Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on April 17
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces $1.7B to clean up orphan wells
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More than 100 Canadian Forces members with medical training will be sent to Quebec after the province asked for help at its long-term care homes struggling with growing COVID-19 outbreaks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
Trudeau — who also announced several new funding initiatives Friday, including a plan to help the energy sector— said that the federal government will keep working with Quebec to find ways to support the province, including working with the Red Cross and specialized volunteers who have signed up with Health Canada.
PM: 125 members of the Canadian forces will be going to Quebec to support their long term care centres.—@RosieBarton
Health officials in Canada said Thursday that more than 90 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths have been people over 60 — but they also highlighted the needs of another vulnerable group, saying the homeless and people with unstable housing situations are at increased risk.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's top public health official, said that shelters that serve the homeless need the resources and support to do proper infection control — and to protect staff and clients. Without immediate action, there will be more outbreaks and avoidable deaths in these settings, Tam said on Twitter.
Canada had more than 31,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon. And while health officials have expressed some cautious optimism that public health measures are slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, some provinces and regions are still scrambling to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
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Quebec Premier François Legault said Thursday that about 2,000 specialist doctors had signed up to help provide care to the elderly. But he noted that integrating the physicians into the system will come with challenges.
"It will not necessarily be easy, especially in conditions that are really exceptional. But, I am convinced that with good faith ... we will be able to have these people work together."
WATCH | Quebec's plea for help in long-term care homes:
Several other provinces — including Ontario, B.C., and Alberta — have reported multiple outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Premiers were to discuss the issue of how to improve staffing with Trudeau on a call Thursday night. While most cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, are mild to moderate, seniors and people with underlying health issues are more at risk of severe disease and death.
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As of 10 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 31,927 presumptive and confirmed coronavirus cases. The provinces and territories that provide data on recoveries listed 10,556 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths linked to COVID-19 based on provincial reports, regional public health information and CBC reporting listed 1,366 deaths in Canada. There have also been two reported coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad.
PM announces $1.7B for orphan well cleanup
The outbreak — and the strict public health measures implemented in a bid to slow it — have hit businesses and families hard, as companies close their doors or cut back operations. The federal government has announced a range of programs to help families pay bills and companies stay afloat as the crisis unfolds, but Ottawa has faced criticism over delays and gaps in coverage.
Speaking before Trudeau's announcement on Friday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the measures aimed at supporting the hard-hit energy sector should have come sooner.
WATCH | Scheer 'disappointed' with lag in help for energy sector workers:
Trudeau said Ottawa will spend $1.7 billion to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells, a move that he said is good for the environment and will help maintain jobs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C.
The energy sector has been hit not just by the coronavirus and shutdowns meant to fight the virus — the sector has also seen a major plunge in oil prices.
Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, sent Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan a letter in late March asking Ottawa to freeze the carbon tax and delay new climate change regulations as the sector confronted a major drop in demand along with sinking prices.
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter shortly after the announcement that the funding for orphan well clean up "is critical to getting thousands of people in the energy sector back to work immediately."
In a late afternoon news conference, he added the package has been in the works since last summer. "This is a really efficient way of getting good, blue-collar skilled labour back to work," he said. "This is an important lifeline."
Kenney said it is "encouraging to hear of new measures to enhance credit support for mid-sized energy companies" and noted on Twitter that the provincial government looks forward to reviewing the details of the support in the days ahead.
The federal government also announced a $750-million fund to cut emissions, with a focus on methane.
“Our gov’t will invest $1.7B to clean up orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C.,” said PM <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a>. “Our goal is to create immediate jobs in these provinces, while helping companies avoid bankruptcy and supporting our environmental targets.” <a href="https://t.co/FZG2GsQEGM">pic.twitter.com/FZG2GsQEGM</a>—@PnPCBC
The prime minister also announced hundreds of millions in spending on other initiatives outside the energy sector, saying the government would offer:
- $962 million to regional development agencies and the Community Futures Network, which will focus on businesses and small employers — especially those in rural areas.
- $270 million to Futurpreneur Canada and the Industrial Research Assistance Program, which support early-stage businesses.
- $500 million to Heritage Canada, which will support workers in arts and culture, as well as the sports sector.
Read on for a look at what's happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
Here's a look at what's happening in the provinces and territories
The federal government is planning virtual Canada Day celebrations in place of the traditional gathering on Parliament Hill. It is working with Canadian artists to put together a program, and promises more details soon.
British Columbia is reporting 43 new COVID-19 cases, but no new deaths. A joint statement from Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. now has a total of 1,618 COVID-19 cases. The statement says 119 people are in hospital with 52 of those people in intensive care. Earlier Friday, Henry and Dix released modelling data showing B.C. is flattening the COVID-19 curve to the point where plans are underway to loosen some provincial restrictions. Read more about what's happening in B.C.
Alberta reported no deaths over the past 24 hours but had 239 new cases on Friday, a spike Premier Jason Kenney said is the result of expanded testing. Kenney also announced all staff and residents in continuing care facilities will be tested to help contain the spread. Alberta's chief medical officer also confirmed hundreds of cases are linked to a meat packing plant in High River, accounting for 15 per cent of the province's total. Read more about what's happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan reported just one new case on Thursday, and health officials said there have been no coronavirus cases in the province's intensive care beds for several days in a row. The provincial government predicts the pandemic could lead to a $3.3 billion decline in provincial revenue. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba celebrated a milestone on Friday: For the first time, the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 surpassed the number of active cases. In addition, the provinces reported no new cases of infection on Friday. In Winnipeg, ER wait times are down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a CBC analysis has found. Dr. Paul Doucet, an ER doctor at St. Boniface Hospital, said he thinks some people are avoiding the hospital because of concern over potential exposure to COVID-19. He also noted that hospital administrators have cancelled elective surgery and clinics. Read more about what's happening in Manitoba, including an analysis of how the provincial government is handling the outbreak.
WATCH | The week COVID-19 changed Canada:
In Ontario, there is still no decision on when children will be back in classes, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said. At the same time, a coalition of child-care advocates say that without government relief, many centres will soon have to close, as they cannot pay their bills while the pandemic drags on. Read more about what's happening in Ontario, which reported 564 new cases on Friday, for a reported total of 9,525.
In Quebec, Premier Legault said he took "full responsibility" for the "deteriorating" situation in the province's long-term care homes. Such facilities are struggling with staffing as a number of workers have fallen ill, while the senior residents of those homes have been dying at an alarming rate. Read more about what's happening in Quebec, including about one family who is suing a Quebec long-term care home for $2 million over the death of their relative.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has floated May 1 as a possible date for lifting some restrictions in the province — if new case numbers remain low and recovery rates stay high. Read more about what's happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia said it will start announcing long-term care COVID-19 case numbers daily. Health authorities in Nova Scotia on Friday said a fourth person in the province has died from complications caused by COVID-19. The latest death is a woman in her 80s from Cape Breton. Read more about what's happening in N.S.
WATCH | Some good news from around the world Friday:
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 Friday, keeping the provincial total at 26 cases. Read more about what's happening on P.E.I, including what the premier had to say about how the easing of restrictions might work.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, urged people to avoid peak hours if they need to shop for essentials. "If you are going to expose your family to something this weekend, let it be sunshine and fresh air, and not COVID-19." Read more about what's happening in N.L., including the story of a hotel offering free isolation rooms.
The Northwest Territories isn't saying who is on its COVID-19 enforcement task force and Yukon reported one new case on Friday. Read more about what's happening across Canada's North, including the efforts at a micro-manufacturing centre in Inuvik to create items essential workers need.
Here's a look at what's happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press and CBC News, updated at 9:30 p.m. ET
At at least two states took their first steps toward easing the restrictions.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said municipalities could reopen beaches and parks if they could do so safely. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said stores could begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery could resume and state parks could reopen.
Sensitive about persistent questions about the capacity for testing, U.S. President Donald Trump had his health team lead a briefing Friday, saying adequate capacity exists to get states through the first phase of the guidelines for how they should reopen.
Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to see businesses reopen quickly and claimed earlier this week that he had total authority over the matter, even though the lockdowns and other physical-distancing measures have been imposed by state and local leaders, not Washington.
"We may be opening but we're putting safety first," Trump said.
On Thursday, he outlined a three-step set of guidelines for easing restrictions over a span of several weeks in places that have robust testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, assuring the governors: "You're going to call your own shots."
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But governors of both parties suggested Friday that they would be cautious in returning to normal, with some warning that they can't do it without help from Washington to expand testing.
"The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say, 'Oh, the states are responsible for testing,"' said New York Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat. "We cannot do it without federal help."
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican ally of Trump's, said he would listen to medical experts in deciding how to move forward.
"I am not going to do something that I feel in my heart is the wrong thing that's going to endanger our people," he said.
Even in largely rural states with small populations, such as Wyoming, Maine and South Dakota, governors said they were not anxious to quickly resume business as usual.
"Until we've got the testing up to speed — which has got to be part of the federal government stepping in and helping — we're just not going to be there," said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican.
The official death toll in the U.S. neared 35,000, with about 685,000 confirmed infections.
The shutdowns have inflicted heavy damage on economies around the world. In the U.S., the crisis has cost at least 22 million Americans their jobs, pushing the unemployment rate toward levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Many Americans, especially in rural areas and other parts of the country that have not seen major outbreaks, have urged governors to reopen their economies. Protesters have taken to the streets in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Michigan, where more than 3,000 turned out on Wednesday in what looked like one of the president's rallies, with Make America Great Again hats and Trump flags.
Protests continued Friday, including one outside the home of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota and another in Idaho, where the governor is a Republican.
Public health experts have warned that easing the shutdowns must be accompanied by wider testing and tracing of infected people to keep the virus from coming back with a vengeance.
The official death toll in hard-hit New York City soared by more than half earlier this week when health authorities began including people who probably had COVID-19 but died without being tested. Nearly 3,800 deaths were added to the city's count.
Here's a look at what's happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
Russian President Vladimir Putin is prodding federal officials and regional governors to "act faster and more energetically" to secure ventilators, protective gear and other essential supplies. He warned Russia is yet to see a peak of infections, adding Moscow was the first to face soaring numbers of infections and "the problem is spreading into the regions."
Russia has registered 32,008 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths. Defence Ministry Sergei Shoigu reported the military is building 16 specialized hospitals for coronavirus patients, half of which will be completed this month.
Tokyo had 201 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, setting a new record for a daily rise, bringing the prefectural total to 2,796, with 56 deaths, according to Gov. Yuriko Koike. The Japanese capital has seen its new cases shoot up since late March, raising concerns about the infections becoming explosive.
Friday's increase in cases comes 10 days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, a measure he expanded to all of Japan on Thursday.
The city of Wuhan in China, where the novel coronavirus that has since spread around the world was first reported, said it had revised up its total death toll by 50 per cent, addressing incorrect reporting, delays and omissions of cases. That would take China's total deaths to over 4,500.
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The revision comes as U.S. and other officials question the accuracy of China's tallies — but also as those countries hit hardest by the pandemic have widely varying methodologies for counting their dead. The World Health Organization in Geneva has so far not commented on the Chinese revision.
Germany's official statistical office said Friday that some 2.6 million students will soon return to schools as the country relaxes its pandemic lockdown rules. Authorities in Germany's 16 states agreed this week to allow a staggered reopening of schools, with students in their final two years of high school and the final year of primary returning first.
Germany, a country of 83 million people, has so far recorded almost 137,700 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University. Compared to other countries, Germany has had relatively few deaths — 4,052 so far — less than a third the number seen in Britain, which has fewer confirmed cases.
Some 940 of the 2,300-strong crew aboard France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier group have tested positive for COVID-19, the French Senate said in a statement on Friday, citing the military's chief medical officer.
Spain's official gazette published Friday a government order for the country's 17 autonomous regions to unify the criteria on counting the dead in the coronavirus pandemic. The government said that it's following WHO guidance and insists on counting only those who die having tested positive for the virus, whether they show symptoms or not and no matter where the death takes place.
That figure on Thursday rose above the 19,000 mark, with a total of more than 182,000 infections. But the accounting system leaves out the patients who died with symptoms but were not tested.
The United Kingdom's hospital death toll from COVID-19 rose 847 to 14,576, as of Thursday afternoon local time, the Health Ministry said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says wearing face coverings, such as bandanas and scarves, could provide people with another layer of protection against the coronavirus and is lobbying the British government to change its advice.
Khan told BBC radio that the evidence he has seen is that wearing a non-medical facial covering "reduces the chances" of those who have the virus giving it to somebody else. However, he did concede that it "doesn't necessarily limit your chances of catching the virus."
He said changing the advice would be helpful for those in public transport or in shops, where some people may find it difficult to abide by the physical distancing guidelines of staying two metres apart. Khan said it's important that there's a "consistent approach" across the country and that's why he's lobbying the government and its advisers.
The government's chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, said Thursday that the evidence around masks being helpful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus is "weak," while conceding it was a "live issue."
Coronavirus outbreaks across the Middle East threaten to shatter the lives of millions of already destitute people in conflict zones, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said. Hard-hit Iran, which has like several other countries faced questions about how cases are identified and disclosed, reported a new case total of almost 80,000 on Friday, with 4,958 deaths.
The African continent, which has some 400 million people living in poverty, also had weak health systems that were grossly inadequate to test for the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus and manage those infected, she said.
Nigeria's finance minister said a debt relief agreement reached this week to help the world's poorest countries deal with the coronavirus pandemic was a welcome first step but that middle-income countries with debt challenges also needed urgent help.
In remarks to be delivered at Friday's meeting of the World Bank's Development Committee, Zainab Ahmed said most countries in sub-Saharan Africa were particularly vulnerable to the pandemic because high rates of self-employment meant physical distancing could not be sustained for long.
Rwanda is using drones to keep residents of the capital Kigali informed of coronavirus lockdown measures — and to help catch those who abuse them. As police stop cars and pedestrians on streets to ask why they are out, two drones buzz above the city — one loudly broadcasting instructions and the other monitoring movements. "Drones are flying in areas where checkpoints are not mounted and where patrols could not be there," a police spokesperson said. Among the culprits who have been caught is a pastor who pretended to be on her way to give a radio interview when, in fact, she was heading to church despite A ban on public gatherings.
Mexico's president said the country was looking to return to normal beginning June 1, with schools and businesses reopening provided people comply with anti-coronavirus health measures until then. The Mexican government will inject around $2.5 billion US into the economy in May, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday, as the country gears up to weather economic shocks from the coronavirus.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday called for the reopening of his country's borders, as he pushes to restart South America's largest economy. But he conceded he may be blamed if the new coronavirus outbreak worsens as a result.
"Opening trade is a risk that I take, because if [the outbreak] gets worse, it will fall on my lap," Bolsonaro said at the inauguration event for his new health minister, Nelson Teich. Bolsonaro fired his health minister on Thursday after clashing with him over lockdown measures, which the president argues are overly damaging to the economy and should be rolled back.
Brazil has 33,682 confirmed cases, with some 200 fatalities per day in the last four consecutive days, bringing the death toll to 2,141 as of Friday, according to Health Ministry data.
WATCH | Brazilian city tries novel way to force people to self-isolate during COVID-19:
Bangladesh has reported 15 more deaths and 266 cases of new infections from coronavirus over the last 24 hours, the country's health minister said Friday. Health Minister Zahid Maleque said with the latest figures, the death toll reached 75 and the number of infections stood at 1,838. Experts say Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, lacks proper management in handling the situation. Bangladesh is enforcing a weeks-long lockdown across the country until April 25 to contain the virus from spreading.
With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press