Officials in British Columbia announced plans for the province to reopen on Wednesday, as Premier John Horgan outlined what he called “B.C.’s restart plan.”
As of next weekend, gatherings with two to six guests will be allowed. Parts of the economy will also be reopened beginning in mid-May, such as dental care, physiotherapy and chiropractic, scheduled surgeries, outpatient services, diagnostic testing and imaging services. The goal, according to public health officials, is to allow for a return to about 60 per cent of normal interactions, without causing a surge in infections.
Horgan’s announcement comes days after several other provinces began lifting restrictions put in place to respond to the novel coronavirus.
As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 63,496 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 28,184 of those cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial data, local public health information and CBC’s reporting listed a total of 4,348 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada, with another two deaths of Canadians abroad.
B.C. accounts for 2,255 of the known coronavirus cases, and the CBC tally has recorded 124 deaths in the province.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, issued a joint statement Tuesday saying a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness called COVID-19, could be 18 months away.
“Until that time, we must continue to hold the line on COVID-19, even as we gradually ease some restrictions. This is the balance that we must find together,” the statement said.
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There is no proven treatment or vaccine for the novel virus, which was first reported in China and has since spread around the world, sparking major public health restrictions and stay-at-home orders to try and slow the spread of the disease. While most cases are mild to moderate, some result in severe disease or death.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that overall, Canada is seeing “a continual slowing down of the epidemic,” though she noted the variability between provinces. Tam said even as some restrictions are eased, it’s essential that people continue to practise good hand hygiene, physical distancing and staying at home when sick.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia Premier John Horgan announced the province’s plans to reopen on Wednesday, allowing small gatherings starting next weekend. Some parts of the economy will also be allowed to reopen, Horgan announced, along with provincial parks. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported 70 new cases and six deaths on Wednesday, bringing its total to 5,963 cases and 112 deaths. Also Alberta Health Services is spending $4.5 million on technology and equipment in an effort to more than double the province’s testing capacity. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said testing is “essential to our province’s relaunch strategy.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
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In Saskatchewan, health officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Saskatoon milk plant after a worker tested positive. A spokesperson for the plant said the company learned this past Sunday about the employee being potentially infected, and no other workers have since tested positive. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including reaction from farmers about the federal government’s agricultural funding announcement.
Manitoba on Wednesday reported two new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 284 — 273 confirmed, 11 probable. Both of the new cases were at a business in Manitoba’s Prairie Mountain Health region, which had previously seen five people infected with the virus. The business is not a health-care facility or food-supply company, and doesn’t have significant interaction with the public. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin declined to name the company for privacy reasons. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario, which reported 412 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, will relax some of its restrictions in the days ahead. Premier Doug Ford said the province, moving with “cautious optimism,” will allow garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores to reopen so long as they adhere to the same public health measures currently in place at grocery stores. “We have seen in other jurisdictions that moving too fast, ignoring the advice given on this virus and even giving it an inch can set us back,” Ford said. “So we will move cautiously.” Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where the government has faced questions about coronavirus testing.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> infection and hospitalization rates are higher in Toronto neighbourhoods with “a greater proportion of low-income earners, recent immigrants and high unemployment rates,” according to preliminary data from <a href=”https://twitter.com/TOPublicHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TOPublicHealth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/7cLaxJ8w7i”>https://t.co/7cLaxJ8w7i</a>
As Quebec‘s elementary school teachers gear up to head back to the classroom in much of the province, deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault said it’s natural for them to be anxious about COVID-19, but anyone younger than 70 has little to worry about.
“Teachers are worried about their health, and that’s understandable,” said Guilbault at a provincial briefing Wednesday. “That’s why we wanted to clarify … public health now says that the age of risk is 70, and not 60,” as previously stated. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including the latest developments in the provinces hard-hit long-term care homes.
New Brunswick’s chief medical officer announced one new case in the province, bringing the total active cases to two. Dr. Jennifer Russell said that case, which is in the Saint John area, resulted after the person came into contact with someone in Ontario with COVID-19.
Earlier Wednesday, Russell told CBC News Network that people in the province have done good work slowing the spread of the virus, but cautioned that “nobody should be complacent’ at this point. “We are going to be living with COVID-19 for 18 to 24 months until there’s a vaccine,” she said. “We’re pretty much past mile one of a 26-mile marathon.”
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Nova Scotia reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 998 confirmed cases. No new deaths were reported today, leaving the province’s total at 41. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.
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Prince Edward Island had no new COVID-19 cases to report again on Wednesday. The update comes as Premier Dennis King said that businesses planning to reopen must have an operational plan that keeps staff and customer safety top of mind. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador health officials on Wednesday said there were no new coronavirus cases in the province for the fifth day in a row. The development comes a day after top health official Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the province is closely watching case numbers after recently allowing families to create “bubbles” of two households. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Nunavut’s government has reversed plans to ask residents to pay for their own quarantine. Starting May 7, the government was going to ask residents to pay for their own mandatory two-week stay in a southern hotel before they could come home. That cost, to be paid in advance, was $2,100 for one person and another $1,050 for each additional person, but Premier Joe Savikataaq said Wednesday that is no longer the plan. Read more about what’s happening in the North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 5 p.m. ET
U.S. President Donald Trump, with his eye on being re-elected in November, is pushing hard to ease state stay-at-home orders and resuscitate the U.S. economy, which has seen more than 30 million workers lose their jobs in less than two months.
After questions emerged about its future, Trump tweeted Wednesday that the coronavirus task force will continue with a focus on vaccines and therapeutics, Then, at a White House event later in the day, he said he would announce new members of the task force by Monday.
On Tuesday, Vice-President Mike Pence said the White House coronavirus task force could wind down its work by early June.
Trump, while visiting a factory in Arizona, said Pence and the task force “have done a great job.”
“But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.” Asked if he was proclaiming “mission accomplished” in the fight against the coronavirus, Trump said, “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.”
The U.S. has seen over 71,000 deaths amid its 1.2 million infections, and Europe has endured over 144,000 reported coronavirus deaths. A number of states saw a record increase in cases on Tuesday, including Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin. Minnesota has set a new record for cases nine out of the last 14 days, including 728 new cases on Wednesday.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the national debate over when to reopen ultimately boils down to the value placed on people’s lives.
“The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost — but the higher the human cost, because the more lives lost,” he said. “That, my friends, is the decision we are really making.”
White House guidelines say the number of new cases must be trending downward for 14 days and that vastly expanded coronavirus testing and other safeguards must be put in place before the partial shutdowns can be phased out.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she does not believe Trump should pivot to reopening at the expense of emphasizing the need for more testing.
“If you undermine science, if you underfund testing, if you exaggerate the opportunity that is out there for the economy at the risk of people dying, that’s not a plan,” Pelosi told MSNBC.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Defence said it has signed a $126 million US contract with industrial conglomerate 3M Co. to produce 26 million face masks per month, starting in October.
3M is expected to increase N95 mask production by at least 312 million annually within the next 12 months, the department said.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 4 p.m. ET
The European Union predicted Wednesday “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus with a drop in output of more than seven per cent, as it released its first official forecast of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.
The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5 per cent this year, before growing by about six per cent in 2021. The group of 19 nations using the euro as their currency will see a record decline of 7.75 per cent this year, and grow by 6.25 per cent in 2021, the European Commission said in its spring economic forecast.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization warned Wednesday of the risks of returning to lockdown if countries emerging from pandemic restrictions do not manage transitions “extremely carefully and in a phased approach.”
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus listed a series of steps needed before countries lift measures designed to control the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease, such as surveillance controls and health system preparedness.
At the same time, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said the agency was discussing a further “academic” mission to China to look at the origins of the virus.
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More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and over 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Unclear outbreak data, low testing rates and the strain on health-care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday announced a range of steps agreed to with Germany’s 16 federal state leaders to ease the coronavirus lockdown, saying the first phase of the pandemic had passed, although there was still a long way to go.
“We are at a point where our goal of slowing the spread of the virus has been achieved and we have been able to protect our health system … so it has been possible to discuss and agree on further easing measures,” Merkel told reporters. People from two households will be allowed to meet and more shops will open, provided hygiene measures are in place, but guidelines on keeping a distance of 1.5 metres and wearing mouth and nose masks on public transit remain.
Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 369 on Wednesday, against just 236 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said. The daily tally of new infections also rose, increasing by 1,444, against 1,075 on Tuesday. The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 29,684, the agency said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says that his government will declare a national state of mourning for the more than 25,800 recorded deaths the European nation has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sanchez is appearing before Spain’s parliament on Wednesday to ask for a fourth two-week extension of the state of emergency that has allowed his government to apply a strict lockdown that has reined in a savage COVID-19 outbreak. It appears he will have the support despite losing the backing of the main opposition party.
Spanish health authorities reported 244 new deaths over the previous 24 hours on Wednesday, taking the toll of virus fatalities to 25,857. The figures, which are in line with the overall slowdown of the outbreak in Spain, don’t include thousands more who have died in nursing homes before they could be tested.
The Netherlands will begin easing coronavirus lockdown measures next week nearly two months after they were imposed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday. The phasing out of the restrictions will be rolled out over the next four months, and could be curbed if the disease starts spreading more quickly, Rutte warned.
“Steps to slowly open the economy and public life will give our country the space to look forward and make plans for the future. We will do that as quickly as possible, but it is better to be safe now than sorry later,” he said.
France’s government is warning the French that they shouldn’t expect to travel far for their vacations this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a deputy minister at the French Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday that the external borders of Europe’s visa-free Schengen area, incorporating 26 nations, will remain closed “for several weeks, for several months.”
He said that for summer vacationers, “a trip of several thousand kilometres is, for sure, excluded.”
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Britain’s health secretary said Wednesday that national lockdown rules were “for everyone,” after one of the government’s key scientific advisers quit for receiving secret visits from his girlfriend amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson developed models that predicted hundreds of thousands would die unless the U.K. imposed drastic restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His advice was key in triggering Britain’s lockdown in March. Under the rules, people are barred from visiting friends and family that they don’t live with.
Ferguson quit the government’s scientific advisory panel late Tuesday after the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that a woman he is in a relationship with had crossed London to visit him at his home.
Iceland has all but eliminated the coronavirus outbreak, as 97 per cent of infected patients have recovered, and only two new cases have been confirmed in the past week, the government said in a statement Wednesday.
“We have been pleasantly surprised to see a very fast deceleration of the pandemic in Iceland. However, it is extremely important to remain vigilant and minimize the risk of a renewed outbreak,” chief epidemiologist Thorolfur Gudnason said in a statement.
Iceland has performed tests on 51,663 inhabitants, or more than 14 per cent of its people overall — a greater proportion than almost any other country, thanks in part to its small population.
Russia reported more than 10,500 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the national total over 165,000, including about 1,500 deaths. The country’s health officials have been reporting more than 10,000 new cases for the fourth day in a row. The caseload is likely to be much higher as not everyone is being tested, and many people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms.
Russia has been in lockdown since late March, with the vast majority of regions requiring residents to stay at home and suspending operation of most businesses. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the lockdown until May 11.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has shot up 42 per cent in the week ending Tuesday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
The number of cases is expected to surpass 50,000 later Wednesday, and the number of deaths could top 2,000. All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, has reported virus cases.
The World Health Organization has warned that Africa could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. Severe shortages of testing kits mean the number of actual cases across the continent is unknown.
In Somalia, aid groups are warning that the number of virus cases is far higher than the 835 reported. The country has one of the world’s weakest health systems. Twelve African nations now have more than 1,000 confirmed cases.
Nigeria will extend a ban on all flights by four weeks as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a government official told reporters on Wednesday.
Israel’s Health Ministry, seeking to avoid a second wave of infections, said it plans to conduct 100,000 antibody tests to determine how widespread the coronavirus outbreak has been.
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India was concentrated on the situation around the market in the southern city of Chennai, which is now tied to at least 1,000 virus cases. Another 7,000 people connected to now-shuttered Koyambedu market are being traced and quarantined. Experts are worried about a potential health catastrophe in a country of 1.3 billion people and a medical system strained even in the best of times.
COVID-19 has set Indonesia’s poverty eradication efforts back by a decade, its finance minister said on Wednesday, after regional elections were postponed amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told parliament two million people had lost their jobs in the last six weeks in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
“All of our achievement in reducing the poverty rate between 2011 and 2020 is reversed,” Indrawati said.
South Korea reported no new cases in cities and towns Wednesday, with its only two new cases detected in airport screenings. The update brought its totals to 10,806 infections and 255 deaths. With few local cases recently, the country is relaxing physical distancing and preparing to reopen schools starting next week.
Imported cases have declined as authorities stepped up border controls. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said preventing hospitals in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area from being overwhelmed would be key to preventing a second wave of infections.
The capital of Brazil’s tropical Maranhao state ground largely to a halt Tuesday due to the pandemic, as the mayor of the northwest city of Manaus issued an online appeal for help.
“We are doing our best, but I tell you, it’s still very little in face of the oncoming barbarism. We can’t be silent. We need all possible help.”
At the same time, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s spokesperson Otavio do Rego Barros tested positive for the coronavirus, raising further questions about the president’s exposure.
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