As COVID-19 public safety restrictions continue, the May long weekend that so many Canadians look forward to every year will be different than any other in recent memory.
Most provinces and territories are asking people to resist the urge to travel or hold gatherings they would have in years past, while the country’s chief public health officer is warning Canadians to be “smart” about how they enjoy the long weekend.
“The reality is that COVID-19 is still out there, and it will be with us for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Theresa Tam said at a Friday briefing, before reminding those who do choose to leave their homes to maintain physical distance and refrain from touching common surfaces.
“The right and safest way to go out is to go out smart.”
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam urges caution over May long weekend:
Nova Scotia announced it will ease more COVID-19 restrictions as it enters the long weekend. Two households consisting of immediate family members will be able to come together without physical distancing, while public beaches will be able to reopen as early as Saturday at 8 a.m. AT, but physical distancing will need to be observed and groups can be no larger than five people.
“You will have to figure out who, and you will have to promise you will be mutually exclusive,” Premier Stephen McNeil said during a news briefing on Friday.
“We want to reconnect families, but we can’t put anyone at risk. We need you to do it safely.”
New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are similarly allowing families to slightly relax their physical distancing measures over the holiday weekend thanks to recently implemented “double bubble” rules in which two households can agree to spend time together exclusively.
British Columbia has also begun to ease restrictions as case numbers level off in the province. On Friday, Premier John Horgan announced some children will return to classrooms on a part-time, voluntary basis beginning June 1. On Thursday, B.C. Parks reopened facilities including backcountry trails, beaches, picnic areas, washroom facilities and boat launches for day use.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized the need for British Columbians to stay local and avoid travelling during the long weekend, as new cases of coronavirus continued to appear.
“Let’s make this our summer of care and consideration for our families, our communities and our province. A summer for us all to remember to be kind, to be calm and to be safe,” she said in her Thursday media briefing.
Unlike B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador announced Friday that schools there will remain closed for the rest of the school year. A plan is in the works for September, Education Minister Brian Warr said, which will include various options, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic at that point in time.
Quebec Premier François Legault made a similar announcement on Thursday, saying schools in the Montreal area won’t be reopening until the fall. Elementary schools in other parts of Quebec, though, where the number of cases is much lower than in the province’s largest city, started up again on Monday.
Low-income neighbourhoods in Montreal have been especially hard hit, while the province continues to struggle with outbreaks in nursing homes. On Friday, CBC News learned that five members of the Canadian military tested positive for COVID-19 after serving in Quebec long-term care centres.
Soldiers are currently providing support to 25 such residences, after the Canadian Armed Forces deployed nearly all of its medical capacity to support them.
April home sales plunge to lowest level in 36 years
The economic uncertainty, lockdowns and physical distancing measures inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic put a dramatic chill on Canada’s residential real estate market in April — a time when sales normally tend to heat up, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday.
It was the worst April for home sales since 1984, the association said, but still didn’t have a significant effect on average home prices.
Emergency wage subsidy extended until end of August
The federal government’s emergency wage-subsidy program will be extended until the end of August to help employers keep their workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
The $73 billion wage-subsidy program, which covers 75 per cent of an eligible company’s payroll up to a maximum of $847 per week per employee, was originally set to expire next month.
“You have some runway to catch your breath as you get restarted,” said Trudeau in his prepared remarks. “So please, bring back your workers.”
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data estimates that more than three million jobs have been lost during the COVID-19 crisis.
WATCH | At Issue: The politics of pandemic spending:
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer criticized the government’s response to the pandemic, saying Friday that the prime minister has been dodging the opposition’s calls to reconvene Parliament for in-person sittings.
Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Scheer said the current practice of virtual meetings has run its course. He argued that as provinces begin to reopen and relax restrictions as the COVID-19 infection curve flattens, the House of Commons should reopen as well.
“Mr. Trudeau should not be using a health pandemic to avoid accountability and oversight, and should not be eliminating the role of the peoples’ representatives,” Scheer said.
He said the opposition has serious concerns about abuses of the emergency relief benefit program and what he called an “inflexible” commercial rent assistance program, and Trudeau should personally face his critics.
As of Friday at 5:50 p.m. ET, Canada had 74,599 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 36,885 of those considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of COVID-19 deaths based on provincial health data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 5,659.
While most cases of coronavirus are mild or moderate, some people — particularly the elderly or those with underlying health issues — are at higher risk of severe disease or death. There are no proven vaccines or treatments for the novel coronavirus, which causes an illness called COVID-19.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories:
On Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador marked its eighth straight day without new cases. “This is no small feat, and serves as a good reminder of what we can achieve by working together,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said at Friday’s daily briefing. Read more about what’s happeneing in N.L.
Nova Scotia is entering the second phase of reopening, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang announced Friday. The province is introducing an immediate-family bubble, which would let two households come together without physical distancing.
Friday also marks the opening of lobster season. But fishermen are setting their traps amid concerns that COVID-19 has depressed the market through decreased demand and reduced capacity of plants to process lobster where physical distancing on the line could cut into how much they can produce. On Thursday, the federal government pledged close to $470 million to support fish harvesters.
WATCH | Lobster fishermen must learn how to physically distance on a small boat:
New Brunswick‘s chief medical officer of health has announced that another person has recovered from COVID-19 in the province. It has been nine days since the province has reported any new cases. But Dr. Jennifer Russell is reminding the public to protect themselves over the upcoming long weekend by keeping to their respective two-family-household bubbles and following physical distance guidelines. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick.
P.E.I.’s plan to launch Phase 3 of its ease-back plan will be expedited to an expected start of June 1 from June 12, said Premier Dennis King during an afternoon media briefing Friday. Read More about what’s happening in P.E.I.
The Quebec government is donating one million masks to the greater Montreal region and $6 million in funding for public transit in the region, Premier François Legault announced Friday. Meanwhile, four Canadian soldiers serving in Quebec long-term care homes have tested positive for COVID-19, as did one soldier assisting with long-term care homes in Ontario. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed news of the infections at his Friday morning media availability but did not provide details.
“There are always risks in what they do and they go into that knowingly and willingly, and that is why we offer them our deepest gratitude every day,” Trudeau said. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
Watch | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacts to military cases of COVID-19:
Ontario‘s Health Minister Christine Elliott reported a “glitch” in the province’s COVID-19 reporting Friday, which caused some new cases to be missed in yesterday’s update. At the province’s daily news briefing Friday afternoon, Elliott said the problem arose when cases out of Toronto weren’t uploaded into Ontario’s system. That finding comes a day after the province announced plans for the first phase of reopening. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including how Toronto extended the cancellation of major festivals and called off all city-run summer camps and recreation programs on Friday.
No new cases were reported in Manitoba on Friday for the fourth day in a row. While the numbers remain low in the province, there is still a worry about re-importation of the virus, especially if people start travelling this long weekend, said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer.
He is urging everyone to be “COVID careful” and continue to stay at home despite the warm weather that’s moving in. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
First Nations residents of northern Saskatchewan say highway bans and checkpoints put in place to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between different areas of the province has created a double standard and alienated them. Some residents say that although they’re supposed to be allowed to leave their communities for essentials such as shopping, that hasn’t happened — leaving them unable to access affordable groceries and supplies only available at larger stores in southern towns and cities.
Eight more cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province on Friday, all of them in the far north region. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Alberta is relaxing restrictions around outdoor gatherings, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Friday. Outdoor gatherings can now consist of as many as 50 people, as long as members of different households stay two metres apart.
Earlier, Hinshaw said the province should know within a week if yesterday’s reopening of bars, restaurants and some other businesses in most areas will lead to a surge in new cases. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Some students in British Columbia will head back to classrooms starting on June 1, Premier John Horgan announced on Friday. The return will be voluntary, and schools reopening next month will have to abide by rigorous cleaning procedures and follow provincial health guidelines, he said. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
The Northwest Territories is entering the first phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan, affecting both indoor and outdoor gatherings, as well as the reopening of some businesses. Read more about what’s happening across the North, including a story about a drop in emergency room visits in Yukon.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world:
As of Friday at 1:45 p.m ET, there were more than 4.5 million confirmed cases of coronvirus around the world, according to a database tracking system maintained by the coronavirus resource centre at Johns Hopkins University. A quarter of those cases (more than 1.4 million) were in the United States.
According to the tracking system, COVID-19 has killed nearly 305,000 people globally. It says the 10 most affected countries at this time, based on the reported number of deaths, are the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Belgium, Germany and Iran.
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