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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world Thursday

The latest: 

The number of reported cases of COVID-19 in Canada has passed 11,000, a new milestone in a growing outbreak that has public health officials fighting to slow the spread of the disease and hospitals trying to prepare for an expected surge in patients. 

The new case total comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the need to stay at home a “duty” for Canadians right now.

Trudeau is set to chair a meeting with the country’s premiers later Thursday and said there will be a discussion of co-ordination, data sharing, and modelling and analysis. 

“I know a lot of people are still wondering when this will get better, or how much worse it might become,” the prime minister said Thursday.

“You want to see the numbers and the predictions,” he said, adding that he knows people want more details so they can plan. The government would have more information soon, he said, but didn’t offer a timeline on when people might see a detailed analysis of models.

Trudeau said “those analyses depend directly on the Canadians’ behaviours,” and again reiterated his call for people to follow guidelines around measures like physical distancing and staying home.

“These kinds of things will have a direct impact on which of the various models that are out there will be the one we take.” 

Standing outside his home at Rideau Cottage, the prime minister said: “If you listen to doctors, if you stay home, if you stay away from other people, we won’t overwhelm our hospitals.”

There is a “range” of projections, he said, but “highlighting that range is not as useful or important as being able to get clearer numbers and clear analysis of what we are likely to face.”

“But everything that we are going to face will be directly linked to how people behave today.”

Spread likely wider than recorded cases

Global numbers of recorded coronavirus cases are approaching one million, according to a database maintained by a U.S. university.

Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University has been tracking the recorded cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus that first emerged in China.

The database, which shows a worldwide total of more than 960,000 cases, draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization, national and regional health agencies and media reports. But experts say the real spread of the virus is likely wider than suggested by recorded cases.

The real figures are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, differences in counting the dead and large numbers of mild cases that have gone unreported. Critics say some governments have been deliberately under-reporting cases in order to avoid public criticism.

Most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, but some people — particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions — face an increased risk of severe disease and death.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, on Thursday said at least 50 deaths are linked to long-term care homes, senior residences and “other care facilities.”

But she also reiterated that COVID-19 spares “no one” and urged caution across age groups.

In Canada, provinces and territories are implementing ever-tighter public health measures and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, as well as planning ahead for an expected surge in hospitalizations. 

WATCH | Health minister says Canada ‘likely did not have enough’ protective gear:

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says that successive federal governments have for decades underfunded public health preparedness, resulting in an insufficient amount of personal protective equipment in the federal pandemic stockpile. 1:58

Freeing up hospital beds, creating new spaces

In Alberta, health officials have delayed surgeries, expanded ERs and made moves to allow Alberta Health Services to free up beds for an expected increase in COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Neil Collins, who has been handling the coronavirus response for emergency departments in the Calgary health zone, told CBC Calgary that “we are preparing for an increase that will certainly test our capacity.” 

Premier Jason Kenney said this week that things “will get worse before they get better,” but also said the province’s health system has the equipment and staff needed to cope with the peak of the outbreak, which the province says could come in May. Kenney has said his province plans to present a “fairly detailed briefing” on its modelling for the pandemic in Alberta.

Construction workers help assemble a makeshift hospital outside the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., on Wednesday. The hospital is gearing up for patients to be treated for COVID-19. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., is installing a temporary 93-bed structure on its grounds to help prepare for an uptick in cases. The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra, says the pandemic response unit will allow the hospital to keep its critical-care and high-acuity beds for the sickest patients.

In Sudbury, Ont., Health Sciences North recently admitted its first COVID-19 patient. The hospital had already cancelled elective surgeries and is making moves to free up beds.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says COVID-19 presents a “serious” health risk in Canada, noting that though risk varies in different communities, the risk to Canadians is “high.” The federal public health agency, which has been monitoring the situation and evolving research around the novel coronavirus, said in its public page on risk: “If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health-care resources available to Canadians.”

Canadians abroad may not all get home

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Thursday spoke about ongoing efforts to repatriate Canadians and said he understands the anxiety of people who are still stranded abroad. 

“We are working literally around the clock and doing everything we can to bring you home as quickly as possible.” 

But he went on to say the government is facing an “unprecedented challenge” as it deals with issues such as airport and border closures. 

“I must, however, repeat something I have said before. Unfortunately, despite our very best efforts, it will most likely not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home.”

He called on people who are still abroad to follow local public health recommendations and said, “we will assist you in every way we can.”

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

As of 1:15 p.m. ET Thursday, provinces and territories had reported 11,068 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 134 deaths. The provinces and territories that provide data on the cases considered resolved listed 1,881 cases as recovered. There have also been two COVID-19-related deaths of Canadians abroad: one in Japan and one in Brazil.

Public health officials have cautioned that the numbers likely don’t capture the full scope of the outbreak because they don’t include people who haven’t been tested and potential cases still under investigation. Get a deeper look at what’s happening in your area through the CBC case tracker.

British Columbia is offering some relief to customers on hydro bills, including credits for residential customers who have lost income and assistance for affected businesses. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta reported two more COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday as reported case numbers rose to 871. “The hard truth is that things will get worse before they get better,” said Premier Jason Kenney. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta. 

“We still have a long way to go.” That’s the word from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who said it’s too early to tell when the province will hit its COVID-19 peak. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan. 

Health officials are seeing early signs of community transmission of COVID-19 in Manitoba’s largest city. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said health officials haven’t been able to pinpoint a source of transmission for four or five cases in Winnipeg. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Roughly 1 in 10 reported COVID-19 cases in Ontario are health-care workers. Data published by the provincial Ministry of Health after an inquiry by CBC Toronto indicates that health-care workers account for 229 of the province’s 2,392 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Quebec’s premier reminded people to stay away from seniors’ homes during the pandemic, saying it’s a matter of “life or death” for the vulnerable population. François Legault, who had warned of a looming shortage in critical gear, said Wednesday that the province had received shipments that were expected to last through the week. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick’s premier said the province’s state of emergency has been extended for another two weeks. Blaine Higgs said his province will also put up barriers where needed to discourage people from congregating in public spaces. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

The top doctor in Nova Scotia is reminding people to stick close to home. Dr. Robert Strang said people shouldn’t be focused on how to get back to their regular activities, but should instead look to “minimize our interaction with others to protect each other.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S, including the story of YMCA workers checking in on local seniors.

WATCH | N.S. couple talks about self-isolating after travel: 

Duncan Crowdis says the timing of the couple’s own experience with COVID-19 makes him supportive of the ‘obvious’ answer to curbing the virus. 5:57

Prince Edward Island is stepping up screening at the Confederation Bridge“Don’t come if it’s not essential. You are going to be turned away,” said Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador is offering funding to help essential workers with child carePremier Dwight Ball said the program will allow families “to avail of an alternate arrangement in a safe, regulated environment with guidance from public health.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yukon has reported a sixth case of COVID-19, but says so far three people have recovered. In the Northwest Territories, the public health emergency has been extended. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

WATCH | Canadians prepare for an extended period of isolation:

After Toronto announces that lockdown measures will be in place for at least another 12 weeks and B.C. says its will be there until the end of May, many Canadians are settling in for a longer period of isolation than expected. 2:09

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

From The Associated Press, updated at 8:50 a.m. ET

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The stunning report Thursday from the United States Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the U.S. and abroad having almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world. The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week.

From New York to Los Angeles, U.S. officials are warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is ahead.

People walk by the Lumiere Music Hall theatre, displaying messages of solidarity, in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday. All 40 million residents of California were Thursday ordered to stay at home indefinitely in a bid to battle the coronavirus pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. (Valeria Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

New York state’s coronavirus death toll doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already complained that U.S. states are competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines, or being outbid by the federal government.

President Donald Trump acknowledged that the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses is nearly depleted.

“We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said even a “tucked-in bandana” could slow the spread of the virus and reminded people to keep their distance.

“I know it will look surreal,” he said, donning a mask. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing each other like this.”

As hot spots flared in New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city, New York, was the hardest hit of them all, with bodies loaded onto refrigerated morgue trucks by forklifts outside overwhelmed hospitals.

“It’s like a battlefield behind your home,” said 33-year-old Emma Sorza, who could hear the sirens from the swamped Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

Cuomo said projections suggest the crisis in New York will peak at the end of April, with a high death rate continuing through July.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit Italy, Spain and parts of Europe

From The Associated Press, updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

The head of the World Health Organization’s office in Europe says figures show that more than 95 per cent of people who have died of coronavirus on the continent have been aged over 60. But Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for severe disease, noting: “The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong.”

In an online news conference Thursday in Copenhagen, Kluge said “young people are not invincible” — echoing similar recent comments from WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The UN health agency says 10 per cent to 15 per cent of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe infection.

“Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said.

WATCH | How young people may be fuelling the spread of COVID-19:

Despite older people and those with pre-existing conditions being more vulnerable, 12 per cent of those hospitalized in Canada with COVID-19 are under 40. 1:44

He said recent statistics showed 30,098 people have been reported to have died in Europe, mostly in Italy, France and Spain.

“We know that over 95 per cent of these deaths occurred in those older than 60 years,” he said, with more than half aged over 80. Kluge said more than four in five of those people had at least one other chronic underlying condition, like cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes.

“On a positive note, there are reports of people over the age of 100 who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 and have now — since — made a complete recovery,” he said.

Spain hit a new record Thursday in virus-related fatalities with 950 deaths in 24 hours, which came as the country is seeing the growth of contagion waning, health ministry data showed. The total number of deaths by Thursday was 10,003.

New coronavirus infections rose by nearly eight per cent overnight to 110,238, placing Spain neck and neck with Italy, the country that has had the worst outbreak in Europe. Health authorities have been saying that the pace of contagion has dropped from a daily average of 20 per cent until March 25 to less than 12 per cent after that date, more than 10 days after Spaniards were ordered to stay at home. The government has acknowledged that the real number of infections could be much higher because Spain only has the capacity to do between 15,000 and 20,000 tests per day.

The Spanish Red Cross transfers a COVID-19 patient. Spain has been struggling with an expanding outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (Alvaro Calvo/Getty Images)

Italy will extend lockdown restrictions to April 13, as data from this week suggests a slowdown of growth in total cases, though its national health institute says the official death toll could be underestimated.

Confirmed cases in Germany have risen to 73,522, while 872 people have died of the disease. Cases rose by 6,156, compared with the previous day, and the death toll climbed by 140.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of the month to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Putin said there are exceptions for essential industries to keep operating, and grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. He said that it would be up to the regional authorities to decide which sectors should keep working in their areas.

He said Russia’s virus-prevention strategies have bought time and helped slow down the outbreak in the country, but he also warned that infections haven’t yet peaked. Russia had reported 3,540 cases and 30 virus-related deaths as of Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. Experts have questioned how accurate those numbers are, given Russia’s vast size and shared borders with China and Europe.

France became the fourth country to pass the threshold of 4,000 coronavirus deaths. Britain said it would ramp up the number of tests amid widespread criticism that it was doing far too few.

And in the Netherlands, measures to limit the outbreak appear to have halved the rate of infection but need to be continued to be really effective, a top health official said.

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

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 9:00 a.m. ET.

China logged fewer reported new infections on Thursday while at the same time measures restricting movement have been tightened in some parts of the country because of a fear of more imported cases. Meanwhile, an increased focus on asymptomatic carriers is stoking fears among the population, despite the fact that the number of such cases fell sharply on April 1 to 55, from 130 the day before. China has faced questions about how it records cases and reports case numbers. 

South Korea will allow coronavirus patients to vote by mail as parliamentary elections begin this month. The country is still grappling with a steady rise in infections, reporting 89 new infections on Thursday, raising the total tally to 9,976, while the death toll rose by four to 169. Roughly 4,000 patients receiving treatment will be able to cast their ballots by mail while the National Election Commission is urging all voters to wear masks in polling stations, make use of sanitizers and gloves, and practice social distancing. 

A police officer wearing protective clothing guides South Korean citizens repatriated from Italy to a bus at Incheon international airport, west of Seoul, on Wednesday. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Experts in Japan say the country is on the brink of a medical crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is being derided on social media for offering cloth masks instead of declaring a coronavirus state of emergency. The prime minister returned to power in 2012 promising to revive growth with a policy mix dubbed Abenomics, and he has promised a huge fiscal package to counter the outbreak’s blow to the economy. “If you declare an emergency, it is definitely the end of Abenomics, the end of ‘economy first,'” said Jesper Koll, CEO of fund manager WisdomTree Japan.

With more than 47,500 reported cases, Iran has more than half of total coronavirus infections reported in the Middle East and over 3,600 deaths. In a rare acknowledgment of the severity of the outbreak by a senior Iranian official, President Hassan Rouhani said the new coronavirus may remain through the end of the Iranian year, which just began late last month, state TV reported Thursday. 

“The corona issue is not an issue that we can say it will be ended [on a specific] day,” Rouhani said. “It is possible corona will be with us for the coming months. It is possible it will be with us by the end of the year. We always have to follow healthy protocols provided by the health ministry.” 

Taiwan has announced it is planning to donate 10 million face masks, plus medicine, to medical staff in countries that are fighting coronavirus. The self-governed island claimed by Beijing has been seeking to showcase its own handling of the outbreak as it pushes back against China’s efforts to isolate it diplomatically.

Zambia has recorded its first death from coronavirus, and the number of confirmed cases has risen by three to 39, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said on Thursday. Meanwhile Rwanda, the first sub-Saharan country to impose a coronavirus lockdown, has now extended it by two weeks. Altogether, Africa has now registered almost 6,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 200 deaths. The continent is already suffering a huge economic impact from lockdowns aiming to contain the virus and a sharp fall in global demand for commodities.

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