as they fail to capture cases that haven’t been tested or are still under investigation.

The vast majority of infected people recover from the virus, formally known as SARS CoV-2, which is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Chief public health officer weighs in on masks

The role masks can play to slow the spread of the disease has been contentious, with some countries requiring people to wear masks when out in public. The U.S. recently announced guidelines recommending people cover their faces while in public, though the president noted he wouldn’t be following the recommendation.

Canada’s chief public health officer on Monday said masks can be used to protect others when out in public, though she noted that they have not been proven to protect the person wearing the mask from infection.

Tam said the change from previous advice is due to increasing evidence that people with the virus can spread it without knowing they’re sick.

“Now that more countries have had larger numbers of cases and have analyzed transmission patterns, it is clear that transmission of the virus is happening more often than previously recognized from infected people right before they develop symptoms.”

On top of that pre-symptomatic transmission, there is also evidence that some people who never show symptoms are able to transmit the virus. Given the “emerging information” around asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, Tam said the special advisory committee on COVID-19 had come to a consensus that “wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.”

Tam reiterated that medical masks are needed for front-line health workers as the country is in a “critical stage” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause pneumonia and death.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says risk varies between communities but notes that the illness poses a serious health threat to Canadians and pegs the risk level as high.

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

In British Columbia, the top public health official is warning people not to let up on physical distancing. “This is our time to remain unwavering in our commitment. To keep our firewall strong,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta reported three new COVID-19 deaths and 69 new cases on Sunday. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including the story of one woman who brought her elderly mother home amid concern about potential outbreaks in seniors’ homes.

Saskatchewan recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing its total to 249. Premier Scott Moe has said that his government will provide more information this week on both provincial modelling and how the province is preparing for an expected increase in cases. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba’s largest city has closed an underground concourse and downtown skywalk as part of the ongoing effort to stamp out COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including an initiative to house some homeless people who are considered at risk of contracting COVID-19 at a Brandon motel

A hard-hit nursing home in small-town Ontario reported another death linked to COVID-19, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon up to 23. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch wades into the ongoing debate over the use of protective masks, and explains why Ontario has to do much better on coronavirus testing:

Dr. Isaac Bogoch wades into the ongoing debate over the use of protective masks, and explains why Ontario has to do much better on coronavirus testing. 8:47

Quebec’s shutdown on non-essential activity will run until at least May 4. “If we relax our efforts, we’ll just delay the moment when we’ll be able to go back to our lives,” said Premier François Legault. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including what police said after a security guard was hit by a vehicle in a Walmart parking lot.

New Brunswick’s premier is warning that the province, which currently has 101 reported COVID-19 cases, will see more. “That is why we are doing everything we can to fight this,” said Blaine Higgs. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia, which reported an additional 31 cases on Monday, is going to step up testing in areas with “clusters” of COVID-19 cases. The province’s health authority has also created a mobile assessment centre staffed by paramedics that can move from one area to another. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island students begin virtual learning Monday. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which has reported 22 COVID-19 cases to date. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador, chief medical officer of health Janice Fitzgerald announced 14 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, for a total of 217. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including the premier’s response to a move by U.S. President Donald Trump to limit the export of critical medical masks.

In the Northwest Territories, health officials have confirmed a fifth case of COVID-19.  Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North, including a Yukon government program that is providing vulnerable women with cellphones.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6 a.m. ET

The U.S. surgeon general says that Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation’s infectious disease chief warned that the novel coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe.

Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could be a prelude to an eventual turn.

“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at a Sunday evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”

Members of the media tour a field hospital set up for COVID-19 patients at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Saturday in New Orleans. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The president also insisted that both assessments from his administration — they came within 12 hours of each other — didn’t represent an about-face or were even “that different.”

“I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point — and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death — but it’s also a point at which things are going to start changing,” Trump said. “We’re getting very close to that level right now.”

The president added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents and, hopefully, we can get this over with.”

Still, Trump’s own briefing also struck a sombre tone at times. The president offered some of his most extensive comments to date to the families of those killed by the virus, urging the nation to pray for them and “ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief.”

“With the faith of our families and the spirit of our people and the grace of our God we will endure,” the president said. “We will overcome.”

WATCH | New York braces for expected surge of coronavirus this week:

Cases of coronavirus are expected to surge this week in New York, with officials warning it will be a “Pearl Harbour moment.” 3:15

Earlier Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.”

The nation’s top doctor went on to say: “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”

Also Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the toll in the coming week is “going to be shocking to some, but that’s what is going to happen before it turns around, so just buckle down.”

He said the virus probably won’t be wiped out entirely this year, and that unless the world gets it under control, it will “assume a seasonal nature.”

“We need to be prepared that, since it unlikely will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence,” Fauci said. “That’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard in getting our preparedness much better than it was.”

The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600. More than 4,100 of those deaths are in the state of New York, but a glimmer of hope there came on Sunday when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state registered a small dip in new fatalities over a 24-hour period. Still, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state may run out of ventilators by week’s end.

Here’s what’s happening in hard-hit Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:45 a.m. ET

Italy reported its lowest daily death toll for more than two weeks on Sunday, as the health minister outlined plans for broader testing and beefed-up health services as part of measures following a future easing of the lockdown.

Coronavirus-related fatalities and recorded infections continued to drop on Monday in Spain, although authorities warned of possible distortions by a slower reporting of figures over the weekend.

The country’s health ministry reported 637 new deaths for the previous 24 hours, the lowest fatality toll in 13 days, for a total of over 13,000 since the pandemic hit the country. New recorded infections were also the lowest in two weeks: 4,273, bringing the total of confirmed cases over 135,000. Hospitals are also reporting that the pace of incoming patients to their emergency wards is slowing down, giving a much needed respite to overburdened medical workers.

Employees of textile company Zender Germany GmbH, usually an automotive supplier, make protective masks in Osnabrueck, Germany on Monday as the spread of the coronavirus continues. (Friso Gentsch/Reuters)

France reported a slowing daily death toll, and Germany its fourth straight day with a drop in new cases. Some five million French workers —one out of four in the private sector — have been put on furloughs subsidized by the 
state to avoid mass permanent layoffs, the Labour Ministry said on Monday. 

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that it’s not yet time to talk about a date to ease restrictions, saying health will always be the most important consideration. Merkel said the goal is to not overwhelm the health-care system, a message leaders in all corners of the world have been sending to residents as they stress the importance of measures like physical distancing and proper hand hygiene.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly in good spirits following his first night in the hospital for what his office described as a “precautionary step” after contracting the new coronavirus. Johnson remains in charge of government despite being sent to St Thomas’ Hospital after COVID-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted. His spokesperson, James Slack. says he remains in hospital under observation.

WATCH | Sweden isn’t locked down because of COVID-19, but experts say it should be:

Sweden’s government has yet to implement lockdowns or close businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but experts say it needs to be done or hospitals will be overwhelmed like in other parts of Europe. 3:09

The Dutch public health institute says the country’s coronavirus death toll saw the lowest daily increase in a week. The number of deaths rose by 101 to 1,867. The institute said the number of people who have tested positive for the virus rose by 952 to 18,803. That is also a smaller rise than the increase of 1,224 reported on Sunday.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his government aims to start allowing some shops to reopen next week at the beginning of a long, phased return to normal life. Kurz said that the aim is to allow small shops and garden centres to reopen next Tuesday, with a limited number of customers who must wear masks. He said the government hopes to reopen the rest of the shops, as well as hairdressing salons, on May 1. Restaurants and hotels won’t be able to open until at least mid-May. Events will remain banned until the end of June.

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has topped 6,000 after the largest daily spike in new infections since the start of the outbreak.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit China, South Korea, Japan and other areas of concern

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 9 a.m. ET

China on Monday reported 39 new cases of coronavirus infection — 38 of them imported — one additional death, 10 suspected cases and 1,047 asymptomatic cases under observation.There were no new confirmed or suspected cases in the epicentre city of Wuhan, where a 14-week lockdown is due to be lifted on Wednesday. China has now recorded a total of 81,708 cases and 3,331 deaths.

South Korea has reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus and three more fatalities, bringing its totals to 10,284 infections and 186 deaths. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said at least 769 of the infections were linked to passengers arriving from overseas, with most of the cases detected in the past three weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.

A South Korean Christian has her temperature checked while attending a drive-in worship service following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Seoul on Sunday. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The country’s caseload has slowed from early March, when it was reporting around 500 new cases a day, but officials have raised concern over a steady rise in infections imported from overseas or occurring in hospitals, nursing homes and other live-in facilities.

Japan will declare a state of emergency as early as Tuesday, media reported, as a shortage of beds and a rise in cases linked to hospitals are pushing Tokyo’s medical system to the brink of collapse. The U.S. forces, meanwhile, declared a public health emergency for its military bases in eastern Japan.

Singapore has placed nearly 20,000 foreign workers under quarantine in their dormitories after an increasing number in the community were found to be infected with COVID-19.

Indonesia announced its biggest daily increase in novel coronavirus cases on Monday and a medical association said 24 doctors have now died after contracting the virus. The rise in the death toll among doctors, which has doubled since last week, followed criticism of a lack of protective equipment in Indonesia. The 218 new coronavirus cases took the number overall in Indonesia to 2,491. The 209 confirmed deaths among people who have contracted the virus is the highest number of fatalities in Asia outside China.

India is restricting the export of most diagnostic testing kits, as its cases topped 3,350 despite a three-week nationwide lockdown.

Volunteers in Bangalore, India sort emergency essentials and groceries to be distributed to people in need during a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus on Monday. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan opened its first drive-thru COVID-19 test facility in the southern Sindh provincial capital of Karachi. A team of doctors and medical staff are operating the first drive-through facility in Pakistan’s latest attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Pakistan has carried out 35,875 tests countrywide and has reported 3,277 positive cases.

Iran on Monday reported that it has more than 60,500 known cases, with more than 3,700 deaths.

Malaysia on Monday reported 131 new coronavirus infections, raising the country’s total to 3,793 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. The Health Ministry has recorded 62 deaths, including one more reported as of noon Monday.

Health workers wearing protective clothing are seen in front of the City One Condominium in Kuala Lumpur on Monday after it was cordoned off due to a number of cases of individuals with COVID-19 at the premises. (Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images)

Currently able to conduct 5,000 tests per day, South Africa will increase its capacity to more than 30,000 per day by the end of the April, according to the National Health Laboratory Service. South Africa was one of only two countries in Africa that could test for the novel coronavirus when it began its global spread in January. Now at least 43 of the continent’s 54 countries can, but many have limited capacity.

Kenya’s president ordered a halt to all movement in parts of the country affected by the coronavirus, including Nairobi. “The cessation of movement within the Nairobi metropolitan area shall be for an initial containment period of 21 days with effect from 7 p.m. Monday the 6th of April 2020, that is today,” Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address. Kenya has reported 158 coronavirus cases and six deaths.

Mexico said total cases were 2,143, an increase of 253 cases from a day earlier. The number of deaths rose by 15 to 94.

Haiti on Sunday reported its first death, with 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease.

Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment for a “war budget” to separate coronavirus-related spending from the government’s main budget and shield the economy as the country surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases.

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