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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world April 8

The premier of Ontario says the rate of COVID-19 testing in his province is "unacceptable." Here's a look at what's happening in Canada and around the world.

Ontario is testing fewer people than other provinces and fewer than it had hoped to by this point

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his "patience is running thin" when it comes to the low rate of testing for COVID-19 in his province.

"No more excuses. It is unacceptable. We have the capacity now," a visibly angry Ford told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "We need to start doing 13,000 every single day."

Ontario is conducting far fewer COVID-19 tests daily than it had hoped to by this point, in a far smaller proportion of its population than any other province. Quebec, B.C. and Alberta are each testing at double Ontario's rate.  

Data from the Ontario Ministry of Health shows there were just 2,568 new test results provided on Tuesday. That's roughly half the daily target of 5,000 that the government promised to achieve in late March, and far short of the 19,000 tests per day promised for the third week of April. 

"It's possible that there are more people out there who have this infection that we're not aware of, and they may be spreading it on to their contacts," Dr. Jeff Kwong, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of Toronto, told CBC News.

The reason for the shortfall appears to be that Ontario continues to restrict who gets tested by recommending against tests for people who have not recently travelled internationally, even if they have symptoms of COVID-19.   

WATCH | Premier Doug Ford addresses low rate of testing in Ontario:

Doug Ford says his patience has 'run thin' over the unacceptably low number of tests being done in Ontario. 1:44

Ford said he wants to see every front-line health-care worker and every long-term care worker tested, along with first responders, police and paramedics.

"When you increase testing, you're going to be getting better results," Ford said. 

Provinces detail projections

People in several Canadian provinces have learned in the past week how the COVID-19 epidemic might unfold in their region, as health experts and officials presented a range of projections and scenarios around how the virus will spread.

Saskatchewan released its modelling Wednesday, which shows the provincial government is planning for 3,000 to 8,300 deaths and approximately 20 to 200 daily intensive care admissions from COVID-19 at its peak. The data does not say when that peak is expected nor when distancing measures might be eased. 

Newfoundland and Labrador also released projections Wednesday, which focus on how the province's intensive care units would deal with a surge in patients. They did not release projections related to numbers of cases or deaths. The data found the province will exceed its ICU capacity by the end of June if the spread of the virus continues at its current rate.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney outlined what he described as a "probable" scenario for the province on Tuesday that suggested the province won't see a peak in the virus until mid-May. That model suggested Alberta could see as many as 800,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of the summer, with death figures ranging from 400 to 3,100. Another more "elevated" scenario pointed toward the possibility of both higher case numbers and between 500 and 6,600 deaths.

Kenney noted that the figures may seem overwhelming, and was quick to caution that the models are "not a done deal." 

"How many people are infected, how many die, whether we overwhelm our health-care system — all of that depends on us and our choices." 

WATCH | Quebec presents COVID-19 scenarios:

New data shows that at least 1,200 people could die from COVID-19 in Quebec by the end of April, and if preventative measures aren’t continued, the death toll could be as high as 9,000. 1:59

Quebec also offered up modelling information earlier this week at the request of Premier François Legault, who wanted to share the information publicly despite concerns from his chief public health official.

The modelling out of Quebec suggested the province could see between 1,200 and 9,000 deaths by the end of April. Public health officials noted that the current thinking is that the number of deaths will be closer to the lower estimate.

Ontario, which saw its total number of reported cases pass 5,000 on Wednesday, presented its modelling last week.

The federal government has suggested it will do the same once it has sufficient information from the provinces — though when that might be was not immediately clear. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau largely focused on emergency economic measures Wednesday as he gave his daily address outside Rideau Cottage, but he also faced questions about when Canada would release national-level forecasts.

Trudeau said people would learn more about a national model in the coming days, but did not provide a specific date. The prime minister also said it's not yet clear exactly when Canada will reach a peak but that strict adherence to critical public health measures — including physical distancing and staying home as much as possible — will help reduce the impact of the outbreak.

"Let's keep doing what we're doing," he said.

In British Columbia, case numbers haven't hit the levels seen in Quebec and Ontario. Premier John Horgan said officials in his province are "optimistic" but noted that "we're far from out of the woods yet." 

Horgan told CBC's Rosemary Barton on Wednesday that in his view — and the view of B.C. chief health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry — the objective of modelling is to help the province plan and prepare. 

"We need to use that modelling for practical reasons," he said.

Horgan said the "curve is starting to bend" in B.C. and he is encouraged by that, but expressed concern about people getting less vigilant about physical distancing and other measures as the weather improves. 

People walk along the seawall in False Creek in Vancouver on Monday. B.C. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday it's important that people stay physically apart even as improving weather draws more people outside. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has previously noted that projections are used for planning purposes and are not "crystal balls." The models can vary widely, Tam has said, and are "highly sensitive to our actions," including measures like distancing, self-isolation and handwashing.

Tam reminded Canadians Wednesday not to visit extended family for upcoming religious holidays.

She said that "planking the curve" of transmission will be a challenge as the weather warms and holidays such as Easter, Vaisakhi, Ramadan and Passover approach. But she said travelling to see family for these events is not considered essential.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough joined the briefing by health officials to announce how many Canadians have applied for the federal government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

She said slightly more than 750,000 applications were filed on Tuesday alone, for a total of 1.72 million since Monday, when people born in January, February and March were asked to start applying.

Trudeau reiterated at his daily briefing that the federal government is working to help people in the so-called gig economy who currently don't qualify for CERB — those who work less than 10 hours a week.

WATCH | Unemployment in Alberta could hit 25%:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province could see unemployment reach 25 per cent or higher, largely due to the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and record-low oil prices fuelled by a Russia-Saudi Arabia price war. 3:21

B.C. premier talks about incoming travellers

Horgan also talked about the province's progress in slowing the spread of the disease and addressed the question of what needs to be done to ensure cases aren't imported from abroad. 

"We want to make sure that everyone has a plan to self-isolate," he said.  

Speaking to reporters later Wednesday afternoon, Horgan said the plan will have to explain, in detail, how the person plans to self-isolate for 14 days under the Quarantine Act. It will be considered a legal document, and must be approved by officials in order for the passenger to continue forward.

If the traveller does not have a plan, Horgan said a "quarantine site" will be prepared until they "can get themselves together."

If people do not create a plan, the premier said they will spend their two-week isolation period at the site.

WATCH | Trudeau's self-isolation is over:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends his first cabinet meeting in person after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 nearly a month ago. 0:27

Here's a look at what's happening in Canada and around the world. 

Here's what's happening in the provinces and territories

As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 19,291 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. The provinces that release data on patients considered recovered had listed 4,666 cases as resolved. CBC News, which has been tallying the reported deaths, has recorded 464 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada, with two known coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad.

Public health officials have noted that the reported figures don't capture the full picture as they don't include cases that haven't been tested or are still under investigation.

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities across the country has more than doubled since last week, according to Indigenous Services Canada. As of Monday, the department said it was aware of four cases reported in Saskatchewan, 11 in Ontario and 20 in Quebec. But some Indigenous leaders are questioning the accuracy of the data.

British Columbia reported five more COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to 48. Earlier in the day, the premier announced every traveller returning to B.C. from abroad will have to present a self-isolation plan. Read more about what's happening in B.C.

Alberta reported 50 new cases Wednesday, double the number reported the day before, which had been the lowest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases reported in the province in weeksRead more about what's happening in Alberta

Health officials in Saskatchewan released their own COVID-19 projections on Wednesday, as well as information on how the health system is preparing for an expected surge in cases. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba is postponing public events marking the province's 150th birthday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Brian Pallister says the priority is to protect public health, and major celebrations will likely be revived only next year. He is also suggesting that he will bring in fines for people not respecting distancing rulesRead more about what's happening in Manitoba. 

WATCH:  Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser spearheading drive for PPE in Canada:

With an assist from actor Ryan Reynolds, Hayley Wickenheiser is rallying Canadians to donate personal protective equipment to health-care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. 9:15

In Ontario, public health experts have been calling for more widespread testing, but data from the province's Health Ministry indicates that the province is falling short of its target. Read more from CBC's Mike Crawley on how the province is testing for COVID-19.

Quebec has surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has added 25 more deaths, bringing the provincial death tally to 175. Premier Legault says the silver lining is that hospitalizations are starting to stabilize, but cautions the province still has a way to go. Read more about what's happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday he feels "more and more comfortable" the province will have the supplies it needs to respond to COVID-19Read more about what's happening in N.B.

WATCH | What happens when you're in the ICU with COVID-19:

A look at how sick someone has to be to be taken to the ICU, what the treatment might be and what recovery could look like. 2:00

Nova Scotia reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, including a Halifax bus driver. The government says it is expanding the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19 to include fever, new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose and headache. Read more about what's happening in Nova Scotia. 

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has confirmed his health minister did not self-isolate after returning from international travel last month. P.E.I.'s chief public health officer talked to James Aylward once he got to the office the next day and told him to go home because she planned to issue a directive later that day for all those arriving in P.E.I. from outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what's happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador says if current distancing measures remain in place, about 32 per cent of its residents will come down with COVID-19 over the next two years. If the restrictions are eased, it says the number will be more like 52 per cent over the same period. Read more about what's happening in N.L.

Yukon announced an eighth case of COVID-19 Wednesday, and the first outside Whitehorse. And in the Northwest Territories, officials have created a squad of public health officers specifically to enforce orders around the COVID-19 pandemic. "If you choose to ignore orders and endanger our communities, we'll be coming for you," Diane Thom, the territory's health minister, said Wednesday. Read about what else is happening in the North.    

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

From The Associated Press, updated at 8 p.m. ET

Across the United States, the death toll linked to the coronavirus outbreak has topped 14,600, second to only Italy, which was 17,669. Some of the deadliest hot spots are Detroit, New Orleans and the New York metropolitan area, which on Wednesday recorded 149,316 cases. That is more than all of Spain, which has the second-most cases of any country in the world.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said some communities in the city's five boroughs are feeling the impact of the virus disproportionately.

He said Hispanics, for example, account for 29 per cent of all New Yorkers, but 34 per cent of the COVID-19 fatalities are in the Hispanic community.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials are planning ways for the country to return to normal activities if distancing and other steps to mitigate COVID-19 this month prove successful in curbing the outbreak, a top U.S. infectious disease official said on Wednesday.

"If in fact we are successful, it makes sense to at least plan what a re-entry into normality would look like. That doesn't mean we're going to do it right now, but it means we need to be prepared to ease into that," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House task force on COVID-19, told Fox News in an interview.

In a Wednesday news briefing, President Donald Trump said he would like to reopen the U.S. economy with a "big bang" but that deaths from the coronavirus need to be dropping before that can happen.

Also on Wednesday, the World Health Organization responded to Trump's threat to freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, saying the international group had "missed the call" on the pandemic and was "very China-centric."

"We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding," Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Trump's remarks.

The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body, contributing more than $400 million in 2019 exceeded $400 million. That is almost double the 2nd largest member state contribution.

WATCH | The head of the WHO responds to Trump's criticism: 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says COVID-19's deadly force will exploit cracks in national or global unity. 2:20

Here's what's happening in other hard-hit areas around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 6 p.m. ET 

The number of COVID-19 cases reported worldwide topped 1.5 million Wednesday evening, according to one U.S. university tracker. The number of deaths was approaching 88,000. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment but will spend a third night in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday.

"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St. Thomas' Hospital. He is in good spirits."

On Tuesday, Downing Street said Johnson was receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without assistance. The country's confirmed death toll reached 7,110 as of Wednesday. But the number of new infections and hospital admissions is starting to show signs of flattening, Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service, told the news conference.

Medical personnel test essential workers at drive-thru coronavirus testing centre at Glasgow Airport’s long-stay car park on Wednesday in Glasgow, Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Spain's Health Ministry reported Wednesday 757 new deaths of patients with coronavirus and 6,180 new confirmed infections. Both figures were slightly higher than Tuesday's, when the first increase in five days was explained by a backlog of test results and fatalities that had gone unreported over the weekend. But doubts about the statistics are growing as fresh data starts to emerge.

Authorities in Spain have already acknowledged that a scarcity of testing kits and a bottleneck in the number of tests that laboratories can conduct on a daily basis are giving an underestimated contagion tally, which rose to 146,000 on Wednesday. A nationwide survey of 30,000 households has been launched to figure out what is the more approximate extent of the epidemic beyond hospitals and nursing homes.

In Italy, the hardest-hit country of all with over 17,000 deaths, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday that Italy must stick with its rigid lockdown, rejecting calls from businesses in the country's northern industrial heartland urging the government to allow them to reopen as soon as next week. After the latest data was published on Wednesday the country's top health officials urged the government to resist the pressure. "The trend of the epidemic curve is not declining, it is slowing, we are looking at a plateau," Ranieri Guerra, an Italian World Health Organization official told reporters.

In Germany, the daily case tally increased for the second straight day after four previous days of decreases.

Employees work on a production line making a new medical ventilator named 'Oxygen' at a Spanish car maker's factory in Martorell, Spain on Tuesday. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

France will extend its lockdown past the previously set end date of April 15, the presidential palace announced on Wednesday.  A French military ship is heading back to port after some staff on board showed signs of COVID-19 symptoms.

The Chinese city of Wuhan ended its more-than-two-month lockdown on Wednesday, even as a small northern city ordered restrictions on residents amid concern about a second wave of infections. Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus emerged and eventually saw more than 50,000 people infected, reported just three new confirmed infections in the past 21 days. New imported cases in the far northern province of Heilongjiang surged to a daily high of 25, fuelled, it said, by an influx of infected travellers crossing the border from Russia.

WATCH | COVID-19: Can you disinfect a paper or N95 mask to re-use it?

 Doctors answer your questions about the coronavirus, including whether paper or N95 masks can be disinfected and used again. 3:43

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will begin a ceasefire Thursday, in response to UN calls to halt hostilities amid the pandemic. In a statement, a Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, said the ceasefire could be extended to pave the way for all the parties "to discuss proposals … for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen."

The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages. Authorities have yet to announce a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country. 

India's financial hub Mumbai is set to extend lockdown measures until at least April 30 as authorities race to expand testing. The number of confirmed cases in India has crossed the 5,000 mark, with 149 deaths. The country has only conducted 121,271 tests, but is likely to scale up testing in the coming days. India has put its entire population, one-fifth of the worlds' population, under lockdown until April 14.

Japan saw its biggest daily jump in infections on the first day of a state emergency aimed at containing the outbreak. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was previously criticized for taking so long to declare an emergency, while — in most cases — Japanese authorities have no penalties to back calls for people to stay home and businesses to shut. There were 144 new coronavirus infections recorded in the country on Wednesday, while deaths stood at 98, according to public broadcaster NHK.

South Korea's government said on Wednesday it will increase restrictions on people travelling from overseas to prevent new coronavirus infections, and announced new stimulus measures for exporters hit by the outbreak. South Korea will temporarily suspend visa waivers for citizens of countries that have imposed travel bans on South Koreans, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.

Commuters wear masks at a station in Fukuoka, in southern Japan, on Wednesday morning. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency Tuesday for Tokyo and six other prefectures, including Fukuoka, to ramp up defences against the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo News/The Associated Press)

Singapore announced new measures to accelerate local food production, including a plan to turn car park rooftops in public housing estates into urban farms. Hong Kong extended physical-distancing restrictions, including the closure of some bars and pubs and a ban on public gatherings of more than four people, until April 23.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had identified nearly 3,000 cases and recorded 240 deaths. But public health experts and epidemiologists point to the relatively low frequency of testing and high death rate as indications the true infection rate is likely substantially higher.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pressed harder on Wednesday for a $5 billion US emergency IMF loan the country has sought to fight the Middle East's worst coronavirus outbreak, saying the Fund would be guilty of discrimination if it withholds the money. Iran has banned intercity travel and shut non-essential businesses to fight an outbreak that, according to official figures, has killed 4,003 people and infected 67,286.

Saudi Arabia's health minister said the virus could eventually infect between 10,000 and 200,000 people in the country.

South Africa's health minister said 66 people at a single hospital in Durban have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past few days, including 48 staffers. Zweli Mkhize said authorities are looking into closing parts of St. Augustine's Hospital.

The minister said less than 100 people across the country are currently hospitalized with the virus. He also sought to reassure anxious health workers after a union went to court over the shortage of protective gear, saying South Africa's supply should last up to eight weeks. South Africa has Africa's most confirmed cases with more than 1,700.

A driver wearing a protective face mask looks on as a worker contracted by a local insurance company sprays disinfectant on his taxi at the Mams Mall Taxi Rank in Mamelodi East, South Africa, on Monday. (Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

The WHO, which has been expressing concern for months over how the virus will impact countries with limited resources and weaker health infrastructure, said there are more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa. 

When the virus first appeared in Africa, cases were mainly located in major cities. 

"Its spread beyond major cities means the opening of a new front in our fight against this virus," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said in a statement Wednesday. "This requires a decentralized response, which is tailored to the local context."

WHO called on the international community to offer financial and technical support as countries in Africa ramp up their response.

With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press

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