Playing professional hockey in Switzerland is no holiday for Daniel Winnik.
That’s why Winnik, who plays for Genève-Servette HC of the Swiss National League, has signed a petition asking that Canadian professional hockey players returning home from overseas be placed on the COVID-19 essential travelers list and be exempt from a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine.
“I know there’s a bunch of ‘Snowbirds’ who go to Florida and southern places to get away from winter,” Winnik, a Toronto native who spent 11 seasons in the NHL, said from Geneva. “We’ve got guys that come over here to work. Obviously, all of us would love to be playing in North American in the NHL or AHL but the reality is we couldn’t get jobs there.
“We came overseas to be able to provide for our families. We’re not here on vacation. We’re making a living for our families.”
In February, the federal government introduced measures that call for most air passengers to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results. The hotel stay could cost up to $ 2,000.
Maxim Noreau, a Montreal native who plays defence for the ZSC Lions in Zurich, estimates the mandatory hotel quarantine will cost around $ 4,000 for him, his wife and two sons.
“We are all here overseas trying to earn income to supply for our families and coming back to Canada is a big stress for us, especially with my two little boys,” Noreau said in an email.
“Coming back to Canada is a safe haven for us and we 100 per cent want to quarantine in our own home for 14 days as we would expect everyone else to do the same without bias.”
The petition, on Change.org, says Canadians playing hockey overseas are there “for their livelihood” and “putting these individuals and their families into the same category as travellers/vacationers would be unfair.”
The petition’s goal is 10,000 signatures. So far over 7,800 people have signed.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said in an email it is aware of the hockey players’ petition, but said the border measures are in place to prevent the introduction of new COVID-19 cases.
The government has issued exemptions to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period under national interest grounds for professional athletes, staff and third-party personnel “to support safe return-to-play when robust measures are in place to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
“These exemptions are not intended for professional athletes returning to Canada,” the agency said.
WATCH | Ottawa to ease restrictions for Olympic athletes:
CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin joined CBC Morning Live host Heather Hiscox to discuss the Canadian government’s plans to offer Canadian athletes exemptions from some quarantine-related travel restrictions in the lead-up to the Olympics. 4:57
No difference between vacation, working
Anita Ho, an associate professor in bioethics and health services research at the University of British Columbia, said COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate.
“I don’t really see the [argument of] vacationing versus work destination,” she said. “COVID spreads among people. So, if you are in close proximity, whether it is through work, whether it’s through playing hockey or playing and vacationing, it makes no difference.”
Ho acknowledged the mandated hotel stay can impose a financial hardship on some people.
“The government should make it as affordable as possible for people to do those three days,” she said.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault recently said the federal government has agreed to offer 750 Olympic and Paralympic athletes — along with members of their support staff — exemptions from some quarantine-related travel restrictions in the lead-up to the Olympics.
Ho understands the exemption for Olympic athletes who have lived in a bubble and have been routinely tested.
‘A lot of money’
“That’s why you can show their risk of being infected is very low,” she said.
Winnik was taken 265th overall in the 2004 NHL draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. A six-foot-two, 210-pound forward he would play 798 games — scoring 82 goals and 251 points — with eight teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Winnik has played the past two seasons with Genève-Servette, collecting 22 goals and 44 points in 49 games this year.
Winnik’s team is currently in the playoffs, but the season is over for many other Canadians who are looking to return home. The mandatory hotel stay adds another cost.
“It’s a lot of money,” Winnik said. “They’re asking people to pay to be able to return home to where they’re from.”
Travellers planning to return home to Quebec after holidaying abroad should face strict measures, including being tested for COVID-19 before hopping on a flight home and once again upon their arrival, the provincial health minister announced today.
This comes after Quebec recorded 2,381 new cases on Tuesday, along with 64 new deaths.
Saying the situation in Quebec hospitals is “critical,” particularly in the Montreal area, Christian Dubé announced he is asking the federal government for a series of measures to prevent travellers from spreading COVID-19 after returning to Quebec. They inlcude:
People returning to Quebec should be tested for COVID-19 before boarding their flight and not be allowed on a plane if they test positive for the virus.
Travellers should be subjected to rapid testing upon their arrival at international airports, such as Jean Lesage in Quebec City and Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Montreal.
Dubé has also asked the federal government to tighten the enforcement of quarantine measures for travellers who have returned.
Dubé said Quebec and Ottawa “agree on these measures,” but that they are in negotiation about a timeline for implementing them.
“If it was up to me, we would do it as of tomorrow morning,” the health minister said. “But we are in discussion with the federal government and we will continue those discussions over the next few hours.”
WATCH | Why Quebec’s health minister wants Ottawa to apply stricter rules for travellers:
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé is asking the federal government to ramp up measures for travelers returning to Canada. 1:21
Dubé said the new rules are necessary to avoid the surge in cases that occurred last spring in Quebec, where spring-break travellers brought the coronavirus home from abroad and Quebec experienced the worst caseloads in the country.
“The images we’ve seen of travellers down south are shocking for everybody, especially for those following the rules and the health-care workers,” Dubé said. “We have to remember what’s happening here.”
Dubé was referring to photos on social media of maskless Quebecers dining out, dancing and drinking in close proximity to other people at resorts.
Last Thursday, the Institut national d’excellence en santé et services sociaux (INESSS) published projections about hospital needs, indicating that Quebec hospitals could run out of beds by mid-January.
“We will go beyond our capacity and half of the designated beds are already taken up,” Dubé said. “We have to remember why we are making these sacrifices.”
The risks of travel
Dubé warned the costs of contracting COVID-19 while abroad — or of breaking rules here — could be very steep.
He said Quebecers who test positive for COVID-19 at a foreign airport will have to find hotels to stay in and pay the cost themselves before they can return home.
He also said Quebec has no intention of going beyond standard reimbursement for health care abroad, and that travellers will have to hope their private travel insurance covers any hospitalization or medical care because RAMQ coverage is “minimal.”
The health minister also reminded Quebecers that the fines for disobeying quarantine rules once back in Canada range from $ 800 to $ 750,000.
Justin Turner violated coronavirus protocols when he celebrated on the Globe Life field with his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and he refused instructions from security to leave the field, behaviour that Major League Baseball said risked the safety of others.
The commissioner’s office said Wednesday that it is starting a full investigation of the 35-year-old third baseman.
The Dodgers won their first World Series championship since 1988 with a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Turner was pulled from the game following the seventh inning after MLB was notified that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He was quarantined in a doctor’s office off to the side, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
WATCH | Justin Turner celebrates with Dodgers teammates after positive virus test:
Justin Turner was removed from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays after registering Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days, but he returned to join the celebrations about an hour after the game. 2:16
Turner later returned to the field with a mask to celebrate the Dodgers’ title. He then took down his mask and posed for a team photo on the field.
“Immediately upon receiving notice from the laboratory of a positive test, protocols were triggered, leading to the removal of Justin Turner from last night’s game,” MLB said in a statement Wednesday. “Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him. However, following the Dodgers’ victory, it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon joint protocols and the instructions he was given regarding the safety and protection of others. While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk. When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.”
Turner became a free agent when his $ 64 million US, four-year contract expired following the victory.
Turner’s agent, Greg Genske, did not immediately respond to a text from The Associated Press seeking comment.
On Wednesday, both teams were still at the Dallas area hotel where they had spent the World Series.
“Last night, nasal swabs were conducted on the Dodgers’ travelling party,” MLB said. “Both the Rays and Dodgers were tested again today and their travel back to their home cities will be determined after being approved by the appropriate authorities.”
Players’ association gathering facts
The commissioner’s office said it will consult with the players’ association as part of its investigation. The union was in the process of gathering facts on the events.
Turner hit .307 with four homers and 23 RBIs in the pandemic-shortened season and .293 (17 for 58) with three homers and six RBIs in the post-season, including .320 with a pair of solo homers in the World Series.
“Having a mask on and staying socially distanced, he want to come out and take a picture with the trophy, which can’t state strongly enough how big of a role he’s played in the success of this organization,” Friedman said.
“But I think for him, just being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is going to play out. I don’t think there was anyone that was going to stop him from going out,” he said. “I think from at least my perspective and not watching it super closely with everything going on, but I think he was mindful of other people, especially other people that he hadn’t already been in contact with. This is something that we’re going to wrap our arms around tonight and in the morning and figure out where we’re going from here.”
MLB statement on Justin Turner, which claims he “emphatically refused” to comply with isolation measures. <a href=”https://t.co/UQAxZPXpsW”>pic.twitter.com/UQAxZPXpsW</a>
Turner, however, was visible on the field without a mask during the celebration. And Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was nearby, also not wearing a mask.
“I haven’t seen the pictures,” Friedman said. “If there are people around them without masks, that’s not good optics at all. I haven’t seen them, so it’s hard for me to speak to it specifically.”
“But I think from our standpoint, I think the people who were around him were people that would be in the contact tracing web, anyway, with just how closely a lot of us have been around each other,” he said. “And so now I think the subsequent tests we’re going to take are really important to figure out what we do and to make sure that any of us that are potentially positive do not spread it to other people.”
As provinces begin gradually to reopen their economies, the federal government is pleading with Canadians to continue respecting pandemic measures — while the opposition Conservatives are warning that federal emergency aid could discourage some people from going back to work.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said today that flaws in government support programs could “derail” provincial efforts to get the country’s economy back on track after widespread business shutdowns driven by COVID-19.
He said the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and the student financial aid program offer incentives for people to stay home rather than return to work.
“At a time when our economy needs stimulus, Justin Trudeau has given it a tranquilizer and risks creating labour shortages across the country. This failure must be reversed before it is too late. Canada’s economic recovery depends on it,” Scheer said.
Canadians are disqualified from receiving the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) or student emergency aid if they earn more than $ 1,000 a month, and most benefits are available for several months.
Scheer said that as businesses slowly start to reopen, their employees are being forced to choose between taking shifts and keeping their benefits. CERB was designed to cushion COVID-19’s impact but it is now threatening to impede an economic recovery, he said.
Scheer said the programs must be made more flexible to encourage people to return to work. He called for a progressive, graduated formula allowing claimants to collect a portion of the benefit while working more hours to earn an amount greater than $ 1,000.
Watch: Andrew Scheer says federal benefits could lead to labour gaps
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says that a gradual reduction of the emergency benefit would encourage more Canadians to get back to work. 1:51
“A gradual phase out of the benefit as people earn more and more, we believe, would encourage and incentivize people to re-enter the workforce. It would help small businesses get the labour that they will need to restart their businesses without having to force people to choose between the risk of going back to work and losing their entire benefit,” he said.
To date, more than 7.3 million Canadians have applied for CERB. Another 96,000 employers have applied for the 75 per cent wage subsidy to cover about 1.7 million workers. Another 518,000 businesses have applied for $ 40,000 government-backed loans to stay afloat through the global pandemic.
‘We’re not there yet’: PM
Asked if the government would consider changing the benefits package, Trudeau said he’s looking forward to scaling back benefits and helping people get back to work — but “we’re not there yet.”
“We’re very much still trying to make sure people are getting the support they need, even as the economy is starting to gradually reopen. Our focus is on keeping people safe and ensuring they have the ability to stay home and pay for groceries, pay their rents and support each other,” he said.
“Obviously, a lot of thought is going into the various steps that are going to be needed as we get people out of their homes and back to work, but for now we’re still very much focused on how we help people through this.”
Watch: Justin Trudeau says focus remains on keeping Canadians safe
“We’re not there yet,”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says when asked how the government will scale back emergency pandemic benefit programs when Canadians gradually return to work. 0:45
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said today that COVID-19 is something Canadians will have to cope with until there’s a vaccine.
“This means physical distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette must continue everywhere. And although we’ll be getting out of our homes more and more, it will be vitally important that at the slightest sign of symptoms we stay home to save lives,” she said.
“Working while sick can no longer be a thing. As we move through the weeks ahead, let’s not forget we are all in this together and we will work our way through it with good science, strong evidence, careful steps and a shared goal to succeed despite the hardships.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu also cautioned against easing back on restrictions too quickly, pointing out that there is not yet widespread immunity to the novel coronavirus.
“I think the first thing that Canadians need to remember is it’s not over,” she said. “It is a cautious reopening in certain provinces, in certain sectors, but that the new normal will have to include new ways of living, new ways of working that will protect us in this unique and difficult time.”
Watch: Patty Hajdu cautions that ‘it’s not over’
As provinces slowly begin to reopen their economies from pandemic lockdowns, Health Minister Patty Hajdu says Canadians need to remember that ‘it’s not over’ yet. 1:36
In an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics last week, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister suggested that federal benefits could have “perverse potential outcomes” or “unintended consequences” by encouraging people to stay home.
“I’m not discounting the need for people to get supports and I have thanked very publicly … the federal government for introducing these programs. But I am cognizant of the real, potentially dangerous consequences of rewarding people for not looking for work,” he told host Vassy Kapelos.
“We have lots of opportunities in our province and I have encouraged people, and I will encourage them, to seize those because I know that our small business community is anxious to get back open and anxious to employ people as they do that.”
Provinces are gradually allowing some businesses and services to reopen. Some services in Ontario reopened today and Premier Doug Ford said the province may be “getting close” to opening parks and more curbside pick-up retail options.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer held a news conference and took reporter questions on Mon. May 4 in Ottawa. 29:58
“Why is it the barber shops? The bowling alleys? It’s a bit strange.”
Kebbi Williams has some pointed questions for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over the reopening of non-essential businesses in the state last week.
Georgia was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order and shut down non-essential businesses in early April to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and is among the first to start lifting these restrictions.
As of Friday night, the state had around 27,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and 1,167 deaths. The seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed cases has been declining since April 20, according to the state department of health.
“I wish that the governor would just chill out, and let this thing fly, and then everybody can go back to work, not just the front line, who are mostly black in this situation,” he said.
Williams is a Grammy Award winning saxophone player who runs a music mentoring program for inner city kids in Atlanta, which has been put on hold because of COVID-19.
He says he understands people need to work to make ends meet but worries those same people are being put in an unfair position to have to choose between exposure to the novel coronavirus and feeding their families.
In the United States, a higher proportion of African Americans and members of the Latinx community (a non-gendered term used to describe people of Latin American origin) work in the service industry than other population groups, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics.
In a demographic breakdown of 2018 labour force statistics, it found that 24 per cent of employed African Americans and 24 per cent of Latinx workers worked in service occupations compared to 17 per cent of Asian workers, and 16 per cent of employees who identified as white.
WATCH | As Georgia begins to lift restrictions, some residents worry it’s too soon to return to work:
Georgia’s black population has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and is putting a spotlight on health care and economic inequality in the state. 1:59
African Americans disproportionately affected by pandemic
Kemp allowed some sectors of the economy to start reopening last Friday and lifted the shelter-in-place order May 1 for all but the elderly and “medically fragile.”
Many of the businesses that reopened, including nail and hair salons, restaurant dining rooms, move theatres, gyms and bowling alleys, are service based.
“We have a large amount of blacks that have the virus — why, why put us on the front line and just open up?” Williams wonders.
“It doesn’t seem like he’s thinking about us.”
Georgia is the latest state for which data has come out showing African Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by the novel coronavirus.
African Americans make up approximately 30 per cent of Georgia’s population.
Small county hit hard
In Dougherty County, a rural community of about 90,000 people in the southwestern part of the state, of the more than 120 COVID-19 deaths, 76 per cent are African Americans, according to the country coroner, Michael Fowler.
“I know these individuals in our community, and that’s why I’m fighting for our community. I’m tired of going and zipping up a body bag with somebody that I know,” said Fowler.
Dougherty County has the highest number of deaths in the state despite its small size and the fourth-highest number of cases per 100,000 people.
Fowler does not criticize Kemp or question his decision. But with his small morgue already full, he’s urging people in his community to stay home.
“Money’s not that important, you can replace the house you lose, the car you lose, your job, but you can’t replace life. Life is too precious,” he said.
Governor Kemp stood by his decision during a news conference in Atlanta on Monday, citing historic unemployment numbers in the wake of the pandemic.
“I simply gave people the opportunity to reopen who literally were on the verge of losing everything they’ve got,” he said. “These are tough decisions. It wasn’t a mandate. They don’t have to do it, but they have the opportunity.”
WATCH | Salons, restaurants and tatoo parlors slowly resume business across Georgia:
Georgia allowed more non-essential businesses to open this week, easing weeks of COVID-19 restrictions, but many customers still chose to stay away. 1:58
Access to health care a factor
Cher Salmon, who owns a nail salon in Atlanta, says she’s thankful for the opportunity but would rather not have returned to work.
“It really wasn’t a tough decision, because as I said, I have no choice. I have to get to work. If there was a choice, I would be closed still,” she said.
Salmon is eight months pregnant. She applied for loans and grants in the hopes of being able to stay closed but did not qualify.
The pandemic is also bringing attention to the longstanding challenges African Americans have experienced in accessing health care in the U.S., according to Mack Willis Senior, an executive at the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.
“It’s like someone walking over to the wall and flipping a light on and exposing all of these health care disparities,” he said.
Willis is currently recovering from COVID-19, as are his two grown sons.
He wants this crisis to launch a conversation about how these disparities can be fixed.
“This is a picture that needs to be repainted, because there’s something not right about this.”
According to a December 2019 report by the Century Foundation, which describes itself as a non-partisan think tank, the “American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of colour and other marginalized groups.”
While gains have been made since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the report says, “disparities still exist across health conditions when comparing African Americans and whites, including maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.”
Only a ‘sliver of information’ so far
With COVID-19, “it seems there is a racial divide,” says Mohammed Ali, a family physician and associate professor with the faculty of global health at Emory University.
But he says more data needs to be collected before making definitive conclusions.
“It’s not clear what the drivers are that are going on, all we have is this sliver of information that’s showing major gaps,” Ali said.
“Traditionally, the African American and Hispanic experience in health care both in accessing it, in having insurance and … also how the health care provider treats you, those have always been quite different.”
There is another factor at play here, Ali says.
“We think there’s an association with obesity and there’s a high presence of obesity and diabetes in the African American population.”
From his perspective, the decision to reopen non-essential businesses was premature.
He fears already hard-hit communities might suffer further if physical distancing rules aren’t followed precisely.
“I worry about those communities having big flares, so we’re probably going to see wildfires in counties and zip codes that just can’t afford it.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be back at work on Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed on Saturday.
Johnson has been recovering from COVID-19 at Chequers, his official country residence, after spending three nights in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in central London earlier this month.
Johnson, 55, will take back control of a government under pressure from the economic fallout of shutdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the highly infectious virus, as well as a rising death toll.
As of Saturday, Britain has recorded more than 20,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
WATCH | Boris Johnson discharged from hospital after COVID-19 treatment:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is thanking health-care workers after being released from hospital. 2:29
Criticism is growing over the government response to the pandemic, with limited testing and shortages of protective equipment for medical workers and carers.
Johnson’s stand-in leader Dominic Raab has faced questions over how Britain will ease the lockdown without a deadly second wave of infections.
Britain’s interior minister urged people to stick to the lockdown rules earlier on Saturday. But many lawmakers want restrictions to be eased to bolster the economy, which budget forecasters say could be heading into its deepest recession in more than 300 years.
Travellers returning to Canada from abroad are facing a new order requiring them to self-isolate, the latest measure from a government trying to deal with both a rise in COVID-19 cases and growing economic fallout.
The measure, which makes some exceptions for health-care workers and truckers, allows for fines and even jail times for people who ignore the order to stay home.
Canada Border Services Agency said on Twitter that people coming into Canada at ports of entry will be asked to make a declaration:
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>: Under the new Order for MANDATORY <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SelfIsolation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SelfIsolation</a> that will be fully implemented by <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CBSA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CBSA</a> at ports of entry by midnight tonight, anyone entering Canada by air, land or marine must declare to a CBSA border services officer: <a href=”https://t.co/TSO9HvGdWB”>pic.twitter.com/TSO9HvGdWB</a>
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday that travellers “should be doing this already” but called the move a “serious further step.”
There have been questions about whether the government’s measures at the border to date have been strict enough, and further concern that some returning travellers weren’t complying with the self-isolation period. Premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney, addressed the concern earlier this week, prior to the mandatory measure from Ottawa.
At a news conference on Monday, Ford said: “If you’re coming from the airport, do not — I repeat, do not — stop at a store. Go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days.”
Kenney, speaking earlier this week, called the quarantine period for returning travellers an “absolute public health imperative” and calling on people to go “directly and immediately to your home without stopping.”
WATCH | Alberta says it will enforce public health orders, authorizes fines:
Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday announced stringent new enforcement measures designed to make sure Albertans comply with public health orders. 3:21
Meanwhile, Ottawa announced a temporary program Wednesday designed to get money into the hands of people who are losing income because of the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) collapses two previously announced programs into one in a bid to streamline the process of applying for the funding, which will provide eligible workers $ 2,000 a month for four months.
According to a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, there are more than 472,000 known cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with more than 21,300 deaths. The dashboard, which draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization and national health departments, lists the number of cases that are recovered or resolved at almost 115,000.
Spain’s death toll has risen above 3,400, eclipsing that of China, where the virus was first detected in December, and is now second only to that of Italy, which has 7,500. Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid’s 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz, said more workers were desperately needed. “We are collapsing,” Perera said.
The novel coronavirus, which has been labelled SARS-CoV-2, was first reported in China in late 2019. The virus causes an illness called COVID-19.
The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. There are no proven treatments or vaccines, but researchers around the world are looking for both.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada and the United States.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
As of 6 a.m. ET Thursday, there were more than 3,400 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 36 deaths and 197 cases listed as recovered or resolved. (Not all provinces are listing details about people who have recovered.) A Canadian has also died abroad, in Japan. Dr. Theresa Tam said the COVID-19 related death was an individual who had been a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was an early hot spot for the virus.
British Columbia’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, says 55 long-term care health workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Hospitals are preparing for an increase in cases, and Henry said the province is monitoring the supply of personal protective equipment because “the burn rate is much higher than we expected.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta, which has granted power to law enforcement agencies to enforce public-health orders, reported cases in two residents and a worker at a group home for adults with disabilities. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said: “Over the past two days, despite the aggressive measures already in place, it’s become clear that additional measures are needed.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Manitoba’s top public health officer says more restrictions could be coming as the province tries to tackle COVID-19. Dr. Brent Roussin said the lab is working “around the clock” to try and increase testing capacity, but added that social distancing is “vitally important” right now. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario saw its largest single-day case number jump on Wednesday, with 100 new cases announced. The association representing registered nurses in the province, meanwhile, issued a call for more protective equipment, including masks, saying: “We are in a war and the enemy is the COVID-19 virus.” Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
In Quebec,the province’s director of public health urged people to be honest about travel history and who they have been in contact with. “By hiding that information, you’re preventing doctors and our guardian angels from being able to protect themselves. By not collaborating, you are preventing us from doing an investigation that allows us to help people,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick is increasing testing, but still lags behind neighbouring Nova Scotia because of problems earlier in the outbreak. “I want to assure the public New Brunswick is testing more people more widely as the situation evolves,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, where a high school that sits empty during class cancellation is being used to help the homeless.
WATCH | Fredericton high school housing homeless during outbreak:
To make way for social distancing, the city’s out of the cold shelter has been moved to the Fredericton High School. 1:08
Prince Edward Island, which has five reported cases of COVID-19, has closed a transition facility for people with addictions as part of its fight against the coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the medical officer of health said the province will move ahead with testing for asymptomatic people who have been in contact with people who have COVID-19. “This is to make sure that we find as many positive people as we can and putting in the appropriate measures to reduce spread,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said.
From The Associated Press, updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic topped 1,000 in another grim milestone for a global outbreak that is taking lives and wreaking havoc on economies and the established routines of ordinary life.
In a recognition of the scale of the threat, the U.S. Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $ 2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health-care systems.
The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.
New York is the epicentre of the domestic outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.
Public health officials in the city hunted down beds and medical equipment and called for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick patients will overwhelm hospitals, as has happened in Italy and Spain.
A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.
In Washington, President Donald Trump has called for Americans to dedicate themselves to social distancing for 15 days, including staying home from work and closing bars and restaurants to help try to stall the spread of the disease.
Yet, he has also grumbled that “our country wasn’t built to be shut down” and vowed not to allow “the cure be worse than the problem” — apparently concerned that the outbreak’s devastating effects on financial markets and employment will harm his chances for re-election later this year.
“The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
WATCH | New York expecting the worst as epicentre of U.S. coronavirus outbreak:
A third of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in New York and officials say they are already struggling with medical supplies and hospital beds. 2:05
Democrats say that Trump was prioritizing the economy over the health and safety of Americans.
“I’d like to say, let’s get back to work next Friday,” said Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. “That’d be wonderful. But it can’t be arbitrary.” Biden said the congressional aid package addressing the outbreak “goes a long way,” but that “meticulous oversight” is required.
“We’re going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into peoples’ pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayers funds that they receive, to make sure it goes to help workers, not rich CEOs or shareholders,” the former vice-president said.
Here’s what’s happening in Italy, Spain and some other areas of Europe struggling with COVID-19
From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 8 a.m. ET
In Spain, the coronavirus death toll rose to 4,089 on Thursday, up from 3,434 on Wednesday. Spain’s coronavirus lockdown was extended on Thursday to last until at least April 12 as the country struggled to tackle a fast increase in the death toll. In Madrid, Spain’s worst-affected region, hearses continued to arrive at the city’s ice rink, which was converted into a makeshift morgue after authorities said existing facilities lacked resources.
“It is not easy to extend the state of emergency,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in parliament. “I am convinced the only efficient option against the virus is social isolation.”
In Italy, COVID-19 related deaths topped 7,000 — but officials pointed to a sign of progress as the number of new cases reported went down for a fourth day. Premier Giuseppe Conte said 500 nurses and doctors are being sent to help in the hardest-hit areas of the country. According to a report in the Italian news outlet ANSA, a federation representing some medical professionals says 33 doctors and dentists have died. The same report cites a union that says 5,000 health workers have been infected.
Germany has increased its ability to test for the virus to 500,000 a week, which the head of the country’s Robert Koch disease control centre says is the highest worldwide, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Germany has reported 36,500 cases of COVD-19 and more than 200 deaths, according to information provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
In the U.K., workers are building a temporary hospital at London’s Excel Centre, a venue normally used for trade fairs and similar events. Heath Minister Matt Hancock says the new hospital is scheduled to open next week. More than 9,500 people have tested positive for the virus in Britain and, according to BBC News, more than 460 people who tested positive have died.
France has begun evacuating its citizens infected with the coronavirus from the Alsace epicentre on board a special medicalized high-speed train. France’s health minister said that the TGV train-turned-hospital is a “first in Europe.”
Around 20 patients are being evacuated from Strasbourg to hospitals in the Pays-de-la-Loire and other regions Thursday morning, thanks to the medical locomotive. It consists of five cars, each one kitted out with medical material and attended by an anesthesiologist-resuscitator, an intern, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses. The train has been employed to relieve the French region worst hit by the coronavirus that has already claimed over 1,300 lives in France — almost half of whom have died in the Grand Est region’s hospitals.
Sweden saw a surge in the number of deaths that could change the Scandinavian country’s rather lax approach to keeping primary and elementary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go out and enjoy the spring sun. Health officials have within the past 24 hours seen an increase of 18 deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 62 deaths in the country of 10 million. Some 2,510 people have tested positive, of which 176 are in intensive care.
The head of Stockholm’s health service, Bjorn Eriksson, said “the storm is over us,” hours after Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden told a news conference that the situation was “stable.”
In neighbouring Denmark, the government allegedly was planning to further tighten the law so that smaller groups — less than 10 — can be banned. And in Finland, the government said it will in an exceptional move block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spreading of coronavirus to other areas. The Uusimaa region includes Helsinki and the move affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.
Here’s what’s happening around the world, including Iran and South Korea
From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, updated at 8:30 a.m. ET
Iran started an intercity travel ban, a day after Tehran warned the country might face a second outbreak. Iran has reported 2,234 deaths and 29,406 infections so far.
Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local infections as Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose.
South Korea’s central bank says it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global coronavirus crisis. The country has 9,241 reported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, with 132 deaths. The country warned it would deport foreigners while its citizens could face jail if they violate self-quarantine rules after a surge in imported cases.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened a coronavirus task force meeting, instructing all 47 prefectural leaders to plan contingency measures to fight the virus in response to assessments that the coronavirus is now rampant in the country. The task force is backed by a special law passed this month that allows Abe to declare a state of emergency, though top officials say such a declaration is not planned immediately. Japan has about 2,000 cases, including 259 in Tokyo.
India, which is under a strict lockdown for a three-week period, announced a $ 22.6-billion US economic stimulus plan providing direct cash transfers and food security measures to give relief to millions of low-income residents.
WATCH | Canadians stuck in India as country goes into lockdown:
The thousands of Canadians stuck in India amid a COVID-19 lockdown are starting to lose hope, with no repatriation flights planned to get them out. 1:56
In South Africa, officials identified quarantine sites across the country on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 709. Ethiopia’s government told G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in a call ahead of Thursday’s summit that Africa needs a $ 150 billion emergency financing package due to the impact of the virus.
The Indonesian government reported 20 new deaths in the previous 24 hours. That brings the country’s death toll in the COVID-19 outbreak to 78, the highest in the Southeast Asia region.
In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus is worse than the disease. Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld virus mitigation plans that had been challenged by Bolsonaro. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,550 cases and 59 deaths.
After the federal government on Friday told Canadians abroad to come home to help curb the coronavirus’s spread, dozens of travellers contacted CBC News, looking for answers.
Government and airline policies are changing rapidly, so CBC News compiled the most current information to help you get home or resolve your vacation plans during these difficult times.
What’s the government’s latest position?
Some travellers told CBC News they fear the border might be closed by the time they return to Canada. While the government has shut the border to most foreigners, Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Americans can still enter.
However, the number of international flights back to Canada is shrinking.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that as of Wednesday, international flights will be permitted to land only at the main airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
However, the federal government said stranded travellers shouldn’t fret because it’s offering emergency loans of up to $ 5,000 to help Canadians find a way home.
“Our government will set up a support program for Canadians who need to get on a plane,” said Trudeau.
But if you fall ill with the coronavirus while abroad, don’t expect to fly home anytime soon. The prime minister said anyone displaying symptoms won’t be permitted to board a flight to Canada, but they can get financial assistance.
While the government’s request to return home is clear, what’s less clear for travellers is how to proceed. That’s because airlines and travel agencies have been swamped with calls from customers, so many people aren’t able to reach them by phone.
For travellers who have access to the internet, many airlines, including Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat are waiving change fees and have set up systems where passengers abroad can rebook their trips online.
Sunwing told CBC News that it’s “working around the clock” to fly home passengers on dedicated flights.
Most travellers who booked via a travel agency will have to contact their agency directly to rebook. Some online booking agencies, including Expedia, have also set up systems so passengers can rebook online.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/AirCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AirCanada</a> I understand that everyone is busy but I haven’t been able to reach anyone over the phone. I am stuck in France and trying to get home to Canada while I still can, this means changing my existing flight home. Please help!
Hey <a href=”https://twitter.com/WestJet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WestJet</a> .. we’re trying to get home. Multi-city flight that can’t be changed online, waited 24 hours+ for call back & no replies on Messenger. Available flights home are disappearing. Help!
For people who need to call their airline or travel agency before rebooking and are unsuccessful, travel agency spokesperson Allison Wallace suggests they go ahead and book a one-way flight home. While there are no guarantees, she said that airlines are likely to forgive the cost of your original return ticket during these difficult times.
“I would suggest that airlines and suppliers are going to be extremely forgiving, and will understand the situation and will do everything they can,” said Wallace, spokesperson for Flight Centre.
She said travellers who choose this option should save all their receipts and note all measures they took to reach their airline, to make their case at a later date.
What about future flights?
Ottawa is also warning Canadians at home not to travel abroad. But many people set to travel within days are also having trouble contacting their airline.
Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing are each allowing travellers to make flight changes online, with change fees waived for travel up until April 30.
Sunwing passengers should note that the airline has suspended all southbound flights between March 17 and April 9. Customers with cancelled flights will get a full refund.
Wallace encourages travellers who need to cancel upcoming trips to wait until 72 hours before they were set to travel to call their airline, to prevent clogging up the phone lines.
“I suspect that everybody’s going to be looked after when this is all over,” she said.
Why is my rebooked flight so pricey?
Some travellers who contacted CBC News complained that when they rebooked their flight — even though their change fee was waived — they had to pay a much higher price for a new airline ticket.
WestJet said that it’s currently lowering ticket prices on inbound international flights.
Air Transat said that its price structure hasn’t changed and that its fares are generally cheaper compared to other airlines.
Sunwing said its passengers currently abroad will be flown home at no additional cost.
Air Canada didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The government has told Canadians abroad to get back ASAP. Why are you inflating the prices of flights to get home? You should be prioritizing health and safety, not making it unaffordable. <a href=”https://twitter.com/WestJet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WestJet</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/AirCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AirCanada</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/airtransat?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@airtransat</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/BritishAirwaysT?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BritishAirwaysT</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/TravelGoC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TravelGoC</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/GOVUK?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@GOVUK</a>
Many companies stepping up to support customers in these unprecedented times. Others gouging <a href=”https://twitter.com/AirCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AirCanada</a> I’m trying to get a CDN student home from Austria post quarantine March 22nd – flights now $ 5000. 3 days trying to get <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/aircanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#aircanada</a> or <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/aeroplan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#aeroplan</a> assistance on phone or online.
Wallace said that passengers with non-refundable tickets are fortunate that they’re even getting change fees waived, because airlines aren’t obligated to compensate passengers for a disruption beyond their control — such as the coronavirus.
“This is not something that is the airline’s fault. It is what they call an act of God.”
Wallace said that airlines are also feeling the financial pinch as the coronavirus takes its toll on their profits. “The travel industry is getting hammered right now and this will be devastating.”
What about my future plans?
For anyone with plans to travel beyond April, Wallace suggests sitting tight. That’s because airlines generally aren’t offering any compensation for flights beyond April at this time.
However, if the coronavirus pandemic worsens, airlines may extend their change fee waivers or start cancelling flights, which means passengers would get a full refund.
Chinese Canadians concerned about potential coronavirus spread have launched mutual help groups to encourage those who have travelled to China to go through self-imposed quarantine.
Canadian health officials have urged anyone returning from Hubei — the Chinese province at the centre of the outbreak — to voluntarily quarantine themselves for 14 days. But many have chosen self-imposed quarantine even if they haven’t been to Hubei, organizers of the groups told CBC News.
“We built a WeChat group consisting of volunteers and people who were recently in China,” Naijun Wang told CBC News in Mississauga on Saturday.
“We have hundreds of people across Ontario and other provinces. We’re working together as a team trying to help [in this] hard time.”
Wang and other volunteers are using the WeChat social media and messaging platform to provide support — such as shopping services and deliveries — to those in quarantine.
Wang has been making deliveries over the past two weeks. So far, he has delivered supplies to seven families.
The most common items being requested by people in quarantine are hand sanitizer, face masks and groceries, he said.
There’s no face-to-face contact between the volunteers and those in quarantine. After requests are made via WeChat, the closest available volunteer buys the items and delivers them to the family’s doorstep. The volunteer then sends a picture to alert the person who made the request that the items have been delivered.
“You still have people coming, especially students, so we try to encourage more people to join the group,” Wang said.
“When everybody works together, it will be easy for us. It’s team work. When there is a need for help, I’ll be there. I’ll be there to help people.”
Volunteer Bing Cui, who lives in Aurora, Ont., said it was an easy decision for him to support people who need help, especially after they took the step to be self-quarantined.
“Maybe the whole family, they don’t have any other friends or people to support [them] to buy something for them, so I just do the voluntary thing to support them,” Cui told CBC News.
“These people self-quarantined, take responsibility for the whole community or the whole society. That’s their activity just to reduce the risk of the whole community, so as a member of the community I just want to contribute something.
“Also, I want to set an example for my son to volunteer to contribute to the society,” Cui added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the new coronavirus that has infected more than 37,000 people and killed 811 people in mainland China — surpassing the number of deaths globally during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic. Coronavirus cases have also been confirmed in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. As of Saturday, there were seven confirmed cases in Canada.
So far only two deaths have been reported outside mainland China, in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both of those victims were Chinese nationals.
“When facing these problems, worry or discrimination or some complaint doesn’t help,” Cui said.
“What we need is love, or to work hard together to help each other, to support each other and then I think finally we will win the battle with the virus.”
CBC News spoke to a man in self-imposed quarantine who said he is grateful to the other members of his community who have volunteered to do pick-up and delivery.
The man, from Toronto, did not want to be identified because of the stigma associated with coronavirus.
“The volunteers deliver food to the door of my house twice and now I have plenty of supplies,” he told CBC Toronto. “Also, two of my friends who returned to Toronto also voluntarily started self-quarantine and the volunteers delivered food and supplies to their apartment.”
“I see so many Chinese people start their self-quarantine considering safety to the public and I’m really surprised that so many Chinese strangers help people like me in the community without even charging a penny, especially [now] when the weather is not really good and windy and they have their own work,” he said.
“The Chinese community really shows helpfulness and consideration to everyone. It’s really perfect.”
The volunteers say there are hundreds across Ontario ready to help complete strangers with anything from grocery shopping and running errands to delivering vehicles at the airport.
They say they’ll continue making deliveries as long as needed, adding that if people continue to take extra precautions to keep other people safe, they’ll keep helping them to make that possible.