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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on March 23

Quebec and Ontario have ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces as the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada surpasses 2,000.

Quebec and Ontario order closure of all non-essential workplaces starting Wednesday

The Olympic rings are seen in front of Canada House in Montreal on Monday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

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Quebec and Ontario both ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces on Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada surpassed 2,000.

The closures are set to begin at 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday. 

Quebec Premier François Legault said that the province will be "on hold" for at least three weeks, until April 13. Legault said while the shutdown will go into effect at midnight, he urged stores and businesses to close as soon as possible.

His government released a list of the businesses and services deemed essential Monday evening. 

He said the decision was made after public health officials determined that COVID-19 is now spreading through community transmission. Up to this point, the vast majority of confirmed cases in Quebec were linked to people who had travelled abroad.

WATCH |  'We must put Quebec on pause,' says Legault:

Quebec Premier François Legault orders all non-essential businesses to close until April 13. 0:56

"There has to be the least amount of [physical] contact possible," Legault said.

Quebec reported an increase of more than 400 cases in that province on Monday, which was attributed to wider testing.

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford insisted residents will be able to buy food and medicine and other essential products, that "the power will stay on" and that telecommunications tools will continue to run despite announcing similar closures on Monday.

"This decision was not made lightly, and the gravity of this order does not escape me," Ford said, adding the order will be in place for at least 14 days.

Ford's office later released a list of essential workplaces that can remain open.

WATCH | 'This is not the time for half measures,' says Ford:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is ordering all non-essential stores and services to close starting midnight Tuesday. 2:09

The announcements came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also stressed the importance of Canadians avoiding groups, maintaining a safe distance between others and staying home as much as possible.

"We've all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they're invincible," Trudeau said Monday, speaking from during a daily briefing outside his home at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, where he is finishing a two-week self-quarantine period.

"Well, you're not. ... Go home, and stay home." 

WATCH | 'Go home and stay home,' Trudeau says:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says nothing that could help is 'off the table,' when it comes to enforcing self-isolation rules. 1:00

Trudeau also lauded the decision of the committees responsible for Canada's involvement in Olympic and Paralympic sport to not send athletes to Tokyo should the 2020 Summer Games go ahead as scheduled — a move that was announced late Sunday.

"This is not solely about athlete health — it's about public health," said a joint statement released by the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Australia's Olympic committee quickly followed, saying "our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families."

On Monday, veteran International Olympic Committee member and Canadian Dick Pound said he believes the 2020 Tokyo Games — scheduled to start July 24 — will be postponed.

Diana Matheson, a member of Canada's women's soccer team, said that most Canadians and Olympians know that postponing the Games is the right move for people's health. 

A traffic sign promoting social distancing is seen on Highway 1 in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"I'm not playing soccer and you shouldn't be either," Matheson said of those who are ignoring social-distancing instructions and congregating to play sports.

Marnie McBean, a former Olympian who is serving as Team Canada's chef de mission, told CBC News Network that because the IOC had not taken a July 24 start off the table, "we felt we needed to."

"The Canadian position is our athletes want to be seen as global leaders in fighting this," said McBean, who won Olympic gold as a rower. "The health and safety of Canadians and lowering the curve of the pandemic — that is the priority."

WATCH | Canada's chef de mission talks about decision around Tokyo Olympics:

Marnie McBean, Olympic rower and chef de mission for the 2020 Canadian Olympic team, said the decision to not send Team Canada athletes to Tokyo if the Summer Games remain scheduled for July came after the International Olympic Committee said it wouldn't decide whether or not to postpone for another four weeks. 9:07

More than 340,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide, and nearly 15,000 have died. Nearly 100,000 people have recovered.

Most people only experience mild symptoms from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus and recover within weeks. But it is highly contagious and causes severe illness in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

People can carry and spread the virus without showing any symptoms, and as yet there is no proven vaccine or treatment.

Health minister reiterates importance of self-isolation

Speaking at a daily briefing Sunday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government is willing to use "every measure in our tool box" to make sure people are following public health advice around self-isolating when they return home. 

Hajdu reminded incoming travellers that there are "no exceptions" to the two-week isolation period.

She pointed to the Quarantine Act, which allows for fines and charges against people who don't follow self-isolation measures. But she also noted that, for now, the government is asking people to follow the rules and hoping "we don't have to get to ordering them." 

Trudeau said last week that his government was talking with major airlines about getting Canadians stranded abroad back home. Over the weekend, a plane arrived in Canada from Morocco, where a large number of travellers had been stranded. Ottawa is also working with airlines to help get people in Peru, Spain, Honduras and several other countries home.

The outbreak has caused widespread economic disruption and employers have been making major job cuts as business in many sectors grinds to a halt.

WATCH Critical-care doctor calls for tougher measures to clamp down on COVID-19:

'Let's overreact,' says Dr. Michael Warner so Canada doesn't experience a health-care crisis like the one gripping Italy. 7:12

The travel and airline industries have been battered by the coronavirus epidemic, which has sparked cancellations, closures and border shutdowns. On Monday, travel company Transat AT announced it is laying off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada — about 3,600 people.

WestJet said it is cutting some domestic flights as demand drops during the pandemic. The Calgary-based airline said, however, that it would increase flights to get Canadians stranded abroad home

Read on for a look at what's happening in Canada, the U.S. and other hard-hit areas of the world.

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

British Columbia's biggest city is warning that businesses that don't enforce proper social distancing measures could face big fines — or closuresVancouver city council is holding a virtual meeting to pass bylaws that would allow for the imposition of what Mayor Kennedy Stewart calls "significant" penalties. Stewart said Monday that people need to put safety first, adding that right now not everyone is doing that. Read more about what's happening in B.C.

People line up at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal on Monday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta is changing its coronavirus testing protocol to prioritize people with symptoms who fall into higher-risk groups, including health-care workers, people with respiratory illness and some returning travellers. Over the weekend, a group of doctors in Calgary took to the streets to protest — while standing a safe distance apart — to press for more assistance for those who work with the homeless. Read more about what's happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan is reopening some school daycares to use as spaces to care for the children of health-care workers and other professionals needed to respond to the viral outbreak. But daycares, too, are under new rules: only eight children per room. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba is telling people to self-isolate if they've travelled within Canada. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said exemptions include commercial truckers; people who live in border communities; those who travel in and out of the province for work; and personal travel in border communities, including visits to a cottage. Read more about what's happening in Manitoba.

Ontario's biggest city has declared a state of emergency. Toronto Mayor John Tory — who is currently in self-isolation after returning from the U.K. — made the announcement Monday afternoon. The move will give the mayor power to make decisions without council votes. Read more about what's happening in Ontario.

In addition to shutting down all non-essential economic activity in the province, Quebec is banning gatherings of two or more people. It is also giving police power to intervene if people don't comply. Read more about what's happening in Quebec.

Officials stop a vehicle at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border on Monday. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

New Brunswick has set up an information line for COVID-19 — which also allows people to report those they believe are violating the province's emergency order. The phone line, which launched on Monday, comes after people were calling 911 to report instances of travellers who are not self-isolating as required. But the head of Canada's civil liberties watchdog is discouraging the use of a "snitch line," saying it could create fear and division during a pandemic. Read more about what's happening in N.B.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says there will be "strict fine" for those who do not comply with the province's COVID-19 rules. The message is plain: stay home," King said. "These measures that are in place are not an option … they are required." Read more about what's happening on P.E.I.

Most people coming into Nova Scotia — even from another province — will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. Premier Stephen McNeil said exemptions include truck drivers, medical staff and other essential personnel. Read more about what's happening in Nova Scotia.

A nearly deserted downtown Washington D.C. is seen on Monday. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador is ordering the mandatory closure of esthetic services. The order applies to places like spas, salons and tattoo shops. Read more about what's happening in Newfoundland.

Nunavut became the second territory to close its borders, with the new, stricter guidelines coming into effect Tuesday at 11:50 p.m. ET. Residents will have to provide proof of residency in order to board a plane into the territory — while critical workers will also be allowed in. Residents will also be required to isolate for 14 days in one of the cities that are entry points to Nunavut: Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife. Nunavut is the only territory or province without a case of COVID-19.

Yukon reported its first COVID-19 cases over the weekend, in a couple that had travelled to the U.S. for a conference. Read more about what's happening in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Canada has more than 2,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. Here's a look at the number of cases — including deaths and recoveries — by province.

  • British Columbia: 472  confirmed cases, including 100 resolved and 13 deaths.
  • Ontario: 504 confirmed cases, including eight resolved and six deaths.
  • Alberta: 301 confirmed cases, including three resolved and one death.
  • Quebec: 628 confirmed cases, including one resolved and four deaths.
  • Saskatchewan: 66 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Manitoba: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Nova Scotia: 41 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Prince Edward Island: Three cases the province lists as positive.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 24 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Northwest Territories: One confirmed case.
  • Yukon: Two confirmed cases.
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed cases.

Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Not all provinces are listing figures on those who have recovered. The recent COVID-19 related death of a Canadian in Japan is not currently included in the province-by-province tally of cases.

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

From The Associated Press, updated at 7:45 p.m. ET.

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested Monday he had qualms about extending the current 15-day suggested shutdown as his officials warned about the deepening coronavirus crisis, and administration officials and congressional leaders struggled to complete a nearly $2 trillion US economic rescue package.

In a briefing with reporters Monday evening, Trump said that at a certain point, he would need to "get open" and "get moving."

Observing that some parts of the United States are only "very lightly affected," Trump said he would re-evaluate the guidelines when the 15-day shutdown ends next week. "We are not going to let [coronavirus] turn into a long-lasting financial problem."

WATCH |  Trump says U.S. can't remain shut down

U.S. President Donald Trump says if it were up to the doctors, they'd shut down the entire world for a couple of years. 2:14

The highly contagious coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the U.S. and hospitals there are bracing for a wave of virus-related deaths.

One member of the president's coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, who was standing behind Trump as he made his comments, told reporters she does not want to speculate about what data will suggest the best course of action once the 15-day guidance expires.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. surgeon general had what he called "a dire message" for America. Jerome Adams said on CBS This Morning that the numbers will get worse this week. "Things are going to get worse before they get better. We really need everyone to understand this … and lean into what they can do to flatten the curve."

Motorists line up to have their temperature taken prior to a free COVID-19 testing on Monday in Hayward, Calif. (Ben Margot/Associated Press)

Yet only hours before the surgeon general's dire warning, Trump suggested that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak in a tweet that contradicted the advice of medical experts across the nation.

A week ago, the White House came out with a "15 Days to Stop the Spread" plan that encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid bars, restaurants and discretionary travel, as well as groups of more than 10 people. It also told older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions that they should stay home and away from other people.

Since then, states that have become hot spots for the virus have implemented even more radical measures, which the White House has applauded. Officials have made clear that they don't believe the threat will be over at the end of 15 days, but will reassess what steps are needed at the end of the period.

Food for the taking and an invitation to leave food is seen in front of a home in Minneapolis, Minn., on Monday. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Trump has also balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defence Production Act to compel the private sector to manufacture needed medical supplies like masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production.

On Monday, the White House Correspondents Association confirmed a member of the press gallery is suspected of having contracted the coronavirus. In a statement, the association did not identify the individual but said it has been in contact with the White House physician and the journalist's news organization.

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve announced Monday it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments as well as extend its bond-buying programs as part of a series of sweeping steps to support the flow of credit through an economy ravaged by the viral outbreak.

U.S. National Guard members stand beside crates of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center in New York on Monday. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The Fed said it will set up three new lending facilities that will provide up to $300 billion US by purchasing corporate bonds, buying a wider range of municipal bonds and purchasing asset-backed securities.

Trump officials and congressional leaders, meanwhile, were resuming talks Monday on the massive economic rescue plan that would be larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined. Democrats had rejected an earlier plan Sunday night, arguing it was tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health-care providers.

Central to the package is as much as $350 billion US for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. There is also a one-time rebate cheque of about $1,200 per person, or $3,000 for a family of four, as well as the extended unemployment benefits.

A queue of people wait outside a supermarket in London on Monday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Democrats say the largely Republican-led effort did not go far enough to provide health care and worker aid and fails to put restraints on a proposed $500 billion US "slush fund" for corporations. They voted to block its advance.

Democrats won a concession — to provide four months of expanded unemployment benefits, rather than just three as proposed, according to an official granted anonymity to discuss the private talks. The jobless pay also extends to self-employed and so-called gig workers.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — a recent contender for the Democratic presidential nomination — announced Monday that her husband, John Bessler, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Here's what's happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5 p.m. ET.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered the closure of most non-essential stores, libraries, gyms, playgrounds, and houses of worship, and banned gatherings of more than two people, other than immediate family, for three weeks.

Johnson told reporters at his daily briefing that police will have powers to enforce the rules and impose fines. The stronger rules were brought in because Johnson said people continued to disregard government advice.

"If too many people become seriously unwell at one time," he said, "[the National Health Service] will be unable to handle it — meaning more people are likely to die, not just from coronavirus but from other illnesses as well."

A doctors gives a phone call in medical biology laboratory that opened a coronavirus drive-thru testing site in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, on Monday. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

COVID-19 deaths in Spain rose by 462 overnight, reaching 2,182, the Health Ministry said, while the total number of cases rose to 33,089, over one in 10 of them health workers. At the same time, the country's deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, was hospitalized on Sunday with a respiratory infection and is awaiting coronavirus test results. 

In France, doctors scrounged masks from construction workers and factory floors in a bid to shore up much-needed medical supplies.

"There's a wild race to get surgical masks," Francois Blanchecott, a biologist on the front lines of testing, told France Inter radio. "We're asking mayors' offices, industries, any enterprises that might have a store of masks."

Medical employees demonstrate testing at a coronavirus test center for public service employees in Munich, Germany, on Monday. (Matthias Schrader/Associated Press)

Italy's death toll rose by 602 on Monday to 6,077, the smallest increase for four days. At the same time, the number of new cases also slowed, raising hope that the most aggressive phase of the epidemic may be passing.

"Today is perhaps the first positive day we have had in this hard, very tough month," said Giulio Gallera, the top health official in the northern region of Lombardy. "It is not the time to sing victory, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

However, there was also a significant fall in the number of tests carried out, and the head of Italy's national health institute, Silvio Brusaferro, said it was too soon to say if the recent decline in daily deaths and new cases would continue.

Additionally, the man known in Italy as Patient No. 1 is out of the hospital a month after he arrived in critically ill condition.

WATCH | Drone footage over Lisbon shows desolate landmarks, tourist areas:

Portugal declared a state of emergency last week to combat the spread of COVID-19 2:11

Poland is giving some prisoners the option of serving their sentences at home under a justice ministry proposal that could benefit up to 20,000 convicts. "We propose raising the upper limit of a sentence or the total length of sentences which can be served in the electronic supervision system to 18 months," the Justice Ministry said in a statement. Until now, it was possible for sentences of up to a year. Prisons have already banned visits and stopped letting most prisoners work on the outside. Poland has so far reported 684 cases of coronavirus, including eight deaths. 

On Monday, the German government approved another large aid package to help companies and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new economic package comes on top of a previous pledge of at least €460 billion ($716 billion Cdn) in loan guarantees to help Europe's biggest economy handle the fallout from running down public life to a minimum. Germany has recorded over 26,220 cases of COVID-19 alongside 111 deaths, though Germany's public health chief says there are signs the country's infection curve is flattening. Chancellor Angela Merkel's initial test for coronavirus came back negative, but she will undergo further tests. 

People wearing protective gear disinfect a local park in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday. (Lee Jin-man/Associated Press)

Austria is mobilizing military reservists for the first time since the Second World War to help with food supplies, medical support and police operations, the defence minister said Monday. About 3,000 soldiers — 10 per cent of the reserves — will for three months take over coronavirus-related tasks from soldiers whose military service expires in May, Klaudia Tanner said. Austria has reported nearly 4,000 cases with 21 deaths so far. Popular ski regions in the country's west have emerged as hotspots for the European spread of the virus.

Hungary gun sellers have seen sales skyrocket, as Hungarians fear an unravelling of law if severe shortages set in. "We are selling five times as much as in a normal March," said Gabor Vass, who runs three gun shops in Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Hungary has registered 167 cases of coronavirus, with seven deaths, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday the true number was probably much higher.

WATCH | Doctor warns against medical gloves in public, talks importance of handwashing:

Dr. Samir Gupta explains why most people are better off washing their hands with soap and water than wearing gloves for protection against COVID-19. 1:54

Here's what's happening in some other affected areas, including hard-hit South Korea and Iran

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 9:30 p.m. ET.

South Korea reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 64 new cases Monday, taking its total infections to 9,037, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hard-hit country has been experiencing a downward trend in daily infections since the peak on Feb. 29, which has boosted hopes that Asia's largest outbreak outside China may be abating. The death toll rose Tuesday by two to 120. 

The new numbers marked the 13th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100 or less, compared with the peak of 909 cases recorded on Feb. 29. But officials urged even greater vigilance as imported cases and new, small outbreaks continued to emerge, such as in nursing homes, churches and crowded workplaces.

"We don't give much meaning to numbers yet, but as there are some fluctuations despite a declining trend, our top priority is to prevent sporadic group infections and repatriated cases," said Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the health ministry.

The worst outbreak in the Middle East is unfolding in Iran, where state TV reported another 127 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,812 amid more than 23,000 confirmed cases. Iran has faced widespread criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures early on. It is also suffering under severe U.S. sanctions.

Syrians rushed to stock up on food and fuel Monday amid fears that authorities would resort to even stricter measures after reporting the first coronavirus infection in the country, where the health-care system has been decimated by nearly a decade of civil war. Authorities said border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan would close at midday. 

The arrival of the global pandemic in Syria has raised concerns it could run rampant in some of the most vulnerable areas in the Middle East.

Lines formed outside grocery stores, banks and gas stations across the Syrian capital of Damascus, as people braced for wider closures. The government has already closed restaurants, cafés and other businesses, and has halted public transportation.

The city's Hamidiyeh souk, a network of covered markets running through the Old City, was deserted after the government ordered all shops closed on Sunday.

Authorities closed border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan, and Damascus International Airport was closed to commercial traffic after a final flight arrived from Moscow. State-run newspapers issued their last print edition and will only be available online.

The United Arab Emirates, home to the world's busiest international airport, said it was suspending all passenger flights for two weeks. Dubai's airport is a vital hub connecting Western nations with Asian countries and Australia, and suspending passenger flights there affects travellers around the world.

India said on Monday it will shut down domestic flights to halt the spread of coronavirus and imposed a curfew on a giant state as the number of people dying of the disease ticked up across densely populated south Asia. India has reported 415 cases of the coronavirus but health experts have warned that a big jump could be imminent, which would overwhelm the underfunded and crumbling public health infrastructure.

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

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