The COVID-19 pandemic will make this year’s celebration of Mother’s Day unlike any other for most people, but especially those in long-term care facilities, barred from any physical contact with family members.
Many moms will be receiving the traditional messages of love and gratitude by remote means, or from the other side of glass barriers.
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Federal officials issued dire warnings Saturday about the dangers to long-term care residents if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted too quickly.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, noted that long-term care residents account for more than 80 per cent of deaths caused by the virus across the country, despite making up only one in five cases. And she said stricter measures “may have to be reinstated” if controls ease up too soon.
During his daily briefing Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “very worried” about residents of Montreal, the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada, as Quebec prepares to loosen confinement measures despite a rash of fatal outbreaks at nursing homes.
Quebec’s public health institute has warned that deaths could soar to 150 a day in the greater Montreal area if physical distancing measures are lifted. And new cases could balloon to 10,000 by June amid a potential surge in hospitalizations.
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Canada’s coronavirus case count climbed past 67,000 on Saturday, with Quebecers making up more than half of the total cases.
A Cargill meat-processing plant in Chambly, Que., says 64 of its workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, or 13 per cent of its workforce. The company is shutting down the facility south of Montreal on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Trudeau talked about a misfire for getting Canadian health-care workers personal protective equipment and said Canada will not pay the full price for medical masks that do not live up to medical standards.
About eight million of 11 million N95 respirators shipped to the government from China through a Montreal-based supplier failed to meet specifications, federal officials said on Friday. Trudeau said the discovery speaks to the government’s “rigorous verification system” overseen by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Trudeau said some of those leftover N95 masks — so-named because they are supposed to screen out 95 per cent of small particles — may be distributed for non-medical use.
Canada continues to experience a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global surge in demand triggered by the pandemic while Canadian manufacturers scramble to pivot to PPE production.
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Elementary schools in western Quebec, meanwhile, are set to reopen Monday, but attendance is optional. Desks will be spaced apart and each student will have separate supplies and classes will be limited to 15 students. For recess, each class will have its own toys, disinfected after each use. Many schools will keep gyms, cafeterias and libraries closed.
WATCH | Quebec prepares to reopen some schools:
Premier François Legault said last this week that elementary schools, daycares and retail stores with outdoor entrances in Montreal can reopen May 25 — the second time he has pushed back the date, but ahead of other large cities.
In Ontario, people will be able to enjoy some more green space on Monday. Provincial parks and conservation reserves are reopening with limited day-use activities. Visitors will be able to walk, hike, bike and birdwatch. But camping, playgrounds, beaches and other facilities like washrooms remain off limits. A total of 520 parks are set to open on Monday. The remaining 115 on Friday. People are still being urged to practice physical distancing and stay two metres apart.
Newfoundland and Labrador has been loosening some public health restrictions in a series of “alert levels” descending from five. The move to Level 4 on Monday is to allow some medical procedures to resume as well as low-risk activities, such as golf, hunting and fishing.
Low-risk businesses, including garden centres, and professional services such as law firms are also to reopen at this level. Alert Level 4 is to remain in place for at least 28 days.
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As of Sunday morning, there were a total of 67,996 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Canada, with 31,651 of the cases considered recovered or resolved. A CBC tally of coronavirus deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting, listed 4,803 deaths in Canada and another two deaths of Canadians abroad.
The virus, which first emerged in China and spread around the world, has prompted governments to introduce a range of measures, including lockdowns, business closures and stay-at-home orders, to slow its spread.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia announced 15 new coronavirus cases in the province on Saturday, bringing the current total to 2,330. B.C. also reported two new deaths, both of them in long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health authority.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are no new community outbreaks in the province, but that outbreaks remain active in long-term care homes. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province will receive $46 million of a $3-billion federal fund to give low wage workers a temporary raise.
“We want to focus it where it is most needed,” Kenney said. “And I think we’ve all recognized that the greatest risk is in and around nursing homes, long-term care, seniors’ residences.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
In Saskatchewan, the northern village of La Loche has shuttered its Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority store and offsale temporarily as the community tries to get a handle on an outbreak spreading through the province’s north.
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La Loche is the epicentre of an outbreak in Saskatchewan, which accounts for 138 of the province’s 196 active cases. Officials with the Saskatchewan Health Authority have said the fact people are still gathering and drinking together has contributed to the spread of the virus. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba reported no new cases on Saturday, health officials said in a news release. The total number of cases of the illness caused by the new coronavirus in Manitoba is still 284, including 30 which are considered active. Four people are in hospital with COVID-19, down from five on Friday. None are in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford says provincial parks and conservation reserves will reopen for limited day use on Monday.
On Sunday, Ontario added 234 new cases to bring its total to 20,238, including 1,709 deaths.
Meanwhile, the government has approved an emergency order allowing school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and women’s shelters during the pandemic.
The government says many congregate care settings need staff, such as custodial and maintenance workers. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s public health institute says the current de-confinement plan in the Montreal area could lead to a rapid increase in deaths in the city.
The institute published a report this week predicting stark numbers of deaths — as many as 150 per day by July — and hospitalizations in the Montreal area, with elementary schools and some retailers reopening May 25. It doesn’t take long-term care homes into account. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick recorded no new cases on Saturday, according to a government news release. There are two active cases in the province with none in hospital. One case is related to travel and the other remains under investigation.
Premier Blaine Higgs took the province to Phase 2 of its recovery plan on Friday, which allows some elective surgeries to take place, as well as outdoor gatherings of ten people or less. Some businesses — including restaurants — were also allowed to reopen under strict conditions. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia reported one more death, bringing the province’s total to 47, and three new cases on Saturday.
The latest death was reported at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, where 41 people have died from the virus. There are 157 residents and 31 staff with active cases at Northwood. One other long-term care facility in the province has an active case of the virus affecting a staff member. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
To date, labs across 🇨🇦 have tested >1,068,000 people for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>, w\ an average ~6% positive overall. In the past 7 days, an average of >26,000 people<br>have been tested daily as <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/publichealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#publichealth</a> continues to ↑ capacity to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TestandTrace?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TestandTrace</a>.
P.E.I.’s chief public health officer reported that all 27 of the province’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are considered recovered. “We are in such a fortunate position here in P.E.I.,” Dr. Heather Morrison said Friday, before describing how the government is loosening restrictions.
Households in the province can now gather indoors with up to five other people, although Morrison asked Islanders to consider keeping a log of anyone they come into contact with, to help with contact tracing should they get sick. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases for the second consecutive day on Saturday. According to a news release from the provincial government, the total number of cases in the province remains at 261. There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 remaining in the province, as 244 people have recovered from the virus. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Today’s NS COVID-19 stats: 1 death (at Northwood); 3 new cases; 21 new recoveries; 7 people in hospital (2 are in ICU); 598 lab tests processed in last 24 hours. No briefing today.
Nunavut says it has not set a limit on how much money it is prepared to spend on hotels for residents required to isolate before they return to the territory. Health Minister George Hickes said during a news conference on Friday that over 1,000 people have been in isolation so far in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife, with a price tag of almost $4 million. “We don’t have a figure in mind, and we don’t have a timeline,” Hickes said. “I do consider it a well-placed investment.” Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force have placed themselves in self-isolation after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is on the task force is one of the three members taking extra precautions. However, he has tested negative for the virus.
U.S. regulators, meanwhile, have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have promoted as a key to opening the country.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.
The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA. Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than the genetic code of the virus itself.
Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.
Remdesivir is the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients and was cleared for emergency use by the FDA last week
“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said. The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.
The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.
In hard-hit New York state, three children have died from a rare inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, a development that may augur a pandemic risk for the very young.
Cuomo had on Friday disclosed the death of a five-year old linked to the coronavirus and a syndrome that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, which was the first known fatality tied to the rare illness in New York.
The governor told a daily briefing on Saturday that the illness had now taken the lives of at least three young people across the state. He did not provide details of their ages or the circumstances of their deaths.
But Cuomo said he was increasingly worried that the syndrome posed a newly emerging risk for children, who had previously been thought to be largely immune to severe illness from COVID-19. He said state health officials were reviewing 73 cases where children exposed to COVID-19 also exhibited symptoms of the syndrome, which he said included inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn could cause heart problems.
New York is the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, accounting for more than a third of the country’s more than 78,000 deaths. The U.S. has more than 1.3 million confirmed cases.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4 million people and killed over 278,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on official data. But limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments undoubtedly mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China late last year.
South Korea on Sunday reported 34 additional cases of the coronavirus amid a spate of infections linked to night club patrons. Figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the number of virus cases to 10,874, including 256 deaths.
Most of the cases in the past few days have been linked to nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment neighbourhood. A 29-year-old man had visited three clubs before testing positive last week. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Saturday ordered more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos to close and urged others to enforce anti-virus measures. On Sunday, the governor of Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, ordered a two-week shutdown of all nightclubs there.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a five-tier warning system for the coronavirus in England on Sunday when he outlines the government’s roadmap for gradually easing lockdown measures that have shut down much of the economy for nearly seven weeks.
Johnson will use a televised address at 2 p.m. ET to announce limited changes, including encouraging more of those who cannot work from home to return to their offices and factories, according to a government minister and British media.
The U.K. government is also replacing its main “stay at home” slogan with “stay alert, control the virus, save lives.” Government officials have said, however, that people will still be told to stay at home as much as possible. The BBC reports the “stay at home” advice will remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Italy said Saturday a near-record 4,008 people were released from hospitals in the past day after testing negative for COVID-19 as the country continues its cautious reopening after a two-month national lockdown.
Officials said 1,083 people tested positive in that same time period — half of them in hard-hit Lombardy — bringing Italy’s confirmed number of cases to 218,268. Officials say the real number is as much as 10 times that. The confirmed death toll is 30,395.
Another 134 intensive care beds were freed up, bringing the total number close to 1,000. At the height of the outbreak, there were more than 4,000 people in ICUs, and the wards in Lombardy were nearly saturated.
Churches in Italy are set to reopen next Sunday, along with museums and art galleries.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says loosening the nearly two-month lockdown will be for naught if people don’t obey social distancing rules. He reminded Spaniards on Saturday, two days before 51 per cent of the nation of 47 million will be allowed to sit at outdoor cafes, “the virus has not disappeared.”
On Monday, many regions not as hard hit by the virus will permit gatherings of up to 10 people and reopen churches, theatres, outdoor markets and other establishments with limits on occupancy. Madrid and Barcelona will stay under stricter confinement. Two-meter social distancing rules remain in effect. Sanchez and Spain’s army have warned of possible surges in the coming months.
Spain’s health ministry reported 179 new confirmed deaths on Saturday, increasing the death toll to 26,478. A month ago, Spain was averaging 900 daily deaths.
In Australia, 10 people were arrested and one police officer was injured during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Sunday. More than 100 protesters had gathered outside Parliament House.
In Belarus, tens of thousands of people have turned out in the capital despite sharply rising coronavirus infections to watch a military parade celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Belarus has not imposed wide-ranging restrictions to halt the virus’ spread. Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed concerns about it as a “psychosis.” At Saturday’s parade of some 3,000 soldiers, Lukashenko says Belarus’ ordeal in the war “is incomparable with any difficulties of the present day.”
Some aged war veterans in the stands at the parade wore masks, but in general there were few masks seen among the throng of spectators. Belarus, a country of about nine million, has recorded more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus infection.
China intends to build a “centralized and efficient” chain of command and reform, and modernize the disease prevention and control system, vice-minister of the China National Health Commission Li Bin told reporters on Saturday. The commission also aims to make better use of big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to better analyze the disease, trace the virus and distribute resources.
Bin said the commission plans to step up research on core technology, improve medical insurance and better ensure the availability of emergency materials.
China has been criticized domestically and abroad as being initially slow to react to the epidemic, which first broke out on a large scale in Wuhan. China has not seen any new deaths from coronavirus for 24 days.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is the biggest threat to Brazil’s ability to successfully combat the spread of the coronavirus and tackle the unfolding public health crisis, according to the British medical journal The Lancet.
In an editorial, the Lancet said his disregard for and flouting of lockdown measures is sowing confusion across Brazil, which reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths on Friday, and is fast emerging as one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots.
Brazil’s Health Ministry on Friday registered 10,222 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 751 related deaths. That brought the total of confirmed cases in Brazil to 145,328 and deaths to 9,897, the most deadly outbreak in an emerging market nation.
In Africa, the coronavirus could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in the continent in the first year and infect between 29 million and 44 million if it is not contained, the World Health Organization said.
The WHO said there are more than 56,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,100 deaths in the continent so far.
Indonesia has seen a spike in new cases amid an improvement in testing capabilities. The country’s health ministry confirmed 387 new cases on Sunday. On Saturday, Indonesia announced 533 new infections — a single-day high. The country now has 14,032 confirmed cases, including 973 deaths.
Turkey reported 50 new deaths and 1,546 cases Saturday as it prepared steps to return to normal life. Total fatalities stand at 3,739, while infections number 137,115. According to figures posted on Twitter by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, 89,480 patients have recovered.
Shopping malls, barber shops, hairdressers and beauty salons will open for business on Monday as Turkey starts easing restrictions.
Meanwhile, one of Turkey’s biggest soccer clubs, Besiktas, announced a player and a club employee had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Earlier this week, the Turkish Football Federation said matches behind closed doors would resume next month, prompting the resumption of limited training sessions.
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