Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada on May 20

Quebec and Manitoba are loosening more of their COVID-19 restrictions, as public health officials encourage Canadians wear masks in response to more people being outdoors, on transit and returning to work.

Dr. Theresa Tam recommends non-medical masks when people can't maintain physical distancing

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Two provinces announced significant easing of their restrictions today. Both Manitoba and Quebec are allowing for larger gatherings, both indoors and outdoors. 

In Manitoba, people will be allowed to hold gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and up to 50 people outdoors beginning Friday, May 22.

There are also plans to allow outdoor family visits at long-term care homes, perhaps by the last week of May. A maximum of two people would be allowed to visit, and they would be screened ahead of time for any health issues.

In all circumstances, Manitoba Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin stressed, physical distancing, handwashing and staying home when sick must continue. 

"We're still dealing with this virus, and we're still going to be dealing with this virus for some time, so we still need to take those precautions," he said. 

A woman returns to a hair salon in Manitoba. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Manitoba reported no new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The number of active cases is down to 23 in the province, with just one person in hospital. 

Quebec, which continues to have the highest number of new cases in the country, is also allowing larger gatherings, but not in the same numbers as Manitoba. 

The province's deputy premier, Geneviève Guilbault, announced Wednesday that as of Friday, people will be allowed to hold outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people from as many as three households. She said people must maintain physical distancing and must not hold the gathering indoors. 

When asked if the province was moving too soon, Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said people were likely to gather in secret, which he said was more problematic and potentially dangerous.

Quebec announced 578 new cases Wednesday, for a total of 44,775, and 3,718 deaths. 

WATCH | A Montreal physician reacts to Quebec's loosening of restrictions:

A Montreal infectious diseases specialist reacts to a decision by Quebec on Wednesday to increase the number of people who can gather together. 7:35

In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador logged another day with no new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, joining New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in recording extended stretches with no new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland's chief medical officer, said Wednesday that "this has not been easy but our lives will not always be restricted." Speaking as the province marked 13 days without a new case, Fitzgerald said that moving through the staged reopening will take "patience and co-operation" as well as caution and care.

Her message was similar to a statement from Canada's chief public health officer, who on Wednesday said health officials are thinking more about how to proceed through spring and summer — and what to plan for in the fall.

"Vigilance and patience will be our biggest virtues during this time," said Dr. Theresa Tam, who issued updated guidance around using non-medical masks at her daily briefing.

The recommendation that people wear non-medical masks is meant to supplement existing public health measures like physical distancing and handwashing, not replace them, said Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer.

WATCH | Ontario's health minister explains why wearing a mask now makes sense:

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott explains why it is more important to wear a mask now than two months ago. 1:02

The new recommendation comes as stay-at-home orders are lifting in different provinces and more people are going outside, riding public transit or visiting stores.

"This will help us reopen and add another layer to how you go out safely," Tam said of the recommendation, which is a shift in advice. She said a full explanation of the new recommendation by the national special advisory committee on COVID-19 will be published later Wednesday.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau asked about wearing a mask:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says wearing a mask is his personal choice and he wears one whenever he's unable to keep two metres' distance from others. 1:04

As of 6:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 80,142 confirmed and presumptive cases of the coronavirus, with 40,789 of those considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of coronavirus deaths in Canada based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 6,136.

WATCH | Toronto respirologist tackles questions about COVID-19:

Dr. Samir Gupta comments on finding the balance in the economic reopening and the rising rate of the coronavirus among health-care workers.   6:12

Public health officials have cautioned that official figures don't capture data on people who haven't been tested and cases that are still under investigation, and have urged people to take precautions like stepped-up hand hygiene and physical distancing even if there are no known cases in their communities.

The outbreak has caused massive disruptions as public health guidelines put in place to try and slow the spread of the disease prompted officials to cancel classes, urge people to stay home and order business closures. The federal government has unveiled a range of spending measures aimed at helping families and businesses stay afloat during the crisis. Critics have questioned the structure of many of the programs, with concerns over a range of issues, including who qualifies, how much money is offered and the speed at which funding flowed.

Morneau offers large employer loan program details

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau offered details about a financing program for large employers, saying the terms will be the same for any company asking for help through the program. The finance minister said the terms are designed to make sure companies using the program receive bridge loans, not bailouts, to get through COVID-19's economic disruptions.

Publicly traded companies, or any of their private subsidiaries, will have to issue warrants giving the government the option of purchasing shares worth 15 per cent of the loan, or receiving the equivalent in cash. Privately held companies will pay the same in fees, Morneau said

"The idea behind the warrant is to make sure that if the firm does well, that Canadians — and Canadian taxpayers — share in that upside," he said.

"The Canadian government will not be required to take that value in shares. It can take it in cash."

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

British Columbia Premier John Horgan is urging people to be "kind and calm" during the first few days of the province's phased-in reopening. He said Wednesday that means not forcing businesses to open if they are not ready to do it. Some B.C. businesses say they would rather a safe return than a fast oneRead more about what's happening in B.C.

Owner Rosanna Petan wears a face shield and Jack Willis wears a face mask as she cuts his hair at Frank's Barbershop in Vancouver on Tuesday. British Columbia began Phase 2 of its plan to reopen its economy Tuesday, allowing certain businesses that were ordered closed due to COVID-19 to open their doors to customers if new health and safety regulations are followed. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

In Alberta, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson says the city could shut down public transit this summer in order to deal with the budget shortfall created by the pandemic. Edmonton has been losing about $10 million a month in public transit revenue during the pandemic. Read more about what's happening in Alberta.

In Saskatchewan, anyone working outside the home can request a COVID-19 test, no symptoms necessary, beginning Monday. The province detailed how the testing will work and who will be eligible. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan, including about how the the CFL plans to salvage its season. 

Manitoba is working with long-term care homes to allow more visits. Operators are to inform families directly about where and when they can visit their relatives, as well as have visitation procedures in place, by May 29. Read more about what's happening in Manitoba.

In Ontario, the City of Toronto announced it is reopening more than 850 park amenities that have been closed since March. Picnic shelters,150 basketball courts, more than 300 baseball diamonds and more than 300 soccer and multi-use outdoor fields are to open in time for the weekend. Read more about what's happening in Ontario.

WATCH | Parents face tough child-care choices as Ontario keeps schools closed:

Many parents are trying to figure out child care as Ontario starts to reopen but has closed schools for the year, cancelled summer camps and won’t restart daycare until at least June 1. 1:58

Quebec private health-care services, such as dentists and physiotherapists, will be allowed to reopen as of June 1. Businesses that provide personal care services, such as hairdressers, will be allowed to open on the same date — but not in the greater Montreal and Joliette areas, where there are still significant COVID-19 outbreaks. Read more about what's happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick's teachers will be back in the classroom in June — but without the students. The teachers will be finishing up the academic year's work and preparing for the fall, officials said. Education Minister Dominic Cardy said it's not yet clear what schools will look like in the fall. "We don't know whether classes will be back or online because we don't decide what happens to the coronavirus," Cardy said. Read more about what's happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported one new coronavirus case and one additional death on Wednesday. The additional death puts the province's COVID-19 death toll at 57, with 51 of the deaths linked to the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. Read more about what's happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island's tourism association said companies that rely on travellers are in a "holding pattern" as they try to decide whether to open this summer as they wait for word on travel restrictions and ongoing efforts to fight the coronavirus. Read more about what's happening on P.E.I.

WATCH | Communities with less COVID-19 want to reopen:

Some Ontario communities that have been less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic want to be allowed to reopen faster than areas with more cases, including the Greater Toronto Area. Media ID: 2:46

Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday reported no new cases of the coronavirus. The province has now gone 13 days without a new case. Read more about what's happening in N.L.

There were no new coronavirus cases in Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut on Wednesday. Read more about what's happening across the North, including the story of a remote Inuit community which rejected a plan to fly in construction workers from the south with no plans for them to be quarantined. "It is difficult to understand that, all of a sudden, the same protocols and measures imposed by public health and public security don't apply to these construction people from the south," Mayor Davidee Annanack said in a written statement.

Here's what's happening around the world

Students wearing protective face masks respect physical distancing as they walk past lockers at the College Rosa Parks school during its reopening in Nantes, as a small number of French schoolchildren headed back to class. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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