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Canada  

The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

COVID-19: the latest

The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):

The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):

9:35 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump says there are plans to remove nearly 250 Canadians from two cruise ships and get them back to Canada.

The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships to remain at sea where they may be sequestered "indefinitely" during the coronavirus pandemic, but Trump says Canada is coming to get the Canadians from the MS Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam.

The ships hope to dock in Florida.

Trump made the comments at his daily press briefing.

Global Affairs Canada has said there are 97 Canadian passengers on the Zaandam and 150 Canadians on the Rotterdam.

At this time, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among Canadian passengers.

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6:30 p.m.

Toronto Public Health says a long-term care home in the city's east end is reporting that six more COVID-19 patients there have died, for a total of eight.

A spokeswoman for the public health agency says the new deaths were reported overnight.

Lenore Bromley says 23 people at Seven Oaks were diagnosed with the virus, including 14 residents and nine staff members.

She says there are another 54 residents who likely have the illness but have not officially been diagnosed.

She says those who died range in age from their 60s to their 90s, and six of them were over the age of 85.

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6:15 p.m.

British Columbia's public health officer says the province is holding its own in the fight against COVID-19 as she announced another death and 53 new cases of the disease today.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province still has a few more weeks to go and, when restrictions are lifted, it will have to be done in a way that prevents the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

The province now has 1,066 cases of COVID-19, with 25 deaths.

Henry says 606 people have recovered.

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5:50 p.m.

Alberta is reporting 117 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the province to 871.

Premier Jason Kenney also announced two additional deaths for a total of 11.

He says it's been a tough week in Alberta, and things will get worse before they get better.

The province says 142 people have recovered.

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5:15 p.m.

Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson says the 2020 Queen's Plate has been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The thoroughbred horse race, which was to be run June 27 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America dating back to 1860.

The $1-million race is also the first jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.

The move isn't surprising, as last month Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of the 2020 racing season.

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5:05 p.m.

The association that represents Ontario's hospitals says it is "extremely concerned" that many of the facilities are running low on personal protective equipment.

The Ontario Hospital Association says today that as the number of COVID-19 cases in acute care units rise, many hospitals are experiencing a shortage, especially of masks.

The association is calling on the federal and provincial governments to clearly communicate when new supplies will be provided to specific hospitals.

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4:45 p.m.

RCMP in Nova Scotia say four people have been charged under the Health Protection Act in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police say two people were charged for failing to self-quarantine after returning from abroad, and two others were charged for not maintaining a social distance of two metres.

Police say all four were fined $697.50.

They did not say where in the province these charges were laid.

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4:30 p.m.

BC Hydro is giving residential and small business customers a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier John Horgan says individuals who have lost wages or their jobs will be able to apply for a three-month credit on their residential power bills.

The government says the credit will not have to be repaid, which will save about $477 for the average customer.

Small business owners will also be able to apply for a three month payment holiday on their power bills.

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4 p.m.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice says five staff at a Saskatoon jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

A spokesman says there's no reason to believe the virus has spread throughout the facility, but officials are working with public health to confirm.

The provincial government says so far no inmates in Saskatchewan's jails have tested positive for COVID-19.

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3:42 p.m.

Saskatchewan says a third resident has died from COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health says a patient in their 80s died from complications related to the virus.

Earlier this week it announced two residents in their 70s also died over the weekend.

So far the Saskatchewan government has announced 193 cases of COVID-19 in the province.

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3:04 p.m.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he’s open to extending the government’s wage subsidy program if the COVID-19 crisis lasts longer than expected.

The benefit, which will pay 75 per cent of struggling companies' wages up to $847, is expected to last for three months.

But Morneau says the government will continue to reassess as the crisis unfolds and is open to adding new measures as necessary.

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2:57 p.m.

The Ottawa Senators say four additional members of the organization have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to six.

The team announced that the people in question travelled with the team to California before the NHL suspended its season March 12 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The team said in a release that those who tested positive have recovered.

The Senators played the Sharks in San Jose, Calif., on March 7 despite a recommendation from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings.

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2:30 p.m.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says wage subsidies for large and small businesses will cost about $71 billion.

The program is expected to offset the cost of emergency benefits for workers, and reduce spending on those benefits to $24 billion.

The wage subsidy will be available to large and small businesses who have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19.

Morneau has encouraged businesses to rehire employees they may have laid off in the wake of COVID-19, and says the wage subsidy will be available in six weeks.

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2:15 p.m.

The Manitoba government has announced another 24 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 127.

The province's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, says officials are seeing early signs of community transmission in Winnipeg, and he is urging people to stay home as much as possible.

The cases include three health care workers and officials are tracking other staff or patients who may have had close contact with those individuals.

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1:45 p.m.

There are 11 new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, raising the provincial total to 81.

Chief medical health officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell says of the total, 43 cases involved travel outside of New Brunswick, 22 were close contacts of other positive cases, there were three cases of community transmission, while 13 cases are still under investigation.

There have been no cases of people contracting COVID-19 in New Brunswick health care facilities so far, but Russell says a number of health care workers have contracted the virus outside of their workplace. They are self-isolating.

Russell also confirms the case of a taxi-driver in Fredericton who has tested positive after picking up a passenger who had travelled. Contacts with that driver have been contacted by Public Health.

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1:35 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting 26 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the provincial total to 173 confirmed cases.

Health officials say of the 26 new cases of COVID-19, one is a staff member at The Magnolia residential care home in Enfield outside Halifax.

That makes three staff members and two residents at the home who have tested positive.

Officials say most cases in Nova Scotia are connected to travel or a known case, while there is one confirmed case of community transmission and more cases are expected.

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1:35 p.m.

Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the government is looking at ways to support self-employed Canadians who keep their jobs but whose hours are reduced because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The federal government has promised wage subsidies for employers to help pay employees who are still on the payroll as well as benefits for Canadians who lose their jobs due to the pandemic.

But Qualtrough acknowledges self-employed Canadians whose hours or earnings are reduced could fall between the cracks, which is something the government is considering.

Qualtrough also appeared to leave the door open to federal compensation for the families of health-care workers who die while helping to fight the pandemic.

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1:25 p.m.

The Manitoba government is hoping to get former registered nurses back on the job in order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says the College of Registered Nurses will be allowed to waive or modify registration requirements for former registered nurses so that they can come back quickly.

Friesen says application and registration fees will be waived for the returning nurses.

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1:19 p.m.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the number of COVID-19 cases in the province is now 4,611, an increase of 449 over yesterday.

There were also two new deaths, bringing the provincial total to 33.

Legault says there are 519 seniors' residences with at least one case, which he described as a source of concern for the province.

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1:17 p.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has appealed to the nation’s landlords to not evict tenants who cannot pay their rent today.

The government is planning to provide benefits to people who have lost their income due to COVID-19 but that money has not started to flow yet, leaving many people unable to pay their rent.

Freeland says it would be heartless for landlords to evict tenants during this crisis.

She says for those landlords who need rent money to pay their mortgage, the federal government has worked with banks to try to give homeowners some breathing room.

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12:50 p.m.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the health care system has the potential to be overwhelmed in all of the COVID-19 scenarios projected by the federal government.

The government has not shared any of its projections related to how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to play out in Canada.

But Tam says the health system is not designed to deal with this kind of surge, and could be facing difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources in all those scenarios.

She says in some of the worst case scenarios, the health care system will not be able to cope.

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12:45 p.m.

There are no new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island Wednesday, with the provincial total remaining at 21.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says three of the Island cases are considered recovered.

All the cases on the Island have been the result of international travel.

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12:45 p.m.

There are 23 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, all within the Eastern Health authority.

The total number of known cases of the illness in the province is now 175.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, says 15 people have been hospitalized and three are in intensive care.

She says 10 people have recovered.

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12:40 p.m.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the backlog of employment insurance claims filed in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis will be addressed within the week.

Canada has seen an unprecedented surge in requests for support.

In the last two weeks 1.3 million EI claims have been filed, compared to just 2.1 million for all of last year.

Qualtrough says the department has found a way to streamline applications, and starting today they will be able to process 400,000 applications per day.

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12:35 p.m.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the government has created a mobile app to provide direct updates on COVID-19.

The app will provide updates on the latest government measures and public health advice to limit the spread of the virus.

It will also include a self-assessment tool for people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

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12:10 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is expecting a shipment of much needed medical supplies in a few days, or even sooner.

Several provinces have reported shortages of personal protective equipment for front line workers, given that the equipment is in demand all over the world.

Trudeau says the government is working with international partners to try to bring more surgical masks and in-demand supplies to Canada.

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11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's asked the government house leader to reach out to opposition parties about bringing back parliament.

He says the entire government needs to be involved in the largest economic program in Canada's history.

Canada's parliament was suspended on March 13 to limit the spread of the virus and allow the cabinet to focus on the COVID-19 response.

It briefly reconvened last week to pass the government's emergency COVID-19 response bill.

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10:35 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 426 new COVID-19 cases today — the largest number so far — including four new deaths.

It represents a nearly 22 per cent increase and brings the provincial total to 2,392.

That includes 37 deaths and 689 cases that have been resolved.

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9:45 a.m.

Some Manitoba health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19, leading to other health workers having to self-isolate.

One staff member at a hospital in Selkirk tested positive after travelling within Canada, and had been working while symptomatic between March 19 and 23.

The Manitoba Nurses Union says a nurse at a hospital emergency room in Winnipeg has also tested positive.

And St. Boniface Hospital has sent a letter to workers that says a staff member in the echocardiography department has tested positive, and was working while symptomatic on March 25.

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8:10 a.m.

A hospital in Burlington, Ont., is building a temporary COVID-19 unit in anticipation of a surge of patients.

Joseph Brant Hospital says the structure being built on hospital grounds will have 93 beds.

The hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra, says the pandemic response unit will allow the hospital to keep its critical care and high acuity beds for the sickest patients.

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7:30 a.m.

A driver in Ottawa's transit system is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

The city says the driver developed symptoms on March 20 and was tested for the virus that causes the illness the next day.

The local health unit says there's concern the driver might have spread the virus in the days before feeling sick.

The city says it's deep-cleaning the busses that the person drove, which mostly ran between downtown Ottawa and western suburbs.

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7:25 a.m.

A ship carrying passengers sick with COVID-19 is expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday.

About 250 Canadians are among the passengers aboard Holland America's Zaandam, which was denied entry by several countries after reporting four deaths and dozens of infections.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state's health care resources are already stretched too thin to take on the ships' coronavirus caseload.

But President Donald Trump said people are dying on the ship, and he's going to do “the right thing” for humanity and allow it to dock in Florida.

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6:35 a.m.

It's April 1st and rent payments are due for millions of Canadians for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic led to an economic shutdown and many layoffs.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have signed petitions, asking for the outright cancellation of rents and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests that's not going to happen, but says the banks have been asked to give people a break if they need it.

Multiple provinces have placed an outright ban on evictions, while others have placed an effective ban by closing down landlord and tenant boards.

Applications for federal support payments and details about wage subsidies that are meant to help Canadians weather the storm are still to be released.



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Police in Saskatchewan charge man with killing his parents and son

Charges in triple murder

A man in Saskatchewan has been charged with the killings over the weekend of his parents and young son, police said.

Nathaniel Kenneth Carrier faces three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Denis Carrier, 56, Sandra Henry, 56, and seven-year-old Bentlee.

The 28-year-old man is also charged with attempted murder of his five-year-old daughter.

Prince Albert police Insp. Craig Mushka said he couldn't comment on a possible motive behind the killings.

"We are very early in our investigation," Mushka said Wednesday.

"Obviously, it's human nature to want to know why something like this occurred."

Police were called to a home in Prince Albert on Sunday evening after friends noted they had not heard from the couple and two of their grandchildren.

Officers located Denis Carrier, Henry and their grandson dead on the property.

The boy's little sister, Kendrah, was in critical condition and transferred to a hospital in Edmonton.

Mushka said new evidence, such as video surveillance from the neighbourhood, suggests that the killings happened Saturday.

Nathaniel Carrier also lived at the home, but officers could not find him, and a family vehicle was missing.

The vehicle was found in La Ronge on Sunday and investigators located the suspect in Prince Albert. Mushka said he was not a risk to public safety and was arrested Tuesday.

"I am not able to divulge his exact location during that time, but those details will likely become available during the judicial process," Mushka said.

The family's relatives and friends said they are struggling to understand why the deaths happened.

"Stuff like this doesn't happen to our family," said Sherry McLellan, Henry's cousin.

She said Henry and Denis Carrier began dating in junior high school. Nathaniel Carrier is one of their three sons.

Henry worked at a local Co-op store, where she was known for her friendly demeanour and for making everyone feel important, her cousin said.

She liked to play cards, had a great sense of humour and referred to everyone as "cuz," said McLellan.

She was also part of a large Metis family, said McLellan, adding that restrictions around COVID-19 mean they cannot grieve together.

McLellan said she hopes the couple's other two sons are receiving the support they need.

"We are a strong Metis family where we have values of family and tradition. Family is very important," she said.

"We are still struggling and reeling from what happened. Our heads are in the clouds and we don't know really what is going on."

McLellan has started an online fundraiser to help cover funeral costs and support the couple's two other sons. Money will also go to help the granddaughter, who remains in hospital in stable condition.

McLellan said she hopes one day there will be answers, but for now she's encouraging everyone to tell their family members how much they love them.

"Don't take your family for granted. Make sure that you check on them. Make sure you extend yourself out to them," she said. "Let everybody know you love them."

Court records show Nathaniel Carrier was scheduled for a court appearance Wednesday, but his attendance was waived. He is next to appear in court April 15, although the court file shows his attendance will again be waived.



Trudeau defends new flights bringing Canadians home

Trudeau defends new flights

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians being flown home from abroad must subject themselves to "rigorous" and mandatory 14-day self-isolation to keep their fellow citizens safe.

Trudeau says Canadians must "look out for each other," but they have a duty not to infect others, especially health care workers.

"The public health case is that if people who return properly and rigorously self-isolate, then we are not significantly increasing the risk to everyone else," the prime minister said during his daily briefing at his Rideau Cottage residence.

Trudeau spoke as the government announced today that six planes carrying Canadians stranded in Africa and Europe are to touch down today in the effort to repatriate travellers stranded by COVID-19.

Global Affairs Canada says the planes will arrive from Algeria, Ecuador, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Hungary and Spain.

The department says the government is planning more flights from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Peru, Algeria, Poland and Pakistan in the coming days.

Plans are also being made for several flights from India, starting on April 4 and continuing for the next four days until April 7.

The government is reiterating that not all Canadians stranded abroad will be able to come back to Canada, and that those returning will be subjected to mandatory self-isolation.

Trudeau said the government wants to see Canadians come home, "but we also very much expect and demand that they keep themselves and their neighbours safe by self-isolating in rigorous conditions for two weeks as soon as they get home.

"We would much rather have people home than have them stranded elsewhere around the world where things are getting — you know — worse."

Speaking in French, Trudeau said the government was "implementing strict and rigorous measures" so the people who come home do not endanger other Canadians, including their neighbours and health care workers.

The government says it has approved 449 loans worth $1.4 million under its emergency program for Canadians abroad and is processing another 900 loan applications.



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Toronto imposes mandatory quarantine for infected

Mandatory quarantine order

Canada's most populous city has imposed a mandatory home quarantine on residents infected with COVID-19, as officials move to "aggressively halt" the spread of the virus.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the new measures, recommended by the city's chief medical officer, were to be implemented immediately and remain in place for up to 12 weeks.

They include an order that all those infected with COVID-19 stay home for 14 days, as well as anyone who has come in contact with them.

Those who are not ill and have not travelled are "strongly directed" to stay home, except to access health care, do a weekly grocery shop, exercise or walk their dogs.

The more aggressive tone came as the city's public health agency announced that six more residents infected with COVID-19 had died at an east-end long-term care home, bringing the total there to eight.

The new deaths at Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home were reported overnight Tuesday, said Toronto Public Health spokeswoman Dr. Elizabeth Rea.

She said 23 people at the facility have been diagnosed with the virus: 14 residents, including the deceased, and nine staff members.

Another 54 residents likely have the illness but have not officially been diagnosed, Rea said.

Seven Oaks is one of 18 long-term care facilities in the city reporting cases of COVID-19.

The city's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, says she will use every power legally available to her to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

She notes that two weeks ago, there were 145 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto, with 10 in hospital and no deaths. As of Wednesday, she said, the city has 818 cases, with 75 in hospital and 19 deaths.

"In terms of our case counts, in the last two weeks, we have seen a more than 500 per cent increase," she said in a news conference Wednesday.

"This is not a favourable trajectory ... I am deeply concerned."

City officials urged the public to adhere to the new orders and recommendations, adding fines could be issued for non-compliance.

More measures may be imposed as needed in the future, they said.

"If we do not take these actions today, the city will see substantially increased loss of life, and may not begin to recover, economically and as a society, until the end of 2020," the city said in a news release.



Feds didn't have enough protective gear in stockpile: Hajdu

Feds caught flat-footed

The federal government likely did not have enough protective equipment in its emergency stockpile to meet needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Patty Hajdu acknowledges.

Successive governments in Ottawa have not spent enough money preparing for public-health crises, Hajdu told a news conference Wednesday.

Federal officials are now working hard to procure scarce equipment such as surgical masks at a time when governments everywhere are scrambling to do the same, she said.

"We likely did not have enough. I think federal governments for decades have been underfunding things like public-health preparedness, and I would say that obviously governments all across the world are in the same exact situation," Hajdu said.

"It is an extremely competitive space right now for personal protective equipment. We are pulling out all of the stops ... trying to procure equipment in a global situation where equipment is extremely tight."

Hajdu also signalled there are lessons to be acted on after the pandemic.

"This is an opportunity for all governments to consider reinvesting in public health and preparedness, and I look forward to those conversations on the other end of this."

Canada's National Emergency Strategic Stockpile has supplies that provinces and territories can request in emergencies, such as infectious disease outbreaks and natural disasters, when their own resources fall short.

The stockpile's roots can be traced to the early 1950s, an element of the federal government's Cold War civil-defence plan.

The emergency stockpile is in a central depot in the national-capital region and warehouses strategically located across Canada.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for maintaining the stockpile, continuously assessing its contents and refurbishing the supplies.

The government says the agency has released items from the strategic stockpile in support of provincial and territorial COVID-19 response efforts.

This has included personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, gloves and N95 respirators, as well as other items including disinfectant and hand sanitizer.

The government says it is working to enhance its stock of supplies to support provincial requests or those from other federal partners who may also be in need of equipment.

Hajdu's admission that the national emergency stockpile may have been inadequate for the current crisis is important "to ensure that we learn immediate lessons" and do not mislead Canadians about the extent of the supply problem, said Wesley Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

The strategic stockpile was designed to ensure a surge capacity to meet a health crisis and to provide a stop-gap, buying time for other sources and new manufacturing capability to come online.

But it appears the stockpile has failed in that mission due to underfunding, lack of attention or poor inventory, he said. "Now we are racing against the clock."

Provincial and territorial governments and hospitals throughout the country need to know the extent to which they can count on the national stockpile for emergency assistance, Wark said.

"Transparency is vital. Knee-jerk secrecy has to be discarded."



China restricts PPE exports just as Canada's supplies reach critical stage in COVID-19 fight

China restricts PPE exports

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada has resulted in desperate calls by medical professionals about a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) - a situation about to be exacerbated by the world’s largest manufacturer sharply restricting exports.

Canadian officials said they were notified on March 31 that China - which makes about 50% of the world’s face masks, medical goggles, protective gloves and other items - is now restricting exports of PPEs to those made by Chinese manufacturers that have proper certification by the national medical products registry. All such exports, according to the Chinese press release, will be checked at export customs in China to see if the proper paperwork is present.

“Today, the global pandemic continues to show signs of accelerating in its spreading trend,” said the statement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. “Based on the foundation of solidifying [China’s] own outbreak response, an orderly development of medical goods exports is an important part of deepening the global cooperative effort to deal with this public health crisis together.”

The export certification requirements extend to COVID-19 mainstays like ventilators and infrared thermometers and is active as of April 1.

Experts say that the move likely came as a response to news this week that countries like the Netherlands have recalled 600,000 defective masks made in China. Canada received a donation of supplies, including 30,000 masks and 10,000 goggles, from China on March 28, and officials have said the goods will be tested by Canadian health authorities on the necessary standards.

Nonetheless, the additional red tape, the required inspections at the point of export in China and - most importantly - the limited number of manufactures who have the Chinese national registry certification will all factor in to grind Chinese export of PPEs to Canada to a halt, one trade official working on the procurement process said.

“The first thing that jumped in my head was, was this an April Fool’s joke?” said Omar Allam, founder and CEO of trade consultancy Allam Advisory Group, who has been helping Ottawa secure PPE import procurements from Asian markets. “But then, the realization sets in that it really isn’t, and it is disappointing because there has been calls from the G20, the World Bank and the WHO, and these new restrictions on medical supply exports could not have come at a worse time.”

One of the main problem, Allam said, is that most of the Chinese manufacturers now approved for export are state-owned-enterprises (SOEs) whose capacity is limited and whose manufacturing processes are outdated. As such, he said it is very hard to imagine the current approved exporters can come close to satisfying global demand.

In addition, despite Beijing’s efforts in recent years to streamline western and Chinese medical goods manufacturing standards, it still takes about a year for a non-certified manufacturer to receive Chinese government certification - and that was before the COVID-19 crisis.

And even with Ottawa’s recent initiatives to kickstart Canadian PPE production, Allam said the reality is that the ramp-up does not cover the shortfall created by a shortage of Chinese imports.

“In spite of the herculean effort to increase domestic production, more imports are needed to meet the Canadian shortage of supply,” he said. “PPE demands across the provinces and territories are getting serious; lives are on the line.”

Allam said he understands that Beijing’s move likely carries some brand-protection elements; after the news of the Dutch recall, Chinese authorities are likely keen to boost quality-assurance efforts of its PPE exports to avoid further missteps.

But he added that - as the restrictions are currently - many qualified manufacturers in China cannot get their products to the West where the pandemic is now intensifying. Even alternative sources like Southeast Asia depend on Chinese parts for their PPE production, and the hold-up in China’s exports will ripple through the entire global supply chain.

The current malaise in Ottawa-Beijing relations stemming largely from the Meng Wanzhou case doesn’t help, Allam added.

“There’s a lack of trust in the Canada-China relationship,” he said, adding that he hopes Beijing will reconsider and loosen the export restrictions after the two sides have a more transparent conversation about PPE supply line realities in both markets. “… You can hide behind quality control, but let’s put the cards on the table to see what can and can’t be done in terms of matching supply an demand.”



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

COVID-19: today's numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of April 1:

There are 9,526 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

Quebec: 4,611 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 155 resolved)

Ontario: 2,392 confirmed (including 37 deaths, 689 resolved)

British Columbia: 1,013 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 507 resolved)

Alberta: 754 confirmed (including 9 deaths, 120 resolved)

Saskatchewan: 184 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 21 resolved)

Newfoundland and Labrador: 175 confirmed (including 1 death, 10 resolved)

Nova Scotia: 173 confirmed (including 10 resolved)

Manitoba: 91 confirmed (including 1 death, 4 resolved), 12 presumptive

New Brunswick: 81 confirmed (including 9 resolved)

Prince Edward Island: 21 confirmed (including 3 resolved)

Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

Yukon: 5 confirmed

Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed

Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Total: 9,526 (12 presumptive, 9,514 confirmed including 107 deaths, 1,528 resolved)



Trudeau: U.S. standing down plan to send soldiers to border

US backs off on border

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the United States appears to have backed off on its plan to send soldiers to the Canada-U.S. border.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had been floating the idea to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials keep migrants from crossing the border between official entry points.

The prospect of U.S. soldiers along the world's longest unmilitarized border prompted strong opposition from the Prime Minister's Office and diplomatically pointed language from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland had said such a move would be damaging to Canada's relationship with the United States.

But Trudeau's language suggests the idea may not be completely off the table.

He says that while Canada has "heard" that the U.S. is standing down, officials will continue to engage in discussions as new circumstances develop.



Supply-line disruptions could cause Canadian drug shortage

Drug shortage likely

The deputy minister of Health Canada says the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to shortages of drugs and medical devices that treat other conditions.

A lack of medications to fill ordinary prescriptions is an ongoing issue in Canada, but deputy health minister Stephen Lucas, the federal department's top public servant, says COVID-19 is worsening the problem.

In a House of Commons health committee meeting Tuesday, Lucas explained the pandemic has had an impact on global supply chains.

He says there is a dedicated government team trying to predict which drugs will be affected and respond accordingly.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association has encouraged its members to limit patients to 30-day supplies of their prescriptions.

Health Canada has also warned Canadians not to stockpile drugs in an effort to avoid unnecessary shortages.



Scientists say ocean ecosystems can be restored within 30 years

Hope for our oceans

We've saved the whales, at least some of them.

Now, scientists say, we have a chance to save the rest of the life in oceans by expanding what's already happening around the globe.

"A lot of us have chronicled ocean depletion over the years," said Boris Worm, a marine ecologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a co-author of a paper published Wednesday in Nature.

"A lot of us, recently, have seen signs of hope. Not to say that the world is getting better wholesale. But there are now hundreds and hundreds of examples that when we do something, the ocean displays remarkable resilience."

Worm and his 14 international co-writers take care to list the formidable challenges that the world's oceans face.

At least one-third of fish stocks are over-harvested. A similar fraction of crucial marine habitat has been lost.

The seas continue to get warmer, more acidic, more oxygen-deprived and more polluted. Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is added every year.

But the paper concludes local and regional conservation efforts are adding up.

Commercial fishing pressure is starting to decline. Controls on fertilizer and sewage dumping instituted years ago are paying off.

In 2000, less than one per cent of the Earth's oceans had some form of legal protection. Now the figure is almost eight per cent — double that in Canada.

Nearly half of 124 marine mammal species are increasing, some significantly. The proportion of fish stocks that are fished sustainably increased to 68 per cent in 2012 from 60 per cent in 2000.

Species such as humpback whales have been restored to their historic baseline.

Particularly heartening is the rebirth of what Worm calls "marine infrastructure" — habitats such as mangrove swamps, kelp forests and seagrass beds that host much undersea life as well as provide important flood protection for coastal communities.

"Even habitat loss is less prevalent than it was before."

Worm said hundreds of examples worldwide prove that when governments, industry and communities decide to improve the oceans, they're successful.

"We see local efforts that lead to local improvements. We have global examples as well, species that are crossing international boundaries, that were close to extinction, that have rebounded — in some cases, manyfold."

Elephant seals, for example, are a thousand times more abundant than they once were.

Worm and his co-authors conclude that despite all the justified concern over the seas, their ecosystems could be substantially rebuilt by 2050. That's if — and it's a big if — governments and societies take the willingness they've already shown to address problems and focus it on a big issue: climate change.

"We need to do a bunch of things we've been doing all along. But we also have to really deal with climate change."



Parliament may need to be recalled again to approve wage subsidy program

Trudeau recalls Parliament

YouTube CPAC

UPDATE 9:06 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's planning to call Parliament back for another sitting to pass more measures to help the Canadian economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says approving perhaps the biggest social program in Canadian history needs to be a team effort.

Conservatives have pointed out that the emergency legislation Parliament has already passed didn't allow for the scale of the wage-subsidy program the Liberals are promising to help employers keep people on their payrolls.

The government has said that all companies will get 75 per cent of salaries covered, if they've lost 30 per cent of their revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's a departure from the original plan to cover just 10 per cent of salaries for small businesses.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is to provide more details on the wage subsidy, including the costs, this afternoon in Toronto, but Trudeau says the money will go to companies that aren't publicly funded.

He also says companies that receive the cash need to do whatever they can to pay the remaining 25 per cent of their employees' wages.


ORIGINAL 8:08 a.m.

Canadians are supposed to get more details today of the federal government's massive emergency wage subsidy program — a day later than promised.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Small Business Minister Mary Ng were to have held a news conference Tuesday to fill in the details of the program — including the multibillion-dollar price tag — but that was cancelled.

The pair, along with Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, are expected to try again today to explain the program, aimed at saving jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered businesses across the country.

A government official says the delay was simply a matter of trying to iron out all the fine print in a huge program that, in normal circumstances, would have taken months to put together.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, acknowledged that the government is also trying to sort out whether it will need to recall Parliament again to approve legislation to authorize the wage subsidy program.

Parliament, which has been adjourned since mid-March as part of the nationwide effort to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19, was recalled briefly last week to approve a $107-billion emergency aid package.

That package included a wage subsidy of just 10 per cent.

However, the day after the package was approved, the government announced a greatly enhanced wage subsidy program that will cover 75 per cent of an employee's wages, up to $58,700. That will amount to as much as $847 a week per employee.

Businesses, regardless of size, whose revenues have decreased by at least 30 per cent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are eligible for the subsidy, which is to be backdated to March 15.

TD Economics has previously estimated that the enhanced subsidy would cost about $25 billion, while RBC separately estimated its value at $28 billion.

The government is also expected to provide more details today on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a taxable benefit that is to provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the pandemic.

The benefit was included in last week's emergency aid package. At the time, the government said it hoped to have a portal for applications opened by April 6.

 



PM, Scheer among MPs to donate pay hike to charities

PM, Scheer donate raises

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer are among the MPs who are promising to donate an automatic increase in their salaries to charity, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the economy and puts thousands of Canadians out of work.

The raise goes into effect today, as does the latest increase in the federal carbon tax.

Trudeau has been under pressure to cancel both.

However, he has ruled out scrapping the planned increase in the carbon tax and there's nothing he can do about the salary hike without recalling Parliament, which has been adjourned until at least April 20 as part of the nation-wide bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Under legislation passed in 2005 to de-politicize parliamentarians' pay, salaries paid to MPs and senators increase automatically on April 1 each year, based on the average increase negotiated by major bargaining units in the private sector.

This year, MPs are entitled to a 2.1 per cent hike, which will increase their base salaries by just over $3,750 to $182,656.

By law, senators are paid $25,000 less than MPs. Hence, they'll each pull in a base salary of $157,656 this year, a 2.4 per cent hike.

The prime minister, leader of the Opposition, the Speakers in both chambers and others with additional duties receive extra, legislated amounts beyond their base salaries.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, the previous Conservative government froze parliamentarians' salaries for three years.

Asked Monday about a similar salary freeze now, Trudeau said: "I haven't heard the Parliament of Canada having those discussions, but I'm sure they will reflect on it now that you've asked the question."

A freeze would require legislation approved by Parliament, which has been adjourned since mid-March except for a brief day-long sitting last week to pass a bill freeing up billions in emergency aid to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.

It will likely stay adjourned long beyond the originally scheduled return date of April 20, although another emergency sitting could eventually be required, at which point MPs could also consider a pay freeze.

In the meantime, the salary hike is in effect. So, MPs from all parties are vowing to turn over their pay boost to charities and non-profit organizations working to cushion the impact of the national health emergency.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said Trudeau will give his pay boost to non-profit organizations in his Montreal riding.

Similarly, a spokeswoman for Scheer said the Regina-based Opposition leader intends to give his pay increase to "a local charity who is working hard to support Canadians affected by COVID-19."



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