Thousands of Quebec students go back to school today, despite risk of re-opening during pandemic

The latest:

Children can head back to class in broad swaths of Quebec today, as daycares and elementary schools outside the Montreal region welcome students back, despite concern from some about the risk of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Classes will have a maximum of 15 students, desks will be spaced apart and schools will have a range of measures to ensure physical distancing. But even with the public health measures, some parents are choosing not to send their children back to class, which is allowed as attendance is not mandatory.

Schools in hard-hit Montreal, which were initially slated to open May 18, have had their opening date pushed back to May 25 at the earliest.

Quebec’s move comes as provinces across the country are making decisions about what restrictions to lift and when, as many areas are seeing the daily number of new coronavirus cases drop.

Canada has a total of 68,848 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 32,109 of those listed as resolved by the provinces and territories. A CBC News tally of coronavirus deaths based on provincial information, regional data and CBC’s reporting lists 4,970 deaths in Canada. 

According to a case tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 4.1 million reported coronavirus cases around the world, with more than 283,000 deaths.

Public health officials have cautioned that infection numbers are likely higher, as reported data doesn’t include people who haven’t been tested or cases that are still under investigation.

The virus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, causes an illness called COVID-19. While most cases are mild to moderate, some people, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health issues, are at risk of severe illness or death.

What’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia’s top doctor said the province is working on a plan to safely allow people back in to long-term care homes to visit loved ones“These new ways of doing things will be coming in the coming weeks and days,” Dr Bonnie Henry said over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Engaged couple Rob Sensel, left, of Mount Vernon, Wash., and Kathryn Bell Lewis, of Richmond, B.C., spend time together separated by a ditch along the Canada-U.S. border, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Sunday. The Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel due to COVID-19. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Alberta reported 96 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 6,253. The province, which lists 4,389 of those cases as resolved, has 117 coronavirus deaths, CBC’s tally reports. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported 11 new cases on Sunday, with nine in the far north region and two in the north region. The province has a total of 564 cases, with 349 considered recovered. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

WATCH | The problems in long-term care that COVID-19 could change:

Advocates for seniors say the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragility and inadequacy of care for older Canadians, and footage from a CBC Marketplace investigation highlights that a lack of standards for staffing was a problem before the COVID-19 crisis. 6:01

Manitoba reported three new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed and presumptive cases in the province to 287. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario reported its lowest daily growth rate in COVID-19 cases since March on Sunday. The province only reported 294 new cases of the virus — just 1.5 per cent more than Saturday’s total. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

In Quebec, a Cargill meat-processing plant announced it is closing its doors after at least 64 workers tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak in Chambly, Que., marks the second time the company has experienced a COVID-19 closure at one of its facilities in Canada. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

WATCH | Cargill closes Quebec meat-processing plant with COVID-19 outbreak:

Cargill Canada is shutting down a Quebec meat-processing plant over concerns for worker safety after a COVID-19 outbreak in the cramped workplace. The move follows Canada’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak at another Cargill plant in Alberta. 1:58

New Brunswick’s government moved the province’s recovery forward on Friday, which allowed more businesses in the province to open their doors over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. That brings the province’s total to 1,018 confirmed cases, with 47 deaths. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

Prince Edward Island eased some of its COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, which means that people in one household can now gather with as many as five other people from other households inside, and even more outside. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The total number of confirmed cases in the province remains at 261, with virtually all of them in the province’s eastern region. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

There were no new cases reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut on Sunday. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

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

From The Associated Press, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

In the United States, Trump administration officials spoke optimistically about a relatively quick rebound from the virus. 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the American economy would rebound in the second half of this year from unemployment rates that rival the Great Depression. Another 3.2 million U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the last seven weeks to 33.5 million.

“I think you’re going to see a bounce-back from a low standpoint,” said Mnuchin, speaking on Fox News Sunday.

A woman walks away from the weekly food pantry service run by Grace Ministries of the North Shore in Everett, Mass., with loaded bags of food and goods on Sunday. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

But the director of the University of Washington institute that created a White House-endorsed coronavirus model said the moves by states to reopen businesses “will translate into more cases and deaths in 10 days from now.” Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said states where cases and deaths are going up more than expected include Illinois, Arizona, Florida and California.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is not in quarantine and plans to be at the White House on Monday, despite media reports that Pence was self-isolating after a staffer tested positive.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

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

Visitors in face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened Monday in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism that was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.

The House of Mouse’s experience in Shanghai, the first of its parks to reopen, foreshadows hurdles global entertainment industries might face. Disney is limiting visitor numbers, requiring masks and checking for the virus’s telltale fever.

“We hope that today’s reopening serves as a beacon of light across the globe, providing hope and inspiration to everyone,” the president of Shanghai Disney Resort, Joe Schott, told reporters.

A visitor dressed as a Disney character takes a selfie on Monday while wearing a protective face mask at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China, where the pandemic began in December, was the first country to reopen factories and other businesses after declaring the disease under control in March even as infections rise and controls are tightened in some other countries.  However, a spokesperson for China’s National Health Commission says a rise in newly confirmed cases is a growing concern.

“In the past 14 days, there were seven provinces reporting new confirmed local cases,” Mi Feng told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

South Korea has pushed back its reopening of schools by a week as health authorities scramble to isolate virus carriers and trace their contacts after finding dozens of coronavirus infections linked to clubgoers. Before discovering the new transmissions, the country relaxed physical distancing guidelines amid what had been a slowing caseload and scheduled the reopening of schools, starting with high-school seniors on Wednesday.

WATCH | Singapore’s coronavirus crackdown exposed treatment of migrant workers:

Singapore contained its coronavirus outbreak through aggressive tracing, testing and clamping down on its economy, but it exposed some ugly truths about its treatment of migrant workers in the process. 6:18

India reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases Monday as it prepared to resume train service to ease a lockdown that has hit migrant workers especially hard by eliminating the daily wages they use to feed their families. The government reported 4,213 new cases

New Zealand reported three new cases, ahead of a decision on whether to ease restrictions further and allow more business and recreational activities to resume.

British businesses, trade unions and employees are expressing confusion after the government changed its lockdown message from “stay at home” to go to work if you can.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended most of the imposed March 23 lockdown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, while sketching out how the lockdown will be eased in stages if the number of infections continues to fall.

WATCH | Boris Johnson unveils reopening plan for U.K.:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines the first small steps the country will take to ease its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. 2:02

But while most employees were previously told to stay away from workplaces, Johnson said Sunday that those who can’t do their jobs from home “should be actively encouraged to go to work.” He also said workplaces should observe physical distancing and people should avoid public transport if possible, raising many questions about how practical the advice was.

Johnson’s government said more details will come in a 50-page document being published Monday, but critics have already accused the government of sowing confusion.

The French began leaving their homes and apartments Monday for the first time in two months without permission slips as the country began cautiously lifting its virus lockdown.

The reopening is somewhat chaotic, however, with mixed messages from authorities and a last-minute legal tangle for President Emmanuel Macron and his government.

In Paris, crowds packed into some subway lines and train stations despite new physical distancing rules. Clothing shops, hair salons and real estate agencies were among businesses large and small reopening Monday, with strict precautions to keep coronavirus at bay.

Teachers were returning to prepare classes to welcome students later in the week, but in limited numbers.

Commuters wearing protective face masks sit in a metro train on Monday in Paris, on the first day of France’s easing of lockdown measures that were in place for 55 days to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

Health Minister Olivier Veran held out the possibility of a re-confinement if infections rise again.

“We’re going to have to learn to live with the virus,” he said on BFM television.

Roughly half of the 47 million Spaniards are stepping into a softer version of the country’s strict confinement, beginning to socialize, shop in small establishments and enjoy a meal or a coffee in restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.

Altogether, 11 of Spain’s 17 regions, as well as the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in the northern African coast, are officially from Monday in the so-called Phase 1 of the rollback, as the country departs from the uncompromising lockdown imposed in mid-March.

A woman prepares chocolate heart-shaped puff pastry in Madrid on Saturday a few hours before the reopening to the public of La Duquesita patisserie, which was closed for nearly two months due to the coronavirus. (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

The hard-hit region around the Spanish capital, Madrid, and the economic powerhouse of Barcelona, in the northeastern Catalonia region, are among those territories that remain under stricter measures while authorities watch closely contagion rates and other health indicators.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was tripling taxes on basic goods, raising them to 15 per cent, and cutting spending on major projects by around $26 billion US as it grapples with blows to its economy from the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.

Africa has more than 60,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a tally from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Africa CDC says that all but one of the continent’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, has confirmed cases of the virus. South Africa has the most with more than 9,400 registered.

The widespread shortage of testing capacity continues to be a challenge and means the true figures are likely to be much higher. Some countries are easing lockdowns even as cases rise, arguing people have to make a living and feed their families despite the risks.

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