Coronavirus: Ontario to allow some retail stores to reopen next week

The latest:

Schools in the hard-hit Montreal area won’t be reopening until the fall amid continued concern over the coronavirus pandemic, Quebec Premier François Legault announced at his daily briefing on Thursday.

Except those for children of essential service workers, daycares in the region will not reopen before June 1. Legault had previously announced high schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t reopen until late August; the new decision now includes elementary schools.

The province has opened daycares and primary schools outside the Montreal region, though attendance is voluntary. 

WATCH | Montreal mayor on 2 key COVID-19 decisions made by Quebec:

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante welcomes financial help from the Quebec government to buy masks for the public and approves of the province’s decision to delay opening Montreal schools. 1:50

In Ontario, the fate of the school year is not yet known, but the premier announced the province will enter Stage 1 of its reopening plan next week.

The plan, which begins Tuesday, includes resuming construction projects, as well as the reopening of some workplaces, seasonal activities and health-care facilities.

Still, Premier Doug Ford stressed caution, and warned that plans could change if caseloads increase. 

WATCH | Premier Ford announces further opening of Ontario economy:

Just ahead of the holiday weekend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the  province is lifting some restrictions in areas such as retail, recreation and construction. 3:47

“Businesses should open only if they are ready,” Ford said in a briefing on Thursday.

“We can’t fully predict where things will go … we cannot let our guard down now.”

Ontario’s reopening also includes retail stores outside of shopping malls with street entrances, and involves “gradually restarting” scheduled surgeries, along with allowing libraries to open for pickup. Property management services, such as cleaning, painting and pool maintenance, will also resume.  

Ahead of the premier’s expected announcement, Health Minister Christine Elliott put out a tweet saying as the province plans for a gradual reopening, it will expand testing guidelines so that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms can be tested. 

“Doing so will help identify and contain new cases and monitor any shifts in community spread to keep Ontarians safe,” Elliott said in the tweet. The new guidelines from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams will say anyone with symptoms can be tested.

Elliott, who did not provide specifics on what had changed or how the expanded testing would be implemented, said the province has “nearly completed” testing for all long-term care home workers and residents, and will now expand testing to other vulnerable populations, including people in retirement homes and other group settings like group homes and shelters.

Alberta lifts restrictions — but not for the whole province

Alberta, meanwhile, is taking a step forward on Thursday as a range of businesses — including stores, daycares and hair salons — are being allowed to open across most of the province. Calgary and Brooks, which account for the majority of the active cases in the province, won’t reopen at the same pace.

At a briefing on Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the decision to keep some restrictions in the two cities was a provincial call, one that he found out about only a day earlier. Nenshi asked citizens to continue to respect the restrictions, and encouraged them to order food from local restaurants, some of which had ordered food and rehired staff in preparation for reopening over the long weekend.

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

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, warned that reopening doesn’t mean going back to normal.

She said she’s received reports of some businesses opening earlier than they should, but that she’s seeing more and more people wearing masks and following distancing rules. 

Hinshaw asked people to consider wearing masks to protect people around them.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to speak with the premiers Thursday evening in a weekly call to discuss the coronavirus​​​​​​ outbreak, which has left more than 70,000 Canadians infected and led to sweeping public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. 

Trudeau used his daily briefing to outline a support program for fish harvesters, announcing $469 million in federal funding for fish harvesters who have been ineligible for other aid initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also announced that some federal historic sites and parks, which have been closed as part of the response to the outbreak, will be reopening as of June 1. He said parks would open in phases, and some parks — including Arctic parks — won’t be reopening any time soon.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO director of emergencies, said Wednesday that “this virus may never go away.”

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” he said Wednesday, noting that other previously novel diseases such as HIV have never disappeared, but that effective treatments have been developed to allow people to live with the disease.

When asked about that remark at his briefing on Thursday, Trudeau said, “We know there are things that we took for granted last year and years before that have changed.”

WATCH | PM asked about WHO official’s remark that novel coronavirus may be here to stay:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asked by CBC’s Tom Parry what happens if the COVID-19 virus never goes away. 1:51

Also Thursday, Canada’s spy agencies warned that Canadian COVID-19 research is a “valuable target” for state-sponsored actors. A joint statement from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned of an “increased risk of foreign interference and espionage due to the extraordinary effort of our businesses and research centres.”

It comes just a day after U.S. intelligence agencies warned of China-backed hacking of institutions and companies researching vaccines, treatments and tests for the novel coronavirus.

The CSE and CSIS statement doesn’t name the state actors suspected of posing a threat and neither agency would say whether they have witnessed specific attacks.

As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 73,335 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 35,949 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 5,554.

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

British Columbia is reopening provincial parks today, the first of a handful of restrictions to ease over the next few days. Still, the province’s health minister is asking people not to travel over the long weekend if it’s not essential. “This is a good weekend to stay at home, to stay with the ones you love and not to travel,” said Adrian Dix, who urged people who do travel to bring everything they need with them. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta is starting the first phase of its relaunch plan on Thursday — but not for the whole province. The premier had words of caution as he announced the details, saying: “If we slack off … maybe people we love will suffer. And if cases and hospitalizations spike, we’ll have to reintroduce either regional or provincewide restrictions again.”

The province announced 50 new cases for a total of 6,457, with one death bringing the total to 121. There are 1,131 active cases, with 65 in hospital and 10 in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta. 

WATCH | Alberta releases relaunch plan with some COVID-19 restrictions:

Alberta will proceed to the first phase of its relaunch plan on Thursday, though Calgary and Brooks will reopen more slowly than the rest of the province, says Premier Jason Kenney. 3:49

Saskatchewan schools are closed for the rest of the education year, and no decision has yet been made on whether students will return to in-person learning in the fall. The school year was formally ended earlier this month. Universities have said they will be returning to digital classrooms in the fall. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and one probable positive case has now been ruled out, public health officials say. The province said it is opening up testing so that people with cold or flu-like symptoms can go directly to a testing siteRead more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

WATCH | Does Canada need to ramp up testing before reopening the economy?

Ontario reported 258 new cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 21,494 cases. According to the province, 16,204 of those cases are considered resolved. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where officials are set to expand testing.

Quebec Premier François Legault has announced that schools in the Montreal area will not reopen until September. He said it’s possible children won’t be back in school before the end of September, and students with special needs may return even later in the year.  Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, where non-contact sports such as tennis and golf will be allowed to resume.

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy says there’s risk in reopening daycares, but some risk is necessary if the province is “going to come out on the other side of this … with a functioning economy.” Cardy stressed that operational plans and precautions around safety will be required at every facility that reopens. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported two new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 1,026 with 909 of those considered recovered. To date, the province has reported a COVID-19 death toll of 51, with the vast majority of the deaths linked to a long-term care facility in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

WATCH | An inside look at Canada’s COVID-19 detectives:

The National’s Adrienne Arsenault spends a day with contact tracers in London, Ont., who help figure out where someone caught COVID-19 and determine who else may be at risk. 3:43

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.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking its seventh straight day with no new cases of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including a story about a plan by universities to do most learning online next fall.

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

WATCH | England has cautiously started to reopen, but the decision has been met with trepidation on the streets of London:

England has cautiously started to reopen, but the decision has been met with trepidation on the streets of London. 2:02

As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, there were more than 4.4 million reported coronavirus cases, with more than 300,000 deaths, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. According to the university’s case tracking tool, more than 85,000 of those deaths were in the U.S., which has more than 1.4 million cases.

A fishmonger serves clients behind a plastic sheet at a street market in Paris as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

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