Despite ongoing coronavirus deaths throughout Canada, some provinces are moving ahead with plans to cautiously begin reopening their locked-down economies.
Ontario and Quebec are both expected to unveil their initial plans this week.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who talked to the premiers on Friday about their recovery strategies, stressed yesterday that none of them hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.
He said it is too soon to talk about so called “immunity passports” for Canadians who’ve been infected with COVID-19 because the science is still unclear about whether those who have recovered from the virus are protected from catching it again.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the federal government has set up an immunity task force that will investigate how people’s immune systems are responding to COVID-19.
WATCH | Tam says it’s ‘premature’ to consider immunity passports:
But for now, Trudeau insisted the focus remains on preventing the spread of the virus through physical distancing and personal protective equipment.
Meanwhile, Health Canada cautioned on Saturday against the use of malaria drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The Canadian health department said the two drugs may cause serious side effects, including serious heart rhythm problems. It advised use of the two drugs only if prescribed by a doctor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also cautioned against the use of malaria drugs in COVID-19 patients on Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump had repeatedly promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.
In Toronto yesterday, dozens of protesters rallied on the grounds of the Ontario Legislature, defying physical distancing rules and demanding an immediate end to the COVID-19 lockdown — some even calling the pandemic a hoax.
Premier Doug Ford was quick with a strong rebuke, calling the demonstrators a “reckless” and “selfish” bunch of “yahoos” who were breaking the law and putting others, including health-care workers, in jeopardy.
WATCH | Ford slams Toronto anti-lockdown protesters:
Global deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 205,000 and reported cases worldwide are approaching three million, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
Confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada rose Saturday to 46,648, and the number of deaths hit 2,636 deaths, not including two deaths abroad, according to a CBC News tally. More than 17,000 have recovered.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the United States and around the world.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia reported two new deaths on Saturday, including the province’s first death related to COVID-19 in a First Nations community. B.C. also reported 95 new cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said part of the reason for the dramatic spike in cases is additional testing related to outbreaks at a federal prison and a poultry processing plant. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
In Alberta, economist Trevor Tombe said this fiscal year could see the deficit hit somewhere between $15 and $20 billion, roughly doubling Alberta’s debt-to-GDP ratio from just under 10 per cent to just under 20 per cent at this time next year.
The government also said it’s close to rolling out a contact tracing app that will alert users about whether they came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Details are few. The government says the app is voluntary. Alberta’s privacy commissioner is waiting on a privacy impact statement. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan is reporting that seven of its eight new COVID-19 cases are in the province’s far north. In total, there were 349 cases in Saskatchewan on Saturday, and four people have died. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
WATCH | See how Saskatchewan plans to handle a phased reopening:
Manitoba is set to ramp up surgeries after a month of postponements due to COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to be low enough that health officials say they can pivot some of the system’s resources back toward surgeries. The province reported four new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 271. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says all publicly funded schools will remain closed until May 31 to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19. Lecce says the decision was based on advice from medical experts and that the school closure could be further extended. Students have already transitioned to learning online over the past month. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec is reporting 69 new deaths linked to COVID-19, brining the province’s total number to 1,515. The province is also reporting 24,107 confirmed cases — an additional 840 cases compared to Saturday.
Premier Francois Legault will begin outlining a timeline for the reopening of the province’s schools and economy this week. On Monday, Quebec is expected to detail how it intends to manage the return for students, who’ve been off since schools were shuttered on March 13. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick has now gone eight days without any new cases of COVID-19. Of the 118 cases confirmed in the province so far, 111 have recovered, leaving just seven still with the virus.
“We are in a fortunate position in New Brunswick,” said chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell in a written news release Sunday. “But this is still the time to be patient and vigilant. We want to give citizens and businesses every opportunity to recover from this crisis. We must follow a strategic, methodical approach to get there.” Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia is reporting two more deaths, bringing the provincial total to 24. Both deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality.
“Every time a family loses a loved one to this virus, the pain is new,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement. “Two more families must say goodbye and not being able to gather with friends and neighbours to mourn together only makes it harder. Your entire province grieves with you.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
WATCH | Crisis in long-term care homes ‘unsurprising but tragic,’ says geriatrician:
Prince Edward Island is not reporting any new cases on Sunday. The Island has had only one confirmed case of COVID-19 since April 8. The province says it is working on a plan to begin easing restrictions in May but gatherings with people from outside of one’s household remain prohibited for now, said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer. More details on P.E.I.’s plan to ease restrictions are expected in the coming week, said Premier Dennis King. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador has one new confirmed case on Sunday. There are 36 active cases of COVID-19 remaining in the province — a decrease of 10 from Saturday — and 219 people have recovered from the virus. Active cases are the total cases minus recovered cases and deaths. Sunday’s number of active cases is the lowest since March 24, when there were 35. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
The Northwest Territories government is putting $5.1 million toward child-care support for health-care workers, front-line staff and essential workers responding to COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
More U.S. states are preparing to lift coronavirus restrictions this week against the warnings of many public health experts as the White House sees this month’s jobless rate hitting 16 per cent or higher.
Health experts say increased human interaction could spark a new wave of cases that has already killed more than 54,000 Americans.
Colorado, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee will join other states beginning an experiment to reopen economies without the testing and contact-tracing infrastructure that health experts say is needed to prevent a resurgence of infections, with lives in the balance.
Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina have already taken steps to restart their economies following a month of government-ordered lockdowns.
Those unprecedented restrictions resulted in a record 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted on Friday that the U.S. economy would contract at nearly a 40 per cent annual rate in the second quarter.
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters the U.S. jobless rate would likely hit 16 per cent or more in April. Even next year, the CBO forecast the unemployment rate averaging above 10 per cent.
Against a backdrop of scattered protests across the country calling for stay-at-home orders to be lifted, U.S. cases topped 950,000 on Sunday after posting a record one-day increase on Friday.
New York and other states have extended restrictions to mid-May. New York reported 367 new deaths on Sunday, its lowest one-day increase since March 30.
New York Democractic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said construction and manufacturing would be the first businesses to reopen and could restart after May 15 in the upstate region with certain precautions and if cases continue to decline.
Other states, mainly those with Republican governors, have taken a more aggressive approach. Tennessee said it will allow restaurants to reopen on Monday. Mississippi’s stay-at-home order expires the same day.
Montana, which reported three new cases on Sunday, is allowing businesses to reopen Monday if they limit capacity and practise physical distancing, while Minnesota will let some businesses restart Monday, allowing 80,000 to 100,000 people in the industrial, manufacturing and office jobs to return to work.
In Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has given the green light for retail curbside pickup to begin on Monday. Hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlours can open on Friday, with retail stores, restaurants and movie theatres to follow.
But the lifting of restrictions is not uniform across most states. For example, Denver extended stay-at-home orders to May 8, but city dwellers can drive to a nearby county for a haircut. Georgia prohibited any local laws stricter than the state law. Eight states never ordered residents to stay at home — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
Several opinion polls have shown a bipartisan majority of Americans want to remain at home to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact to the economy.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
Italy has registered its lowest daily increase in deaths since the country was in its first week of lockdown in mid-March. The Health Ministry released new figures, including 260 deaths, for the 24-hour period ending Sunday. That daily statistic was last lower on March 14, when 175 deaths were registered. By late March, when the outbreak was raging, most devastatingly in the north, Italy’s daily tally of new deaths had soared to nearly 1,000.
Premier Giuseppe Conte says on Facebook that later Sunday he will address the nation, eager to learn which restrictions will be eased in Italy’s lockdown, which expires May 3.
Overall, Italy has registered 26,644 deaths of those with known coronavirus infections. But the toll could be considerably higher, since many persons who died in their homes or in care residences for the elderly in recent weeks didn’t receive COVID-19 tests. Italy now has totalled 197,675 known cases, after 2,324 new cases were registered on Sunday.
Spain has reported its lowest daily death count for coronavirus infections in five weeks as its strict lockdown restrictions begin to pay dividends.
Spanish health authorities said Sunday that 288 people died from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 23,190 since the start of the outbreak. It is the first time the daily death toll has fallen below 300 fatalities since March 20.
Shrieks of joy rang out in the country’s streets Sunday as children were allowed to leave their homes for the first time in six weeks.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work Monday, two weeks after he was discharged from a London hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Britain’s stand-in leader, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, resisted pressure on Sunday to explain how the government plans to ease a lockdown that has been in place for a month, warning that hasty action could result in a second peak of infections.
The number of deaths related to COVID-19 in hospitals across the United Kingdom has risen above 20,000, the latest data showed on Saturday, with the overall figure likely to be significantly higher once deaths in care homes and hospices are tallied.
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, now has no remaining cases in its hospitals, a health official told reporters on Sunday.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan and first emerged in late December before spreading quickly worldwide.
The city had reported 46,452 cases, 56 per cent of the national total. It saw 3,869 fatalities, or 84 per cent of China’s total.
The focus in China has since shifted to the northeast border province of Heilongjiang, which has seen large numbers of imported COVID-19 cases entering from Russia.
Sri Lanka has cancelled the leave of three forces and ordered them to report to duty immediately amid a surge of patients infected with COVID-19. According the orders issued by the defence ministry, the leave and short passes granted to all officers and others ranks of the three forces were cancelled with immediate effect, and they were directed to report to their respective camps immediately.
The government announced Sunday that a countrywide curfew will be re-imposed Monday “in order to facilitate officers of the security forces who are on leave to report back to their respective camps.” Sri Lanka partially lifted a month-long curfew last week.
The country’s total positive cases went up to 485 on Sunday, while seven people have died.
Turkey’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 2,357 in the past 24 hours, and 99 more people have died, bringing the death toll to 2,805, Health Ministry data showed on Sunday.
The total number of cases in the country stood at 110,130, the highest total for any country outside western Europe or the U.S.
Iran plans to reopen mosques in parts of the country that have been consistently free of the coronavirus outbreak as restrictions on Iranians gradually ease, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday.
Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, will be divided up into white, yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths, Rouhani said.
In Africa, the continent has reported more than 30,000 cases in 54 countries, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report issued Sunday. The report also said there have been 1,374 deaths in Africa.
Only two African countries have not reported any cases of the disease — the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa and Comoros, the small Indian Ocean islands.
South Africa has the continent’s most COVID-19 cases with 4,361, followed closely by three countries in North Africa: Egypt with 4,319 cases, Morocco, with 3,897 and Algeria with 3,256 cases.