There are increasing concerns in Quebec over projections released late last week about what could be in store for the province as it looks to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) has published new predictions showing what may happen in Montreal and the rest of Quebec once physical distancing measures are eased. It found that the current deconfinement plan in Montreal, which includes the schools and some retailers reopening on May 25, could lead to 150 deaths per day by July, without taking long-term care into account.
Quebec has 39,225 confirmed cases of COVID-19, respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 3,131 people deaths so far. Over 1,800 are hospitalized, with 186 patients in intensive care.
WATCH | Why aren’t masks mandatory in public?:
Premier François Legault is now strongly encouraging people to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Allophones and anglophones are much more likely to fear that they or somebody in their immediate family will catch COVID-19 than francophones are, according to one survey conducted by Léger Marketing.
In Canada overall, there were more than 71,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 10:40 a.m. Wednesday. More than 5,280 Canadians have died.
In Ontario, there are also concerns about reopening too soon. The province’s top doctor says he doesn’t feel confident that the province has met the threshold to start on its economic recovery plan. Premier Doug Ford has announced the details of the first stage of reopening will be unveiled Thursday.
Dr. David Williams said Ontario is on the seventh or eighth day of a downward trend, but the curve isn’t falling as rapidly as he’d like.
Ford had signalled that more “good news” is on the way as the province reported 361 new cases, a second straight day of increasing case numbers after a six-week low over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters, Ford said Ontario will “hit stage one” of the province’s three-stage framework for reopening the economy starting Thursday.
Ontario has completed about 12,000 of the current target of 16,000 tests per day and far less than the 19,525 tests there is capacity for in the system. The backlog of tests waiting to be processed sits at 10,811.
Asked about the backlog, Ford said Ontario’s testing rate compares favourably with the rest of Canada.
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Illustrating that the “return to normal” will be a long time coming, the Canadian National Exhibition in August was cancelled on Tuesday.
In Ottawa, the House of Commons reconvenes today to debate legislation to permanently increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s (CDC) borrowing limit to almost double its current level. The Crown corporation intends to buy more surplus butter and cheese to help farmers and processors weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill up for debate Wednesday afternoon in the Commons will amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, allowing the government to use the Crown corporation’s buying power to mitigate unpredictable shifts in domestic milk supply and demand.
On May 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a new assistance package for the farm sector, which included adding another $200 million to the CDC’s current $300 million borrowing capacity. The amount had been unchanged for 20 years.
With restaurants and other institutional food services closed, the dairy industry has been reeling from the collapse in demand for certain dairy products this spring. That forced producers in some regions, such as Eastern Ontario, to dump milk that could no longer be used.
The CDC will now be able to sign contracts with cheesemakers who currently are not operating at full capacity to transform future milk surpluses into cheese, which is easier to store. In addition to preventing waste, the bulk purchases also help with the processors’ cash flow issues until the market stabilizes again.
Meanwhile, Trudeau said Tuesday that the federal government is aware of fraudulent claims for government pandemic benefits, but such claims will be looked into later.
Trudeau’s remarks came in response to suggestions that some Canadians are applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) even though they don’t qualify.
CBC News first reported that ineligible Canadians were receiving the benefit after a CRA employee spoke out. The employee said that she sees ineligible applicants getting the $2,000-per-month payments every day.
“We knew that there would be a need to clean up after the fact, to go after fraudulent cases, and we will do that,” he said. “But our priority now and in the coming months is to ensure Canadians get the support they need and our economy comes roaring back. That’s what we’re focused on.”
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
While there are hundreds of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia‘s Lower Mainland — a small area of the province, but its most populated — there are only 14 active cases in the rest of the province. And with the potential of the virus being virtually contained in large areas of B.C. well before the Lower Mainland, some politicians are calling for the government to consider regional approaches in the province’s restart strategy. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta recently released a new online tool to help prepare businesses that could be allowed to reopen as early as Thursday, although the province’s top doctor is still warning residents to be careful as restrictions are relaxed.
“There’s no one perfect answer to relaunch,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday at her latest news conference. “Certainly if we take a regional approach, there’s the risk that we could further spread transmission if people from an area that’s closed travel outside that area to get services elsewhere.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
The senior medical health officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority has warned that stigmatizing COVID-19 is preventing some people from getting tested. At the same time, the health authority is investigating why the number of people getting tested is going down. A total of 256 people were tested on May 11, the lowest number of tests in one day since March 16. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Despite Manitoba’s COVID-19 related job losses creating the most bleak employment picture since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the province is still doing better than anywhere else in Canada based on key labour statistics. Effective unemployment was 23 per cent in April in Manitoba, lower than in any other province. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario reported 329 additional cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the province’s total number since the outbreak began to more than 21,200. Nearly three-quarters, or some 15,845, of the cumulative cases are now resolved, according to the Ministry of Health. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec‘s Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda blamed the lack of testing in the province partly on a lack of people seeking out the tests in some of Montreal’s hard-hit areas. Arruda said one reason Quebec is missing its target is because fewer people are seeking out tests than anticipated. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
In New Brunswick, hospital services are being restarted for “urgent and critical” elective surgery. The province announced Friday the start of the orange recovery phase. Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said this means health authorities can restart non-emergency surgeries, diagnostic procedures and health services in a “progressive” manner. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick.
Nova Scotia reported just one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the province to 1,020, with 864 of those considered resolved. Although schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year, many educators have started wondering what profound changes are coming to schools when they finally do reopen. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.
The P.E.I. government says it is investigating the possibility that people may have entered the province stowed away in vehicles. “There is an investigation that is going on on a couple of incidents but they’re still under investigation,” Minister of Public Safety Bloyce Thompson said at a news conference Tuesday. “There’s two separate incidents that are being investigated.” Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
Tuesday marked Newfoundland and Labrador‘s fifth straight day of no new cases. The total province’s total caseload is 261, with 247 people recovered and three deaths, leaving 11 active cases.
“Now that we have a relatively low number of cases of COVID-19 in our province we are in a position to keep this virus under control in our communities,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald during a daily briefing. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
The Northwest Territories could begin the first part of its reopening plan as soon as Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said. The plan includes more gatherings and the possible reopening of some schools and businesses — while the territory’s borders remain closed indefinitely to non-residents and non-essential workers, with some exceptions. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s what’s happening in the rest of the world
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7:50 a.m. ET
Britain tentatively began easing its coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday. Some people who cannot do their jobs at home were urged to return to work, as stark economic data showed the disastrous impact of the pandemic.
The worst-hit country in Europe, with more than 40,000 deaths from COVID-19 according to official data, Britain has been in an extensive lockdown since March 23.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that 144 people employed within the National Health Service and 131 social care workers have died.
As of Wednesday morning, Britons in manufacturing and certain other sectors were being asked to return to work if they could.
Gross domestic product (GDP) data on Wednesday showed the economy shrank by a record 5.8 per cent in March from February, and the April data is likely to be even worse as the country was under lockdown for the entire month.
WATCH | Fauci warns U.S. Senate about reopening too soon:
In the U.S., a new prediction from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington, one of the models used by the White House and state governments, revised its projection of deaths by Aug. 4 upward by 12,000. The projection under the current trajectory now estimates 147,000 American deaths by that date.
Leading U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a Senate committee similarly on Tuesday.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told a U.S. Senate panel that states should follow health experts’ recommendations to wait for signs, including a declining number of new infections, before reopening. U.S. President Donald Trump has been encouraging states to end a weeks-long shuttering of major components of their economies.
“If some areas, cities, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said.
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Many senators took part in the session remotely by videoconferencing, with most participating at Capitol Hill wearing masks. Fauci himself has been self-isolating after some COVID-positive cases were identified at the White House.
Fauci also cautioned that the effects of the pandemic on children may not be as benign as first thought, referring to a rare inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to the novel coronavirus. The syndrome has killed at least three children in New York and afflicted dozens of others.
Brazil on Tuesday recorded its deadliest day yet, and one of the deadliest days seen outside of the U.S. during this pandemic, with 881 confirmed deaths in 24 hours from the COVID-19.
Brazil’s health ministry had confirmed 12,400 deaths overall from the virus as of Tuesday, but President Jair Bolsonaro has been one of the most insistent leaders in the world about the need to keep the economy going.