Coronavirus: Here's what's happening in Canada and around the world on March 13

Canada's chief public health officer has asking people to postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside Canada amid concern about the growing coronavirus outbreak. Here's a look at what the government is saying, how provinces are faring and what's happening around the world.

The federal government warns Canadians against travelling outside of the country

A woman covers her mouth while standing with family in Vancouver. B.C.'s provincial health officer advised residents not to travel internationally on Thursday. On Friday, the Canadian government followed suit with a national advisory. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The latest:

  • Federal government asks Canadians to cancel all non-essential international travel.
  • Europe has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO says.
  • Global death toll surpasses 5,000.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises 'significant' fiscal stimulus package for Canadians in the days ahead.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump declares national emergency.
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns of COVID-19-related scams.
  • Number of cases in Canada approaches 200.
  • READ MORE: Here's the latest guidance for Canadians on travel, quarantines and what to do if you have symptoms.

The federal government is warning against all international travel and is limiting inbound flights as part of a series of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Canada's chief public health officer has asked Canadians to postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside the country.

"It is also important to remember that if you travel abroad, you could be subject to the measures of the other countries," said Dr. Theresa Tam. "Your one-way trip may become much longer."

Health officials across the country are urging people to do what they can to slow the spread of disease and thus lower the burden on the health-care system.

In addition to avoiding international travel, those measures include handwashing, staying home if sick and social distancing. 

"This means avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, considering shopping or taking public transport in off-peak hours and greeting one another with a wave or elbow instead of a handshake, kiss or hug," Tam said. "Where possible, increase social distancing with others to two arms' length, approximately two metres."

How social distancing can prevent the spread of COVID-19

4 years ago
Duration 1:54
Social distancing measures like working from home, school closures and cancelling sporting events could lead to a drop of new infections of coronavirus.

The government announced a range of measures Friday, including asking travellers already outside the country to consider self-isolating upon their return, enhancing screening measures at airports, marine, land and rail points of entry, restricting the number of airports where international flights can land and banning cruise ships carrying more than 500 people from docking at Canadian ports until July. 

Not closing door to 'further steps'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the government will be announcing a "significant" fiscal stimulus package in the days ahead. "We will get through this together," he said.

The prime minister, who previously announced a $1-billion COVID-19 economic package, said decisions would be based on recommendations from medical experts and top scientists.

"We're not closing the door to any further steps, but we will make those decisions based on what science tells us."

Trudeau was speaking from his home, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Trudeau said he has no symptoms, feels "very well," and is working at home as a precaution at his doctor's recommendation.

In an interview with CBC's Matt Galloway earlier Friday, Trudeau said that his government is looking at "everything" and that Ottawa doesn't want people to be worried about whether they'll be able to make rent or pay for groceries. It was not immediately clear when the full details of that plan would be available.

Medical staff prepare for the opening of the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena in Ottawa, during a media tour on Friday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In a separate interview with Radio-Canada, Trudeau said Friday his government is considering closing the border to some international travellers.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued a bulletin warning consumers of "COVID-19 related frauds that have already may begin to occur in Canada."

Fraudsters are aiming to "profit from consumers' fears, uncertainties and misinformation" around the outbreak, the bulletin said. People should be on the lookout for scams ranging from private companies offering fake "fast" coronavirus tests or products claiming to treat or prevent the disease to "malicious email campaigns," it said. 

Schools closing in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick

On Friday, Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick closed schools for an extended period in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. Ontario made that decision on Thursday. 

In Quebec, all schools, universities, daycares and CEGEPs in the province will be closed for two weeks starting Monday, Premier François Legault announced.

Legault, who spoke about everything from school closures to how the health system is preparing, also called on Trudeau to limit the entry of foreign visitors into Canada.

Manitoba schools will also close for three weeks, starting March 23, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference on Friday. The move will end classes a week early for spring break and keep kids out until April 13 to get ahead of COVID-19, he said.

New Brunswick public schools will close for at least two weeks, starting on Monday. The closure will not affect daycares, Premier Blaine Higgs said. 

Ontario announced Thursday that publicly funded schools would be closing from March 14 through to April 5. The Ontario school closure — which tacks two weeks onto the upcoming March Break — was made at the recommendation of the province's chief medical officer, the provincial government said.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday that Canada is in a "critical window" to deal with COVID-19. She said she spoke with her G7 counterparts, "and everybody is working as diligently as possible to contain the spread globally."

Case numbers are still on the rise around the world, but there are signs of progress in the fight against the novel coronavirus, particularly in China, where the disease first emerged. 

The epicentre of the pandemic has now shifted to Europe, the WHO said on Friday, where there are more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, except for China. 

About half of the world's 138,000 people infected have already recovered. 

Most patients have only mild or moderate symptoms such as a fever or cold, though severe symptoms including pneumonia can occur, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.

The global death toll has now surpassed 5,000, which the WHO has called "a tragic milestone." 

Here's a look at what's happening with COVID-19 in Canada, the U.S., the global economy and some of the harder-hit regions of the world.

Here's a look at what's happening in provinces with cases of COVID-19

Wash your hands, stay away from people, infection control physician says

4 years ago
Duration 6:58
Canadians should absorb the short-term pain and practise social distancing in order to avoid the coronavirus, says Dr. Michael Gardam.

Schools are closing in Ontario and Quebec, while provincial officials in B.C. and Quebec are cautioning residents about international travel. Even in provinces without confirmed cases of COVID-19, people are being urged by health officials to practice proper hand hygiene and take precautions like staying home when sick. 

In Ontario, the latest news is that schools are closing. The premier's office said Thursday that it recognizes that the closures will have a "significant impact" on parents, students and communities as a whole. But Doug Ford's office said "this precaution is necessary to keep people safe." Read more about what's happening in Ontario, where some stores are feeling the strain as worried shoppers flood in, despite warnings not to engage in panic buying.

In B.C., the province's top doctor is cautioning against all non-essential travel outside Canada, and recommending that large events be cancelled. Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that people who leave the country and return to B.C. — including people who travel to the U.S. — should stay away from work and school for a period of 14 days. Many schools in the province are about to start a two-week scheduled spring break. While some parents are calling for an extended closure of schools, the province's education ministry said Thursday that the ministry isn't considering it because the risk in schools is still low. Read more about what's happening in B.C.

In Alberta, jury trials between now and May 31 have been postponed and the province's top doctor has called for the cancellation of events of more than 250 people. Read more about what's happening in Alberta.

In Quebec, schools are being closed for two weeks. The planned closures in Quebec come after Premier François Legault introduced his sweeping plan for the province, which included mandatory self-isolation for public sector workers who travelled abroad and voluntary isolation for anyone else who made a similar trip. Read more about what's happening in Quebec. 

Manitoba, announced its fourth COVID-19 case on Friday. The province said it was opening screening centres in Winnipeg in a bid to increase testing for the coronavirus. It also announced schools would shut down for three weeks starting March 23.  Read more about what's happening in Manitoba.

In Saskatchewan, the province reported its second presumptive case on Friday — a person in their 60s who had travelled to Oregon. Read more about what's happening in Saskatchewan.

In New Brunswick, the top medical officer is calling for the cancellation of all events with more than 150 people. The province has reported one confirmed case of COVID-19. Read more about what's happening in New Brunswick.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk associated with COVID-19 is low for the general population, but it notes that could change quickly. People who are over 65, have a compromised immune system or underlying health conditions face a higher risk of "more severe outcomes" if they contract the virus — which the WHO says is mild for most who get it.

As of Friday evening, there were 198 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada 

Several provinces and territories have not yet reported any cases. Here's a look at how those communities are responding to COVID-19.

Nova Scotia has not yet reported any cases, but on Friday the province said it is requiring any public sector worker who travels outside Canada to self-isolate for two weeks. Children in daycares or schools who leave the country will need to do the same, the province said. Read more about how Nova Scotia is preparing for COVID-19 here.

P.E.I. has not yet reported any cases, but on Friday afternoon Premier Dennis King announced he would self-isolate and work from home as a precaution because he had been in Boston.  Read more about what's happening in P.E.I. here.

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

From CBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 3:40 p.m. ET 

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday. 

In a news conference at the White House, Trump said that declaration would free up to $50 billion US for states and territories to use "in our shared fight against this disease."

The president said he was asking all hospitals to activate their emergency preparedness plans and that the U.S. government would partner with the private sector to increase the availability of coronavirus tests — including drive-through tests — but also said U.S. authorities didn't want people to take the tests if they don't need them. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday evening that Democrats in the House of Representatives have reached a deal with Trump's administration on a coronavirus aid package and will soon pass it.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating since Thursday on a multi-billion dollar package that aims to limit the economic fallout in the U.S.

The bill would provide for free coronavirus testing, two weeks of paid sick and family leave for those affected by the virus, expand safety net programs and increase federal support for Medicaid, according to a summary released by Pelosi's office.

WATCH | How scientists at Johns Hopkins University are tracking COVID-19:

How scientists at Johns Hopkins University are tracking COVID-19

4 years ago
Duration 2:04
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University had predicted the COVID-19 outbreak and are now working to track the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, said Friday more tests would be available over the next week, but that officials should not wait before trying to mitigate the virus's effects.

"The next few weeks, for most Americans, what you're going to see is an acceleration of cases," with the goal now to "blunt the rise in cases," he said. 

Schools emptied of students and workplace cubicles went vacant. Crowded gatherings were restricted from New York to California, and dozens of cultural hubs were closed. Disneyland and Disney World will close in the coming days. And sports fans couldn't cheer their favourite teams from the safety of their living rooms since basketball, baseball, hockey and other leagues cancelled and postponed games.

Here's what's happening in Europe

From CBC News and The Associated Press, updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Europe has now become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

"More cases are now being reported every day [in Europe] than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing. 

The European Union urged member countries Friday to put health screening procedures in place at their borders to slow the spread of COVID-19, but said they must co-ordinate so people can still quickly get the medical care they need.

With Italy reporting the most virus cases and deaths anywhere in the world except China, the pandemic is increasingly wearing on the EU's cherished core principle, which envisions a border-free Europe where citizens can freely live, work and travel.

Countries that border Italy, including Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland, have moved to reintroduce border controls and restrict traffic from outside. But several other EU nations, including Poland, Slovakia and Cyprus, announced restrictions that go far beyond travellers from Italy.

Poland's prime minister said that, starting at midnight Saturday, the country's borders with all its neighbours would be closed and all foreigners denied entry unless they lived in Poland or had personal ties there. Non-citizens who are let in will be quarantined for 14 days.

Slovakia took similar action.

An entry ban on foreign nationals in Cyprus only excepts European citizens if they live or work in the ethnically divided island nation. President Nicos Anastasiades said foreigners would also be prohibited from entering Cyprus' internationally recognized south from the breakaway north.

More than 22,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Europe, and more than 1,300 people with the virus have died on the continent.

The EU's executive commission recommended co-ordinated border health screenings as a way to address infections.

"We've seen travel bans and controls being put in place in a number of member states," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

"Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization. Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people's lives and business across the borders."

In Italy's hardest-hit Lombardy region, hospitals were overwhelmed with both the sick and the dead.

The country's restaurants, cafes and retail shops closed in a lockdown on personal movement, though grocery stores, pharmacies and markets were allowed to operate.

A man plays guitar in Turin, Italy, as part of a flashmob organized to raise morale during the country's COVID-19 crisis. Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic, the WHO says, and Italy is the hardest-hit. (Massimo Pinca/Reuters)

But in at least two Italian cities, neighbours tried to boost both each other's spirits with music and a sense of community even as they maintained social distancing to try to stop the spread of the virus.   

In Turin, neighbours ate on their balconies, shouting across the courtyard and playing music.

Quarantined people in apartment blocks in Naples also took to their balconies, where they sang Abbracciame ("Hug me" ) in unison. 

Quarantined Italians try to raise each other's spirits through music

4 years ago
Duration 0:26
Residents of Naples, Italy, take to their balconies to sing in unison and raise community spirit after COVID-19 forced them into quarantine.

France, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, Algeria and Slovakia shut down their schools, and Europe's most successful soccer team, Real Madrid, put all its players into quarantine after one tested positive

Spain, which is dealing with a growing caseload, is expected to declare a state of emergency. The prime minister said Friday he will mobilize the military to contain new virus cases. 

Denmark advised citizens to avoid trips abroad. 

Here's what's happening in China, South Korea and Japan

From The Associated Press, updated at 10:30 p.m. ET

China, where the virus emerged late last year, still accounts for more than 60 per cent of global infections. But on Saturday it reported just 11 new cases and 13 deaths. More than 64,000 people have been released from hospitals.

With China's caseload slowing, the government was helping other countries with its expertise. A Chinese medical crew was heading to Italy and surplus supplies were sent to Iran.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the UN leader his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer "as much assistance as it can" to countries where the virus is spreading. State media reported Xi told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to "arduous endeavours" at prevention and control.

South Korea reported more recoveries from the coronavirus than new infections on Saturday for the second day is a row, as a downward trend in daily cases raised hopes that Asia's biggest epidemic outside China may be slowing.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) recorded 107 new coronavirus cases on Saturday compared with 110 a day earlier, taking the national tally to 8,086. In contrast, 204 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment. With the latest figures, South Korea has continued to see a steady drop in the number of new cases, raising hopes that the outbreak may be slowing in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Japan, which has 675 cases — not including the nearly 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship — enacted a controversial law Friday that would allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the country. Government officials in Japan said there is no immediate plan to declare a state of emergency, but Abe is expected to make a decision based on experts' latest evaluation of the outbreak. 

A community volunteer informs residents to get vegetables with a loudspeaker in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on Friday. China reported just 8 cases of the coronavirus on Friday, with no new domestic infections outside the epicentre of Hubei province. (AFP/Getty Images)

Here's what's happening in Iran 

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

The total number of deaths in Iran from the coronavirus outbreak has risen by 85 to 514, a health ministry official said on state TV Friday, adding that the total number of infections had increased by more than 1,000  in the past 24 hours, to 11,364.

Here's a glimpse at what's happening in some of the areas of the world that have not seen a major surge in cases:

  • Authorities in Kenya say a woman has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the first case in the East African country. The patient had travelled from the U.S. via London, the health minister said.

  • The West and Central African nations of Ghana and Gabon also announced their first confirmed cases of the disease. Ghana Minister of Health Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said two people who returned from Norway and Turkey tested positive and are in isolation. Gabon's first case of the virus is in a 27-year-old who returned after staying in Bordeaux, France.

  • Nepal moved to suspend all climbing permits for Mount Everest — and every other peak in the mountainous nation because of the coronavirus. China has already shuttered its side of Mount Everest.

  • Officials in Pakistan quarantined roughly 4,000 pilgrims in tents and buildings in the southwestern border town of Taftan upon their return from Iran, officials said Friday.

  • The Indonesian government announces 35 new cases of COVID-19 infections, bringing the country's confirmed cases to 69 on Friday, including two toddlers. In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, the government launched a cleaning campaign for 10,000 mosques. The religious affairs minister called on each mosque to roll up carpets and spray disinfectant, while also urging Muslims to not shake hands or share a kiss on the cheek to avoid spreading the virus.

Here's a look at what's happening in the business world

From CBC's Pete Evans, Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

The Bank of Canada made an unexpected rate cut on Friday afternoon, cutting the central bank's benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 0.75 per cent.

The central bank had already cut its rate to 1.25 per cent at a previously scheduled meeting on March 4 to help counteract the impact of the coronavirus.

"This unscheduled rate decision is a proactive measure taken in light of the negative shocks to Canada's economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices," the bank said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange regained some ground on Friday after suffering its worst day in decades on Thursday. COVID-19 fears had prompted a sell-off but a day later buyers seemed to be thinking the market may have overreacted.

The three major U.S. stock indexes rallied more than nine per cent on Friday, rebounding from Wall Street's biggest daily drop since 1987. But the indexes were still about 20 per cent below record highs hit in mid-February.

European stocks gave up most of the gains made during the day, closing only slightly higher on Friday after suffering a huge drop the day before.

Britain's FTSE 100 closed 1.7 per cent higher, Germany's DAX 0.8 per cent and France's CAC 40 1.8 per cent. Italy's FTSE MIB gained 7.1 per cent, not even half of what it lost the previous day.

Investor sentiment was helped somewhat by financial aid measures by the EU and states including Germany and France.

Here's what's happening in the world of sports

From The Associated Press, updated at 10:35 a.m ET

In the U.S., it was announced Friday that the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., the first men's golf major of the year, is being postponed. Boston Marathon organizers announced the April race has been postponed until September.

Earlier, the English Premier League has been suspended until April 3 "at the earliest," the league said, after three clubs put their entire playing squads in self-isolation because of coronavirus. England's cricket team will fly home Saturday after their March 19 test cricket match was called off.

The Greek Olympic committee says it is suspending the rest of its torch relay because of the "unexpectedly large crowd" that gathered to watch despite repeated requests for the public to stay away to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The International Olympic Committee said Thursday that as of now, the Tokyo Games are still on for July 24. The World Cup cross-country ski event this weekend in Quebec City has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, effectively ending the season. Earlier, the world figure skating championships scheduled for next week in Montreal were scuttled.

With files from Kathleen Harris, Pete Evans, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press