Canadian hospitals should not throw out used face masks and other protective equipment because public health officials are investigating whether it will be possible to disinfect and reuse them, Canada’s public health chief said Sunday.
In her daily briefing, Dr. Theresa Tam also said chief medical officers are working on recommendations to the general public for the best uses of homemade face masks.
Tam said “every stop is being pulled out” to keep front-line health workers safe in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. In Ontario alone, nearly 275 front-line health workers have tested positive for COVID-19. In Italy, one of the worst-hit countries by the coronavirus, almost one-tenth of the people with COVID-19 are health-care workers.
While Canada continues to try and secure new shipments of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) both from domestic and international manufacturers, Tam said trying to find a way to reuse the masks and equipment the country is also important.
“I think it is one of the most important and I think worthwhile lines of pursuit for PPE, right now,” she said.
WATCH | Canada reviewing evidence about use of masks:
Tam said part of the solution is science, to figure out how decontamination can happen. She also said there are “multiple entities” in the country that could do the decontamination work once the science is clear.
But for now, she said keeping the used equipment somewhere safe is a necessity.
“Also then signalling to provinces and territories that certain things shouldn’t be thrown away, right now, so that we can actually implement this should we find the actual people who can do this,” she said.
Trudeau ‘confident’ amid masks row
Trudeau also said he is confident Canada will succeed in convincing the United States not to ban exports of protective equipment to Canada.
“I am confident we are going to be able to solve this,” Trudeau said.
Canada is focusing its efforts on proving to the Americans how much Canada provides to its medical system, including doctors and nurses who cross the border to work in U.S. hospitals in border cities like Detroit. Canada also exports raw materials used in the production of face masks to the United States.
WATCH | Trudeau says Ottawa working with Trump administration on supplies:
U.S. President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era U.S. law that provides the power to redirect U.S. manufacturing capacity in times of national crisis, to compel American producers of PPEs and ventilators to ramp up their production and prioritize orders for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
3M, one of the country’s largest producers of the medical-grade face masks known as N95 respirators, said in a statement Friday it had been told by the White House to stop exporting the equipment to markets in Canada and Latin America — a charge the White House has denied.
Late Friday, the White House issued a statement that suggested the purpose of its order was to target what it called “wartime profiteers” —”unscrupulous brokers, distributors and other intermediaries operating in secondary markets.”
Such parties could include “some well-established PPE distributors with the ability to unscrupulously divert PPE inventories from domestic customers, such as hospitals and state governments, to foreign purchasers willing to pay significant premiums.”
“Nothing in this order,” the statement concludes, “will interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States.”
WATCH | Canadian politicians slam Trump’s ‘inhumane’ efforts to halt mask exports:
Media reports suggest Trump and trade adviser Peter Navarro singled out 3M after a Fox News report accused the Minnesota-based company’s American distributors of selling its masks to “foreign buyers” that were outbidding U.S. customers.
Trudeau said he wasn’t going to answer hypothetical questions about retaliating if the U.S. does prevent shipments to Canada, but said Canada will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians.
In a media briefing at the White House on Sunday evening, Trump spoke about distributing masks and ventilators throughout the U.S. He did not make any specific mention of mask shipments to Canada or other countries.
When it came to ventilators, however, the president said that several American companies were making them and that the U.S. would be able to help other countries “after we take care of our needs.”
Monday is 1st day to apply for emergency benefit
On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that Monday will be the first day people who are out of work because of COVID-19 can go online to apply for the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB). It offers Canadians who lost their jobs up to $2,000 a month.
Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit open on Monday, but to make sure the system can handle all of the requests, we’re staggering the days you can apply based on your birth month. Find out when you can apply below: <a href=”https://t.co/AVBmB7ekL5″>pic.twitter.com/AVBmB7ekL5</a>
Trudeau says it will take three to five days for the money to arrive by direct deposit, or 10 days by mail.
Only those born in January, February and March can apply Monday. The rest of the months will go in order in groups of three on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the program’s online system opens to everyone on Friday.
Trudeau says the government is doing everything it can to prevent the system from crashing.
Abroad, 97 Canadians aboard the coronavirus-stricken Coral Princess cruise ship docked in Florida on Sunday. However, only those travelling to the U.K., Australia and California on chartered flights are being allowed off.
Also Sunday, Global Affairs said Canadians are heading home today on flights from Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Lebanon, and Serbia.
Flights from India, Nigeria and Ukraine are expected to take off on Monday.
All repatriated Canadians are subject to a mandatory self-isolation period upon their return.
British prime minister hospitalized
Americans braced for what the nation’s top doctor warned Sunday would be “the hardest and saddest week” of their lives while Britain assumed the unwelcome mantle of deadliest coronavirus hot spot in Europe after a 24-hour jump in deaths. Reporting more than 600 new deaths on Sunday, Britain surpassed hard-hit Italy’s daily increase in fatalities.
Britain’s own prime minister, Boris Johnson, was hospitalized, 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 in what his office described as a “precautionary step.” Johnson remains in charge of the government.
There are concerns that Johnson’s government did not take the virus seriously enough at first and that spring weather will tempt Britons and others to break social distancing rules.
Amid the dire news, there were also glimmers of hope in some hard-hit areas — the number of people dying appeared to be slowing in New York City, Spain and Italy. The news was cautiously welcomed by leaders, who also noted that any gains could easily be reversed if people did not continue to adhere to strict lockdowns.
Queen urges self-discipline in broadcast
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth made a rare broadcast to her nation to rally the public in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
In only the fifth special televised broadcast she has made during her reign, the longest in British history, she urged Britons to stay united in their efforts to overcome the pandemic.
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” she said in the address Sunday.
WATCH | Queen Elizabeth urges strength, discipline in COVID-19 address:
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”
The Queen has delivered only a handful of such speeches in her 67-year reign outside her annual holiday messages — including after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, before the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 and at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991.
This address was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. The location was chosen specifically because it allowed enough space between the monarch and the camera person, who wore personal protective equipment.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
Canada has more than 15,500 cases confirmed and presumptive cases, with 307 deaths. The provinces and territories that list information about recovered cases have reported more than 3,100 cases as resolved or recovered. There have also been two reported COVID-19-related deaths of Canadians abroad — one in Japan and one in Brazil.
Public health officials caution that reported case numbers don’t provide a complete picture of the scale of the outbreak as that data doesn’t capture people who haven’t been tested and cases that are still under investigation. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has urged people nationwide to practise physical distancing and behave as though there is COVID-19 in their community, even if there is no known case.
British Columbia’s Emergency Health Services and the provincial health officer are preventing firefighters in the province from attending health emergency calls involving flu-like illness in order to protect them from contracting COVID-19 and to preserve PPE.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Park Board launched a new program where staff in bright green vests will remind the public the importance of physical distancing and staying more than two metres apart to curb the spread of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
WATCH | A pharmacist talks about keeping himself and customers safe:
In Alberta, there are now nine outbreaks at continuing care centres, with 93 cases stemming from those facilities. Meanwhile, Calgary Transit announced Saturday that three workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan is warning anyone who has COVID-19 to avoid contact with animals, just as they should avoid contact with people. The province says if there is already an animal in the household, that animal should remain in isolation along with the patient. The warning comes as a tiger in a New York City zoo tested positive for coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website, some animals have become infected through close contact with infected humans, but there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
WATCH | Viewer questions on COVID-19:
Manitoba is opening what it calls “alternative isolation centres” this weekend for people who need to self-isolate and may need extra support. The first is in a hotel, which will have enhanced cleaning. The province’s chief nursing officer says housekeeping staff at its acute care centres will start collecting “gently used” N95 masks for sterilization and re-use if the masks are deemed safe. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario announced $40 million for organizations that support vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 crisis. The aid will assist residential services and shelters for children, people with developmental disabilities and women fleeing domestic violence. The government says the aid will cover the cost of staffing and personal protective equipment.
Meanwhile, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said Sunday the city has issued two $750 tickets for failing to comply with Ontario’s emergency order on physical distancing. “Both were using a clearly signed skate park and disrespecting physical distancing. They were aware of the closure but used the park anyway,” said Crombie on Twitter. “This behaviour won’t be tolerated.” Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec Premier François Legault is extending the closure of non-essential businesses in the province to May 4. Legault says COVID-19 is still on an upward slope in Quebec and it would be unrealistic to keep to the original April 13 end date. He says he hopes the number of new cases in the province will peak in the coming weeks.
In Sherbrooke, Que., a Walmart security guard is in critical condition after being hit by a driver frustrated by the store’s COVID-19 prevention measures. Read more about what’s happening across Quebec.
New Brunswick is reporting three new cases. Of the province’s 101 cases, 58 are travel-related, and 32 are close contacts of confirmed cases. However, five cases are the result of community transmission, and six cases remain under investigation. The province says 28 people have recovered from the viral illness. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia has ramped up testing at the province’s main laboratory, where processing of results will be a 24/7 operation as of Monday. The province announced 26 new cases on Sunday. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.
In Prince Edward Island, schooling resumes Monday for students, but the school buildings will remain closed. Students will be learning from home using online tools and other resources. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says he’s furious with Trump for suggesting the country could ban exports of medical supplies to Canada. Ball told a news conference that the province gained international acclaim for the way its residents helped thousands of stranded airline passengers after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
In Canada’s North, the Yukon government is going to provide 325 cellphones with four-month service plans for free to women in vulnerable situations starting Monday. In the northern Quebec region of Nunavik, health authorities confirmed three new cases, bringing the region’s total to five. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
To see how things break down in your province, visit the CBC’s COVID-19 case tracker. Want to learn more about what the daily data means? Here’s how to make sense of the coronavirus numbers.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
The U.S. surgeon general said Sunday 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 new 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, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean beginning to turn a corner.
“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at an evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”
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.”
WATCH | Makeshift hospitals spring up across the U.S. to treat COVID-19 patients:
“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.”
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.”
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9-11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized,” said Adams, the nation’s top doctor. “It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,000.
New York continues to be the epicentre of the U.S. outbreak, as overall deaths in the state climbed to nearly 4,200.
However, there was a slight dip in the number of new deaths, as well as ICU admissions, over the last 24 hours, offering a glimmer of hope that the spread might be slowing.
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was too soon to determine whether the pandemic had reached its apex.
“You can’t do this day to day. You have to look at three or four days to see a pattern,” he said.
A few American churches ignored physical distancing safety measures and held large gatherings on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week in Christian churches.
“We’re defying the rules because the commandment of God is to spread the Gospel,” said Tony Spell, pastor at the Life Tabernacle megachurch in a suburb of Baton Rouge, La. He has defied state orders against assembling in large groups and has already been hit with six misdemeanors.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Italy, Spain and parts of Europe
Italy has registered its lowest day-to-day increase in deaths of patients — 525 — in more than two weeks. The number of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has also showed a decrease in the past few days, including in northern Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region.
But Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, warned, “this good news shouldn’t make us drop our guard.”
Italy still has, by far, the world’s highest death toll, as COVID-19 has killed almost 16,000 people there.
In Vatican City, Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday mass without the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Only a few of his aides, invited prelates, nuns and laypeople were in attendance in Saint Peter’s Basilica and were staggered two metres apart to reduce the risk of contagion.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says that his nation, ravaged by the pandemic, is “starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel” as confirmed infections fell and new deaths declined for the third straight day, dropping to 674 — the first time daily deaths have fallen below 800 in the past week.
France reported 357 deaths in hospitals from the virus in a single day on Sunday but showed signs that the spread is slowing after 20 days of national confinement. While still high, the number of new deaths in hospitals dropped Sunday for the second straight day and was the lowest since March 29. Over 8,000 people have died from the virus in the country.
France continued Sunday to transport critically ill patients out of saturated regions to those with more hospital space and has brought in hundreds of medical personnel to help in the overwhelmed Paris region.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has re-registered as a doctor and will work one shift a week to help out during the COVID-19 crisis, his office said on Sunday.
Varadkar worked as a physician for seven years before leaving the profession to become a politician. According to a report in the Irish Times, Varadkar is helping out with phone assessments. Anybody who may have been exposed to the virus is initially assessed over the phone.
Here’s a look at China and some other areas around the world
China’s health authorities reported 30 new coronavirus cases Sunday, including 25 people who had arrived from overseas. The other five cases were in southern China’s Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong.
China has clamped down on international arrivals, banning most foreigners from entering and limiting foreign airlines to one flight per week. Having largely stopped the spread of the disease, the fear is that infected people coming from abroad could spark new outbreaks.
The National Health Commission said that three more people had died, bringing the country’s death toll to 3,329 as of the end of Saturday. The deaths were in Wuhan, where the pandemic began and by far the hardest-hit city in China. The number of confirmed cases stood at 81,669.
In South Africa, part of a hospital in the city of Durban has been shut down after 11 coronavirus cases were confirmed among patients and staffers. South Africa now has more than 1,500 cases, the most in Africa.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday “low-risk” economic activities would resume from April 11 in the Middle Eastern country worst-affected by the coronavirus.
Rouhani did not spell what he meant by low-risk activity, but said the suspension of “high-risk activities” — schools, universities and various social, cultural, sports and religious events would be extended to April 18.
In Sri Lanka, nearly 2,900 prisoners have been released from overcrowded prisons as the Indian ocean island nation has stepped up its efforts to contain the virus. Sri Lanka’s prisons are highly congested, and the president’s office said there are more than 26,000 inmates in a system designed for 10,000.
South Sudan has announced its first case of COVID-19, making it the 51st of Africa’s 54 countries to have the disease. A 29-year-old UN worker who arrived in the country from Netherlands on Feb. 28 is ill, confirmed First Vice-President Riek Machar and the UN mission in South Sudan. South Sudan, with 11 million people, currently has four ventilators.
Ethiopia has reported its first death of a COVID-19 patient, a 60-year old woman, who was in treatment at a hospital in the capital since March 31, the Health Minister Lia Tadesse said Sunday. The Horn of Africa nation has a total of 43 confirmed cases of the disease and has reported four recoveries.
Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment for a “war budget” of up to $160 billion Cdn to separate coronavirus-related spending from the government’s main budget and shield the economy as the country surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases.
President Jair Bolsonaro has distanced himself from most world leaders and many members of his own government by repeatedly minimizing the risks posed by COVID-19 and saying younger and healthy people should not self-isolate at home but get back to work. On Sunday, Bolsonaro met with evangelical backers and declared Sunday a day of prayer and fasting. A small group gathered outside his official residence in the capital, Brasilia, to pray.