Alberta on Sunday became the latest province to announce extended school closures amid growing concern about the novel coronavirus. The closures came as Canada’s chief public health officer urged Canadians to “act now and act together.”
The statement from Dr. Theresa Tam comes ahead of another planned announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set for Monday afternoon.
Speaking Sunday, Tam reiterated the call to slow the spread of the virus, which first emerged in China and has since spread to more than 140 countries.
“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Tam said at a news conference. “We all need to act now.
COVID-19 is a serious public health threat.”
Tam repeated previous government messages about avoiding large public gatherings, practicing social distancing and avoiding travel outside of Canada. She also said Canadians returning from trips abroad should immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply self-monitoring.
The government has faced questions and criticism over how it was dealing with incoming international travellers. At her briefing on Sunday, Tam said that officials were considering additional screening questions.
On Monday, the Canada Border Services Agency said on Twitter that it is adding additional screening measures at all international airports.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>: New enhanced measures continue to be added at all of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Canada</a>’s international airports including these new screening questions for ALL travellers arriving from ANY international destination. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlattenTheCurve?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FlattenTheCurve</a> <a href=”https://t.co/kGZaDPt28N”>pic.twitter.com/kGZaDPt28N</a>
The Canada Border Services Agency said an employee at Toronto Pearson International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. The agency said it’s notifying all staff who may have come in contact with the patient.
The worker is currently in self-isolation, CBSA said. The agency didn’t say whether the person came in contact with travellers making their way through the airport.
There are more than 340 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country, with one known death linked to the virus. B.C. and Ontario — the only two provinces that are currently offering information on the number of people who have recovered — list a combined total of nine “resolved” cases.
In an interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon on Sunday, the prime minister said “nothing is off the table” as the government prepares its response to the growing outbreak.
When asked whether a broader, co-ordinated response is needed, Trudeau said federal, provincial and territorial governments are working together, particularly around science and public health. But he noted there would be different responses in different regions because of the way situations vary around the country.
“What might need to be done in Nunavut won’t necessarily work in Ontario,” he said Sunday.
WATCH: Chief public health officer says Canadians must act now to slow COVID-19 spread
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk from the coronavirus to the general public is low, but cautions that seniors, people with underlying health issues and individuals with compromised immune systems face a higher risk of “more severe” outcomes if they contract the virus.
Top officials with the WHO are urging countries around the world to take a “comprehensive” approach to the pandemic.
“Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said over the weekend.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.
In British Columbia, officials say testing for COVID-19 will focus on places where there is a cluster of cases, on health-care workers, and on people in hospital and long-term care facilities. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top health official, said not everyone needs to get tested, even if they have recently travelled outside of Canada. But Henry did ask that people who return to the province from outside the country self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta on Sunday joined the growing list of provinces closing schools to students for an extended period. “We will be indefinitely cancelling classes across the province,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said. The City of Calgary made its own move on Sunday, declaring a state of emergency that closes public facilities like rec centres, arenas and libraries. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer says schools in the province are staying open for now. Dr. Saqib Shahab said Sunday, “with the number of cases we have and the fact that they’re all travel-related, we really don’t think that there’s any reason to close schools anywhere in the province at this time.” Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba, which has seven presumptive and confirmed cases, says all of its reported cases to date are travel related. The province has four dedicated testing centres, which as of Sunday had seen 900 patients. A new testing centre is slated to open in Thompson, with more to come in rural areas this week. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Hospitals in Ontario are being asked to begin “carefully ramping down” elective surgeries. Health Minister Christine Elliott said over the weekend that the move will help preserve capacity to respond to COVID-19. Elliott said in a statement the approach will allow hospitals the discretion to make decisions based on “local circumstances” while also allowing “the province to take a more prescriptive approach, should it be warranted based on evidence.” All casinos in the province are being closed, and Metrolinx is reducing services starting later this week. In Ottawa, the city’s top doctor is recommending that people cancel events, and avoid going out for “non-essential” reasons, saying community transmission is likely taking place in the city. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario here.
Quebec ordered the closure of bars, clubs, gyms and movie theatres over the weekend. Spas and saunas are also being closed, the province said. Restaurants can stay open, but are being asked to operate at half capacity. “We have to give ourselves the best chance to slow the contagion over the next days,” Premier François Legault said on Sunday. The province, which had already announced the closure of schools, is also urging people to embrace social distancing and avoid going out for non-essential trips. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick’s top doctor is set to answer questions on call-in shows Monday morning as the province deals with five presumptive cases — and prepares for more. Over the weekend, Premier Blaine Higgs urged people not to call the 811 line with non-urgent questions about COVID-19, saying: “We need people to slow down and think about how they impact others if they are tying up an emergency service.” Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick.
Schools and daycares are closing for an extended period on P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the province is monitoring COVID-19 and will reassess the situation as needed. “If we make some good decisions now, it might help us in the weeks ahead,” she said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Nova Scotia is also closing schools and daycares for an extended period, with the premier cautioning that the closure could be extended. “Our No. 1 priority will be the public’s safety and the health [and] safety of Nova Scotians and their children,” Stephen McNeil said. The province has ordered more ventilators as the health system gears up for more cases, and health officials are calling for the preservation of some critical medical supplies, like N95 masks. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s officials say precautions like postponing large events will help limit the spread of the disease, which has one presumptive case and is preparing for more. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are not yet any confirmed cases in Canada’s north, but governments there are ramping up their efforts to get ahead of the virus. In the Northwest Territories, the top public health officer is urging anyone arriving in the territory from an international location to self-isolate. The City of Iqaluit is asking people not to travel to the city unless it’s necessary. Read more about what’s happening in Canada’s North.
Here’s a look at the latest numbers in Canada, which as of early Monday had 342 presumptive and confirmed cases. Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
- Ontario: at least 146 confirmed cases (five cases listed by province as resolved).
- British Columbia: 73 confirmed, including one death (four cases listed by province as resolved).
- Alberta: 56 confirmed.
- Quebec: 39 confirmed.
- Saskatchewan: 5 presumptive, 1 confirmed.
- New Brunswick: 5 presumptive, 1 confirmed.
- Manitoba: 4 confirmed, 3 presumptive.
- Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: 4 confirmed.
- Nova Scotia: 3 presumptive.
- Prince Edward Island: 1 confirmed.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 1 presumptive.
Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.
From Reuters, updated at 6 a.m. ET
Bars, restaurants, theatres and movie houses in New York and Los Angeles were ordered to shut down to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as central banks around the world took aggressive steps to cushion the economic impact of the disease.
The U.S. Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, for the second time in less than two weeks, to near zero and other central banks followed suit, but stock markets and the dollar continued to tumble.
Europe’s main stock markets plunged more than six per cent in brutal opening trading, while Wall Street futures for the S&P 500 index had hit their downlimit in the first quarter-hour of Asian trade as investors rushed for safety.
At an emergency meeting, the Bank of Japan further eased monetary policy by ramping up purchases of exchange-traded funds and other risky assets.
Leaders of the G7 countries will hold a video conference on Monday to discuss a joint response to the coronavirus outbreak, officials have said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to only sell food on a takeout or delivery basis. He also said he would order nightclubs, movie theatres, small theatre houses and concert venues to close.
“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city,” he said. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”
WATCH: Dr. Peter Lin answers your questions about COVID-19
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued similar orders. Any restaurant, bar or cafe selling food will only be able to do so via delivery or takeout, officials said.
“The worst is yet ahead for us,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be.”
The worldwide co-ordinated policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but this time the target is a fast-spreading health crisis with no certain end in sight that is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.
Here’s what’s happening in Europe
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 8:15 a.m. ET
European Union leaders are set to hold a summit via video-conference Tuesday on efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control figures released Monday show that 51,771 coronavirus cases have been reported in Europe, most in Italy, Spain, France and Germany. A total of 2,316 people have died, the overwhelming majority in Italy.
With Italy reporting the most virus cases and deaths anywhere in the world except China, neighbouring countries like Austria and Slovenia have moved to slow traffic. But other EU nations, including Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Cyprus have also introduced restrictions.
The different approaches are raising concerns that vital medical equipment may be blocked.
European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits of prime ministers and presidents from the 27 EU nations, tweeted Monday that he was calling what will be the second meeting of its kind in two weeks.
“Containing the spread of the virus, providing sufficient medical equipment, boosting research and limiting the economic fallout is key,” Michel said.
Italy and Spain were in lockdown Monday. Schools, restaurants and bars were closed in many countries.
Michel’s call for the summit came shortly after he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU is urging its member countries to put common health screening procedures in place at their borders to limit the spread of the virus, but not to block the transport of important medical equipment.
“Essential goods and medicines must be able to cross borders as smoothly as possible. This is a time for solidarity and co-operation,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides tweeted, after hosting a separate virtual meeting of the bloc’s health ministers Monday.
The ministers agreed to start purchasing protective equipment, testing kits and ventilators together to help those member countries hardest hit, Kyriakides said.
EU finance ministers were also set to hold coronavirus talks by computer later Monday, as the disease and the efforts to combat it take their toll on the bloc’s economy.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Asia
From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
China is relaxing travel restrictions in Hubei, the province hardest hit by the virus, sending thousands of workers back to jobs at factories desperate to get production going again.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that cities just outside the epicentre of Wuhan were chartering buses to send back to work residents who had returned home for the Lunar New Year in late January.
The move comes as Chinese officials say the outbreak that spread from the city of Wuhan starting in December has mostly run its course domestically, while they remain vigilant against imported cases.
WATCH: How social distancing can slow the spread of the coronavirus
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on China’s service sector and industries from autos to cellphones, although President Xi Jinping has pledged that economic growth targets for the year will still be met.
In the latest tally, China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of them were imported from overseas. China now has 80,860 confirmed cases. The health commission said that 67,749 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Fourteen more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the toll to 3,213.
In South Korea, officials reported a downward trend in new infections on Monday, Yonhap reported. The country has reported 8,236 cases to date, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 75 people have died in the country, most of them older and with underlying disease.
Japan is dealing with around 800 local cases as well as the passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive. The Bank of Japan is also looking at taking emergency measures to tamp down the impact of the outbreak on the country’s economy, NHK reported.
Here’s a look at some of what’s happening around the world, including hard-hit Iran
From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
Iran’s reported death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached 853, with 129 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry official tweeted on Monday, adding that a total of 14,991 people have been infected across Iran. “In the past 24 hours we had 1,053 confirmed new cases of coronavirus and 129 new deaths,” Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted. To contain the outbreak in Iran, one of the deadliest outside of China, officials have called on people to stay at home.
Turkey identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week. Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country, while seven had travelled from Europe and three from the United States.
South Africa will revoke nearly 10,000 visas issued this year to people from China and Iran, and visas will now be required for other high-risk countries that had been visa-free, including Italy and the United States. The health minister said a lockdown might be necessary if tough new measures to deal with COVID-19, including travel restrictions and school closings, don’t work. He warns of a high risk of internal virus transmission with “the problem of inequality in our society.”
Liberia has announced its first COVID-19 case Monday as the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama, was among the first officials on the continent to contract the virus. Liberia, along with its neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea, were devastated by Ebola outbreaks from 2014 to 2016 that killed more than 11,300 people, including 4,000 in Liberia alone.
Bangladesh’s government has shut down all educational institutions and private tutorial centres across the country until March 31. Bangladesh confirmed three more cases of infection on Monday, taking the total to eight.
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