A new month means a fresh set of bills for Canadian families and businesses struggling with the health and financial fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.
With case numbers rising, several provinces have made moves recently to extend orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus that emerged in China and has since spread around the world. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix on Tuesday told people in his province there is “zero chance — none” that orders meant to tackle COVID-19 would be varied by the end of this month.
“I think we’re in this for a long time,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has announced several programs meant to support families and businesses struggling to pay bills, but there is no firm timeline for when money will start flowing for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the business support programs.
The government has said previously that it hopes to have an online portal for CERB applicants up by early April, with a goal of having payments flowing within 10 days of receiving an individual’s application.
As of 6 a.m. ET on Wednesday, officials in Canada had reported at least 8,612 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 108 deaths. The provinces and territories that are providing details on recovered cases have listed a total of 1,290 as resolved. Public health officials have cautioned that reported numbers don’t capture the full picture, as there are potential cases that haven’t been identified or tested, as well as cases where investigations are ongoing or lab results are not yet in.
A tracking database maintained by Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday listed more than 860,000 reported cases worldwide. The database draws on data from a variety of sources, including the World Health Organization, national health agencies and media reports.
In hard-hit Spain, health authorities reported a new record of 864 deaths in one day as total reported cases passed 100,000, making it the third country to pass that milestone after the United States and Italy.
Spanish health authorities said Wednesday that the total number of deaths reached 9,053 since the beginning of the outbreak. Total infections hit 102,136. But the 24-hour increase of 7,719 was 1,500 fewer than the increase from the previous day, offering hope that the contagion rate is stabilizing.
Push on to procure protective gear
Back in Canada, Trudeau said Tuesday that his government is working with provinces and allocating billions for the procurement of gowns, gloves, test kits and other critical supplies for Canada’s health-care systems.
Provincially run health systems have been working to ready themselves for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients, but supply of that critical gear is a growing concern. In Quebec on Tuesday, Premier François Legault cautioned that supplies were getting tight — with only three to seven days worth of supplies for some equipment. Legault said Ontario had sent some gear to assist Quebec in tackling its growing case load.
“We’re using 10 times more medical equipment as normal,” said Health Minister Danielle McCann. “So what we used in one year, we’re using in four weeks.”
WATCH | COVID-19 cases in Quebec top 4,000:
The new virus causes mild to moderate symptoms for most people, but some people — including older adults and people with underlying health issues — face a higher risk of severe disease and death. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says that the situation is evolving daily, but currently describes COVID-19 as a “serious health threat.” PHAC notes that the risk varies “between and within communities,” but said given rising case numbers “the risk to Canadians is considered high.”
PHAC said risk doesn’t mean that all Canadians will be infected — rather, it means that there is already a “significant impact” on the health system. “If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health-care resources available to Canadians.”
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia now has more than 1,000 known COVID-19 cases, including a cluster at a West Kelowna nursery. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said the outbreak occurred in a group of temporary foreign workers. “The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the very good housing that is on-site there.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C., including the story of a Vancouver ER doctor who contracted COVID-19.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about how long restrictions may last in B.C.:
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health reminded the community to take care of the vulnerable as its COVID-19 related death toll increased to nine. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said following public-health orders doesn’t mean people can’t help and support each other. “We are all in this together and now, more than ever, kindness matters.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer said the province is seeing more cases that don’t link back to travel. Dr. Saqib Shahab said one of the province’s first two deaths was a case of community transmission. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
In Manitoba, there are at least three cases of health-care workers testing positive for COVID-19. Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer in the province, said the province has “as many protocols as we can to protect our staff, which is one of our biggest priorities.” Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario is nearing 2,000 COVID-19 cases, officials said, warning that hospitalizations are expected to increase in the coming days. The province also announced that in-class learning is suspended until at least early May. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec is recommending stores install handwashing stations and better signage on how to maintain enough physical distance between people. The hard-hit province released guidelines for grocers online on Tuesday. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, which has more than 4,000 reported cases of COVID-19.
New Brunswick’s premier says an ‘enhanced’ pandemic plan will be released later this week. Blaine Higgs said the plan will provide details on how the health-care system will handle an uptick in cases. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick.
Staff at an Antigonish, N.S., grocery store bought food for four seniors after someone anonymously dropped off envelopes with offers of thanks — and cash. The cards said thank you to the workers and each contained $40, and staff decided to pool the money to buy food for seniors in need. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.
Students in Prince Edward Island will formally start school from home this week — whether or not they have good internet access. Education Minister Brad Trivers said teachers will reach out and connect with students in a “way that works best for all involved.” Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical health officer said that even with lower single-day case numbers, the risk posed by COVID-19 is still serious. “The COVID-19 virus is in our communities and we are still at the beginning of this pandemic,” said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland and Labrador.
A prisoner at the Baffin Correctional Centre said he’s worried for his own life as well as the wellbeing of his fellow inmates, citing close quarters and a lack of testing. Nunavut’s Justice Department said it is working to keep the virus out of the facility. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 6 a.m. ET
As the number of coronavirus deaths continues to surge in the United States, officials are warning the disease could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even if people continue to stay home and limit their contact with others.
Experts made the prediction at a Tuesday media briefing with President Donald Trump. But they said they hope the figure won’t soar that high if everyone does their part to prevent the virus from spreading.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” said Trump, who also extended physical distancing guidelines until April 30. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
The U.S. recorded a big daily jump of 26,000 new cases, bringing the total to more than 189,000. The death toll leaped to over 4,000, including more than 1,000 in New York City.
WATCH | U.S. projects over 100,00 COVID-19 deaths:
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Italy, Spain and parts of Europe
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
Calls to Spain’s government helpline for victims of gender violence shot up in the first two weeks of a state of emergency lockdown imposed to combat the spread of coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday. Calls increased by 12.4 per cent in the first two weeks of the lockdown compared to the same fortnight last year, while online consultations of the helpline’s website grew by 270 per cent, the Equality Ministry said.
Spain, like many other nations, has introduced stringent curbs on people’s free movement outside the home to help halt the spread of coronavirus. Spain is among the countries worst affected by the pandemic, with 9,053 deaths as of Wednesday.
Despite a global spike in new reported cases, Italy remained stable at around 4,050 as of Tuesday, roughly in line with the day before, making it five days without a significant increase. The country, which has seen the most deaths from the coronavirus, has extended its nationwide lockdown at least until the Easter season.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Italy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Italy</a>’s Health Minister <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Speranza?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Speranza</a> has announced nation-wide lockdown officially extended to April 13. ‘We’re on the right path, but it would be an unforgivable mistake to think the battle against <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> is over.’ <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/coronvirusitalia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#coronvirusitalia</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/Corriere?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Corriere</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCAlerts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCAlerts</a> <a href=”https://t.co/CGLRei5B94″>pic.twitter.com/CGLRei5B94</a>
The British government is under fire for failing to keep its promise to increase the number of tests performed for COVID-19. The U.K. has restricted testing to hospitalized patients, leaving many people with milder symptoms unsure whether they have had the novel coronavirus. Many scientists have urged wider testing to allow medics who are negative to remain at work, and to better understand how the virus spreads. That has happened in Germany, which has the capacity to do 500,000 tests a week.
France on Wednesday is evacuating 36 patients infected with the coronavirus from the Paris region on board two medicalized high-speed TGV trains. The patients, all treated in intensive-care units, are being transferred to several hospitals in Brittany, as western France is less impacted by the epidemic.
The country has already operated several transports of patients by train, helicopter, military aircraft and aboard a navy ship. Some patients from eastern France have also been transferred to hospitals in neighbouring Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland. France has increased its capacity of 5,000 ICU beds before the crisis to 8,000 now and is aiming at getting 14,000 ICU beds in the coming weeks, according to health authorities.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit China, South Korea, Iran and other areas of concern
From The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday reported 36 new COVID-19 cases, one day after announcing that asymptomatic cases will now be included in the official count. The commission said all but one of the new cases was imported from abroad, while seven more deaths from the disease had been reported over the previous 24 hours. The commission did not say if any of the new cases were asymptomatic, but on Tuesday reported that, of a total of 1,541 asymptomatic cases now being isolated and monitored for symptoms, 205 had come from overseas.
The move to disclose the number of asymptomatic cases comes amid scrutiny of China’s reported figures, which previously only included people who exhibited symptoms. While the proportion of people who have contracted the virus but remain asymptomatic is currently unknown, scientists say these “carriers” can still pass COVID-19 on to others who do end up getting sick.
As China’s domestic outbreak has largely abated, some questioned whether the country’s failure to count asymptomatic cases would lead to a resurgence of infections. China, where the virus was first detected in December, has recorded a total of 81,554 cases of COVID-19 and 3,312 deaths from the disease.
South Korean health officials say 43 patients have been placed under isolation in one of the biggest hospitals in the capital of Seoul after a hospitalized nine-year-old girl tested positive for the coronavirus. Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday said around 50 medical staff who worked at the Asan Medical Center’s pediatric department will be quarantined at their homes despite having tested negative.
Jeong and Seoul city officials said the girl was tested for the virus after doctors found she had previously been treated for a headache at another hospital in Euijeongbu, near Seoul, where a dozen patients and medical staff have been infected with COVID-19. Officials didn’t release specific details about the girl’s condition.
WATCH | ER doctor takes your questions about COVID-19:
South Korea’s nationwide caseload has slowed from early March when it reported around 500 new infections a day, but the country has struggled to stem infections at hospitals, psychiatric wards, nursing homes and other live-in facilities. Hundreds of patients and medical staff have been infected in hospitals in the worst-hit city of Daegu, where more than 6,700 of the country’s 9,887 infections have been reported.
The Middle East has over 75,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of those in Iran, and over 3,400 deaths. Iran’s health ministry spokesperson, Kianoush Jahanpour, said Wednesday that the virus had killed another 138 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,036 amid 47,593 confirmed cases.
India had 1,238 active cases and 35 deaths as of Tuesday evening. India sealed off headquarters of a Muslim missionary group and ordered an investigation into accusations it held religious meetings that officials fear may have infected dozens of people.
Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday registered 1,215 cases of the coronavirus, up from 1,094 the day before. It also said 29 people died in Mexico, up from 28 a day earlier.
Brazil’s president said hunger is just as big a threat as COVID-19, again playing down the seriousness of the outbreak during a news conference.
Lagos, Africa’s largest city, ground to a halt on Tuesday as it and the Nigerian capital Abuja entered a two-week lockdown.
Several members of a well-known children’s choir are among the growing number of coronavirus cases in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni late Tuesday announced that members of the Watoto Children’s Choir had been in quarantine after travelling abroad. The 11 people affected make up one-fourth of the East African nation’s 44 virus cases. Nearly all of Africa’s 54 countries now have the virus.