PM says rules of Quarantine Act will be enforced to keep people isolated

The latest:

Travellers returning to Canada from abroad are facing a new order requiring them to self-isolate, the latest measure from a government trying to deal with both a rise in COVID-19 cases and growing economic fallout.

The measure, which makes some exceptions for health-care workers and truckers, allows for fines and even jail times for people who ignore the order to stay home.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said on Twitter that people coming into Canada at ports of entry will be asked to make a declaration: 

“We are implementing the Quarantine Act to keep all Canadians safe,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, calling decisions by some to ignore the call to self-isolate for two weeks “disappointing” and “dangerous.”

When asked why the quarantine measure wasn’t introduced sooner, Trudeau said “the vast majority” of Canadians have been following public health guidelines and taking the precautions necessary to protect themselves and others. But, he said, “there have been too many people who have not,” which required the use of a rule with enforcement measures. 

There have been questions about whether the government’s measures at the border to date have been strict enough, and further concern that some returning travellers weren’t complying with the self-isolation request. Premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney, addressed the concern earlier this week, prior to the mandatory measure from Ottawa.

At a news conference on Monday, Ford said: “If you’re coming from the airport, do not — I repeat, do not — stop at a store. Go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days.” Kenney, speaking earlier this week, called the quarantine period for returning travellers an “absolute public health imperative” and told people to go “directly and immediately to your home without stopping.”

WATCH | Trudeau addresses new self-isolation rule for incoming travellers:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that while many Canadians have followed instructions to self-isolate, many haven’t — so further enforcement measures are needed to protect Canadians from COVID-19. 1:24

Speaking outside his home at Rideau Cottage on Thursday, Trudeau said that his government, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and premiers had all been clear that people needed to follow the call for a 14-day quarantine when entering Canada. But given that some travellers were not self-isolating, tougher measures were needed, the prime minister said.

Contact information will be collected from incoming travellers when they pass through the border for follow-up, which could include random checks to ensure they are complying with the quarantine.

Tam said at a briefing Thursday that any incoming traveller who is sick will be immediately isolated. People who are seriously ill will be sent to hospital and those with less severe symptoms who can safely go directly home are allowed to do so. 

“A quarantine order is put on them, we of course follow them in collaboration with local public health.”

People with symptoms who can’t get home will be housed in a location serving as a federal quarantine, Tam said.

People who are asymptomatic are allowed to go home with an order to go home “as fast as possible” and stay there.  “We will do random checks” on the asymptomatic people in collaboration with local public health through measures like phone calls,” Tam said.

She said the use of the Quarantine Act is a “serious reminder” of the need for self-isolation for returning travellers  — and reiterated the possibility of “hefty penalties,” including fines and even jail time.

‘We need to work together’

The prime minister spoke with leaders of the G20 nations via video conference prior to his daily briefing and said they agreed that co-ordinated efforts are needed to protect people’s health and the economy — though he did not detail exactly how that effort would unfold.

“We need to work together to have an impact that goes beyond our borders,” he said, noting that there’s a need to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, not just in Canada. 

Trudeau also spoke about a temporary program his government unveiled Wednesday, as well as a plan to temporarily increase the Canada Child Benefit beginning in May. The government says the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is designed to get money into the hands of people who are losing income because of the pandemic. The CERB collapses two previously announced programs into one in a bid to streamline the process of applying for the funding, which will provide eligible workers $2,000 a month for four months.

According to a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, there are more than 492,000 known cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with more than 22,180 deaths. The dashboard, which draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization and national health departments, lists the number of cases that are recovered or resolved at almost 115,000. 

Spain’s death toll has risen above 3,400, eclipsing that of China, where the virus was first detected in December, and is now second only to that of Italy, which has 7,500. Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid’s 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz, said more workers were desperately needed. “We are collapsing,” Perera said. 

The novel coronavirus, which has been labelled SARS-CoV-2, was first reported in China in late 2019. The virus causes an illness called COVID-19. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. There are no proven treatments or vaccines, but researchers around the world are looking for both.

China temporarily barring most foreigners

Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local infections as Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose.

China announced late Thursday that it is temporarily barring all foreign nationals from entry, starting Saturday, as it seeks to curb the number of imported COVID-19 cases.

Diplomatic workers will be exempt, while foreign nationals coming to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” can still apply for visas, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The ministry said in a statement that: “The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries.” 

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada and the United States.

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

As of 1:15 p.m. ET Thursday, there were almost 3,890 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 37 deaths and 198 cases listed as recovered or resolved. (Not all provinces are listing details about people who have recovered.) A Canadian has also died abroad, in Japan. Dr. Theresa Tam said the COVID-19 related death was an individual who had been a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was an early hot spot for the virus. 

For a detailed look at the latest numbers, visit CBC’s coronavirus case tracker.

British Columbia’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, said Wednesday that hospitals are preparing for an increase in cases. Henry said the province is monitoring the supply of personal protective equipment because “the burn rate is much higher than we expected.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta, which has granted power to law enforcement agencies to enforce public-health orders, reported cases in two residents and a worker at a group home for adults with disabilities. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said: “Over the past two days, despite the aggressive measures already in place, it’s become clear that additional measures are needed.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including information on a long-term care home in Calgary with six confirmed cases.

Saskatchewan is expanding the list of businesses that need to close during the COVID-19 outbreak. The province is also lowering the number of people permitted at a public gathering to 10, down from 25. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including a plan in Regina to get bagged lunches to kids who are not in class because of closures.

Manitoba’s top public health officer says more restrictions could be coming as the province tries to tackle COVID-19. Dr. Brent Roussin said the lab is working “around the clock” to try and increase testing capacity, but added that social distancing is “vitally important” right now. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba and get details on how COVID-19 testing works in the province.

Ontario reported 170 new cases on Thursday, its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases to date. The association representing registered nurses in the province, meanwhile, issued a call for more protective equipment, including masks, saying: “We are in a war, and the enemy is the COVID-19 virus.” Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, including details on how the province tallies case and the number of cases listed as resolved.

In Quebec, the province’s director of public health urged people to be honest about travel history and who they have been in contact with. “By not collaborating, you are preventing us from doing an investigation that allows us to help people,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda. CBC’s Jay Turnbull reports that some refugee claimants who are currently at the Laval Detention Centre are on a hunger strike over worries about COVID-19. They say there’s not enough space for proper social distancing and want to be released until the outbreak subsides. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick is increasing testing, but still lags behind neighbouring Nova Scotia because of problems earlier in the outbreak. “I want to assure the public New Brunswick is testing more people more widely as the situation evolves,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, where a high school that sits empty during class cancellation is being used to help the homeless.

WATCH | Fredericton high school housing homeless during outbreak:

To make way for social distancing, the city’s out of the cold shelter has been moved to the Fredericton High School. 1:08

In Nova Scotia, the province’s top doctor is urging people to talk and stay in touch, even when they can’t be together. “Be open about how you’re feeling. Reach out for help,” said Dr. Robert Strang. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia, including news out of Halifax, where a transit garage has been closed after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.

Prince Edward Island, which has five reported cases of COVID-19, has closed a transition facility for people with addictions as part of its fight against the coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the medical officer of health said the province will move ahead with testing for asymptomatic people who have been in contact with people who have COVID-19. “This is to make sure that we find as many positive people as we can and putting in the appropriate measures to reduce spread,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including the re-arrest of a woman police allege twice violated an isolation order.

Education leaders in the Northwest Territories are recommending schools close for the rest of the academic year. In Whitehorse, a new testing centre is open for people with “mild to moderate” respiratory symptoms. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

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

From The Associated Press, updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

The tally kept by Johns Hopkins University showed Thursday morning that the number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 has now exceeded 1,000.

While about one-third of the deaths have occurred in New York state, one rural county in southwest Georgia has seen 100 cases, with seven dead. It is a reflection of rising numbers in several southern states, including in states such as Louisiana and North Carolina.

Jobless claims in the U.S. soared to a record 3.3 million on Thursday, more than four times the previous weekly record. A modicum of relief will come when the $2 trillion US aid package in Congress passes, probably this weekend. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Americans should receive direct deposits within three weeks of the bill becoming law.

Despite the economic pain, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said in an interview that it is listening to pandemic experts, with the first priority limiting the spread of the virus in the country. He expects the economy to recover in the second half of the year, though White House pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Thursday that the novel coronavirus is so unpredictable at this point, there could be an uptick in cases again next winter.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon will only provide broad statistics on coronavirus numbers within the military, to prevent enemies from knowing about specific clusters. The U.S. air force and navy told Reuters the vast majority of their cases are of personnel who are stationed domestically.

Workers construct what is believed to be a makeshift morgue behind a hospital during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Manhattan on Wednesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

New York is the epicentre of the domestic outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City. Public health officials in the city have been hunting down beds and medical equipment and calling for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick patients will overwhelm hospitals, as has happened in Italy and Spain.

A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.

Here’s what’s happening in Italy, Spain and some other areas of Europe struggling with COVID-19

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 8 a.m. ET

In Spain, the coronavirus death toll rose to 4,089 on Thursday, up from 3,434 on Wednesday. Spain’s coronavirus lockdown was extended on Thursday to last until at least April 12 as the country struggled to tackle a fast increase in the death toll. In Madrid, Spain’s worst-affected region, hearses continued to arrive at the city’s ice rink, which was converted into a makeshift morgue after authorities said existing facilities lacked resources.

“It is not easy to extend the state of emergency,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in parliament. “I am convinced the  only efficient option against the virus is social isolation.”

In Italy, the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 80,539, up from 74,386 on Wednesday. At least 8,165 people’s deaths are connected to the virus, an official said. Premier Giuseppe Conte said 500 nurses and doctors are being sent to help in the hardest-hit areas of the country. According to a report in the Italian news outlet ANSA, a federation representing some medical professionals says 33 doctors and dentists have died. The same report cites a union that says 5,000 health workers have been infected.

Volunteers pack food inside a Trussell Trust food bank in Oldham, northwest England, on Thursday. The organization said the outbreak presents an unprecedented challenge and uncertainty . (Oli Scarf/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany has increased its ability to test for the virus to 500,000 a week, which the head of the country’s Robert Koch disease control centre says is the highest worldwide, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Germany has reported 36,500 cases of COVD-19 and more than 200 deaths, according to information provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

In the U.K., workers are building a temporary hospital at London’s Excel Centre, a venue normally used for trade fairs and similar events. Health Minister Matt Hancock says the new hospital is scheduled to open next week. More than 9,500 people have tested positive for the virus in Britain and, according to BBC News, more than 460 people who tested positive have died. 

France has begun evacuating its citizens infected with the coronavirus from the Alsace epicentre on board a special medicalized high-speed train. France’s health minister said that the TGV train-turned-hospital is a “first in Europe.”

Around 20 patients are being evacuated from Strasbourg to hospitals in the Pays-de-la-Loire and other regions Thursday morning, thanks to the medical locomotive. It consists of five cars, each one kitted out with medical material and attended by an anesthesiologist-resuscitator, an intern, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses. The train has been employed to relieve the French region worst hit by the coronavirus that has already claimed over 1,300 lives in France — almost half of whom have died in the Grand Est region’s hospitals.

Medical staff gather for a transfer operation of people infected with COVID-19 from the Strasbourg railway station to western France hospitals, in Strasbourg, France on Thursday. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Sweden saw a surge in the number of deaths that could change the Scandinavian country’s rather lax approach to keeping primary and elementary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go out and enjoy the spring sun. Health officials have within the past 24 hours seen an increase of 18 deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 62 deaths in the country of 10 million. Some 2,510 people have tested positive, of which 176 are in intensive care.

The head of Stockholm’s health service, Bjorn Eriksson, said “the storm is over us,” hours after Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden told a news conference that the situation was “stable.”

In neighbouring Denmark, the government allegedly was planning to further tighten the law so that smaller groups — less than 10 — can be banned. And in Finland, the government said it will in an exceptional move block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spreading of coronavirus to other areas. The Uusimaa region includes Helsinki and the move affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Here’s what’s happening around the world, including Iran and South Korea

From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Iran started an intercity travel ban, a day after Tehran warned the country might face a second outbreak. Iran has reported 2,234 deaths and 29,406 infections so far.

South Korea’s central bank says it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global coronavirus crisis. The country has 9,241 reported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, with 132 deaths. The country warned it would deport foreigners while its citizens could face jail if they violate self-quarantine rules after a surge in imported cases. 

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened a coronavirus task force meeting, instructing all 47 prefectural leaders to plan contingency measures to fight the virus in response to assessments that the coronavirus is now rampant in the country. The task force is backed by a special law passed this month that allows Abe to declare a state of emergency, though top officials say such a declaration is not planned immediately. Japan has about 2,000 cases, including 259 in Tokyo.

India, which is under a strict lockdown for a three-week period, announced a $22.6-billion US economic stimulus plan providing direct cash transfers and food security measures to give relief to millions of low-income residents.

WATCH | Canadians stuck in India as country goes into lockdown:

The thousands of Canadians stuck in India amid a COVID-19 lockdown are starting to lose hope, with no repatriation flights planned to get them out. 1:56

Bangladesh is deploying soldiers and police to enforce a nationwide 10-day shutdown to slow the spread of the virus. Experts say Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, is at high risk of increased infections because hundreds of thousands of overseas Bangladeshi workers have returned home in recent weeks from Italy and other virus-affected nations. Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said five more cases of the virus were confirmed, bringing the country’s total to 44, including five deaths. 

In South Africa, officials identified quarantine sites across the country on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 709. Ethiopia’s government told G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in a call ahead of Thursday’s summit that Africa needs a $150 billion emergency financing package due to the impact of the virus.

The Indonesian government reported 20 new deaths in the previous 24 hours. That brings the country’s death toll in the COVID-19 outbreak to 78, the highest in the Southeast Asia region.

In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus is worse than the disease. Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld virus mitigation plans that had been challenged by Bolsonaro. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,550 cases and 59 deaths.

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