Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world March 15
Return home while you can, Ottawa tells Canadians as COVID-19 continues to spread
Some of the latest developments:
- Canada's cases of COVID-19 have now surpassed 300.
- Country's top health official says Canadians need to act now to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- Ontario announced at least 43 new cases on Sunday.
- Quebec has announced 15 new cases, for a total of 39.
- Alberta says schools cancelled, province now has 56 cases.
- Manitoba has identified three presumptive cases, to add to its four confirmed cases.
- Nova Scotia has its first presumptive cases, three in all; schools there will be temporarily closed.
- P.E.I. closes schools for two weeks and child-care centres until further notice.
- Largest airports in U.S. tightly packed with passengers returning from Europe.
- Nike closing stores in several countries, including Canada.
- CBC/Radio-Canada and TV distributors make 24-hour news channels widely available.
New cases of COVID-19 continued to spread in multiple provinces on Sunday, as leaders promised help for people affected by the outbreak while asking residents to limit their movements.
Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all reported new cases, as Canada's top health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Canadians need to act now to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ontario, which leads the country in cases, is planning to table a bill aimed at helping workers affected by the outbreak.
A statement from Premier Doug Ford's office says the new bill will direct employers to offer protected leave for people affected by the pandemic. It will also waive the requirement for employees to obtain sick notes if they need to go into self-isolation or care for anyone in quarantine.
The province is also urging hospitals to postpone all elective surgeries and is closing all casinos.
Meanwhile, Quebec announced 15 new cases on Sunday, bringing its total to 39.
Quebec Premier François Legault is asking for the closure of public places in the province such as bars, gyms, libraries and movie theatres.
He says restaurants can stay open, but are being asked to limit the number of clients to 50 per cent capacity.
Legault says Quebecers should only leave home if they're going to work, buying food and essentials, helping the elderly and spending time outdoors.
WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch gives us the latest on COVID-19:
The federal government will discuss whether stricter border measures must be implemented to halt the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday.
Trudeau says decisions based on best science
Thousands of Canadians abroad are now returning home, some doing so on the advice of the government, which said this weekend that people ought to return now or risk getting stuck, as international flights begin to be cancelled and borders closed by countries seeking to inoculate themselves from further infection.
The government has asked all those arriving in Canada from any international destination to self-isolate for 14 days. Canada's top public health official Dr. Theresa Tam has emphasized the need for people to voluntarily self-isolate, saying: "Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow."
WATCH | What it means to 'flatten the curve':
Trudeau said this approach is a better use of resources than asking public health staff to screen everyone at airports.
Trudeau acknowledged Sunday that things are changing fast, but the early days of Canada's response were based on the best available science and that's an approach his government will continue to follow.
"We're going to continue trusting our public health officials," he told CTV's Question Period in an interview outside his home, where he and his family remain in self-isolation following his wife's diagnosis with the illness.
Meanwhile, Canadians outside the country are reporting that some tickets on Air Canada have significantly increased in price, making them too expensive for some people trying to return home.
Air Canada told CBC News they're working to stabilize global flight prices back to Canada.
If you are travelling abroad you can register with the government here.
WATCH | Canadian stranded in Philippines due to coronavirus-related flight restrictions:
"Find out what commercial options are still available to return to Canada. Consider returning to Canada earlier than planned if these options are becoming more limited."
John Cordina and his wife want to leave Nerja, Spain and return to their home in Toronto but can't afford to pay what he says are price-gouging tickets charged by Air Canada. He said they are due to return March 31 but would like to leave earlier because his wife has respiratory issues.
What happens when sudden, ill-prepared travel restrictions and screening introduced. This is said to be the scene at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OHareAirport?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OHareAirport</a> in Chicago. Reportedly +5 hour waits to reach baggage claim. The situation creates conditions ripe for disease spread. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CoronaVirus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CoronaVirus</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/travel?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#travel</a> <a href="https://t.co/W06SUKOIIM">pic.twitter.com/W06SUKOIIM</a>—@WorldAffairsPro
Travellers returning to the U.S. have been greeted with hours-long waits for required medical screenings at airports, despite reassurances from the Department of Homeland Security that it's trying to add more screening capacity.
Top U.S. infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci on Sunday said he did not expect the United States to restrict domestic travel in the near future.
More than 162,000 infected worldwide
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 11 as cases began to spike in countries around the world.
But Canadian public health officials continue to describe the risk to the public as relatively low as they urge hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.
WATCH | Canadian stuck in Spain can't reach Air Canada:
Worldwide, over 162,000 people have been infected, 6,000 have died, including one Canadian, and more than 75,000 have recovered.
Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to the general population is low.
However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.
- Read about Canada's plans — including details around international travel and enhanced screening
- Here's what we know so far about the $10-billion business credit line and a planned stimulus package
The growing number of cases has prompted widespread closures of schools and universities, mass cancellation of large-scale events, multimillion-dollar economic stimulus packages from governments, and the suspension of the Parliament until April 20.
Here's how Canadian provinces and territories are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak
This section was last updated at 11:00 p.m. ET. For full detail about what's happening in every province — including those that do not yet have cases — visit your local site.
Ontario, the epicentre of the national outbreak, reported at least 43 new cases, including a Canada Border Services Agency employee at Toronto's Pearson airport. Ontario's chief medical health officer is urging all long-term care homes to allow only essential visitors, and authorities have suspended personal visits in provincial and federal prisons. Ontarians are also being urged to stay away from hospital emergency rooms unless they are very sick.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is suspending all operations starting on Tuesday and will only hear urgent matters until further notice. Read more about what's happening in Ontario.
B.C. officials say there are now 73 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Four people have recovered, and one person has died from the illness in the province. Testing is now being streamlined to focus on outbreak clusters, health-care workers, those in hospital and people in long-term care homes. Read more about what's happening in B.C. here.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said schools and daycares are cancelled. The announcement comes as the province reported 17 new cases — bringing the total to 56 — and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the Alberta's top public health official, saying Sunday: "We are likely seeing community transmission." Read more about what's happening in Alberta here.
Saskatchewan has five confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one presumptive. Starting Monday, events with more than 250 people will not be allowed, nor would events with more than 50 where someone in attendance had recently travelled internationally. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan here.
Manitoba has identified three more presumptive cases of the virus, to go with its four already confirmed cases. Read more about what's happening in Manitoba here.
Nova Scotia has three presumptive cases of the virus, all related to travel. Premier Stephen McNeil says schools in the province will be temporarily closed. Read more about what's happening in Nova Scotia here.
New Brunswick on Sunday anounced four new presumptive cases, bringing its totals to five presumptive cases and one confirmed case. Read more about what's happening in New Brunswick here.
P.E.I. is closing all public schools for two weeks following March break, while child-care centres will be closed until further notice starting Tuesday. Read more about what's happening in P.E.I. here.
The Northwest Territories' chief public health officer said that the territory started planning for a pandemic weeks ago, basing strategy on lessons learned from the 2009 spread of H1N1. As the territory's health systems can be overburdened in the best of times, there are plans for "alternative sites" for care, such as school gyms, community halls and "isolation tents." Read more about what's happening in the N.W.T. here.
Newfoundland and Labrador announced its first presumptive case of COVID-19 on Saturday. The province launched a website on Saturday to present COVID-19 information to the public. A number of churches on the northeast Avalon cancelled services Sunday, in line with the province's directives to cancel or postpone events that can bring large groups of people together. Read more about what's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador here.
The territories are the only region of the country with no confirmed cases:
- The Northwest Territories' chief public health officer recommended Saturday evening that residents "avoid all non-essential travel outside of the Northwest Territories."
- In Yukon, the fallout from the virus is having political ramifications, with the Liberal government under fire from opposition parties for downplaying the economic threat to the territory.
- In Nunavut, the territory has made recommendations to avoid non-essential travel in Canada and avoid international travel.
As of Sunday, Canada was reporting more than 300 cases. To date, the death of a resident of a B.C. long-term care facility is the only known death linked to COVID-19 in Canada.
Presumptive cases are those that have found a positive test result, but still need to confirm it with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
- Ontario: at least 146 confirmed cases (five cases resolved).
- British Columbia: 73 confirmed, including one death (six cases resolved).
- Alberta: 56 confirmed.
- Quebec: 39 confirmed.
- New Brunswick: Five presumptive, one confirmed
- Nova Scotia: three presumptive.
- Manitoba: Four confirmed, three presumptive.
- Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: Four confirmed.
- Saskatchewan: Five presumptive, one confirmed.
- Prince Edward Island: One confirmed.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: One presumptive.
Here's what's happening in the U.S.
This section was last updated at 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement late Sunday he's signing an executive order "limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food takeout and delivery." He also said nightclubs, movie theatres and concert venues will close.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed over the next eight weeks.
Meanwhile, harsh criticism rained on the Trump administration Sunday from state and local officials over long lines of returning international passengers at some U.S. airports that could have turned them into coronavirus carriers as they tried to get home.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, both Democrats, lambasted the administration for allowing about 3,000 Americans returning from Europe to be stuck for hours inside the customs area at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday, violating federal recommendations that people practise "social distance."
The passengers, many of them rushing home because of fears they would be stuck in Europe, were screened by federal customs and homeland security agents for coronavirus symptoms before they were allowed to leave the airport.
Long lines also formed Saturday in Boston, Dallas and others of the 13 airports that are accepting return flights from Europe. Conditions were better Sunday, but lines could again grow as the day progresses and more flights arrive.
"People were forced into conditions that are against guidance and are totally unacceptable," Lightfoot said.
He singled out Vice-President Mike Pence and his coronavirus task force for not talking with local officials before implementing the screening program. State and local officials could have offered "concrete suggestions" for how the program could have been implemented with the least disruption, she said, but the administration acted unilaterally.
President Donald Trump defended the administration's actions in a tweet Sunday.
"We are doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports. Pardon the interruptions and delays, we are moving as quickly as possible, but it is very important that we be vigilant and careful. We must get it right. Safety first!" he wrote.
Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a written statement Sunday that the agency is making improvements to its procedures, but that it must "balance our efficiencies with ensuring the health and safety of all American citizens through enhanced medical screening."
Here's what's happening in the worlds of business, entertainment and sport
This section was last updated at 9:15 p.m. ET.
VIA Rail says it's scaling back service in its corridor from Windsor to Quebec City to comply with government guidelines for social distancing. The company says it will reduce service by 50 per cent in the busy corridor, which includes routes between Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London, Ont.
Ticket sales plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years at North American movie theatres, as the pandemic led to one of Hollywood's worst weekends ever at the box office. Studio estimates Sunday show receipts totalled about $56 million US in U.S. and Canada theatres. According to data firm Comscore, more people went to the movies the weekend after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, in 2001.
Cirque du Soleil, creator of many of the most popular shows in Las Vegas, said Saturday that it is temporarily suspending its productions in Las Vegas as well as around the world because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Nike is closing all of its stores in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe. Australia and New Zealand, from March 16-27, in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. The company has asked all its U.S. employees to work from home starting Monday through March 31.
Vail Resorts said it would shut down its 37 ski resorts for at least one week, including Whistler Blackcomb in B.C.
Alterra Mountain Co. said it has suspended operations at its 15 North American ski resorts until further notice. The company's Canadian operations in that list include Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario. CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia will continue to operate through Tuesday.
Toronto's five prominent sports organizations — the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, and Argonauts — have teamed together to create a special assistance fund for event staff affected by the suspension of all major sports in the city. The program, dubbed "The Toronto Team Fund," is designed to assist arena, stadium and support staff should they be in need of extra financial assistance due to outbreak.
The company that owns the Winnipeg Jets — True North Sports and Entertainment — on Sunday reversed course and announced it will pay its part-time workers during the suspension of the NHL season. TNSE chair Mark Chipman had said on Thursday that his company's part-time employees wouldn't receive any compensation.
Similarly, the company that owns the Calgary Flames said Sunday it will help part-time event staff — a day after it was made public in an email that Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation employees at Scotiabank Saddledome were not going to receive pay for lost shifts.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games flame handover in Athens next week will be done in an empty stadium. Greece on Friday cancelled the remainder of the domestic Olympic torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds.
Here's what's happening in Europe
This section was last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET
Health authorities in Spain say deaths from the coronavirus have more than doubled in 24 hours, while total infections approached 8,000.
WATCH | Spain declares state of emergency:
The Health Ministry said Spain has recorded 288 deaths since the start of the pandemic, up from 136 on Saturday. The European Union nation has 7,753 infections, up from 5,700 on Saturday, with around half of them concentrated in the capital of Madrid.
The jump comes a day after Spain's government declared a state of emergency and took extraordinary measures to limit movement to commuting to work and necessary errands. It has also closed restaurants, bars, most retail shops and reduced public transport.
France, reporting 4,469 cases and 91 deaths on Sunday, has ordered the closure of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, cafés and restaurants.
France pressed ahead with plans for nationwide municipal elections on Sunday but ordered special measures to keep people at a safe distance and to sanitize surfaces.
Italy's foreign minister says China is sending 150 pulmonary respirators now and more later to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Italy, the centre of the European pandemic.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also said Sunday that China will be shipping five million masks for medical staff. A day earlier, the top health official in the hard-hit region of Lombardy complained publicly about the quality of the masks that Italy's central government had shipped to hospitals in his area, likening them to toilet paper. Lombardy alone has 13,272 infections and 1,218 deaths.
China, which appears to have turned the corner on its own COVID-19 outbreak, will also be sending medical crews to aid the Italians, Di Maio said.
Britain will isolate older people "within weeks" and force into quarantine anyone diagnosed with coronavirus, the government said as it stepped up measures that have so far been less stringent than elsewhere in Europe. The British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people aged over 70 would be shielded from the virus by self-isolating for up to four months, with an announcement "in the coming weeks."
Germany will partially close its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says the new checks will take effect at 8 a.m. Monday. He says people who commute across the border to work will still be able to cross, as will goods.
Ireland on Sunday said all bars in the country should close until at least the end of the month to curb the spread of coronavirus after videos of groups singing in packed Dublin venues sparked anger on social media. The government's move comes just two days before St. Patrick's Day.
Denmark closed its borders and halted passenger traffic to and from the country. Travellers will be turned away at the border if they are unable to show that they have "a legitimate reason" to enter — for example, if they are Danish citizens or residents.
Austria introduced major restrictions on movement in public places on Sunday, urging Austrians to self-isolate, banning gatherings of more than five persons and further reducing entries from other countries. Visitors from Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine would not be allowed into the country, the chancellor's office said in a statement, unless they undertake two weeks of home quarantine or had a current health certificate.
Here's what's happening in China and South Korea
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 8:30 p.m. ET
The spread of COVID-19 in China has slowed dramatically, according to the National Health Commission. After reporting thousands of new cases per day only a month ago, the commission said Monday that there were 14 new deaths and 16 new cases.
Wuhan is now the only city in Hubei still designated "high-risk." Several Hubei municipalities are gradually resuming public transportation and reopening businesses. Parks, museums and art galleries have reopened in Shanghai.
Anyone arriving to Beijing from abroad will be transferred directly to a central quarantine facility for 14 days for observation starting March 16, a city government official said on Sunday.
In South Korea, the country's war against the coronavirus is broadening despite a notable decline in new cases. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun is urging vigilance after the emergence of infection clusters in areas including Seoul and warning of the possibility that the virus re-enters the country from abroad amid widening outbreaks in the West.
Chung's comments during a government meeting on Saturday came as infections continued to slow in the worst-hit city of Daegu, which has reported daily increases of 60 to 70 cases over the past three days after averaging around 500 new cases per day a week ago.
South Korea reported 76 new cases, bringing its total to 8,162 cases.
Here's a look at some other COVID-19 news from around the world
This section was last updated at 5:50 p.m. ET
Saudi Arabia is suspending work in all government sectors except health and security for 16 days as part of efforts to contain the outbreak.
Iran reported another 113 deaths, bringing the country's total death toll to 724, with nearly 14,000 confirmed cases. It was the Iran's biggest single-day jump in fatalities.
In the Philippines, domestic travel to and from Manila was suspended as of Sunday. Large gatherings were suspended for a month. A nighttime curfew in the capital went into effect Saturday night.
New Zealand announced that incoming passengers, including citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, with few exceptions.
Australia is also requiring that everyone arriving in the country self-isolate for 14-days. It's also banning international cruise ships from its ports for 30 days. Australia has 250 cases of the virus and three people have died.
In the city of Dubai, authorities announced on Sunday that all movie theatres, arcades and gyms would be closed through the end of the month. Dubai Parks & Resorts will also be closed. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, also shut down its amusement parks and museums.
As countries around the globe are calling off mass events, Nicaragua staged a large march through the capital billed as a show of unity to confront the pandemic. Saturday's march was dubbed "Love in the time of COVID-19," a nod to the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera. The government-aligned website El 19 said "thousands" took part.
With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press