COVID-19: Ontario, Alberta declare emergencies

The latest:

As the world continued to ramp up its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated that his government will provide financial help for Canadians abroad who are trying to return home.

But despite praising Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s declaration of a state of emergency — a move which was soon followed by Alberta — Trudeau said there is no reason to do so federally at this time.

Instead, Ottawa will look at what other measures can be introduced, Trudeau said, speaking to reporters outside his residence in Ottawa, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the virus that causes the fast-spreading COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Global Affairs Canada has set up an emergency loan program, offering individuals up to $5,000 to help in their struggle to secure flights home.

Trudeau said there will be news on Wednesday regarding employment insurance eligibility, as well as another announcement about tax changes by the end of the week.

WATCH | Trudeau says financial supports on the way for ‘millions of Canadians’:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a package of special financial supports is on the way to help millions of Canadians and businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis. 22:01

Calgary-based airline WestJet says it will be suspending all commercial international and transborder flights for a 30-day period, refocusing its efforts on repatriation flights for Canadians stuck abroad.

The company said tickets for the period beginning March 23 will no longer be available for sale, and its final, commercially scheduled flight will be Sunday night. After that, the airline will be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said starting Wednesday, extra measures are being put in place at airports to ensure people returning to Canada aren’t spreading the novel coronavirus, while only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and, for now, U.S. citizens will be allowed to enter the country.

Each person will be asked if they have a cough, difficulty breathing or if they feel they have a fever. They will also be required to fill out a form, as well as acknowledge that they have been asked to self-isolate for the next 14 days.

Most international flights will only be allowed to land at four airports — Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver — starting Wednesday.

The travel restrictions come as Ontario recorded its first fatality, while British Columbia reports four deaths related to COVID-19, bringing Canada’s toll to five. The deaths in B.C. stem from an outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, a long-term care facility in North Vancouver.

A COVID-19 assessment centre in Brampton, Ont., is shown on Tuesday. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

As Ontario declared its provincewide state of emergency, one of the orders issued Tuesday was the prohibition of organized public events of more than 50 people, including services within places of worship, until March 31. Public libraries and cinemas will also be closed until that date, as will bars and restaurants, though they can still offer takeout service.

“This was a decision that was not made lightly,” the premier said.

On Monday, Ford urged people not to panic buy, saying he’s been in touch with major retailers about supply chains. “There’s plenty of food and household essentials to go around,” the premier told reporters.

Ford also said his government is working on a plan for people whose work life is impacted by the outbreak, though full details weren’t immediately clear. 

Elsewhere in Canada, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, Jon Hansen, said the diocese is suspending all Sunday masses during the COVID-19 pandemic. That order will affect those in the Northwest Territories, northern Saskatchewan and western Nunavut, though churches will remain open during regular mass hours.

Meanwhile, the White House has urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks and called for bars, restaurants and other venues to close in states where local virus transmission exists. It is also urging Americans to work from home, if possible, and to home-school their children. U.S. President Donald Trump said the worst of the outbreak may not be over until July or August, if not later.

WATCH | Trump says Americans will defeat COVID-19

U.S. President Donald Trump says Americans will look back one day on this time and say, ‘we won.’ 1:01

“By making shared sacrifices and temporary changes, we can protect the health of our people and we can protect our economy, because I think our economy will come back very rapidly,” Trump told reporters during a Tuesday task force briefing. 

He also said the U.S. is working closely with Canada but did not say there are any plans to close the border between the two countries.

The coronavirus — which has spread to more than 140 countries — has rattled economies and sparked sweeping changes from governments, both in Canada and abroad.

WATCH | Debunking misinformation about COVID-19:

Misinformation about the coronavirus and how to prevent catching it has misled people around the world.  1:48

Provinces and territories have cancelled classes, cities are shutting down public spaces, such as libraries and recreation centres, and public health officials are urging people to practise proper hand hygiene and social distancing.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the risk from the coronavirus to the general public is low, but cautioned that seniors, people with underlying health issues and individuals with compromised immune systems face a higher risk of “more severe” outcomes if they contract it.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called the outbreak the “defining global health crisis of our time,” noting that testing is the top priority.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have a simple message for all countries: Test, test, test.”

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia is closing all schools indefinitely, Premier John Horgan announced in a news conference Tuesday, affecting students from kindergarten to Grade 12. It followed an announcement ordering all restaurants and bars in the Greater Vancouver Area to close on St. Patrick’s Day to prevent the spread of COVID-19. B.C.’s tourism association has also warned that with hotels and restaurants empty across the province, the visitor economy could collapse without financial relief from the government.  Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

A traveller is seen at the Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public emergency, prohibiting gatherings of over 50 people. Attendance of public recreational facilities will be prohibited, and he advised against attendance of events like weddings and funerals as well. “This is a serious moment in our history, and COVID-19 will test all of us,” Kenney said. “But I believe I know that this province is resilient, and we are ready for the test.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, and visit this site for a list of closures in Calgary.

Manitoba says all of its reported cases to date are travel-related. Still, the province has enacted numerous restrictions, such as limiting acute care centre visits to one visitor at a time and none at all at some seniors’ homes There are currently four dedicated testing centres in Winnipeg and one in Thompson, with plans for more in rural areas soon. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Saskatchewan is closing pre-K-12 schools, starting Friday, though all parents who are able were asked to keep children home as soon as possible. “These measures apply to daycares that are co-located with schools, but do not apply to licensed daycare facilities outside of schools,” a government statement read. Besides schools, Saskatoon and Regina have announced numerous closures, while the province is overhauling its 811 HealthLine to keep pace with demand for the telephone service. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

A sign at the the Frances Morrison library in Saskatoon says the branch is closed. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

On Tuesday, Ontario confirmed the first COVID-19 related death in the province, a man in his 70s who was in close contact with an infected person.  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 pushed back its tax filing season to ease pressure on residents coping with the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak. The province also increased its coronavirus testing capacity, from 1,600 to 6,000, starting Tuesday. “We will do that — test, test, test,” said Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda. Bars, clubs, gyms and movie theatres were ordered closed over the weekend, and the province’s rental board has suspended eviction hearings during the pandemic. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

A customer wearing a protective mask leaves a Tim Hortons with its dining area closed in Montreal on Tuesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick’s newest presumptive case is a boy under the age of 10The province’s top doctor says testing centres for COVID-19 are being set up in the province — but the testing will be made available by appointment and only to those showing symptoms. Dr. Jennifer Russell urged everyone to “do their part” in the province, though hospital staff have reported theft of the supplies they’re using to fight the virus. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick here.

Nova Scotia indefinitely postponed elective surgeries, and is closing schools and daycares, which the premier cautioned could last for an extended period. “Our No. 1 priority will be the public’s safety and the health [and] safety of Nova Scotians and their children,” Stephen McNeil said over the weekend. In addition, public gatherings have been limited to 50 people in the province, and all bars have been ordered to close. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia here.

Prince Edward Island declared a state of emergency, and closed schools and daycares for an extended period. It was announced Tuesday that Charlottetown’s two fire stations, police station, wastewater treatment plant and City Hall offices will be closed to the public, while police will no longer perform criminal record checks and firefighters will practice social distancing during calls. P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, emphasized the need for Islanders to stay home if they can, regardless of whether they have a travel history. “The best way for us to come together right now is if we stay apart,” she said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Empty shelves are seen at a grocery story in Charlottetown on Monday. (John Robertson/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador now has three cases of COVID-19, officials announced Tuesday, with the province’s two new cases known to have originated from the original, travel-related case. All three results need to be confirmed by the national lab in Winnipeg. Meanwhile, officials said students from kindergarten to university will be out of class for an extended period, while changes enacted over the last few days will likely last into early summer. 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. On Monday, schools in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut announced they would be closing for an extended period. Read more about what’s happening in Canada’s North here.

Here’s a look at the latest numbers in Canada. Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

  • Ontario: at least 189 confirmed cases, including one death and five cases listed as resolved.
  • British Columbia: 103 confirmed, including four deaths and five cases listed as resolved.
  • Alberta: 74 confirmed.
  • Quebec: 74 confirmed.
  • Saskatchewan: six presumptive, two confirmed.
  • New Brunswick: six presumptive, two confirmed.
  • Manitoba: seven confirmed, one presumptive. 
  • Nova Scotia: six presumptive, one confirmed.
  • Prince Edward Island: one confirmed.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: three presumptive.
  • Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: nine confirmed.

Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 2 p.m. ET

The response across the U.S. is varied. Nearly seven million people in the San Francisco area were all but confined to their homes Tuesday, while Florida put a damper on spring break and St. Patrick’s Day by ordering the closing of all bars, as state and local officials took an increasingly hard line against the coronavirus.

Ohio cancelled its presidential primary hours before the polls were to open, but three other states pressed ahead with their elections, recommending such precautions as putting tape on the floor to keep voters a safe distance apart.

A registered nurse completes taking a nasopharyngeal swab from a patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing station in Seattle on Tuesday. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

In Detroit, bus riders were stranded Tuesday after most drivers didn’t report to work, apparently concerned about the spread of the virus and confused as to whether Michigan’s new restrictions on gatherings included vehicles loaded with commuters.

While beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast were still open, and at least one was full of spring breakers, Gov. Ron Desantis ordered all the state’s bars and nightclubs closed for 30 days and asked Florida’s university system to send students home for online instruction for the rest of the spring semester.

Coronavirus infections across the country reached approximately 5,200 and the death toll climbed to at least 97, with more than half of the dead from Washington state.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 4 p.m. ET.

The leaders of European Union nations have agreed to institute a travel ban that prohibits most foreigners from entering the bloc for 30 days. EU leaders agreed on Tuesday to shut down the 27-nation’s bloc’s external borders immediately.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the proposal by EU officials “got a lot of support by the member states. It’s up to them now to implement. They said they will immediately do that.”

The virus case count in Europe has climbed to over 51,000 and more than 2,300 people have died.

WATCH | EU bans non-essential travel within the bloc:

The European Union is set to ban all non-essential travel within its 26 countries today and French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that as of noon Tuesday, the external borders of the EU will be closed, with certain exceptions.  4:30

Italy, the second hardest-hit nation after China in the world’s coronavirus pandemic, has announced new figures that show it has one-third of the world’s total deaths from the new virus. The country added more than 3,500 new positive cases Tuesday, bringing its overall total to 31,506. In addition, another 345 people with the virus have died, bringing Italy’s total deaths to 2,503.

Doctors Without Borders says Italy lacks key medical equipment, like protective gloves or masks. “Nearly 1,700 health-care workers, or eight per cent of the total COVID-19 cases in Italy, have been infected whilst tirelessly caring for the rising number of severely ill patients who require long-term hospitalization,” the group said.

A patient in a bio-containment unit is carried on a stretcher from an ambulance in Rome on Tuesday. (Alessandra Tarantino/The Associated Press)

In the U.K., authorities have urged all residents to avoid unnecessary contact with others and that people in the most vulnerable groups should be isolated for almost three months. As of Monday, Britain had 1,543 confirmed cases and 53 virus-related deaths. Queen Elizabeth is to travel to Windsor Castle and has cancelled planned events, including garden parties, due to the outbreak, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.

Ireland is expecting the number of cases there to skyrocket in the next few weeks. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he expects to see upward of 15,000 cases by month’s end, up from the current 223, and has advised against all non-essential overseas travel. Schools, universities, childcare centres and bars have also been closed. 

France’s government is pledging 45 billion euros ($70 billion Cdn) in aid for small businesses hurt by the spreading coronavirus. France now has more than 6,600 cases of the virus, including 148 deaths.

Police officers wearing protective masks check papers at a control point Elysees avenue in Paris on Tuesday. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

In Lithuania, the cargo truck line on the border to enter Poland stretched 60 kilometres long on Tuesday after Poland closed its border to foreigners.

Greece is imposing a compulsory 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country and extending shop closures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Madrid faced its third day of lockdown on Tuesday over the coronavirus outbreak. Spain, the fourth-most virus-infected country in the world, has been imposing a partial lockdown since Saturday night, allowing people to leave their homes only to go to work, buy food or visit a pharmacy or hospital. The government’s official coronavirus death toll rose by 182 overnight, to 491 on Tuesday. The number of infected topped 10,000 for the first time and now sits at 11,178. 

WATCH | Canadians locked down in Spain trying to get back home:

With Spain now in lockdown, a Canadian couple with no place to stay after March 29 is trying to get out. 4:25

Here’s a look at what’s happening in business and finance:

From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET.

Ride-hailing company Uber is suspending its service called Uber Pool until further notice. All other Uber trips, as well as Uber Eats, are still available.

Volkswagen said on Tuesday it would close most of its European plants for two weeks due to uncertainty about demand for cars and supplies of parts.

Cineplex is closing all 165 of its theatres across the country until April 2 and will issue refunds for any advance bookings. 

CIBC is temporarily closing 206 of its branches and modifying its hours of operation. More than 800 of its locations in Canada will remain open.The bank says it will list the branches affected and the new hours on its website Wednesday.

Sephora has announced that it will be closing all of its North American retail stores as of 5 p.m. (local times) on Tuesday to help fight the spread of the virus.

A sign seen at Bailey’s Cafe in Toronto on Tuesday says it’s closed for social distancing. (Laura Howells/CBC)

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.

India says it will bar all passengers — including Indian citizens — from entering the country on flights from the European Union, Turkey and the United Kingdom beginning Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by India’s aviation regulator, travellers coming from or transiting through the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they arrive. Arrivals from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany are already subject to similar restrictions, while many border points with neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have been shut.

A worker sanitizes a train compartment at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai on Tuesday. (Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press)

India’s tourist ministry announced this week that it is shutting down the Taj Mahal, its iconic “monument of love,” to visitors.

Several other important monuments have also been shut across the country to keep people safe amid the coronavirus outbreak. Most schools and entertainment facilities have also been shuttered across India.

The Philippine Stock Exchange was closed with no trading Tuesday after the president placed the northern part of the country, including Manila, under quarantine. The exchange’s CEO said the end of trading activity would be “until further notice.” The Philippines has 140 cases of infection and 12 deaths.

Residents step on measured tape placed outside a supermarket to practice social distancing in Manila on Tuesday. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

Sri Lanka says it will add more quarantine centres to help fight the coronavirus. An army general said 23 army vacation bungalows will be used as quarantine centres for a group of travellers who arrived recently from London. Sri Lanka has confirmed 28 cases of the virus, with no deaths so far.

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 late December has mostly run its course domestically, while they remain vigilant against imported cases.

Temperatures are checked by a security guard in Beijing on Tuesday. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

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 on Tuesday reported 21 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 80,881. The health commission also said 13 people have died, raising the death toll to 3,226.

In South Korea, officials reported a downward trend in new infections for the third day in a row Tuesday. There were 84 new cases, bringing the country’s total infections to 8,320. on Monday, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 81 people have died in the country, after six more deaths were reported Tuesday, most of them older and with underlying disease. South Korea has further postponed the beginning of the new school year by two weeks to protect students from the virus.

A worker wearing protective gears disinfects is seen at a baseball stadium in Seoul. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

The vice-chairman of Japan’s Olympic committee, Kozo Tashima,  tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, escalating concerns about whether the Olympics can proceed as planned as the pandemic spreads

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that G7 leaders had agreed to support a “complete” Olympics, but dodged questions about whether any of the leaders had brought up the possibility of postponement. Japan is dealing with around 700 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 elsewhere in the world, including hard-hit Iran

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 6 a.m. ET.

  • A third Australian government legislator has tested positive for the coronavirus. New South Wales state Sen. Andrew Bragg said Tuesday that he had suffered flu-like symptoms and tested positive for the virus after attending a friend’s wedding on March 6. Authorities say at least six wedding guests have contracted the virus. Queensland state Sen. Susan McDonald said she tested positive on Monday after becoming unwell on Friday evening. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who is also from Queensland, tested positive after showing symptoms a day earlier. He has since been discharged from the hospital but remains in isolation at home.
  • Iran saw a 13 per cent increase Tuesday in the number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus. The virus has killed 135 more people to raise the total to 988. The country has over 16,000 cases. The Iranian state TV journalist, Dr. Afruz Eslami, cited a study by Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology, which found that if people begin to co-operate now with guidelines to curb the spread, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over. She said if they offer medium co-operation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths. 

  • Schools have closed in at least 56 countries, the United Nations said, keeping more than 516 million students home.

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