Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday
Applications open for new sick leave and caregiver benefits from federal government
- Applications open for two new COVID-19 federal benefits.
- Canadians have returned 830,000 pandemic benefit payments, CRA figures show.
- Report says Canada failed health-care workers despite 'dress rehearsal' of SARS.
- Trudeau promises support for COVID-19 hot spot zones in three provinces.
- Quebec reports over 1,000 new cases for 4th day in a row, launches the COVID-19 notification app.
- Alberta's top doctor concerned about rising cases in Edmonton.
- New cases drop in B.C., top doctor says curve is flattening.
- WHO's 'best estimates' indicate 1 in 10 people worldwide may have contracted coronavirus.
- U.S. President Donald Trump returns to White House, says he will be on the campaign trail soon.
- COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airbone transmission, says CDC.
- British government on the defensive over COVID-19 testing data gaps.
As a second wave of COVID-19 takes hold in some parts of the country, Canadians struggling with the fallout of the pandemic are now able to start applying for two new benefits available from the federal government.
Starting Monday, people can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a new sick leave benefit and a new caregiver benefit for those forced to take time off work to care for a dependent because of the pandemic.
The benefits come after legislation creating them was rushed through the House of Commons last week. Bill C-4 replaced the now-defunct $500-a-week Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), which came to an end after helping almost nine million Canadians weather the impact of the pandemic.
The first benefit available Monday is a caregiver benefit targeting people with young children forced out of school or daycare settings due to the virus. It provides $500 a week for up to 26 weeks to those with children under 12 who can't work more than half-time due to pandemic-related caregiving responsibilities.
The benefit, which is only payable to one worker in a household, is also available to those who can't work because their children or a family member is sick, has to quarantine or is at high risk of COVID-19.
The second benefit is a two-week paid sick leave worth up to $1,000 for workers who can't work more than half the week because they have contracted COVID-19 or have an underlying condition that puts them more at risk of the illness.
WATCH | Manitoba workers welcome new COVID-19 sick leave benefit:
While many workers welcomed the new paid sick day policy, Toronto-based employment lawyer Howard Levitt expressed concern, predicting that "it's guaranteed to be abused."
"Everybody's going to take those 10 sick days, and all of a sudden, we're going to have a tremendous productivity issue for a company," he told CBC News.
Levitt said the new policy raises questions such as: Will an employee need a doctor's note? And what options are available for an employer if they believe an employee is abusing the new policy?
WATCH | Business would 'struggle' with 2nd lockdown, says Toronto restaurateur:
As part of Bill C-4, workers impacted by the pandemic also have access to a more flexible and generous employment insurance regime and, for those who still don't qualify for EI, a new Canada recovery benefit. The Canada recovery benefit opens for applications on Oct. 12.
Meanwhile, figures provided to CBC News by the CRA show Canadians have made more than 830,000 repayments of COVID-19 emergency aid benefits to which they were not entitled.
The figures include repayments from recipients of CERB and the Canada emergency student benefit (CESB). CRA said all of the repayments were voluntary.
"There are various reasons why voluntary repayments have been made: if applicants applied in error for a CERB payment from both Service Canada and the CRA for the same period, if an applicant later realized that they were not eligible for the benefit, or if an applicant returned to work earlier than expected," CRA spokesperson Christopher Doody said in an email.
Conservative MP and national revenue critic Philip Lawrence said he blames the high number of repayments on the federal government failing to explain the benefit programs to Canadians.
"During the pandemic, the Liberals continuously sent mixed messages to Canadians who were applying for emergency benefits. This caused confusion for many Canadians who were unclear if they were eligible for the benefits or not," Lawrence said.
WATCH | Trudeau discusses the implications of private testing:
The federal government will provide more support for local public health units in regions that are harder hit by COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.
Trudeau told reporters he's signed agreements with Alberta, Ontario and Quebec to provide federal employees to help with contract tracing in coronavirus hot spots.
Contact tracers advise those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to self-isolate or get tested to mitigate the spread of the virus. Delays in reaching out to them can interfere with the efficacy of contact tracing.
"Contact tracing is extremely effective in terms of tracking down cases, especially if it's done in a very timely manner," Trudeau said. "Once you start getting into backlogs, apparently, it becomes more difficult to have contact tracing be as effective."
What's happening in the rest of Canada
As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 168,960 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 142,334 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 9,504.
Canada put health-care workers at risk of contracting COVID-19 and taking it home to their families because it failed to learn lessons from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, a new report says.
Mario Possamai, who authored the report and was senior adviser to a two-year commission on SARS, outlines multiple shortcomings by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The agency was established to respond to emerging infectious diseases after an early recommendation by the commission investigating how the SARS epidemic that killed 44 people arrived in Canada and spread, mostly in Ontario.
Hundreds of people died of SARS elsewhere, including in China and Taiwan. However, Possamai says in the report released Monday that unlike Canada, those countries heeded the warnings from SARS, which he calls "a dress rehearsal for COVID-19."
Possamai says in the report that the safety of workers, from those in long-term care homes to respiratory technicians and nurses and doctors in hospitals, has been ignored.
The report says union sources suggest 16 workers died of the pandemic, though official reports put the number at 12 deaths, and that Canada's infection rate among health-care workers is four times that of China.
In Quebec, the government announced an additional set of regulations for sports teams, schools and gyms in the province's red zones on Monday. The new rules will be in place until at least Oct. 28.
Greater Montreal, Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches regions were designated as red zones under the province's COVID-19 alert system last week. As of midnight Monday, three towns in the Gaspé region will join them.
The Quebec government said Monday that masks are now mandatory for high school students and gyms will be shut down and team sports will be banned.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge also said at the news conference Monday that students in Grade 10 and 11 will now be in school only one out of every two days to reduce time in the classroom.
Competition between schools and school outings will also now be banned in red zones.
Elementary students will not have to wear masks in classrooms but Grades 4-6 will need to continue to wear them while walking in shared spaces like hallways and while on the school bus.
WATCH | Team sports have been banned in red zones in Quebec:
"All the actions we are taking could and should prevent us from closing schools," Roberge told reporters.
Quebec on Monday reported 1,191 new coronavirus cases, with the majority of cases located in the Montreal and the Quebec City regions. It's the fourth day in a row the province has reported over 1,000 new daily cases.
In a separate news conference at 5 p.m., Premier François Legault said the federal government's COVID-19 notification app has launched in the province. Legault downloaded the app in front of reporters, demonstrating the government's willingness to incorporate the app when it had previously opposed it.
Health Minister Christian Dubé had indicated last week that the government would make the app available in the province.
Currently Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are already using the app, which has been downloaded by close to three million people.
Dubé reassured Quebecers about the security of the app, saying close to three million Ontarians have used it without any breaches for the last few months.
The app is also not a substitute for contact-tracing and Quebec will continue with those efforts, he said.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported an additional 615 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the province begins its move toward appointment-only testing for the illness. Toronto reported 289 new cases, while Peel Region saw 88 and Ottawa 81.
Toronto reported nearly 300 new cases just two days after Toronto Public Health (TPH) announced that contact tracing is temporarily suspended outside of outbreaks in facilities like long-term care homes, as it's overwhelmed by the number of new cases in the city.
Last week, Toronto's chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended that indoor dining be shut down in the city for a month and that indoor fitness and recreational activities be prohibited.
At a news conference Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he's reluctant to close restaurants as it would impact the livelihoods of small business owners.
WATCH | Ford explains concerns for small business owners amid calls for restaurant shut downs:
"The easy thing to do is without seeing endless data is just close everything down. I'm sorry, I'm not prepared to do that to people's lives right now," Ford said, adding he needs to see more evidence before he imposes further restrictions.
Fifty-six of the new infections in Ontario are school-related, including 31 students, eight staff and 17 people categorized as "individuals not identified."
When asked by reporters, Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. David Williams could not say how many confirmed cases it would take in a school to be shut down.
At the same briefing, the government instead announced $35 million in funding for schools that will be used to improve online learning and hire more staff. That money is from the province's $1.3-billion plan to "safely reopen classrooms."
The decision to end testing for asymptomatic people at its 153 COVID-19 assessment centres, instead moving to an appointment-only model for those with symptoms of the disease, was made, in part, to help labs clear the backlog of test samples. The last day for walk-in testing was Saturday.
The province said Monday that swabs done at Ontario pharmacies are being sent to a lab in California for analysis as Ontario deals with a severe backlog. The backlog reached 68,000 tests this weekend, according to Ontario's Ministry of Health.
The goal is to complete 50,000 tests a day. The province's network of commercial, community and hospital labs processed more than 38,000 on Sunday, the ministry said.
The ministry also announced Monday that it's planning to hire 600 more contact tracers and case managers in the next five weeks to help local health units that are struggling to keep up with calling close contacts of positive cases.
In an email, a spokesperson for the ministry said Toronto Public Health will receive around 200 more employees specifically for contact tracing and hiring will begin today.
WATCH | Ontario health units struggle to keep up with contact tracing as cases surge:
In Ottawa, confusion around whether a testing site was open for walk-in appointment caused dozens of people to be lined up, only to be turned away.
The Brewer Arena site in the city was still taking walk-in appointments on Sunday, despite the province's announcement that only testing booked in advance would occur after Saturday.
Sunday evening, the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce, created to represent health care voices across the region, announced the testing site would be closed on Monday. But still, many people waited in line for an hour before being told the facility was closed.
In Northern Ontario, a new study shows rural and remote communities in the province are being more adversely impacted by COVID-19.
The new research out of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine shows individuals living in those regions face health disparities.
"We know that in our northern, rural, remote populations that the health status of the population is much lower,"said lead author Dr. David Savage, who also teaches at the medical school. "These patients have a high burden of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. We know that their access to health care resources is limited," he said.
New cases in remote, northern Indigenous communities are some of the most concerning areas for potential outbreaks, said Savage.
In Manitoba, 19 people have tested positive for COVID-19 on Little Grand Rapids First Nation, the community's leadership said on Sunday night.
"After receiving confirmation of positive cases within our community, we quickly responded and have moved into our next phase of pandemic planning to manage cases and keep the community safe," Chief Raymond Keeper said in a joint news release from the First Nation and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
On Sunday afternoon the province declared an outbreak in the remote northeastern community and moved the region to the red, or "critical," level under its pandemic response system
Several people tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus after attending events at the local recreation centre between Sept. 24 and 27, the province said in a news release earlier Sunday.
Strict new rules have been implemented for people on the First Nation: no public gatherings are allowed, only one person per household can leave to get necessities and people have to wear non-medical masks when they go out — but those who work in essential services will still be allowed to go to work.
In the Winnipeg area, restaurants and bars will stop serving alcohol between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m., starting Oct 7, as new public health measures are ushered in.
The city and 17 surrounding communities are under the orange pandemic response level as those regions are driving the province's new case numbers.
WATCH | Manitoba implements new health restrictions on dining in Winnipeg region:
Manitoba reported 51 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced the province will be doubling the number of COVID-19 testing sites in Winnipeg to lower current wait times.
Monday's COVID-19 surveillance report for Manitoba showed that there were 295 new cases of the coronavirus identified in the week of Sept. 20-26, which is the highest in that weekly report so far in the pandemic.
Around 80 per cent of new infections reported in the last week of September are from the Winnipeg region, the report showed.
Newfoundland and Labrador are asking some who travelled on an Air Canada flight to get tested after a man diagnosed with COVID-19 who was a passenger on that flight died within a day of stepping off the plane.
Health Minister John Haggie confirmed Monday that the man was tested for COVID-19 after his death and that the disease will be listed "supplemental" cause of death for the individual.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw told reporters she's alarmed by rising case numbers in Edmonton at a press conference Monday.
The province reported eight more deaths from COVID-19 Monday over the last three days and 578 new cases of the disease.
There are too many people going to work or attending social gatherings while they have coronavirus symptoms, said Hinshaw.
"This is a significant risk and is one of the factors causing our case numbers to rise," Hinshaw said. "I want to be clear, if you are sick, you need to stay home.
"If you are sick, you should not go to social gatherings of any kind, this includes the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend."
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Edmonton reported 147 new infections in the city since Friday, the largest jump compared to other regions in the province.
"We have seen an escalation of cases in Edmonton, an increase in the reproductive number to 1.3 last week, and a rise in active cases to 894. We are taking this seriously and looking closely at what causes or driving this increase that we are seeing," said Hinshaw.
Health officials will determine if new health measures need to be implemented in Edmonton, she said.
Four more deaths were reported over the weekend in British Columbia and another 358 new cases were reported, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at a news conference Monday.
There are 1,353 active cases of coronavirus infection in B.C., with 66 people in hospital, including 16 in intensive care. Currently there are 16 active outbreaks at long-term care facilities in B.C. and another three in hospitals.
New modelling was presented at the briefing, and the current outlook shows that although case numbers remain high, the number of new infections is beginning to drop off, said Henry.
"We are flattening our curve. It's the work of all of us as individuals and communities that is making this difference," she said.
However, the efforts to contain the spread of the virus need to continue into the Thanksgiving weekend, said Henry.
B.C.'s testing capacity has also increased, with the total number of COVID-19 tests jumping by 15 per cent last week over the week before.
Monday evening, B.C. Premier John Horgan pledged to provide a free COVID-19 vaccine to anyone in the province who wants one, once an approved medication is available.
What's happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 35.2 million. More than 1,038,000 people have died, while over 24.5 million have recovered.
The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says its "best estimates" indicate that roughly one in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking Monday to a meeting of the WHO's 34-member executive board focusing on COVID-19, said the figures vary from urban to rural, and between different groups, but that ultimately it means "the vast majority of the world remains at risk."
WATCH | WHO doctor says 10% of global population may have contracted COVID-19:
The estimate — which would amount to more than 760 million people based on a current world population of about 7.6 billion — far outstrips the number of confirmed cases as tallied by both WHO and Johns Hopkins University. Experts have long said that the number of confirmed cases greatly underestimates the true figure.
In the United States, President Donald Trump was released from the hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19 on Monday evening, a day after he briefly ventured out while contagious to salute cheering supporters by motorcade in a move that disregarded precautions meant to contain the deadly virus.
Arriving back at the White House, Trump climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and said "I feel good." He gave a thumbs-up to the departing helicopter that had brought him there from the hospital.
He orchestrated a dramatic return by tweeting a video of himself soon after his arrival telling Americans not to fear the virus, even as it's killed 210,000 people.
WATCH | Trump returns to the White House:
Trump has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19 compared to many people in the U.S., as he had access to experimental treatments not yet available for the general public. He also ignited new controversy by stating more than once that the public should not fear the virus, alarming infectious disease specialists.
Just moments before, a masked Trump left the Walter Reed Medical Centre, pumped his fist as he headed toward an SUV that carried him to Marine One for the short flight back to the White House.
He ignored a reporter's question about whether he is a super-spreader of the virus and said "Thank you very much" to the group of reporters that had assembled outside the hospital.
Prior to walking out, Trump tweeted he'd be back on the campaign trail soon.
Trump confirmed he'd leave the hospital Monday afternoon by tweeting: "I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!"
WATCH | Trump's doctor says the U.S. president is not in the clear yet after COVID-19 diagnosis:
"He's met or exceeded all standard discharge criteria," said Dr. Sean Conley, Trump's physician. "He will receive another dose of [the antiviral drug] remdesivir here today and then we plan to get him home."
White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed, where doctors revealed on Sunday that his blood oxygen level had twice dropped suddenly in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.
The decision to move Trump to the White House following his diagnosis, announced last Friday, comes after several days of contradictions that created confusion around the U.S. president's health. While Conley has offered an optimistic picture of Trump's wellbeing — briefings from the White House have lacked basic information, including the results of his lung scans. At the same time, other officials have given a more serious assessment of Trump's health, further muddying the situation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines on Monday, saying that COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.
People can become infected through exposure to the virus in small droplets and particles, or aerosols. These can linger in the air for minutes to hours, it said.
WATCH | Confusion, agitation among side-effects of steroid Trump took for COVID-19:
However, the agency noted that this method of infection has occurred in limited and uncommon scenarios where spaces were poorly ventilated and activities like singing or exercise created heavier breathing.
The new statements come after the CDC published and then removed guidance warning of possible airborne transmission.
French authorities placed the Paris region on maximum virus alert on Monday, banning festive gatherings and requiring all bars to close but allowing restaurants to remain open, as numbers of infections increased rapidly.
Paris police prefect Didier Lallement announced the new restrictions would apply at least for the next two weeks. "We are continuously adapting to the reality of the virus. We are taking measures to slow down (its spread)," he said.
Starting on Tuesday, bars will be closed in Paris and its suburbs. Student parties and all other festive and family events in establishments open to the public will be banned.
Restaurants will remain open under strict conditions. They include a minimum one-metre distance between each table, groups limited to six people instead of 10 previously, and a request to register customers' names and phone numbers to help alert those who may have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus .
The director of the Regional Health Authority, Aurélien Rousseau, said about 3,500 new cases of infection are confirmed on average each day in the Paris region, and 36 per cent of ICU beds in the area are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and one of her European Union commissioners have placed themselves in isolation after being in contact with people infected with the coronavirus.
In a message posted on Twitter Monday, the head of the EU's executive arm said she took part in a meeting last Tuesday that was attended by "a person who yesterday tested positive." Von der Leyen was on a two-day trip to Portugal last Monday and Tuesday.
Her office announced she tested negative on Monday but that she would remain in quarantine until Tuesday in accordance with Belgian health precautions.
Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel also announced she was self-isolating after a member of her team had tested positive.
Also on Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he will self-quarantine after a cabinet minister he was in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus.
Muhyiddin had chaired an Oct. 3 meeting attended by Religious Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who confirmed Monday he has been hospitalized for treatment.
Cases in the country have soared in recent days, hitting a record high of 432 on Monday. Malaysia's tally of virus cases is at 12,813 with 137 deaths.
India has registered a single-day spike of 74,442 new coronavirus cases, driving the country's overall tally since the pandemic began to 6.6 million.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported another 903 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 102,685.
India has reported the second-most infections globally after the United States, but its daily new infections are now on a downward trend, though still the highest in the world. The number of active virus cases in the country has also remained below one million for the past two weeks.
The country's recovery rate stands at 84 per cent, one of the highest in the world, with more than 5.5 million people recovered from coronavirus so far, according to the Health Ministry.
In Spain, scientists and health workers have increased their criticism of how politicians have responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
The health ministry on Monday confirmed 23,480 new cases for the previous three days, bringing the total number of infections to to 813,412.
Madrid is becoming a COVID-19 hostpot in Europe with 586 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks. The city has also been a battleground between Spain's left-wing federal government and conservative regional authorities who are hesitant to implement further health restrictions to combat the surge of new cases.
After weeks of tensions between the two levels of government, multiple scientific groups representing over 170,000 health care workers called on Spanish politicians to base their decisions on science rather than politics.
They published a 10-point manifesto Sunday that was published in major newspapers and now has more than 24,000 supporters online.
Uganda is reporting a blood shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as fewer people have been donating, health officials said Monday.
The largest group of blood donors in the country is secondary school students. But with schools closed since March, the government agency in charge of procuring donations is having trouble meeting its targets.
Multiple people have died as a result of lack of blood available, including a pregnant woman who experienced complications and needed a transfusion to survive, said Dr. Emmanuel Batiibwe, the director of a hospital that looks after many of the poorest residents of the capital, Kampala.
Dr. Dorothy Byabazaire, head of Uganda Blood Transfusion Services, told officials earlier this year that her agency collected 56,850 units of a targeted 75,000 between April and July.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press