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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 30

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak from CBC News for Tuesday, June 30.

 

Children play in a flooded park in Wuhan, China. Wuhan's health commission said that the city, once the epicentre of the outbreak, had no asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 as of June 15. (Getty Images)

Canada extending ban on most foreign travellers, while Canadians will soon be allowed into EU countries

The federal government has extended a sweeping travel ban that bars entry to all travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for "essential" reasons for at least another month. The order, which was set to expire tonight, "has been extended until July 31 for public health reasons," Rebecca Purdy, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, said in a statement to CBC News.

The order — one of a set of extraordinary new measures introduced on March 16 to stop the spread of COVID-19 — bans most foreign nationals from entering Canada if they arrive from a foreign country other than the U.S. There are limited exceptions for air crew, diplomats and immediate family members of citizens. Some seasonal workers, caregivers and international students are also exempt. The previous order in council — a cabinet decision made without having to go to Parliament — was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET tonight. A separate order prohibits non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. and is in effect until July 21 after being extended earlier this month. Under this order, essential workers, such as truckers and health workers, are allowed to cross the border.

Officials confirm the government will maintain the order barring foreign nationals from entering Canada at this time, instead of modifying the order to reopen the border to certain countries — those with low infection rates or those allowing Canadian tourists to visit, for example. Ottawa's decision comes as the European Union agreed to allow tourists from several countries, including Canada, to enter the EU beginning on Wednesday. However, most Americans have been refused entry to EU countries for at least another two weeks because of soaring coronavirus infections in the United States. The EU said today it expects countries on its "safe list" list to lift any bans they might have in place on European travellers. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back against pressure to relax the ban on international travellers, arguing that moving too quickly could spark a second wave of the coronavirus. "We are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening international borders," Trudeau said at a briefing on June 22.

As CBC News first reported on Monday, the federal government is also extending strict quarantine rules requiring travellers to isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada. That separate order — which was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET tonight — has now been extended to August 31. Under the Quarantine Act, travellers also need to confirm that they have a suitable place to isolate where they will have access to basic necessities, including food and medicine. No one would be permitted to quarantine anywhere they could come into contact with vulnerable people. Those who, for example, normally live with an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system would have to quarantine elsewhere.

If the Canada Border Services Agency suspects that a returning traveller is not going to comply with the rules, it can alert the Public Health Agency of Canada, which can then flag the RCMP's national operations centre. The RCMP has been playing a co-ordinating role with local police during the pandemic. Maximum penalties for failing to comply with the Quarantine Act include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. If someone jeopardizes another's life while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act, the penalties are even greater: $1 million or three years in prison, or both.

Click below to watch more from The National

A spike in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. has several states putting restrictions back in place after lifting them too early. 2:03

IN BRIEF

Toronto city council votes to make masks mandatory indoors, while Quebec mandates them on public transit

Toronto's city council has voted to make non-medical masks and face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. "It is about respecting and protecting each other," Mayor John Tory said this morning, adding that it will be a key element to reopening the city safely. The recommendation is included in a report from Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa. The new regulation goes into effect July 7 as a temporary bylaw, though Tory and de Villa are encouraging residents to begin following the order immediately.

The rule will go into effect just days after the city will also make masks or face coverings mandatory on its public transit system. They also noted that "suitable" exceptions will be made for anyone who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, as well as for children under two years old. Tory said there will not be "aggressive enforcement" of the new bylaw, and that the city will instead focus on educating the public about the importance of the order. Fines for violations have not yet been set by local courts, though the city solicitor said she expects the figure to be "in the ballpark" of $750 to $1,000. Masks have worked to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in other jurisdictions in which residents consistently wear them, and a mandatory mask rule results in higher uptake. Today, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that it will be mandatory to wear a face mask on public transit in the province beginning July 13. The new rule will apply to anyone over the age of 12. For children younger than that, wearing a mask is strongly recommended by the province, but not obligatory.

The news out of Toronto comes one day after a call from mayors throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area for a mandatory mask policy across Ontario was rejected by Premier Doug Ford's government. Ford has repeatedly said that he believes such a policy would be impossible to enforce, and that his government trusts people to make responsible decisions when they leave their homes. The province has opted instead for a policy of strongly encouraging the public to wear non-medical masks and face coverings in busy indoor spaces. A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Health, however, pointed out that local medical officers of health have the power to implement face mask policies in their respective health regions under existing legislation, namely Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Read more about the calls for mandatory masks

Air Canada suspends 30 regional domestic routes as COVID-19 wallops air travel demand

Air Canada is indefinitely suspending 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports across Canada because of an unprecedented drop in demand for air travel as a result of COVID-19. The Montreal-based airline said the cuts are being made because of continuing weak demand for both business and leisure travel as a result travel restrictions and border closures. The routes being cancelled are:

  • In Atlantic Canada: Deer Lake-Goose Bay, Deer Lake-St. John's, Fredericton-Halifax, Fredericton-Ottawa, Moncton-Halifax, Saint John-Halifax, Charlottetown-Halifax, Moncton-Ottawa, Gander-Goose Bay, Gander-St. John's, Bathurst-Montreal, Wabush-Goose Bay, Wabush-Sept-Iles, Goose Bay-St. John's.
  • In Quebec: Baie Comeau-Montreal, Baie Comeau-Mont Joli, Gaspé-Iles de la Madeleine, Gaspé-Quebec City, Sept-Iles-Quebec City, Val d'Or-Montreal, Mont Joli-Montreal, Rouyn-Noranda-Val d'Or.
  • In Ontario: Kingston-Toronto, London-Ottawa, North Bay-Toronto, Windsor-Montreal.
  • In Western Canada: Regina-Winnipeg, Regina-Saskatoon, Regina-Ottawa, Saskatoon-Ottawa.

The regional airports where Air Canada is closing its stations include Bathurst, N.B., Wabush N.L., Gaspé, Que., Baie Comeau, Que., Mont Joli, Que., Val d'Or, Que., Kingston, Ont., and North Bay, Ont. More than two-thirds of the routes being cancelled and all eight of the regional stations are operated by Jazz Aviation, a partner of Air Canada.

The airline said it expects the industry will not recover from the damage incurred by COVID-19 for three years at least, and made it clear that today's route cancellations may not be the end of any drastic steps that may be taken. "Other changes to ... network and schedule, as well as further service suspensions, will be considered over the coming weeks as the airline takes steps to decisively reduce its overall cost structure and cash burn rate," Air Canada said. The airline announced earlier this year that it would lay off about 20,000 workers, or more than half of its staff, as part of its plan to cut costs. It said systemwide capacity was down about 85 per cent in the second quarter compared with the same quarter last year, and the airline expects capacity in the third quarter to be down 75 per cent compared with the third quarter of 2019. The airline lost more than $1 billion in the first quarter, and burned through $688 million in cash in March alone.

Read more about Air Canada's announcement

Canada's economy shrank by almost 20% in March and April, but turnaround seen in May data

Canada's economy shrank by 11.6 per cent in April, the biggest plunge on record, following March's contraction of 7.5 per cent as COVID-19 lockdowns began. Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that all 20 categories the data agency tracks were lower, and they added up to the biggest monthly plunge since record-keeping began in 1961. April's plunge means the economy at the end of April had lost almost one-fifth of the output it produced at the end of February.

Manufacturing was down by 22.5 per cent from March's already low level, while construction plunged 22.9 per cent. Within the retail segment, hotels and restaurants were down by 42 per cent, while arts and entertainment fell by 26 per cent. Oil and gas extraction fell by just 1.8 per cent, while air transportation plummeted by 93.7 per cent. The technology sector, meanwhile, eked out a tiny 0.4 per cent increase, Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter noted. Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Omar Abdelrahman said that sectors where work-from-home options are more feasible fared better. That included industries such as finance and insurance (down one per cent), professional, scientific and technical services (down 1.3 per cent), and real estate rental and leasing (down 3.5 per cent).

Though record-setting, April's plunge was actually not as deep as the 13 per cent contraction that economists were bracing for, writes CBC's Pete Evans. And while the numbers certainly underlined the bleak state of the economy in the depths of COVID-19, Statistics Canada did hint at a light at the end of the tunnel, with preliminary GDP numbers for May projecting a slight uptick after bottoming out in March and April. "The good news, such as it is, is that there are plenty of signs that April will mark the nadir, and StatsCan's first estimate for May is a moderate three per cent rebound in GDP from the depths," Porter said of the numbers. "We expect a bigger bounce in June, as the economy reopened more fully." Economist Irene Lauro, of London-based investment manager Schroders, also expects the summer to show a more solid rebound, partly because of some of the unintended consequences of all the measure implemented to deal with COVID-19. "Canadians will travel locally. And they will spend in the country rather than outside the country," she said.

Read more about the economic situation

THE SCIENCE

Things are opening up. Do seniors really need to stay home?

CBC News readers, viewers and listeners have sent in countless questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including this one. If you have a question of your own, reach out at covid@cbc.ca.

As for the issue at hand: Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said despite the loosening restrictions, the virus that causes COVID-19 is still around and older Canadians are at "the highest risk" of dying if they catch it.

That said, it's OK for seniors to go for a walk or shop at the store, he said, but they — and their caregivers — need to be especially mindful of what they're doing when they're out. "This is where I would encourage older Canadians to really be adhering to public health guidance," Sinha said, which includes frequent handwashing, practising physical distancing and avoiding sick people and large gatherings.

The same advice applies to caregivers, whose responsibilities typically require them to be physically close to vulnerable people. "You also have to be hyper vigilant on what you do and who you congregate with," Sinha said.

AND FINALLY...

Metro Vancouver sewing group celebrates making 10,000th cloth mask

Members of a sewing group that helped sew and give away 10,000 cloth masks met in person for the first time over the weekend for an early Canada Day celebration. (BeeLife Photography Studio)

When Kiran Saluja blew the dust off her sewing machine in order to do her part to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, she had no idea that months later she would be leading a group that had given away 10,000 handmade masks. Saluja, who lives in Surrey, B.C., and has not been working during the pandemic, decided in March to start making cloth masks so medical grade ones could be saved for health-care workers. "I just saw there was a need," she said.

She knew how to sew, but says she hadn't touched her machine "for years." Still, she searched out a mask design through videos online and began making them with cotton material she bought with her own money. She then began recruiting other women around the region to make masks from home, many of them seniors who, she says, love being able to have something to do while staying home as part of the health guidelines. "They are busy, they just love doing this, they just don't want to stop," she said about the group, which now has 20 members and is made up of seniors and women who have day jobs.

Saluja works up to three hours a day to make masks. She also picks up the masks others have made and delivers them to hospitals, temples, churches, senior care homes, doctor's offices and schools where they are donated. For the past two months, the groups has also received donations from local companies to cover the cost of materials. On Sunday, Saluja hosted some of the sewing group, which is called the Sewing Army, in her backyard for an early Canada Day celebration, while being mindful of physical distancing. It was the first time the group had met in person since beginning to make masks in March. "They haven't been going out, so it was kind of nice for them to get out," she said. "The seniors especially."

Read the full story about the sewing group

​​Send us your questions

Still looking for more information on the outbreak? Read more about COVID-19's impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here's what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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

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