Ontario, Quebec order closure of all non-essential businesses to slow spread of coronavirus

The latest:

Quebec and Ontario have ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses as the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada surpasses 2,000.

The closures are set to begin at 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday, both provinces announced on Monday. 

Quebec Premier François Legault said Monday that the province will be “on hold” for at least three weeks, until April 13. He said the decision was made after public health officials determined that COVID-19 is now spreading through community transmission.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, said the list of what constitutes essential and non-essential services and stores will be released Tuesday. But he insisted residents will be able to buy food and medicine and other essential products, that “the power will stay on,” and telecommunications tools will continue to run.

“This decision was not made lightly, and the gravity of this order does not escape me,” Ford said, adding the order will be in place for at least 14 days. 

This is a breaking news update. A previous version of the story follows below.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Canada has topped 2,000 and the country’s cases continued to climb on Monday, including an additional death at a hard-hit long-term care facility in North Vancouver.

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were three new deaths in the province, one of which was at the Lynn Valley Care Centre — bringing the death toll from the novel coronavirus at that facility to 10.

Provincewide, there are now 13 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 470 cases, with 100 recoveries.

Ontario also reported another death Monday, a man in his 80s, while Quebec announced hundreds of new cases after the province changed its testing methods.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the committees responsible for Canada’s involvement in Olympic and Paralympic sport made the right move in deciding not to send athletes to Tokyo should the 2020 Summer Games go ahead as scheduled. The Games are set to start on July 24. 

The Canadian committees announced their decision late Sunday.

“This is not solely about athlete health — it’s about public health,” said a joint statement released by the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Australia’s Olympic committee quickly followed, saying “our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families.”

Speaking outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Trudeau said the decision was “absolutely the right call.”

More than 340,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide, and nearly 15,000 have died. Nearly 100,000 people have recovered.

Most people only experience mild symptoms from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus and recover within weeks. But it is highly contagious and causes severe illness in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

People can carry and spread the virus without showing any symptoms, and as yet there is no proven vaccine or treatment.

WATCH |  ‘Go home and stay home,’ Trudeau says:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pleading with Canadians to follow public health guidelines on COVID-19 as he announces new supports for farmers and for vaccine research and development. 24:29

The prime minister, who has been offering regular briefings as he finishes a two-week self-quarantine period, stressed the importance of avoiding groups, maintaining a safe distance between people and staying home as much as possible as the best ways to keep people safe.

“We’ve all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they’re invincible,” Trudeau said. “Well, you’re not.

“Go home, and stay home.” 

Diana Matheson, a member of Canada’s women’s soccer team, said Monday that most Canadians and Olympians know that postponing the Games is the right move for people’s health. 

“I’m not playing soccer and you shouldn’t be either,” Matheson said of those who are ignoring social-distancing instructions and congregating to play sports.

Marnie McBean, a former Olympian who is serving as Team Canada’s chef de mission, told CBC News Network that because the IOC had not taken a July 24 start off the table, “we felt we needed to.”

“The Canadian position is our athletes want to be seen as global leaders in fighting this,” said McBean, who won Olympic gold as a rower. “The health and safety of Canadians and lowering the curve of the pandemic — that is the priority.”

WATCH | Canada’s chef de mission talks about decision around Tokyo Olympics:

Marnie McBean, Olympic rower and chef de mission for the 2020 Canadian Olympic team, said the decision to not send Team Canada athletes to Tokyo if the Summer Games remain scheduled for July came after the International Olympic Committee said it wouldn’t decide whether or not to postpone for another four weeks. 9:07

Trudeau acknowledged that the decision around the Olympics is heartbreaking for athletes, coaches and fans. But he said experts are all advising that people stay home, and reiterated his message that people need to follow that guidance.

Japan and the International Olympic Committee have been facing increased pressure to call off or delay the Summer Games amid growing concern over the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday suggested that the Games could be postponed, adding that he wants to speak with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach. 

The IOC on Sunday announced it was considering a postponement and would make a final decision within four weeks.

The head of the World Health Organization’s emergency program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said Monday that the Geneva-based health agency is contributing to deliberations around the Games. Ryan said WHO has “every confidence” that Japan and the IOC wouldn’t proceed if it was dangerous for athletes and spectators.

Earlier Monday, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist, called the Canadian decision a responsible and safe move, and expressed shock that the Games had not yet been delayed as the world tries to tackle the novel coronavirus. 

McBean said “we are sad and heartbroken,” but noted that a delay is not a hardship when compared to the loss of life and livelihood caused by the pandemic.

When asked, McBean said she does think there will be a Tokyo Olympics in late 2020 or 2021.

Health minister reiterates importance of self-isolation

Speaking at a daily briefing on Sunday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government is willing to use “every measure in our tool box” to make sure people are following public health advice around self-isolating when they return home. 

Hajdu reminded incoming travellers that there are “no exceptions” to the two-week isolation period.

She pointed to the Quarantine Act, which allows for fines and charges against people who don’t follow self-isolation measures. But she also noted that, for now, the government is asking people to follow the rules and hoping “we don’t have to get to ordering them.” 

Trudeau said last week that his government was talking with major airlines about getting Canadians stranded abroad back home. Over the weekend, a plane arrived in Canada from Morocco, where a large number of travellers had been stranded. Ottawa is also working with airlines to help get people in Peru, Spain and several other countries home.

The outbreak has caused widespread economic disruption and employers have been making major job cuts as business in many sectors grinds to a halt.

WATCH Critical-care doctor calls for tougher measures to clamp down on COVID-19:

‘Let’s overreact,’ says Dr. Michael Warner so Canada doesn’t experience a health-care crisis like the one gripping Italy. 7:12

The travel and airline industries have been battered by the coronavirus epidemic, which has sparked cancellations, closures and border shutdowns. On Monday, travel company Transat AT announced it is laying off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada — about 3,600 people.

WestJet said it is cutting some domestic flights as demand drops during the pandemic. The Calgary-based airline said, however, that it would increase flights to get Canadians stranded abroad home

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and other hard-hit areas of the world.

Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia’s biggest city is warning that businesses that don’t enforce proper social distancing measures could face big fines — or closuresVancouver city council is holding a virtual meeting to pass bylaws that would allow for the imposition of what Mayor Kennedy Stewart calls “significant” penalties. Stewart said Monday that people need to put safety first, adding that right now not everyone is doing that. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta is changing its coronavirus testing protocol to prioritize people with symptoms who fall into higher-risk groups, including health-care workers, people with respiratory illness and some returning travellers. Over the weekend, a group of doctors in Calgary took to the streets to protest — while standing a safe distance apart — to press for more assistance for those who work with the homeless. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Restaurants and bars in Saskatchewan will be limited to offering takeout as of today after the province passed measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, which has 53 reported cases.

Manitoba’s top public health official is urging people to stay apart but still work together to “to limit the impact of this virus” on the province. Dr. Brent Roussin said over the weekend that the province is focusing for now on testing people who travelled internationally and are experiencing symptoms. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

In Ontario, the province’s emergency declaration is giving hospitals more power over staffingThe associations representing the province’s nurses and doctors, meanwhile, are expressing concern over potential shortage of supplies, particularly masks. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including the latest from the province’s education minister.

Quebec said over the weekend that schools, restaurant dining rooms and malls would all be closed until May 1. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including details about a new testing facility set to open Monday.

New Brunswick is reporting 17 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

As of Monday morning, most people coming into Nova Scotia — even from another province — will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. The premier said there are some exceptions, including for people in industries like health care or trucking. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia, including the latest on the state of emergency.

Prince Edward Island reported its third case of COVID-19 over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador is closing its long-term care homes to visitors as part of its plan to fight COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland, including a list of what’s closed due to the coronavirus.

Yukon reported its first COVID-19 cases over the weekend, in a couple that had travelled to the U.S. for a conference. Read more about what’s happening in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Canada has more than 2,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. Here’s a look at the number of cases — including deaths and recoveries — by province.

  • British Columbia: 472  confirmed cases, including 10 resolved and 13 deaths.

  • Ontario: 503 confirmed cases, including eight resolved and six deaths.

  • Alberta: 259 confirmed cases, including three resolved and one death.

  • Quebec: 628 confirmed cases, including one resolved and four deaths.

  • Saskatchewan: 52 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Manitoba: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Nova Scotia: 41 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Prince Edward Island: Three cases the province lists as positive.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Nine confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Northwest Territories: One confirmed case.

  • Yukon: Two confirmed cases.

  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed cases.

Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Not all provinces are listing figures on those who have recovered. The recent COVID-19 related death of a Canadian in Japan is not currently included in the province-by-province tally of cases.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6:20 a.m. ET

Top-level negotiations between Congress and the White House churned late into the night over a now nearly $2 trillion US economic rescue package, as the coronavirus crisis deepened, the nation shut down and the first U.S. senator tested positive for the disease.

While the congressional leaders worked into the night, alarms were being sounded from coast to coast about the wave of coronavirus cases about to crash onto the nation’s health system. 

As President Donald Trump took to the podium in the White House briefing room and promised to help Americans who feel afraid and isolated as the pandemic spreads, the Senate voted Sunday against advancing the rescue package. But talks continued on Capitol Hill.

“I think you’ll get there. To me it’s not very complicated: We have to help the worker. We have to save the companies,” Trump said.

Later, the Republican president suggested the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak, vowing to reassess after the 15-day mark of the shutdown. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he tweeted.

Inside the otherwise emptied out Capitol, the draft aid bill was declared insufficient by Democrats, who argued it was tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health-care providers. Republicans returned to the negotiating table.

WATCH | States seek supplies as COVID-19 cases mount in U.S.:

Roughly 100 million people under lockdown in the U.S. and many states are desperate for tests, masks and ventilators, but President Donald Trump maintained there will be victory over COVID-19. 2:00

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, exiting the Capitol just before midnight, struck an optimistic note: “We’re very close,” he said, adding negotiators would work through the night.

“Our nation cannot afford a game of chicken,” warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., his voice rising on the Senate floor Sunday night. His goal is to vote Monday. The Senate will reconvene at noon.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sounded an optimistic note.

“This bill is going to affect this country and the lives of Americans, not just for the next few days, but in the next few months and years — so we have to make sure it is good,” he said.

‘”There were some serious problems with the bill leader McConnell laid down. Huge amounts of corporate bailout funds without restrictions or without oversight — you wouldn’t even know who is getting the money. Not enough money for hospitals, nurses, PPE, masks, all the health-care needs. No money for state and local government, many of whom would go broke. Many other things.”

But Schumer said they were making progress in dealing with those issues. “We’re getting closer and closer. And I’m very hopeful, is how I’d put it, that we can get a bill in the morning.”

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

Medical staff wearing protective gear talk inside a new COVID-19 testing centre in a gymnasium on Monday in Taverny, France. (Lodovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

COVID-19 deaths in Spain rose by 462 overnight, reaching 2,182, the Health Ministry said, while the total number of cases rose to 33,089, over one in 10 of them health workers. At the same time, the country’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, was hospitalized on Sunday with a respiratory infection and is awaiting coronavirus test results. 

Hard-hit Italy, which has struggled to slow the spread of COVID-19, banned travel within the country on Sunday, as its death toll climbed to 5,476. Italy has already seen 18 doctors with coronavirus die. Metalworker unions in Lombardy — the Italian region worst hit by the epidemic — said on Monday they would strike to protect the health of their members. Union representatives said in a statement that a recent government decree temporarily shutting down businesses contained too many loopholes and exceptions, and the list of companies that can continue working “has been excessively extended, covering areas of dubious importance.” 

Britain’s health minister said stricter restrictions on movements would be brought in if people did not observe advice to avoid social interaction, warning that such measures would also have to stay in place longer. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold his daily news conference Monday and has warned that Britain may soon have to endure an Italy-style lockdown if people continue to disregard government advice.

Poland is giving some prisoners the option of serving their sentences at home under a justice ministry proposal that could benefit up to 20,000 convicts. “We propose raising the upper limit of a sentence or the total length of sentences which can be served in the electronic supervision system to 18 months,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement. Until now, it was possible for sentences of up to a year. Prisons have already banned visits and stopped letting most prisoners work on the outside. Poland has so far reported 684 cases of coronavirus, including eight deaths. 

On Monday, the German government approved another large aid package to help companies and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new economic package comes on top of a previous pledge of at least €460 billion ($716 billion Cdn) in loan guarantees to help Europe’s biggest economy handle the fallout from running down public life to a minimum. Germany has recorded over 26,220 cases of COVID-19 alongside 111 deaths, though Germany’s public health chief says there are signs the country’s infection curve is flattening.

Norway should not send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the coronavirus pandemic is under control, Norwegian Olympic Committee president Berit Kjoell said on Monday. “My clear advice to the board [of the Norwegian Olympic committee] is that you should ask not to send any athletes to the Paralympics or Olympics in Tokyo 2020 in light of the serious situation,” Kjoell told reporters. 

Hungary gun sellers have seen sales skyrocket, as Hungarians fear an unravelling of law if severe shortages set in. “We are selling five times as much as in a normal March,” said Gabor Vass, who runs three gun shops in Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Hungary has registered 167 cases of coronavirus, with seven deaths, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday the true number was probably much higher.

WATCH | Quebec researchers launch clinical trial for potential COVID-19 treatment:

Canadians with COVID-19 are being recruited to test a new anti-inflammatory drug that researchers hope can be helpful in the battle against the coronavirus. 6:19

Here’s what’s happening in some other affected areas, including hard-hit South Korea and Iran 

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 7 a.m. ET

South Korea reported on Monday its lowest number of new coronavirus cases and the extended downward trend in daily infections since the peak on Feb. 29 has boosted hopes that Asia’s largest outbreak outside China may be abating. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said there were 64 new cases on Monday, taking the national tally to 8,961. The death toll rose to 118, from 110.

The new numbers marked the 12th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100 or less, compared with the peak of 909 cases recorded on Feb. 29. But officials urged even greater vigilance as imported cases and new, small outbreaks continued to emerge, such as in nursing homes, churches and crowded workplaces.

“We don’t give much meaning to numbers yet, but as there are some fluctuations despite a declining trend, our top priority is to prevent sporadic group infections and repatriated cases,” said Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the health ministry.

The worst outbreak in the Middle East is unfolding in Iran, where state TV reported another 127 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,812 amid more than 23,000 confirmed cases. Iran has faced widespread criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures early on. It is also suffering under severe U.S. sanctions.

Syrians rushed to stock up on food and fuel Monday amid fears that authorities would resort to even stricter measures after reporting the first coronavirus infection in the country, where the health-care system has been decimated by nearly a decade of civil war. Authorities said border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan would close at midday. 

The United Arab Emirates, home to the world’s busiest international airport, said it was suspending all passenger flights for two weeks. Dubai’s airport is a vital hub connecting Western nations with Asian countries and Australia, and suspending passenger flights there affects travellers around the world.

India said on Monday it will shut down domestic flights to halt the spread of coronavirus and imposed a curfew on a giant state as the number of people dying of the disease ticked up across densely populated south Asia. India has reported 415 cases of the coronavirus but health experts have warned that a big jump could be imminent, which would overwhelm the underfunded and crumbling public health infrastructure.

WATCH | Doctor warns against medical gloves in public, talks importance of handwashing:

Dr. Samir Gupta explains why most people are better off washing their hands with soap and water than wearing gloves for protection against COVID-19. 1:54

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