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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

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The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):

8:55 p.m.

Health officials in Saskatchewan are telling anyone who attended a snowmobile rally earlier this month to self-isolate immediately.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says two people who were at the Lakeland Snowmobile Club Wilderness Rally Supper in Christopher Lake on March 14, have tested positive for COVID-19.

They say one of them was a server at the event.

The health authority says organizers have told them more than 110 people attended.

In addition to self-isolating, the SHA says people who were at the rally between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. should also contact the Prince Albert Communicable disease team if they live in Prince Albert, Sask., or 811 if they live elsewhere.

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6:56 p.m.

B.C. medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has concerns about a possible spread of COVID-19 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Henry says many residents in the impoverished community have underlying health conditions and may be more vulnerable to having severe illness from the virus.

She says they have plans in place to manage and protect those living in the community, including how to help them isolate and care for those who are ill.

Another 42 cases have tested positive in B.C. for a total of 659 people.

Nine long-term care facilities in the province now have cases of COVID-19, while 183 people have fully recovered from the virus.

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5:58 p.m. 

The federal government says three Air Canada flights brought home more than 800 Canadians today from Morocco, Spain and Ecuador.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says in a statement that the government continues to work to bring home as many Canadians as possible.

But he says some will remain outside the country for an indeterminate amount of time.

There are currently nearly 420,000 Canadians outside the country who have voluntarily registered with Global Affairs Canada.

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5:45 p.m.

Ontario is reporting four new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the provincial total to 13.

The new figures come as the province saw its largest single-day spike in new cases.

There were 100 more COVID-19 cases in the province, bringing the provincial total to 688.

Health officials have said increasing numbers are expected as many Canadians return from abroad.

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5:30 p.m.

Alberta has reported 61 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the province to 419 cases.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer, says the cases include a recent outbreak at a care home for developmentally disabled adults.

Premier Jason Kenney says police now have full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines to people who are not self-isolating after travel outside Canada.

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5:15 p.m.

Police in Gatineau, Que., say they have issued a $1,000 fine for an illegal gathering under emergency public health measures enacted by the province to stop the spread of COVID-19.

They say in a statement that officers responded to a noise complaint shortly after midnight and found five people inside an apartment in the Hull sector making enough noise to be heard outside the building.

They established that two of the people did not live at the address, and when they failed to co-operate, police ticketed the tenant $200 for a noise violation and $1,000 under the Public Health Act.

The city says it is the first such fine issued under measures announced by the Quebec government Saturday forbidding almost all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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4:50 p.m.

The British Columbia government is suspending evictions and offering a $500 monthly rebate to help renters and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier John Horgan says the government is also imposing a freeze on rent increases.

Horgan says many tenants have lost their jobs and are worried they won't be able to pay their rent and they should not be forced out when health officials are telling them to stay at home.

The money will be paid directly to landlords on the behalf of renters for the next four months.

Horgan says while he knows $500 doesn't go a long way to covering the cost of most rents, there are other government programs that will also help with those costs.

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4:25 p.m.

Prince Edward Island's chief health officer says the province has recorded two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number on the island to five.

Dr. Heather Morrison said today the two new cases are from men in their 30s who had returned home from separate international trips. Both men are in good health with mild symptoms, she said.

Morrison says all five positive cases in PEI have originated from people who had travelled internationally.

PEI has so far conducted 539 tests for COVID-19, with five positive and 326 negative results, and 208 results pending.

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4:16 p.m.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health is reporting 14 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the confirmed total in the province to 86.

It says there are four cases of the virus that have led to hospitalization.

As previously reported, the ministry says four of the 86 cases are linked to community transmission while the rest are travel-related.

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4:05 p.m.

Ontario is introducing a $17-billion package to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is meant to support the province's health sector, people and businesses.

New spending includes a $1-billion pandemic contingency fund, nearly $1 billion more for hospitals, and $75 million for more personal protective equipment for front-line workers.

Measures also include a one-time payment for parents of $200 per child 12 years old and under, doubling payments for low-income seniors and suspending student loan payments for six months.

The plan includes both $7 billion in new spending and $10 billion in tax and other deferrals.

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4 p.m.

The Saskatchewan government is tightening up its restrictions on public gatherings over COVID-19.

It announced starting Thursday the limits on public and private crowds were dropping from no more than 25 to no more than 10 people.

The province is also prohibiting non-essential businesses from being open to the public.

It says even though retail stores won't be allowed to have customers inside, they can offer pick-up and delivery services.

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3:45 p.m.

The Manitoba government is reaching out to the private sector for COVID-19 related medical supplies such as ventilators, masks and swabs.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says a new online portal will ask businesses to provide existing equipment or manufacture it for the government.

Friesen says there is no shortage of equipment currently but the need for supplies will rise in the coming days and weeks.

The province is also setting up a new medicare tariff that will let doctors change the same fee for a virtual patient consultation as an in-person one.

The move is aimed at helping people get medical care without having to meet their doctor face-to-face.

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2:42 p.m.

The Supreme Court of Canada is delaying more hearings.

The top court says cases scheduled to be heard in March, April and May will now be postponed at least until June.

Previously, the Supreme Court had just postponed hearings for this month.

The court says it will continue to issue judgements on applications for leave and on appeal for the time being.

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2 p.m.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Yukon has increased by one, to a total of three in the territory.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley provided the update in Whitehorse.

He says the third case is related to travel outside Yukon, the patient is doing well at home and health officials have begun tracing anyone who may have had contact with the person.

Starting tomorrow, Hanley says all non-urgent and routine services will be suspended at Yukon hospitals as the territory works to halt the spread of the respiratory virus.

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1:40 p.m.

New Brunswick has diagnosed eight more cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 26.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, says all the new cases are travel-related or close contacts to people who travelled.

She says more than 1,700 tests have been conducted so far.

Morrison says as the province tests more people, she expects there will be more diagnoses.

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1:25 p.m.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says two more people have died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to six.

The province currently has 1,339 cases, which is an increase of 326 over yesterday's total.

Seventy-eight people are in hospital, including 35 in intensive care.

Legault says the test results are nevertheless encouraging because the number of positive cases remains relatively low compared to the number of tests taken.

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1 p.m.

There are 32 more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The total of presumptive and confirmed cases in the province is now 67, with cases reported in all four health authorities.

Chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the ages of people diagnosed range from eight to 78 and says all the individuals are currently at home.

Fitzgerald says 44 of the cases are linked to Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's, where a person diagnosed with the illness attended services between March 15 and 17.

She says anyone who attended services during those dates must self-isolate until April 1.

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12:41 p.m.

There are no new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island.

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there are still just three confirmed cases on the Island.

She says more than 500 tests have been done and results from 250 tests are still pending.

Morrison says people in self-isolation need to remain on their own property to make it easier for enforcement officers to monitor.

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12:28 p.m.

The federal government is putting in place a mandatory 14-day period of isolation for people returning from abroad.

The formal quarantines come with the potential for fines or even arrests for people violating them.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government has been urgently advising people to self-isolate.

But she says a decision has been taken that it must be mandatory in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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12:58 p.m.

Mandatory quarantine for travellers returning to Canada will be in place starting at midnight tonight.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government will take contact details for all people coming into the country and will follow up with them to make sure they are self-isolating.

Essential workers coming up from the U.S. will be exempt.

Freeland says the mandatory quarantine will only apply to those arriving after midnight tonight, and not retroactively.

She says people who have arrived prior to today should, however, also be in self-isolation.

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12:24 p.m.

The federal government will now spend $52 billion in direct support to Canadians struggling with the financial fallout of COVID-19.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the increase from the planned $27 billion spend is due to a new approach to benefits announced today.

He says the increase is due to the scale and significance of the program.

It will provide $2,000 per month for up to four months.

The $52 billion in direct spending is on top of $55 billion in tax deferrals for business.

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12:20 p.m.

Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says Canadians are getting the message that donating blood is safe.

Tam told the Senate today that both Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec have put "amazing" systems in place to screen donors for symptoms of COVID-19 before allowing them into the blood donation centres.

Tam says Canadians are stepping up and they need to keep it going.

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12:18 p.m.

Manitoba health officials are reporting a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer, says there are 14 new cases, bringing the total to 35.

He says one Winnipeg woman in her 60s is in intensive care in hospital.

The Manitoba government declared a state of emergency last week that limits gatherings to 50 people and allows most retail stores to remain open.

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12:17 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting 17 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 68 confirmed cases.

The cases are travel-related or connected to earlier reported cases, with several of the new cases connected to groups or families who have returned to Nova Scotia following travel outside of Canada.

None of the cases are from spread within the community.

The 68 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70's.

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12:14 p.m.

The deputy chief public health officer says 142,000 people in Canada have now been tested for COVID-19.

Dr. Howard Njoo says that's an increase over more than 20,000 since yesterday.

He says more cases in Canada are now linked to community transmission than travel.

But he says everything must still be done to reduce travel-related outbreaks.

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12:05 p.m.

The new benefit for workers losing income because of the COVID-19 pandemic will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months.

It's being called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and is designed to streamline the programs the Liberal government had previously proposed as part their $27 billion in direct support to Canadians.

The benefit is part of legislation being studied by Parliament today with the hopes it becomes law this afternoon.

The application program for the new benefit should open in early April.

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12 p.m.

A group of tenants' associations from across Canada have called on the federal government to ban evictions from rental homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement also asks for financial assistance for renters to help stimulate the economy.

Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario have already banned evictions, while British Columbia has announced a partial moratorium that applies only to government-owned housing.

The tenants' associations represent a combined membership of 200,000 renters from across the country.

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11:36 a.m.

Trudeau says his wife Sophie is feeling much better after contracting the COVID-19 virus on a trip to the U.K. earlier this month.

The Trudeaus, including the prime minister, have been in isolation since she was diagnosed two weeks ago.

The required 14-day isolation period for them is now over, and Trudeau says he and his children are still symptom free.

But he says they'll continue to follow public health protocols, though did not specify whether that means he'll emerge from self-isolation.

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11:25 a.m.

The federal government will announce financial support today for Canadian media outlets to assist in coverage of the COVID-19 crisis.

Trudeau says Canadians are depending on news outlets to get the latest information on the spread of the virus.

Facing collapsing advertising, one large newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada has already closed numerous publications and combined others, laying off hundreds of people.

Trudeau says more details will be provided by the federal heritage minister later.

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11:20 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says new federal benefits for those losing income due to COVID-19 will be in people's pockets within 10 days of their applications.

Trudeau says the application process for the new programs will open soon.

The government has now merged new EI programs related to COVID-19 into a single allowance.

He says that's to streamline the program so people can get the funds faster.

He says the government has redeployed thousands of civil servants to work on the benefits package so the funds can flow to people as soon as possible.

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10:43 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 100 more COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 688.

That's the largest single-day spike in cases in the province.

It includes a ninth death and at least five people who are hospitalized, including a woman in her 20s.

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10:30 a.m.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau tells the Senate that emergency benefits for workers will come in April, and top-ups for the Canada Child Benefit and GST will come in May.

Morneau says the government is not set up to handle the massive needs right now any faster.

"There aren't faster ways to get money into Canadian hands," he said.

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10:05 a.m.

Governor General Julie Payette says all Canadians must work together to hold the line against the spread of COVID-19.

She's urging people to keep going with social distancing measures even though they may seem drastic.

The former astronaut says people need to trust the science and know that social distancing works, but only if everyone does it.

Payette, who is the mother of a teenager, is also asking parents to ensure their teens follow the guidelines as well.

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9:45 a.m.

Global Affairs Canada says 93 loans have been approved under the Emergency Loan Program, which offers up to $5,000 per person to Canadians who are stranded abroad and need financial help.

Another 380 applications are being processed right now.

As well the first in a series of flights bringing Canadians home from Peru left Lima this morning and additional flights are in the works in eight other countries including Ukraine and Morocco. 

Canada is giving priority to places where there are no or very limited commercial options for flights, and where there are a "critical mass" of Canadians trying to get out.

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9 a.m.

A woman was arrested in Newfoundland on Tuesday for violating public health emergency orders enacted by the provincial government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Const. James Cadigan says The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responded to complaints that a woman in Corner Brook had arrived in the province and was not self-isolating for 14 days.

He says officers spoke with her about the measures and later made an arrest due to non-compliance or orders issued under the province’s Public Health Protection and Promotion Act.

She was held in custody overnight to appear in provincial court this morning.

Individuals breaching the orders could be fined between $500 and $2,500 and could face jail sentences of up to six months.

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7:20 a.m.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says small business confidence has fallen to a new low amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization says its latest business barometer has fallen to a record low of 30.8 from a level of 60.5 in February.

It says one in five owners say their business is in a good state, compared with 38 per cent who say it's doing poorly.

Half of business owners say they are planning layoffs in the next three months, while just five per cent say they will be looking to add full-time staff.

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6:30 a.m.

The government house leader says the House of Commons has adopted emergency legislation for up to $82 billion in relief for Canadians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pablo Rodriguez says it's now up to the Senate to approve the bill.

The bill will deliver financial aid and tax deferrals to individuals and businesses hit by the economic impact of the outbreak.

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6:10 a.m.

A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute shows 44 per cent of Canadians reported that they or someone in their house had lost work because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Another 18 per cent of Canadians polled said they expected to lose work in the near future.

More than half the people who had lost work said they were not being otherwise compensated by their employer and the same amount said that applying for employment insurance had been a difficult process.

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4 a.m.

The international development minister says Canada will spend millions to help the world's most desperate people fight COVID-19

Karina Gould says it is in the country's long-term security interest as well as being the right thing to do.

Gould says Canada has earmarked $50 million, which is part of its response to today's launch of the United Nations COVID-19 humanitarian response plan.

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4 a.m.

The novel coronavirus is creating deepening distress as cancellations and delays roll through the public health system for Canadians awaiting life-changing operations.

Fifteen-year-old Tahlia Ali is among the patients whose organ transplant procedures are put off at the country's largest transplant centre in Toronto.

Ali has been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which leads to a lack of oxygen to blood vessels in the lungs, and she has two holes in her heart.

The University Health Network has said lung transplants are suspended except in cases of critical deterioration.

Similar stories are emerging affecting people with a variety of conditions, from delays in cancer tests to cancelled joint surgeries.

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4 a.m.

Some Twitter users have resorted to online shaming in an effort to convince others to abide by social distancing measures.

And while experts in psychology and sociology say those tactics can work in some situations, they're more divided on the actual effectiveness of them.

Hilary Bergsieker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, says the audience matters.

Harris Ali, a sociology professor at York University in Toronto, believes that type of online shaming can work.

He sees the situation as one of "social control."

Ali described it as influencing people to change their behaviour, and likened online shaming to earlier public health campaigns against smoking or drunk driving. 

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4 a.m.

Residential tenants and landlords face a dilemma as rent comes due on April 1.

Advocacy groups for both landlords and tenants are calling on the federal and provincial governments to offer some kind of relief before the first of April.

Geordie Dent, the executive director of Toronto's Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, says employment insurance applications are even higher than during the 2008 financial crisis.

On Tuesday, Manitoba's government suspended any rent increases starting April 1 in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19.

The province joined others including Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island in halting all non-urgent hearings before their landlord-tenant tribunals, effectively banning any evictions resulting from non-payment of rent.

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4 a.m.

Some labs are facing a backlog due to diminishing supplies of essential chemicals needed for tests even as some regions across Canada are ramping up efforts to identify people with COVID-19.

The World Health Organization has said expansive testing is the way to curb the pandemic, but global demand has outpaced the supply of reagents — the specific chemicals needed by laboratories to complete the tests.

The Center for Disease Control in the United States has also said that important reagents are "now are in short supply," a worry echoed by medical associations around the world.

They are all looking for the chemical solutions at the same time and, as a result, some Canadian health authorities and labs are seeking alternative supply chains.

Nearly 120,000 Canadians have been tested for the novel coronavirus — an average of 10,000 a day.

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3:35 a.m.

The government has won unanimous consent to quickly pass emergency legislation to free up $82 billion to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.

After a day of tense negotiations, MPs began debating the bill in the wee hours of morning, with a vote planned within a couple of hours.

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3 a.m.

Members of Parliament are close to voting on a deal that would see a unanimous approval for a COVID-19 bill delivering 82-billion-dollars in financial aid and tax deferrals to individuals and businesses.

The government House leader Pablo Rodriguez has tweeted that they were heading back to the House.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also tweeted that they had received the government's offer.

Negotiations over the language of the bill continued late Tuesday night and overflowing into early Wednesday.

The bill only needs one party's support to pass the Commons eventually but it needs the support of every M-P present to be put through on an expedited one-day schedule.

The Canadian Press




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