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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on April 24

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will discuss the process of restarting parts of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic with premiers on Friday, the same day that New Brunswick unveiled a multiphase plan to reopen. Here's a look at what's happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

N.B. releases details of COVID-19 reopening plans, Ontario to follow early next week

Trudeau questioned about NB Premier's concerns as the province slowly reopens

Politics News

7 months agoVideo
2:10
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters on Friday. 2:10

The latest:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's premiers agreed to work toward a jointly drafted set of national guidelines on reopening the economy during their weekly conference call Friday afternoon. Federal and provincial sources say they hope to have a common set of guiding principles finalized by next week.

That announcement came a day after Saskatchewan unveiled a multi-phase plan to reopen, and the same day New Brunswick revealed plans to do the same.

In addition to the Saskatchewan and New Brunswick plans, the federal government has circulated a set of draft guidelines that could form the basis of the joint document. The federal guidelines were prepared largely by the Public Health Agency of Canada and include feedback from provincial medical officers.

"People want to continue to see everybody working together on this," said a provincial source who listened to the conference call. 

Pedestrians walk past closed businesses in Montreal on Friday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs released early details of a phased reopening plan for that province Friday afternoon, and in an interview with CBC News confirmed the prime minister had asked the premiers to submit ideas to develop national guidelines with a goal of moving quickly. Also on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that his government will offer some details early next week about its reopening plans.

The framework will provide a "gradual and measured approach" to opening up, Ford said, adding that health and safety will "always come first."

Speaking outside Rideau Cottage, Trudeau pointed to the different experiences provinces are having with the coronavirus.

"Canada is a vast country and some regions have been hit harder than others during this pandemic," he said. "We're a federation, so we have to adapt our response to the realities and challenges of each province and territory."

WATCH | Trudeau on NB Premier's concerns as province slowly reopens:

Sask. to start easing COVID-19 restrictions in May

The National

7 months agoVideo
2:03
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe unveiled the province’s plan to start easing COVID-19 restrictions starting in May. 2:03

The prime minister stressed that "getting back to normal will not happen overnight" and will require co-ordination at the national level to ensure governments are working with similar principles and guidelines.

"We're not out of the woods," Trudeau said, stressing that people need to follow local public health instructions.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called for a national plan, expressing concern about a "possible patchwork approach across the country."

New Brunswick's premier outlined the province's reopening plan on Friday, saying it would begin immediately with the loosening of physical distancing restrictions to allow two-household gatherings. Post-secondary students, who require access to their campus to fulfil their course requirements, will be able to do so, but elementary, middle and high schools won't reopen until at least September.

Higgs outlined further steps, with a plan to eventually reopen elective surgeries, child-care facilities, barbers, churches and other facilities in stages over the coming weeks, as long as cases in the province remain low.

His announcement came a day after Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe's similar one, as he said the province had to find the "middle ground" that keeps case numbers low and people safe, while also allowing businesses to open.

Moe said Thursday that restrictions there will be gradually lifted in phases over a period of weeks. All businesses and public venues will be required to keep following physical distancing and cleanliness rules — as will customers.

WATCH | See how Saskatchewan plans to handle a phased reopening:

Could herd immunity to COVID-19 be as effective as a vaccine?

The National

7 months agoVideo
1:44
An infectious disease specialist answers your questions about COVID-19, including whether herd immunity could eventually be as effective as a vaccine. 1:44

According to a Johns Hopkins University database, there are now more than 2.7 million known COVID-19 cases worldwide, with more than 195,000 deaths. The U.S., where some states are also taking steps toward reopening, accounts for more than 890,000 of those cases and on Friday passed the grim milestone of more than 50,000 deaths.

As of 11:30 p.m. ET Friday, Canada had 43,888 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 15,554 listed by provinces and territories as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of coronavirus-related deaths, which is based on provincial data, local public health information and CBC reporting, put the death toll at 2,390 in Canada, plus two deaths abroad.

Public health officials caution that the numbers don't capture the full story, as they don't include people who haven't been tested or potential cases that are still being investigated.

WATCH | Could herd immunity to COVID-19 be as effective as a vaccine?

Surgery backlog from COVID-19 could reach 100,000

The National

7 months agoVideo
2:06
The backlog of surgeries created by the cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic could be as high as 100,000 across Canada. 2:06

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has urged people to behave as though there is coronavirus in their community, even if there aren't any officially recorded cases. There are no proven treatments or cures for the novel virus. 

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

Hospitalizations in British Columbia fell to 96 on Friday, though officials announced four more deaths, including a woman from Alert Bay who died after a state of emergency was declared on the remote island by local First Nation and government leaders. "One of our people has passed away," said  'Namgis First Nation elected Chief Don Svanvik. "It's very difficult, we're a small community, everybody knows everybody."  Also, a second poultry plant in the province is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. Read more about what's happening in B.C.

A worker wearing a protective face mask sprays a liquid inside Superior Poultry Processors plant in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday. Health officials say there is an outbreak at the facility. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday a new $1 billion support program for the province's energy sector, mainly funded by the federal government's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The Site Rehabilitation Program will provide grants to oilfield service contractors. Oil-based companies have been struggling in the wake of record-low crude prices, caused by a surplus in global production and a plunge in demand sparked by the pandemic.

On Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, warned Albertans that COVID-19 "will be with us for many months to come." Hinshaw made the announcement as the curve shown in the province's modelling work, released earlier this month, may have left people with the impression that the virus will go away over the summer, which is not the case, she said. Read more about what's happening in Alberta. 

A jogger runs past a sign thanking frontline workers in Edmonton on Friday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outlined a five-phase reopening plan on Thursday. The first phase will begin on May 4 and will lift some restrictions on outdoor activity and allow medical practices, ranging from dentists to physiotherapists, to reopen with precautions in place. There are no dates attached to subsequent phases, which means the timeline for full resumption of places like restaurants, theatres and gyms isn't yet clear.

A recently released public health order is restricting all "non-critical" travel into northern Saskatchewan, which has the most active cases in the province. The move came after repeated public criticism and calls for help for the area. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan.

This map shows a breakdown of reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan by region. (CBC)

Manitoba is set to ramp up surgeries after a month of postponements due to COVID-19. The number of new coronavirus cases continues to be low enough — with only one new case announced Friday — that health officials say they can pivot some of the system's resources back toward surgeries. "Our numbers have been looking like they're in the right direction and we're at a position right now where we can start to plan on gradually loosing some of these restrictions," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said. Read more about what's happening in Manitoba. 

A volunteer gives out food at a drive thru, contact-less fundraiser at a mosque in Winnipeg on Friday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The Ontario government will release a framework early next week for how it plans to reopen the province's economy, Premier Doug Ford said Friday. Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that despite the province reporting its highest daily increase in cases, officials are "cautiously optimistic" that the outbreak is peaking. Yaffe also said they remain extremely concerned about outbreaks in long-term care homes, as there are 139 outbreaks in such facilities in the province. Read more about what's happening in Ontario, including a detailed timeline of how the province has handled COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

A healthcare worker leaves after finishing her shift for the day at the Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto on Friday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Quebec Premier François Legault said he would expedite plans to create more spacious and better-staffed long-term care homes in the province. He said the virus's spread through such facilities has created "two separate worlds, one inhabited by the residents of long-term care homes and the other by the rest of societyQuebec recorded another 97 COVID-19 deaths Friday, bringing its total to 1,340 death. The vast majority — about 80 per cent —  were residents of long-term care institutions and other kinds of seniors' homes. Read more about what's happening in Quebec.

A worker disinfects public bikes in Montreal on Friday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The government of New Brunswick announced plans to reopen the province, allowing partial loosening of physical distancing measures. "These are first steps," Premier Blaine Higgs said, imploring people to continue to follow public health guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Large gatherings, such as festivals and concerts, are still banned. Read more about what's happening in N.B. 

Nova Scotia reported 23 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 850, with 16 deaths. At a Friday press briefing, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said that despite other provinces announcing plans to re-open, Nova Scotia is is "not out of the woods yet." Premier Stephen McNeil said the province has not yet reached the peak. Read more about what's happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for the ninth straight day. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the province received 98 more negative test results as of Thursday, while 24 of the Island's 26 COVID-19 cases are considered recovered. Read more about what's happening on P.E.I, including the latest from the premier on what to expect for the summer tourism season.

WATCH | Surgery backlog from COVID-19 could reach 100,000:

WHO announces 'landmark' initiative to defeat COVID-19

World

7 months agoVideo
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The World Health Organization drew together powerful actors to push for the "speed and scale"  needed to combat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 1:27

Newfoundland and Labrador has gone a full week without any new coronavirus cases. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer, on Friday praised people for the "dedication" they have shown and urged everyone to keep following public health rules. Read more about what's happening in N.L.

The Northwest Territories government is revamping its rent assistance program to help during COVID-19. Read more about what's happening across the North.

Here's a look at what's happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

With the COVID-19 death toll topping 50,000 in the United States, Georgia, Oklahoma and a handful of other states took the first tentative steps at reopening for business on Friday, despite the disapproval of most health experts.

Announcing plans to begin reopening his state, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster cited the ongoing economic damage from the pandemic.

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      "South Carolina's business is business," he declared this week as he lifted restrictions on department stores, florists, music shops and some other businesses that previously had been deemed non-essential.

      At the same briefing, the state's chief epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, seconded the importance of economic recovery but quickly inserted a note of caution: "The risk of exposure remains for everyone," she said.

      The reason those states are anxious to reopen is clear: jobless numbers released Thursday show Depression-era levels of unemployment, with one in six American workers losing their job amid the pandemic. In South Carolina, more than 14 per cent of the labour force has claimed to be out of work due to the outbreak.

      Earlier on Thursday, Trump sparked fresh confusion over the prospects for treating COVID-19, suggesting that scientists should investigate whether patients might be cured by ingesting disinfectant.

      The comments prompted doctors and health experts to warn the public not to drink or inject disinfectant. On Friday, Trump said his remarks were meant as sarcasm.

      Thrift and consignment store Sid and Nancy was open to shoppers in Columbia, S.C., on Thursday. Beaches and some businesses deemed nonessential were allowed to reopen this week in the state. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday also warned doctors against prescribing a malaria drug touted by Trump for treating COVID-19 except in hospitals and research studies.

      In an alert, regulators flagged reports of sometimes fatal heart side effects among COVID-19 patients taking hydroxychloroquine or the related drug, chloroquine. The warning comes as doctors at a New York hospital published a report that heart rhythm abnormalities developed in most of the 84 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic, azithromycin, a combo Trump has promoted.

      Also on Friday, officials say the top navy officer has recommended the reinstatement of the aircraft carrier captain fired for sending a fraught email to commanders pleading for faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak.

      Admiral Mike Gilday recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier be returned to his ship, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Gilday met with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday and with Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Friday morning to lay out his recommendations.

      If approved, his recommendation would end a drama that has rocked the navy leadership, sent thousands of USS Theodore Roosevelt crew members ashore in Guam for quarantine and impacted the fleet across the Pacific, a region critical to America's national security interests.

      Here's a look at what's happening around the world

      From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

      The World Health Organization on Friday held an online event featuring leaders from around the world to launch the ACT Accelerator, an initiative meant to ramp up collaborative work on COVID-19 tests, potential treatments and vaccines.

      French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were among leaders taking part in a video conference to announce the plan, but the U.S. stayed away.

      WATCH | WHO announces 'landmark' initiative to defeat COVID-19:

      Preventable diseases could return if vaccines delayed because of COVID-19

      The National

      7 months agoVideo
      2:02
      There’s growing concern that if children’s routine vaccinations are delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic preventable diseases like measles could see a resurgence. 2:02

      Later in the day, the president of the United Nations's International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to social unrest, hunger and starvation if more isn't done soon.

      Francesco Rocca urged governments to start thinking about something like the Marshall Plan, which helped countries recover after the Second World War, to help nations tackle the impact of the pandemic.

      Rocca said COVID-19 is also going to have "a great social impact in every part of the world," and "we need to plan together with institutions a social response before it is too late."

      In Muslim communities around the world, the pandemic was casting a shadow over the holy month of Ramadan — marked by daytime fasting, overnight festivities and communal prayer.

      Ramadan begins for the world's 1.8 billion Muslims with this week's new moon. Many Muslim leaders have closed mosques or banned collective evening prayers to ward off infections.

      A police officer on the outskirts of Jakarta beckons a vehicle on Friday at a highway checkpoint following the government ban of the Indonesian Muslim traditional homecoming mass exodus to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

      South Korea starting next week will strap electronic wristbands on people who ignore home-quarantine orders in its latest use of tracking technology to control its outbreak.

      Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip on Friday said those who refuse to wear the bands after breaking quarantine will be sent to shelters where they will be asked to pay for accommodation.

      Officials said around 46,300 people are under self-quarantine. The number ballooned after the government began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

      A customer sits in one of chairs that were set up to maintain physical distancing in order to prevent infections amid the coronavirus disease outbreak at a bank in Tokyo on Friday. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

      Japanese emergency medicine is starting to collapse amid dire shortages of protective gear and test kits that can quickly identify infected patients, putting medical workers at risk of infection. Some are refusing to treat suspected COVID-19 patients and even others suffering heart attacks and external injuries, representatives of health-care workers in acute medicine said Friday.

      The limited number of advanced and critical emergency centres are overburdened with the surging patients and risk of coronavirus infections because many other hospitals are increasingly turning away suspected patients, said Takeshi Shimazu, head of the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine, and Tetsuya Sakamoto, who heads the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine, during a joint video news conference.

      "We can no longer operate normally, and in that sense I say the collapse of emergency medicine has already started," Shimazu said.

      India's prime minister says the country's 1.3 billion people are bravely fighting the epidemic with limited resources and the lesson they have learned so far is that the country has to be self-sufficient for meeting its needs.

      Addressing the country's village council heads through video conferencing on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country can't afford to look outward to meet a crisis of this dimension in future. Self-reliance is the biggest lesson taught by the epidemic, Modi said.

      India has so far reported 22,358 positive COVID-19 cases and 718 deaths. India has been importing critical medical supplies, including protective gear, masks and ventilators, from China.

      WATCH | Preventable diseases could return if vaccines delayed because of COVID-19:

      New Zealand goes beyond flattening the curve

      The National

      7 months agoVideo
      2:04
      New Zealand’s sweeping lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has allowed the country to go beyond flattening the curve; it’s nearly eradicated the virus. 2:04

      Sweden threatened to close bars and restaurants that do not follow physical distancing recommendations by public health authorities.

      "We see worrying reports about full outdoor dining and crowding. Let me be extremely clear. I don't want to see any crowded outdoor restaurants in Stockholm" or elsewhere, Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told a news conference.

      The Swedish government on Friday asked the country's 290 municipalities to report on how restaurants and cafes follow the Public Health Authority's advice. Sweden has opted for relatively liberal policies to fight the pandemic.

      While the health crisis has eased in places like Italy, Spain and France, experts say it is far from over, and the threat of new outbreaks looms large.

      "The question is not whether there will be a second wave," said Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of WHO's Europe office. "The question is whether we will take into account the biggest lessons so far."

      Signs on the ground read 'Dirty' and 'Clean' as health-care workers attend to coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit of the La Paz University Hospital in Madrid on Thursday. (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)

      In France, the government is leaving families to decide whether to keep children at home or send them back to class when the countrywide lockdown, in place since March 17, starts to be eased from May 11. The government also plans to keep thousands of newly built intensive care units ready for a second wave of COVID-19 cases, even though the first wave is now receding. Health authorities say France doubled its number of intensive care beds to more than 10,000 as the coronavirus raced across the country.

      In Spain, parents face a similarly knotty decision: whether to let kids get their first fresh air in weeks when the country on Sunday starts to ease the total ban on letting them outside. Even then, they will still have to abide to a "1-1-1" rule: no more than one hour per day, within a one-kilometre radius of their house and with no more than one supervising adult.

      The total of fatalities in Italy since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 25,969, the Civil Protection Agency said. The number of confirmed cases was 192,994, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.

      Some German states were moving too quickly to reopen, said Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has won praise for how it has handled the pandemic and how its death toll has remained much lower than in other large European countries.

      British Health Minister Matt Hancock, who has faced intense questioning over testing, promised to expand testing to all those considered key workers. 

      South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1. Speaking Friday at a WHO event to announce a global collaboration around developing COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, Ramaphosa and others stressed that access to those tools should be equitable around the world.

      In Nigeria, the governors of the country's 36 states agreed to ban interstate movement for two weeks.

      In Africa, COVID-19 cases have surged 43 per cent in the past week to 26,000, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      The figures underscored a WHO warning that the virus could kill more than 300,000 people in Africa and push 30 million into desperate poverty. 

      WATCH | New Zealand goes beyond flattening the curve:

      The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press

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