Canadians head into a May long weekend unlike any in recent memory

The latest:

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. 

Plans for gradually reopening businesses and recreational activities in the coming days and weeks vary by province and territory, but all are asking people to continue physical distancing measures amid the fight to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Most provinces and territories are asking people to resist the urge to travel or hold gatherings they would have in years past.   

On Thursday, B.C. Parks reopened facilities such as trails, 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. 

In Alberta, retail stores, hair salons, museums, daycares and day camps were allowed to open, with restrictions, across much of the province, amid warnings from the province’s chief medical officer that reopening did not mean going back to normal. 

Calgary and Brooks, however, which account for the majority of the active cases in Alberta, were told by the province to hold back, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Thursday. 

Barber Salim Alhaj cuts the hair of a client in Airdrie, Alta., on Thursday. Many services, such as hairdressing, were allowed to reopen across much of the province, but not in Calgary, where there are still many cases of COVID-19. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“Please, please, please, please don’t let up now,” Nenshi said. “Be safe, stay kind. Together we’ll save lives.” 

Ontario announced details of its first stage of reopening on Thursday. Beginning on Tuesday, retail stores outside of shopping malls that have street entrances will be allowed to open.

But “businesses should open only if they’re ready,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned, saying the province will be watching the COVID-19 case numbers closely. “We cannot let our guard down now.”

Golf courses, marinas and private parks will be allowed to open a few days earlier, on Saturday. 

Members of the grounds crew do maintenance as they prepare the opening of a golf course in Milton, Ont. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ontarians must continue to be in contact only with members of their own households, the provincial government said. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province was studying when that restriction could change, as well as when religious gatherings might resume. 

Montreal continues to be the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. The city has recorded more than 20,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths. 

On Thursday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced schools in the Montreal area won’t be reopening until the fall. Elementary schools in other parts of Quebec, 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. Public health experts say such neighbourhoods tend to be densely populated, and more residents work in front-line jobs — such as health care or grocery stores — where they are more likely to be exposed to illness.

In New Brunswick and in Newfoundland and Labrador, families are allowed 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. 

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. 

Federal emergency wage subsidy program extension

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to provide details on Friday about extending the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy, which pays for up to 75 per cent of the payroll for eligible companies. 

The $73-billion program was initially scheduled to run until June 6. The program pays up to $847 per employee to help employers — who are facing plummeting revenues due to pandemic measures — keep their workers for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data estimates the total number of jobs lost during the crisis at more than three million.

WATCH | At Issue: The politics of pandemic spending:

The At Issue panel discusses the political and economic costs of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the calls for more fiscal transparency. Plus in this extended edition, the panellists look at the concerns about fraudulent CERB claims. 15:20

As of Friday morning, Canada had 73,401 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 36,104 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 5,576.

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 other provinces and territories:

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. 

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has laid out the basics on what will be expected of child-care providers when they reopen. “We know that we have to change how we deliver programs. Also, where some of these programs have been traditionally delivered will need to change as well,” the premier said. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

The Northwest Territories could begin the first phase of its reopening plan — which includes allowing some businesses to reopen and small indoor gatherings — as soon as Friday, officials said. 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 morning, there were more than 4.4 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 more than 302,490 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, France, Spain, Brazil, Belgium, Germany and Iran. 

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