Plans to re-open amid pandemic take shape, but doing it is complicated

The latest:

Alberta and Newfoundland became the latest provinces on Thursday to release frameworks for how they would reopen their economies, but as the guidelines come out, many businesses, health practitioners and even cities are working to figure out how they will operate as restrictions put in place because of COVID-19 are lifted.

Manitoba’s largest city is scrambling to try and get amenities like playgrounds and golf courses ready to reopen on Monday, after a provincial plan set out a timeline for lifting restrictions.

“There is much more to reopening than simply reversing measures that we’ve put into place,” Mayor Brian Bowman said, as he asked Winnipeggers to be patient with the reopening process. 

Retail shops and hair salons will also be allowed to reopen in Manitoba on Monday, but they’ll need a plan for how they are going to operate within the guidelines around hygiene and physical distancing. 

WATCH | Renters, landlords worry about another month of unpaid rent:

Legislation in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic means people can’t be evicted because of unpaid rent right now, but with another rent cheque due some tenants aren’t sure what will happen when the pandemic is over. 2:02

Ontario, which released a framework that focused on how the province would make decisions and not when it would reopen, on Thursday released specific guidance for businesses around what would be required to operate safely when they are allowed to open their doors.

“Today, we are telling our businesses how to be ready for when we get that green light,” Premier Doug Ford said. 

And while provinces eye ways to jump-start their economies, people across the country are struggling to receive EI payments after losing their jobs due to the pandemic. Many Canadians have gone weeks without benefits because of problems with their EI applications, and find they’re unable to make it through jammed phone lines to get help.

The C.D. Howe Institute’s Business Cycle Council, which monitors recessions and recoveries in Canada, declared on Friday that the country is officially in a recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is still less than two months old in Canada, but the council said Friday the slowdown is already so swift and deep that it’s safe to declare a recession.  

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 53,669 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with the majority concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Provinces and territories list 22,104 of the cases as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of COVID-19-related deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting lists 3,299 deaths in Canada and two known coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad.

Public health officials have cautioned that the recorded numbers are likely too low, noting that they fail to capture information on people who have not been tested or who are still under investigation as possible coronavirus cases. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has urged people to behave as though there is coronavirus in their community, even if there haven’t been any recorded cases. 

The novel coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. There is no proven treatment or vaccine for the virus, which first emerged in China in late 2019. 

What’s happening in the provinces and territories

Police in British Columbia have made hundreds of home visits to make sure residents who recently returned home from abroad are following self-isolation orders. The visits were to roughly 500 people who had not responded to phone calls and text messages from authorities making sure recent travellers were quarantining as promised. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Albertans will have more space to roam outside beginning in early May after the province announced it is lifting some COVID-19 restrictions. Premier Jason Kenney said golf courses will open on Saturday (though pro shops and clubhouses will stay closed), followed by a broader opening of outdoor spaces in early May. Non-urgent medical services will be allowed to open Monday, with retail and businesses to follow later in the month. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan’s premier put travel restrictions on a broad swath of the province’s far north to try and deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. People there are now facing a ban on travelling outside their home communities for anything other than essential trips for food or medical needs. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including how reopening differences between Manitoba and Saskatchewan are making it complicated for border towns.

New rules kick in for Manitoba care homes today, limiting health-care workers to just one care home. Provincial health officials said Thursday that almost all of the province’s personal-care homes were ready for the rules to kick in. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

WATCH | Indigenous teen hoop dancer moves into Ottawa retirement residence to help during COVID-19:

‘I consider them almost, like, as a second family,’ said Makhena Katerie Rankin Guérin. ‘That bond, it’s so valuable to me.’ 7:26

Ontario reported eight new coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care homes on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 198. In response to the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care and retirement homes, a provincial health-care advocacy group is organizing a day of action Friday to call for improved access to testing and personal protective equipment at the facilities.

Also on Friday, the province announced 421 new cases, bringing its total to 16,608. In addition, there were 620 additional COVID-19 cases listed as recovered, bringing that total to 10,825. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario. 

Jewish General Hospital is facing a COVID-19 outbreak, but a spokesperson for the Montreal hospital said: “None of these events were triggered by sick health-care workers.” Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, which has recently announced a plan that would see it reopen primary schools, daycares, and many businesses this month.

WATCH | The political gamble of reopening Quebec | At Issue:

The At Issue panel discusses why Quebec seems to be moving to reopen faster than its neighbouring provinces, despite having the most COVID-19 cases, and how much of a political risk this is for the premier. Plus in this extended edition, the panellists weigh in on the return of the Conservative leadership race. 16:16

New Brunswick has now gone 12 days straight without a new case of COVID-19. The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said of the total 118 cases so far, there are only four active cases and no one is in hospital. Russell cautioned there will be new cases in New Brunswick, but health officials are now more prepared for the next wave. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia’s top public health official, Dr. Robert Strang, is urging people in the province to “stay the course.” Nova Scotia reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 947 confirmed cases. The province has recorded 28 deaths related to COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island had no new cases of COVID-19 again on Thursday. “We’ve had one case in the last two weeks and a total of six cases for the month of April,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., including details of a plan to reopen some schools to students who normally receive support from youth service workers and educational assistants.

WATCH | COVID-19: Is airborne transmission possible?

An infectious disease specialist answers your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including whether airborne transmission is possible. 2:18

Newfoundland and Labrador residents are now allowed to form two-household bubbles, a move introduced as part of the province’s broader reopening plan, which sets May 11 as a target date for the lifting of some restrictions, including around non-urgent medical care and low-risk outdoor activity. “We must remember that if any of our indicators show a worsening of our situation we can tighten those restrictions again, and we will not hesitate to do so,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Nunavut reported its first case of COVID-19 on Thursday. Dr. Michael Patterson, chief public health officer in the territory, said the case was detected in Pond Inlet, and the person is in self-isolation. Nunavut had been the only remaining province or territory in Canada without a reported case of the novel coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

WATCH | Some good news from across the country on Friday:

With much of the world struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still some good-news stories to report. Here’s a brief roundup. 3:13

What’s happening in the U.S.

From Reuters, updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

The White House let its two-week-old economic reopening guidelines expire on Thursday as half of all U.S. states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis.

The enormous pressure on states to reopen, despite a lack of wide-scale virus testing and other safeguards urged by health experts, was highlighted in new Labor Department data showing some 30 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits since March 21.

Physical separation of people — by closing schools, businesses and other places of social gatherings — remains the chief weapon against a highly contagious respiratory virus with no vaccine and no cure.

But with economic pain reaching historic proportions, agitation to relax stay-at-home orders and mandatory workplace restrictions has mounted.

For the second time in two weeks, hundreds of protesters — including armed militia group members — thronged Michigan’s state capitol in Lansing demanding an end to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

The latest protest was sparked by the Democratic governor’s request, ignored by Republican lawmakers, to extend emergency powers she had invoked in a state hard hit by both the virus and closures to combat it.

WATCH | COVID-19 puts spotlight on health-care inequality in Georgia:

Georgia’s black population has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and is putting a spotlight on health care and economic inequality in the state. 1:59

About two-dozen states, mostly in the South, the Midwest and mountain West, have moved to relax restrictions since Georgia led the way late last week. Texas, Ohio and Florida — among others — this week outlined plans for doing so in the days ahead. 

But no companies are required to reopen, and it was not clear how many business owners and their employees would return to work, and how many patrons would venture back into stores and restaurants.

The number of coronavirus cases is still climbing in many parts of the country, although peaks appear to have been reached in New York state, the epicentre of the U.S. outbreak, and other places.

Pier and beach access are closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic in Manhattan Beach, Calif. California was the first state in the nation to impose a stay-at-home order in early March, a move largely seen as having contributed to preventing a death toll similar to those in New York or New Jersey. (Valeria Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

The chief executive of American pharmceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc., maker of the experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir, said on Friday he expected the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to act quickly over the company’s application for approval.

“We’re moving very quickly with the FDA,” Daniel O’Day said in an interview with NBC’s Today show. “And I expect that they’re going to act very quickly.” 

The U.S. National Institutes of Health on Wednesday said preliminary results from its trial of remdesivir showed that COVID-19 patients given the drug recovered 31 per cent faster than those given a placebo. 

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 12 p.m. ET

As in much of the rest of Europe, Italy’s May Day traditions, which pay tribute to the role of workers in society, have been upended by lockdown rules forbidding gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The heart and soul of Italy’s May Day commemoration have been rallies led by union leaders, followed by an evening of rock and pop music in Rome, drawing crowds sometimes topping 100,000 in the square outside St. John in Lateran Basilica. This year, musical artists will take turns performing solo in venues without anyone in the audience. Their music will be broadcast on TV and by state radio, with the evening’s theme being, “Working in safety to build a future.”

Deaths from COVID-19 in Italy climbed by 269 on Friday, down from 285 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new infections stood at 1,965 compared to 1,872 on Thursday.

Britain has hit its target of carrying out 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Friday, stressing the program is crucial to helping ease a national lockdown.

He set the target of 100,000 tests by the end of April after being criticized for moving too slowly compared to other
countries such as Germany.

A medical worker takes a swap at a coronavirus drive-thru testing centre in the parking lot of the closed Chessington World of Adventures Resort theme park in London on May 1. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Spain’s government expects that the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy will shrink by 9.2 per cent this year and that unemployment will reach 19 per cent of the working-age population. Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calvino announced the grim forecast on Friday when she explained Spain’s economic stability plan that it has presented to the European Union.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Friday that the end of the national lockdown on May 11 would only be a first step as France looks to pull out of the crisis created by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Traditional Labour Day protests that usually see thousands of demonstrators on streets were cancelled this year due to the virus outbreak that has killed 24,000 people across France.

Russia registered almost 8,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday in yet another record daily spike, bringing the total to 114,431. The number of cases is likely to be much higher as not everyone gets tested, and tests in Russia were reported to be only 70 to 80 per cent accurate.

In at least five Russian regions, health officials registered a surge of pneumonia cases. In Moscow, which accounts for half of all virus cases, all respiratory infections are likely to be caused by the coronavirus, according to the public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.

Japan will formally decide as early as Monday whether to extend its state of emergency, which was originally set to end on May 6. 

In China, Beijing’s parks and museums, including the ancient Forbidden City, reopened to the public after being closed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH | May Day celebrations prompt surge at China’s tourist hot spots as COVID-19 restrictions lessen

Outside Beijing’s Forbidden City, one man expressed the joy of the moment:  “I hope that by coming here to visit, I can start a beautiful day in 2020.”   0:53

India said on Friday it would extend its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks after May 4, but would allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones under the government’s plan to fight the novel coronavirus. 

The country registered another daily high in coronavirus cases, with nearly 2,000 recorded in the past 24 hours. India’s Health Ministry said Friday the 1,993 new cases and 73 more deaths bring the country’s totals to 35,043 cases and 1,147 deaths.

A volunteer at Jhandewalan temple in New Delhi packs free food packets Friday to be distributed by the Sewa Bharti organization during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against COVID-19. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

The government is due to decide the future of its 40-day lockdown on Sunday. It allowed migrant workers and other stranded people to resume their journeys on Wednesday, as well as some shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume.

A holiday atmosphere enlivened South Africa’s streets as the May Day public holiday is also when the country has begun easing its strict lockdown. For the first time in five weeks, people were permitted to walk outside for exercise between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and thousands, with mandated face masks and keeping distance, were out walking through the streets.

A South African Police Service officer commands a man to wear a face mask in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, on Friday, during a joint patrol by the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department. (Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images)

Some South Africans will be able to return to work in small batches and many businesses will resume limited operations. Many factories can resume operations in phases, starting with only a third of employees allowed to return, and they must abide by distancing and other guidelines.

Public transport, including trains and buses, will begin operating with a restricted number of passengers. Even with the easing, South Africa’s lockdown remains strict, with no sales of liquor and cigarettes permitted.

Zimbabwe‘s President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended a nationwide lockdown to fight the new coronavirus by two more weeks and announced a $720 million US stimulus package for distressed companies, most which will be allowed to reopen on Monday.

Brazil reported a record 7,218 cases in the last 24 hours and 435 additional fatalities. Peruvian authorities, meanwhile, closed a busy food market in Lima after mass rapid testing confirmed more than 160 positive cases.

WATCH | COVID-19 could be more severe in people with asthma:

People with asthma aren’t at higher risk of getting COVID-19, but an infection could result in more severe symptoms. 0:52

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