Canada, U.S. governments closer to COVID-19 funding: Latest updates

The latest:

Lawmakers in both Canada and the United States are closer to getting funding flowing to people affected by the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Canada, the Liberal government won unanimous consent for its $82-billion package to aid Canadians after a day of negotiations. Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez tweeted early Wednesday morning that the House had adopted the COVID-19 emergency support. 

“It’s now up to the Senate,” the tweet said.

In the U.S., Senate leaders from both parties and the White House came to an agreement on a $2-trillion aid package late Tuesday.

The plan, which delivers aid for workers, businesses and the health-care system, came after days of arguing over how funding for large industries would be structured.

In the U.K., which recently implemented tougher stay-at-home measures to try and combat the virus, there’s another high-profile case of COVID-19. Prince Charles has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A spokesperson for Clarence House said he has displayed mild symptoms but otherwise is in good health, and has been working from home.

More than 425,000 people worldwide have been infected by the virus and almost 19,000 have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University case tracking system.

For most people, the novel coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. There is no proven vaccine or cure for the virus, which was first reported in China in late 2019.

It is the more severe cases — often requiring ventilators and specialized care — that threaten to overwhelm hospitals. Several countries are already running short of the critical equipment needed to treat patients and keep doctors and nurses safe. Doctors are dying in Italy, and Spain says 14 per cent of its infections are health-care workers.

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

Here’s what’s happening in Canada’s provinces and territories

In British Columbia, the top public health official says “no community” in the province is immune from the coronavirus. Dr. Bonnie Henry said there is circulation and risk across the province. Henry also said Tuesday that while case numbers are rising, she doesn’t believe B.C. is on the same trajectory as hard-hit Italy. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Officials in Alberta reported a second COVID-19 related death on Tuesday — a woman in her 80s who was living in a Calgary nursing home. “In long-term care and other continuing-care facilities, where some of our most vulnerable citizens reside, we have taken additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan is reporting its first known cases of community transmission of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including details from an internal document from the Saskatchewan Health Authority that details concerns about how the province’s health-care system will cope with the coronavirus.

Manitoba’s premier says the province is postponing non-urgent eviction hearings and freezing rent hikes for a period of weeks because of COVID-19 — but Brian Pallister said the measures “are not a rent holiday for the whole of the province.Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario reported its eighth death related to the coronavirus on Tuesday, as recorded provincial case numbers saw their biggest daily jump since the outbreak began. Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is in a “critical” week as more people return home from abroad. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including details around a plan to temporarily lower hydro rates.

Quebec saw another jump in case numbers Tuesday, an increase that’s explained at least in part by extended testing programs, a health expert says. Premier François Legault reminded people that the measures adopted to slow the spread of the virus — the closure of non-essential businesses and schools — are temporary, saying “we are all in this together.” In Montreal, public health officials are investigating after a homeless man who tested positive for COVID-19 was found in a line for food outside a mission. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick is stepping up its testing to include people with symptoms — even if they don’t have a travel history. Premier Blaine Higgs has been calling for a “national” plan to deal with the virus. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer is urging people to be honest about travel history. “People will receive the care they need no matter what their health issue is, but if you do not tell the truth about travel history, we cannot be alerted about the potential for COVID-19 and you’re quite frankly putting other people at risk, especially health-care workers,” said Dr. Robert Strang. Read more about what’s happening in N.S., which has also stepped up testing capacity.

Prince Edward Island’s government is working with a grocery store to offer gift cards to people struggling amid the COVID-19 crisis. The temporary program will give $100 gift cards to workers who are waiting for employment insurance after being laid off. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical health officer is reminding people who are sick to stay home — and urging the healthy to do the same barring essential trips. “To those that are healthy and well, unless it is necessary for you to get groceries and other essentials, please stay home,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yellowknife’s largest school board says schools will be closed  for the rest of the academic year. In Nunavut, there’s concern about what the COVID-19 closures mean for food security for children and the homeless. Read more about what’s happening in Canada’s North.

Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6:20 a.m. ET

The White House and Senate leaders of both major political parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation creating a $2 trillion US pandemic response measure.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. The deal still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done,” Ueland said. “We have a deal.”

The economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367-billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

WATCH | See why how you wash your hands matters: 

Using “glo germ,” a product that shows up under black light, Andrew Chang takes a first-hand look at how germs are transmitted, and how to wash them off our hands effectively. 7:03

At the White House on Tuesday, even as the public health crisis deepened, President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in the coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.

“We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought,” Trump told a Fox News town hall. He said he’d like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, April 12. But in a White House briefing later, Trump said that “our decision will be based on hard facts and data.”

Medical professionals say social distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections. At the White House briefing, public health authorities said it was particularly important for people in the hard-hit New York City metropolitan area to quarantine themselves for 14 days and for those who have recently left the city to do the same.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said pointedly at the briefing: “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”

Light morning traffic is seen on the FDR on Tuesday in New York City, which is dealing with growing case numbers of COVID-19. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed that the Trump administration send thousands of ventilators to New York City — which needs 30,000 of them, he said — and demanded that Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

Fatalities in Italy surged on Tuesday, dashing hopes the epidemic was easing after more encouraging numbers in the previous two days.

France’s death toll is much higher than the official tally, which only accounts for those dying in hospitals and does not include those dying at home or in retirement homes, the head of the hospitals federation said. France’s Scientific Council has recommended that France’s home confinement, which began one week ago, should last at least six weeks in total. The recommendation was voiced to French President Emmanuel Macron during a special expert meeting on Tuesday.

In the U.K., more than 170,000 people signed up to help the National Health Service, and Parliament is set to suspend sitting for at least four weeks.

A woman sews handmade face masks at a workshop in northern Spain on Tuesday. Spain, like Italy before it, has seen a surge in cases. (Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

Nurses and doctors demanded action after Spain reported its sharpest daily increase in new cases on Tuesday and said about 14 per cent of the nearly 40,000 infections were among health-care workers.

In contrast to other European countries, Germany offered some hope that it has flattened the exponential spread of the virus, which has infected some 30,000 people. The death toll was relatively low at about 130, and Germany has even taken in patients from France and Italy for treatment.

Russia’s prime minister ordered provincial governors Wednesday to move more quickly to ready hospital beds for coronavirus patients as the outbreak has spread across the vast country. The government reported 658 cases of the novel coronavirus in Russia, up from 495 a day before. That marked a significantly bigger daily increase compared to the previous day, when the number of infections increased by several dozen.

The warning to governors came a day after the mayor of Moscow told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Russian regions weren’t acting energetically enough to prepare for the outbreak.

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