Canada hit another grim milestone in the COVID-19 crisis today, with the number of deaths exceeding 3,000. As of early afternoon, there were 3,054 deaths, and 51,230 cases.
The news came just after Manitoba became the latest province to release details on how it plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions and restart some sectors of the economy, with Premier Brian Pallister saying people will be dealing with a “new” normal as officials try to prevent a “COVID comeback.”
Pallister said some restrictions will be lifted beginning May 4. Non-urgent health care, ranging from dentistry and physiotherapy to elective surgery, will be allowed to operate again. Rules around outdoor recreation will also be loosened, though physical distancing will still be important, the premier said.
Some retail businesses — including clothing stores, restaurant patios and hair salons — will also be allowed to reopen.
“We must remain vigilant, and we must remain committed — we do not want a COVID comeback.”
In all cases, Pallister said, businesses will need to follow public health guidelines and ensure a safe experience for both staff and customers.
WATCH | Manitoba premier’s update on COVID-19 measures:
Premier Brian Pallister gives update on COVID-19 measures <a href=”https://t.co/2i5jWvXqtb”>https://t.co/2i5jWvXqtb</a>
A statement about the plan from the province stressed that the return plan is gradual, and public health measures will still be key. Even as some restrictions are lifted, the province said some measures — including travel advisories, a cap on gatherings of more than 10 people, and physical distancing measures remain in place.
Pallister said health officials may look at the cap on group gatherings, but he cautioned that large-scale events like festivals and concerts aren’t likely anytime soon.
As for schools, Pallister said Manitoba is in the “early days” of the COVID-19 recovery and the presence of a large number of kids in a school makes social distancing a challenge. The province “isn’t entertaining” the idea of opening schools at this time, he said.
The second phase, which would include more personal services and indoor dining rooms, doesn’t have a firm date attached, but the province said it would be no sooner than June 1.
Pallister’s move came a day after Quebec announced that some businesses in the hard-hit province will be reopening in May, with Premier François Legault saying the challenge is to “gradually restart the economy without restarting the pandemic.”
Canada has more than 50,000 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with more than 3,000 COVID-19-related deaths, according to a CBC News tally based on provincial data, local health information and CBC’s reporting. Quebec accounts for 26,594 of the cases and 1,761 deaths.
Legault outlined a plan that would allow some retail, construction and manufacturing operations to resume at some point next month. But the premier emphasized that the reopening of some businesses doesn’t mean that people should be congregating in groups or ignoring public health guidelines.
He also stressed the importance of continuing to protect the vulnerable, particularly those living in the province’s long-term care homes, which have seen devastating and deadly outbreaks.
Quebec’s announcement came the same day as a briefing by federal health officials on revised projections on how the coronavirus pandemic might unfold in Canada. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the latest data indicates that the country’s epidemic growth is slowing. The number of cases in Canada was doubling every three days early in the epidemic, officials said. The number is now doubling every 16 days.
Even as she noted the progress and acknowledged the highly regional nature of the outbreaks, Tam was quick to note that the pandemic is far from over.
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Prince Edward Island, which has just 27 cases (with 24 considered recovered) also outlined its initial reopening plan on Tuesday. The small province is taking a phased approach — and like Saskatchewan and Quebec, it has attached specific dates to some early stages.
On May 1, P.E.I. will allow non-urgent health care to resume, a move that covers everything from cancer screenings to optometrist visits. There will also be some loosening of social restrictions, as non-related groups of up to five people will be allowed to visit — provided they are outside and at least two metres apart.
Phase 2, which allows small indoor and slightly larger outdoor gatherings, as well as more business openings, is set for May 22. Phase 3, which allows even larger gatherings and reopens some personal services, recreation facilities and restaurants in a limited way, is set for June 12. There’s no date attached to Phase 4, which the province describes as the “new normal” for P.E.I.
“We need to be cautious, we need to be careful and we need to be methodical,” P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said. “There are no programs to bring people back from the dead.”
Alberta is expected to outline its reopening plan later this week, though the precise timing is not yet clear.
“Some of this we’re going to have to make final decisions as we get closer to them, based on how well we do,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday. “But I do hope that we will be able to begin reopening aspects of social and economic life that have currently been suspended in the month of May.”
Ontario’s recently revealed plan has a detailed framework outlining what needs to happen before restrictions can be lifted, but Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly described the plan as a roadmap, not a calendar.
The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in China in late 2019, causes an illness called COVID-19. Health officials have said most people who contract the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms, but have cautioned that older people and those with underlying health issues face a greater risk of severe illness or death.
There are no proven treatments or vaccines for the virus, though teams of researchers around the world are frantically working to find answers.
As of 6 a.m. ET on Wednesday, there were more than 3.1 million known cases of the coronavirus around the world, with more than 217,000 deaths, according to a case tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories, the U.S. and around the world.
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia reported 55 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 2,053 cases. But Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said most new cases are connected to known outbreaks. Hospitalizations, however, were down. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta released updated modelling about how the pandemic is expected to unfold in the province, and the premier said the new information suggests public health measures like physical distancing have been working. “While we are a ways off from returning to our normal way of life, we are working as a government around the clock on our phased approach to relaunch,” Jason Kenney said. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including how the pandemic is impacting the response to the devastating flooding in Fort McMurray.
Health officials in Saskatchewan, where officials recently outlined a reopening plan, reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The provincial total sits at 366, with 291 of those infected having recovered. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including details around revised COVID-19 projections.
Manitoba’s top doctor says data will guide the province’s strategy to reopen, which is set to be released Wednesday. Dr. Brent Roussin said the plan to ease restrictions will take a “cautious” approach. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario is expanding eligibility for childcare in the province. Education Minister Steven Lecce says along with frontline health care workers, people who work in grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as other essential workers, may now access childcare. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s school boards are working to come up with plans to allow primary students back to class while respecting the guidelines set out by the province, which include measures around keeping kids physically separated. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including a warning from the Montreal mayor that the summer will not be what people are used to.
New Brunswick is not allowing temporary foreign workers to enter the province in a bid to lower COVID-19 risks. Premier Blaine Higgs urged foreign workers already in the province and residents to step up and fill vacancies, but an agricultural organization is speaking out against the plan, saying finding enough people locally and training them safely during a pandemic will prove challenging. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia schools will be closed until at least May 19. Classes had been set to resume next week, but officials extended the closure due to ongoing concern about COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 — its first since mid-April. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the latest case is a man in his 50s and is related to international travel. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I, including full details around its newly released reopening plan.
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Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving the provincial total at 258. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, said four people remain in hospital with two of them in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in N.L
Officials in Yukon are looking at a plan around reopening, but don’t yet have a target date. “If we move too quickly, or without understanding the necessary planning and co-ordination, we risk increasing the spread of COVID-19 in our territory,” Premier Sandy Silver said. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
What’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 9:40 a.m. ET
The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8 per cent annual rate last quarter as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country and began triggering a recession that will end the longest expansion on record.
The Commerce Department estimated Wednesday that the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, posted a quarterly drop for the first time in six years. And it was the sharpest fall since the economy shrank at an 8.4 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2008 in the depths of the Great Recession.
The drop in the January-March quarter will be only a precursor of a far grimmer GDP report to come on the current April-June period, with business shutdowns and layoffs striking with devastating force.
In just a few weeks, businesses across the country have shut down and laid off tens of millions of workers. Factories and stores are shuttered, home sales are falling, households are slashing spending and consumer confidence is sinking.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll climbed above 58,000 on Tuesday, surpassing the loss of American life from the Vietnam War, as Florida’s governor met with President Donald Trump to discuss an easing of economic restraints.
The number of known U.S. coronavirus infections has now passed the one million mark. The actual count is believed to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity, leaving many infections unrecorded.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, among the latest to lock down his state against the pandemic, has been weighing whether to join other states in a relaxation of workplace restrictions and stay-at-home orders that have been credited with slowing the contagion but which have battered the economy.
DeSantis’s meeting at the White House came as Florida reported its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus, and two days before Florida’s stay-at-home order was due to expire.
Speaking to reporters with Trump in the Oval Office, DeSantis said he would announce a plan on Wednesday for a “phase one” loosening of restrictions on economic activity.
Declining to give details, DeSantis called the plan a “small step,” saying, “we’re going to approach it in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way.”
Despite a high proportion of elderly residents, who are especially vulnerable to the virus, and having waited until early April to lock down its economy, Florida has averted the worst of the health crisis seen in other states such as New York and New Jersey.
Still, Florida would become the most populous of about a dozen states forging ahead with economic reopenings despite a lack of wide-scale virus testing and the means to trace close contacts of newly infected individuals, as recommended in White House guidelines on April 16.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 9:55 a.m. ET
With 325 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus, Spain on Wednesday saw a slight rebound in fatalities for a total of 24,275 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Infections stand at over 212,000, although the Health Ministry’s figure only includes the cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests that are not being conducted massively. Authorities want to come out from a near total freeze of social and economic life in stages and at different speeds depending on how its provinces and islands respond to the health crisis.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday announced his plan and called it “a road to a new normal,” but one “without a GPS system.”
Individual exercise will be allowed from Saturday, as well as haircuts and other personalized services with an appointment. In most places, some shops will open on May 11, and socializing will be permitted in outdoor cafes, bars, as well as services in churches and mosques at one third of their capacity.
Masked and keeping their distance, French auto workers are returning to factory floors at Toyota and Renault in a cautious move toward reviving the virus-battered economy.
Renault restarted assembly lines Tuesday for its Zoe electric cars at a plant in Flins outside Paris, though only a quarter of staff is allowed in so far. The company — which is negotiating with the French government for billions of euros in potential bailout funds — has resumed some activity at plants in China, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Romania, but work remains halted in India, Latin America and most facilities in its home country of France.
France’s death toll closed in on 24,000, as its prime minister detailed the government’s plan to start unwinding the lockdown.
The coronavirus pandemic will plunge Germany’s economy into its deepest recession since the Second World War, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Wednesday as the government cut its economic growth forecast for this year.
“We’re facing major challenges, both economically and politically,” Altmaier told reporters in Berlin, presenting the government’s updated growth forecast for Europe’s largest economy.
Berlin cut its estimate for gross domestic product growth in 2020 to –6.3 per cent from +1.1 per cent predicted in January. It expects the recession to bottom out in the second quarter and economic activity to pick up again after that.
Altmaier warned that authorities should not rush to ease the lockdown measures as this would increase the risk of a second wave of infections, which could hamper the expected economic recovery in the second half of the year.
Russia’s nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus cases neared the 100,000 mark on Wednesday after 5,841 new cases of the virus were registered overnight along with a record daily rise in the death toll. Russia, the world’s largest country by territory, has been on lockdown since President Vladimir Putin announced the closure of most public spaces in late March.
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The southern Swedish city of Lund says it is spreading stinking chicken manure on the grounds of a central park to discourage a public celebration there on Thursday. It’s traditionally a big festive day among Swedish students and youth.
Gustav Lindblad from Lund’s environmental committee told Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan that “we get the opportunity of fertilizing the lawns in the park and, at the same time, it will stink and it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park.”
The city says up to 30,000 people from different parts of Sweden — mostly students from Lund University — have in previous years gathered in the Stadspark to celebrate Valborg, a spontaneous celebration that marks the arrival of spring for Swedes. Sweden has maintained a relatively relaxed approach to public restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak. But the government is strongly urging citizens to practise proper social distancing. A country of 10 million, Sweden has confirmed 19,621 coronavirus cases and 2,355 deaths.
The death toll in Iran rose by 71 in the past 24 hours to 5,877.
Public health officials in India have shelved their plan to administer hydroxychloroquine or HCQ, an untested anti-malarial, to thousands in Mumbai’s crowded slums as a way of preventing infections in healthy people.
Health officials in Mumbai said that the plan to “conduct a test” was still on the cards but had not yet been approved by the Indian government. For now, they will follow federal guidelines that say that the drug can only be used for “high-risk” groups: health-care workers taking care of COVID-19 patients, contacts of confirmed patients and those in quarantine centres.
A top health official in Pakistan said as many as 480 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus across the country.
“The safety of our front-line health workers is a matter of grave concern for us,” Zafar Mirza, who advises the prime minister on health issues, said at the military-backed National Command and Operations Centre in Islamabad. The centre was set up by the government recently amid increasing cases of coronavirus. There are now 15,289 recorded cases and 335 deaths.
Officials in Thailand’s capital city Bangkok say they are preparing to ease restrictions that were imposed to fight the spread of COVID-19, including the reopening of restaurants under strict conditions.
South Korean infectious disease experts have downplayed concerns that patients could get reinfected with the new coronavirus after fully recovering.
While hundreds in South Korea have tested positive again after their release from hospitals, Oh Myoung-don, who heads the country’s central clinical committee on new infectious diseases, told a news conference on Wednesday there was a “high possibility” that such test results were flawed.
He said South Korea’s standard real-time PCR tests, designed to amplify the genetic materials of the virus so that even tiny quantities are detected, doesn’t reliably distinguish between remains of dead virus and infectious particles. He said lab tests on animals suggest that COVID-19 patients would maintain immunity for at least a year after their infections.
He also said it was unlikely that the virus could be reactivated after remaining dormant when it doesn’t seem to be a type that causes chronic illnesses.
As of Tuesday, 277 people in South Korea tested positive for the virus for a second time after being diagnosed as recovered. Health authorities have tested some of their samples, but none so far have been successfully cultivated in isolation, indicating a loss of infectiousness.
Mexico reported 1,223 new cases and 135 deaths, while at least five of Mexico City’s largest private hospitals have filled up with COVID-19 patients and have no room for new ones.
The International Monetary Fund approved $3.4 billion US in emergency financial assistance for Nigeria, which is set to begin a phased and gradual lifting of restrictions in early May.
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