Even as certain regions of Canada plan to gradually reopen their economies, the “vast majority” of Canadians will need to continue to be “very careful” to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday.
“Our focus right now is on recognizing that we are not in the recovery phase yet. We are not even fully into the restarting phase. We are still in the emergency phase where people need to get the support they need so they can continue to socially distance and stay at home,” Trudeau said at a briefing in Ottawa.
Trudeau said the last thing people want to hear in the next few weeks is that governments have “loosened the rules, and now you have to go inside for the rest of the summer.”
When asked how long economic aid programs will last, the prime minister said the government will “keep adjusting to what the needs of Canadians are,” and that it will continue to work with the provinces to ensure they have enough personal protection equipment to ensure they can reopen their economies in a safe manner.
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On Friday, Trudeau announced an extension to Ottawa’s emergency wage-subsidy program beyond its early-June endpoint. He said he’d have more to say about that next week.
The pledges followed the unsettling news that nearly two million jobs were lost in April, adding to the one million lost in March, pushing Canada’s unemployment rate to a staggering 13 per cent.
Though the COVID-19 curve has been flattening in many regions, the disease continues to take a terrible toll, especially in the epicentres of Quebec and Ontario.
As of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, there were a total of 67,643 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Canada, with 31,078 of the cases considered recovered or resolved. A CBC tally of coronavirus deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting, listed 4,786 deaths in Canada and another two deaths of Canadians abroad.
To date, labs across 🇨🇦 have tested >1,068,000 people for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>, w\ an average ~6% positive overall. In the past 7 days, an average of >26,000 people<br>have been tested daily as <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/publichealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#publichealth</a> continues to ↑ capacity to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TestandTrace?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TestandTrace</a>.
Overnight, the former governor general Michaëlle Jean shared more bad news about the respiratory disease striking her family.
Last month, she said her aunt Edith had succumbed to COVID-19 while living in a long-term care centre in Montreal.
“Her sister, aunt Micheline and our cousin Maritza also died, stigmatized and frightened in New York,” Jean said in a tweet early Saturday.
My family devastated by <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/coronavirus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#coronavirus</a>, in the space of a few days: after my aunt Edith died alone in a <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LongTermCareHome?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LongTermCareHome</a> in Montreal, her sister, aunt Micheline and our cousin Maritza also died, stigmatized and frightened in New York. A nightmare and lot of anxiety.
The virus, which first emerged in China and spread around the world, sparked governments to introduce a range of measures, including lockdowns, business closures and stay-at-home orders, to try and slow its spread.
Canada Post’s main plant in Calgary has six confirmed cases of COVID-19, but the company says Alberta health officials do not believe the cases occurred in the workplace but rather were spread in the community.
Meanwhile, Trudeau said Saturday the federal government won’t pay for masks that fail to meet national standards and is looking into using faulty equipment for non-medical purposes following Ottawa’s move to halt shipments of N95 respirators from one supplier after millions of the masks were deemed defective.
Shipments have been suspended from a Montreal-based distributor — which has not been named — after approximately eight million masks out of an 11-million shipment made in China didn’t meet federal specifications.
“There are discussions ongoing with [the supplier] because we will not be burdened with masks that do not fit our stringent requirements,” Trudeau said Saturday following his daily address to Canadians. “But we will not be paying for masks that do not hit the standards that we expect to give our front-line workers.”
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Only one million masks met the requirements, while another 1.6 million are still undergoing testing, an email from Procurement Minister Anita Anand’s office said.
The prime minister declined to state how much Canada paid for the masks that were part of the faulty shipment, but said that the federal government was in talks with the supplier about whether “alternative uses” for the masks would be possible.
Trudeau said none of the substandard masks made their way into the Canadian health-care system.
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The Public Health Agency of Canada noted that while Canada gets a lot of protective equipment from international manufacturers, domestic manufacturers also provide gowns, face shields and hand sanitizer, among other products.
This includes an agreement with Medicom, based in Pointe-Claire, Que., for production of 20 million N95 respirator masks and 24 million surgical masks per year for the next 10 years, starting this summer.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia announced 15 new coronavirus cases in the province on Saturday, bringing the current total to 2,330. B.C. also reported two new deaths, both of them in long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health authority.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are no new community outbreaks in the province, but that outbreaks remain active in long-term care homes. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province will receive $46 million of a $3-billion federal fund to give low wage workers a temporary raise.
“We want to focus it where it is most needed,” Kenney said. “And I think we’ve all recognized that the greatest risk is in and around nursing homes, long-term care, seniors’ residences.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
In Saskatchewan, the northern village of La Loche has shuttered its Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority store and offsale temporarily as the community tries to get a handle on an outbreak spreading through the province’s north.
La Loche is the epicentre of an outbreak in Saskatchewan, which accounts for 138 of the province’s 196 active cases. Officials with the Saskatchewan Health Authority have said the fact people are still gathering and drinking together has contributed to the spread of the virus. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba reported no new cases on Saturday, health officials said in a news release. The total number of cases of the illness caused by the new coronavirus in Manitoba is still 284, including 30 which are considered active. Four people are in hospital with COVID-19, down from five on Friday. None are in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford says provincial parks and conservation reserves will reopen for limited day use on Monday.
The announcement came after Ontario reported its lowest new COVID-19 case count of the week on Saturday with 346 new confirmed cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, the government has approved an emergency order allowing school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and women’s shelters during the pandemic.
The government says many congregate care settings need staff, such as custodial and maintenance workers. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s public health institute says the current de-confinement plan in the Montreal area could lead to a rapid increase in deaths in the city.
The institute published a report this week predicting stark numbers of deaths — as many as 150 per day by July — and hospitalizations in the Montreal area, with elementary schools and some retailers reopening May 25. It doesn’t take long-term care homes into account. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick recorded no new cases on Saturday, according to a government news release. There are two active cases in the province with none in hospital. One case is related to travel and the other remains under investigation.
Premier Blaine Higgs took the province to Phase 2 of its recovery plan on Friday, which allows some elective surgeries to take place, as well as outdoor gatherings of ten people or less. Some businesses — including restaurants — were also allowed to reopen under strict conditions. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
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Nova Scotia reported one more death, bringing the province’s total to 47, and three new cases on Saturday.
The latest death was reported at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, where 41 people have died from the virus. There are 157 residents and 31 staff with active cases at Northwood. One other long-term care facility in the province has an active case of the virus affecting a staff member. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Today’s NS COVID-19 stats: 1 death (at Northwood); 3 new cases; 21 new recoveries; 7 people in hospital (2 are in ICU); 598 lab tests processed in last 24 hours. No briefing today.
P.E.I.’s chief public health officer reported that all 27 of the province’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are considered recovered. “We are in such a fortunate position here in P.E.I.,” Dr. Heather Morrison said Friday, before describing how the government is loosening restrictions.
Households in the province can now gather indoors with up to five other people, although Morrison asked Islanders to consider keeping a log of anyone they come into contact with, to help with contact tracing should they get sick. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
OK, P.E.I., you can have people over and hug those important to you starting this weekend — but there are still some rules to keep in mind, says Dr. Heather Morrison.<br><br>Here is her explanation on how Islanders can embrace others they rely on and what to keep in mind while doing so <a href=”https://t.co/K3ut106kpr”>pic.twitter.com/K3ut106kpr</a>
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases for the second consecutive day. According to a news release from the provincial government, the total number of cases in the province remains at 261. There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 remaining in the province, as 244 people have recovered from the virus. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Fish harvesters protesting at FFAW office. Frustrated by low prices, lack of federal government help and now weekly limits on how much they can catch. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/fishery?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#fishery</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/covid19nfld?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#covid19nfld</a> <a href=”https://t.co/D7g6e9PEJ1″>pic.twitter.com/D7g6e9PEJ1</a>
Nunavut says it has not set a limit on how much money it is prepared to spend on hotels for residents required to isolate before they return to the territory. Health Minister George Hickes said during a news conference on Friday that over 1,000 people have been in isolation so far in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife, with a price tag of almost $4 million. “We don’t have a figure in mind, and we don’t have a timeline,” Hickes said. “I do consider it a well-placed investment.” Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
U.S. regulators have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have promoted as a key to opening the country.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.
The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA. Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than the genetic code of the virus itself.
Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.
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Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.
Remdesivir is the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients and was cleared for emergency use by the FDA last week
“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said. The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.
The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.
In hard-hit New York state, three children have died from a rare inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, a development that may augur a pandemic risk for the very young.
Cuomo had on Friday disclosed the death of a five-year old linked to the coronavirus and a syndrome that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, which was the first known fatality tied to the rare illness in New York.
The governor told a daily briefing on Saturday that the illness had now taken the lives of at least three young people across the state. He did not provide details of their ages or the circumstances of their deaths.
But Cuomo said he was increasingly worried that the syndrome posed a newly emerging risk for children, who had previously been thought to be largely immune to severe illness from COVID-19. He said state health officials were reviewing 73 cases where children exposed to COVID-19 also exhibited symptoms of the syndrome, which he said included inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn could cause heart problems.
New York is the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, accounting for more than a third of the country’s more than 77,000 deaths. The U.S. has more than 1.2 million confirmed cases.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 3.9 million people and killed over 276,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on official data. But limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments undoubtedly mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China late last year.
Italy says a near-record 4,008 people were released from hospitals in the past day after testing negative for COVID-19 as the country continues its cautious reopening after a two-month national lockdown.
Officials said 1,083 people tested positive in that same time period — half of them in hard-hit Lombardy — bringing Italy’s confirmed number of cases to 218,268. Officials say the real number is as much as 10 times that. The confirmed death toll is 30,395.
Another 134 intensive care beds were freed up, bringing the total number close to 1,000. At the height of the outbreak, there were more than 4,000 people in ICUs, and the wards in Lombardy were nearly saturated.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says loosening the nearly two-month lockdown will be for naught if people don’t obey social distancing rules. He reminded Spaniards on Saturday, two days before 51 per cent of the nation of 47 million will be allowed to sit at outdoor cafes, “the virus has not disappeared.”
On Monday, many regions not as hard hit by the virus will permit gatherings of up to 10 people and reopen churches, theatres, outdoor markets and other establishments with limits on occupancy. Madrid and Barcelona will stay under stricter confinement. Two-meter social distancing rules remain in effect. Sanchez and Spain’s army have warned of possible surges in the coming months.
Spain’s health ministry reported 179 new confirmed deaths on Saturday, increasing the death toll to 26,478. A month ago, Spain was averaging 900 daily deaths.
In Belarus, tens of thousands of people have turned out in the capital despite sharply rising coronavirus infections to watch a military parade celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Belarus has not imposed wide-ranging restrictions to halt the virus’ spread. Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed concerns about it as a “psychosis.” At Saturday’s parade of some 3,000 soldiers, Lukashenko says Belarus’ ordeal in the war “is incomparable with any difficulties of the present day.”
Some aged war veterans in the stands at the parade wore masks, but in general there were few masks seen among the throng of spectators. Belarus, a country of about nine million, has recorded more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus infection.
China intends to build a “centralized and efficient” chain of command and reform, and modernize the disease prevention and control system, vice-minister of the China National Health Commission Li Bin told reporters on Saturday. The commission also aims to make better use of big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to better analyze the disease, trace the virus and distribute resources.
Bin said the commission plans to step up research on core technology, improve medical insurance and better ensure the availability of emergency materials.
China has been criticized domestically and abroad as being initially slow to react to the epidemic, which first broke out on a large scale in Wuhan. China has not seen any new deaths from coronavirus for 24 days.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is the biggest threat to Brazil’s ability to successfully combat the spread of the coronavirus and tackle the unfolding public health crisis, according to the British medical journal The Lancet.
In an editorial, the Lancet said his disregard for and flouting of lockdown measures is sowing confusion across Brazil, which reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths on Friday, and is fast emerging as one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots.
Brazil’s Health Ministry on Friday registered 10,222 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 751 related deaths. That brought the total of confirmed cases in Brazil to 145,328 and deaths to 9,897, the most deadly outbreak in an emerging market nation.
In Africa, the coronavirus could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in the continent in the first year and infect between 29 million and 44 million in the first year if it is not contained, the World Health Organization said.
The WHO said there are more than 56,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,100 deaths in the continent so far.
Over 56,000 confirmed <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> cases on the African continent – with more than 19,100 associated recoveries & 2,100 deaths. View country figures & more with the WHO African Region COVID-19 Dashboard: <a href=”https://t.co/V0fkK8dYTg”>https://t.co/V0fkK8dYTg</a> <a href=”https://t.co/OaCeeY9FJq”>pic.twitter.com/OaCeeY9FJq</a>
Turkey reported 50 new deaths and 1,546 cases Saturday as it prepared steps to return to normal life. Total fatalities stand at 3,739, while infections number 137,115. According to figures posted on Twitter by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, 89,480 patients have recovered.
Shopping malls, barber shops, hairdressers and beauty salons will open for business on Monday as Turkey starts easing restrictions.
Meanwhile, one of Turkey’s biggest soccer clubs, Besiktas, announced a player and a club employee had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Earlier this week, the Turkish Football Federation said matches behind closed doors would resume next month, prompting the resumption of limited training sessions.