The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available:
This file is no longer updating. Click here for Friday’s rolling file
9.27 p.m. There are 30,106 cases of COVID-19 in Canada. Eleven are presumed to be COVID-19, and 30,095 are confirmed cases, including 1,196 deaths, and 9,729 resolved cases, according to The Canadian Press.
This breaks down as follows:
Quebec: 15,857 confirmed (including 630 deaths, 2,841 resolved)Ontario: 8,961 confirmed (including 423 deaths, 4,194 resolved)Alberta: 2,158 confirmed (including 50 deaths, 914 resolved)British Columbia: 1,575 confirmed (including 78 deaths, 983 resolved)Nova Scotia: 579 confirmed (including three deaths, 176 resolved)Saskatchewan: 305 confirmed (including four deaths, 219 resolved)Newfoundland and Labrador: 252 confirmed (including three deaths, 170 resolved)Manitoba: 239 confirmed (including five deaths, 121 resolved), 11 presumptiveNew Brunswick: 117 confirmed (including 80 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 23 resolved)Repatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed casesYukon: eight confirmed (including six resolved)Northwest Territories: five confirmed (including two resolved)Nunavut reports no confirmed cases.
6.21 p.m. Three correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19 at a jail in Brampton in what has been declared an outbreak by Peel Public Health.
The source of the infection was community transmission, according to Peel Public Health, and the officers were contagious while at work.
Some inmates at the Ontario Correctional Institute are now in medical isolation and rush testing is being done for inmates who have symptoms or who may have been in close contact with staff affected, according to the Ministry of the Solicitor-General and Peel Public Health.
Staff members who have been in contact with the officers who have tested positive are also being contacted.
5.19 p.m. A total of 500 people have now died of COVID-19 in Ontario and the province’s epidemic has grown to more than 10,000 cases, according to the Star’s latest count.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Ontario’s regional health units had reported another 55 COVID-19 deaths, up from 445 at the same time Wednesday.
Those included the largest single-day increase in the death toll in Toronto, an increase of 26 cases to 147. According to Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s chief medical officer of health, 92, or about two-thirds of the city’s deaths so far, have come in the outbreak in long-term care homes.
By the Star’s count, nearly half of the people who have died of COVID-19 in the province were residents of a long-term care home.
As of Thursday evening, Ontario’s health units were reporting a total of 10,124 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, an increase of 533 since the same time Wednesday, or a relatively low 5.6-per-cent jump.
On a percentage basis, the epidemic’s spread has slowed in recent days. Last week, the province averaged 8.6-per-cent daily growth; the week before that, it averaged 15.6-per-cent growth.
Earlier Thursday, the province reported it had completed 9,001 COVID-19 tests the day prior, meeting Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to reach 8,000 tests a day by Wednesday.
According to the province, 807 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 248 in an intensive care unit, of whom 200 are on a ventilator. The totals remain significantly less severe than Ontario’s worst-case projections. The province also says 4,194 patients have now recovered after testing positive.
Ontario says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths, 423, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in its reporting system. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date,” it said.
The Star’s count, which is based on the health units’ public tallies and statements, includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
5 p.m. There are 10,124 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including 500 deaths. That’s up 533 cases (5.6 per cent) and 55 deaths from the same time Wednesday.
4.59 p.m. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has declared a COVID-19 outbreak on an in-patient surgical unit, a spokesperson confirmed to the Star late Thursday afternoon. An outbreak in a hospital means patients came in for unrelated issues and ended up with COVID-19.
Two COVID-positive patients have been identified, and this meets the definition of an outbreak, said Sybil Millar, of Sunnybrook, in an email.
“The two patients have been transferred from the unit and are being cared for with appropriate precautions,” she added. All other patients in the unit have been tested and are negative. The unit is now closed to new admissions “out of an abundance of caution.”
4.41 p.m. There are 29,930 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, according to The Canadian Press. Of these, 11 are presumed to be COVID-19 cases. There have been 1,191 deaths, and 9,701 cases resolved.
The total breaks down as follows:
Quebec: 15,857 confirmed (including 630 deaths, 2,841 resolved)Ontario: 8,961 confirmed (including 423 deaths, 4,194 resolved)Alberta: 1,996 confirmed (including 48 deaths, 914 resolved)British Columbia: 1,561 confirmed (including 75 deaths, 955 resolved)Nova Scotia: 579 confirmed (including three deaths, 176 resolved)Saskatchewan: 305 confirmed (including four deaths, 219 resolved)Newfoundland and Labrador: 252 confirmed (including three deaths, 170 resolved)Manitoba: 239 confirmed (including five deaths, 121 resolved), 11 presumptiveNew Brunswick: 117 confirmed (including 80 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 23 resolved)Repatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed casesYukon: eight confirmed (including six resolved)Northwest Territories: five confirmed (including two resolved)Nunavut reports no confirmed cases.
4.30 p.m. New White House guidelines outline a phased approach to restoring normal commerce and services, but only for places in the U.S. with strong testing and seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, according to The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social-distancing requirements on a call Thursday with the nation’s governors. The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.
Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools, with each phase lasting at least 14 days, meant to ensure that the virus outbreak doesn’t accelerate again.
3.45 p.m. There are 2,881 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto, according to Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for the City of Toronto. Of these, 2,559 are confirmed, 230 are hospitalized, 88 are in intensive care and 147 people have died.
There have been 92 deaths among 41 long-term care homes, and three deaths among 13 retirement homes.
De Villa says Toronto Public Health has launched its own COVID-19 coronavirus tracking system. She said the provincial database wasn’t able to keep up with Toronto’s demands, and the City needed a “more nimble system.” It’s internal and secure, and the information it generates will help TPH share data with the public, she added.
De Villa urged residents to continue to stay home to help save lives.
Mayor John Tory applauded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for new rent-relief program to help small- and medium-sized businesses as “very welcome news for the small business community in Toronto …. It will make a real difference in saving many small businesses in the city of Toronto.”
The Mayor announced the expansion of the City’s “Digital Main Street” program to help businesses go online or expand their online presence. The program started in 2016, but is more important now that many businesses are temporarily shuttered. It now operates Ontario-wide.
The City began implementing Ontario’s order to limit some long-term care workers to a single work site. The City has asked staff in City homes to declare the City as their prime employer, and it has offered benefits, including offering part-time staff full-time hours.
De Villa talked about the closure of The Works supervised injection site amid an outbreak in the building. It wasn’t set up for distancing, and many users already have illness. The closure is “frustrating and worrying for many,” she said. The site is aiming to re-open this weekend.
Mayor Tory was asked about TTC operators refusing to work over lack of personal protective equipment. Tory said the TTC is working with staff and Toronto Public Health to address the concerns.
Asked if it’s safe to get coffee from drive-throughs, de Villa said the safest thing is to maintain a two-metre distance from others.
She stressed that the safest course of action is to stay home as much as possible.
3.01 p.m. There are 29,929 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada, according to The Canadian Press. Of these 11 are presumed to be COVID-19, and 29,918 are confirmed, including 1,191 deaths, and 9,687 resolved.
These break down as follows:
Quebec: 15,857 confirmed (including 630 deaths, 2,841 resolved)Ontario: 8,961 confirmed (including 423 deaths, 4,194 resolved)Alberta: 1,996 confirmed (including 48 deaths, 914 resolved)British Columbia: 1,561 confirmed (including 75 deaths, 955 resolved)Nova Scotia: 579 confirmed (including three deaths, 176 resolved)Saskatchewan: 304 confirmed (including four deaths, 205 resolved)Newfoundland and Labrador: 252 confirmed (including three deaths, 170 resolved)Manitoba: 239 confirmed (including five deaths, 121 resolved), 11 presumptiveNew Brunswick: 117 confirmed (including 80 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 23 resolved)Repatriated Canadians account for 13 confirmed cases.Yukon: 8 confirmed (including six resolved)Northwest Territories: five confirmed (including two resolved)Nunavut reports no confirmed cases.
2:47 p.m. Italy will begin administering experimental coronavirus immunity tests on an initial 150,000 people nationwide in early May as part of its efforts to reopen after a weekslong shutdown.
Italy’s commissioner for the pandemic, Domenico Arcuri, told state-run RAI news Thursday that the government hopes the first wave of tests will progressively grow in number and become the national standard.
Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic, has imposed a lockdown and production shutdown through May 3.
2:24 p.m. Canada’s smallest province finds itself in an enviable position during the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 26 people who have tested positive since the outbreak began, and 23 of those have recovered.
Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief public health officer, says it’s proof the decision to quickly implement rules for self-isolation and social distancing was the right one.
Morrison says every case has been the result of travellers who returned to the Island, and there has been no community transmission.
People arriving at the Confederation Bridge or the Charlottetown Airport must prove they are a P.E.I. resident and have the ability to self-isolate for 14 days. So far 36 people have been turned away.
2:20 p.m. Bombardier Inc. is helping to produce 18,000 ventilators for the Ontario government at its temporarily shuttered plant in Thunder Bay, Ont.
The plane-and-train maker says it will carry out sanding, painting and assembly work on the equipment for Brampton, Ont.-based O-Two Medical Technologies, which manufactures respiratory care products.
Bombardier says O-Two found its supply chain disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and started hunting for help to churn out portable ventilators amid a looming shortage in Canada.
Bombardier expects to start work on April 27, drawing on between 40 and 50 employees — most of whom had been temporarily laid off — over three to four months.
2:10 p.m. Ontario has seen the greatest decline in electricity use among four Canadian provinces since COVID-19 restrictions shuttered many businesses in mid-March.
Electricity demand is down nearly 10 per cent in Ontario. That compares to a less than five per cent drop in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick, according to a study released Thursday by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.
The four provinces are the ones where electricity data is publicly available.
Unlike job numbers and GDP, which have a time lag in reporting, electricity demand provides a real-time snapshot into economic activity, said energy and environmental economics professor Blake Shaffer, who co-authored the report with Andrew Leach and Nic Rivers.
2:05 p.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back Thursday against allegations levied by the opposition that he is afraid of resuming debate in Parliament.
Trudeau said Thursday he believes in the role of Parliament, now more than ever.
“Our democracy is healthy and I know that our institutions must continue to function not in spite of the crisis but because of the crisis,” he said.
“So we are in talks with the opposition parties to find a way to continue the important work that is being done by our democratic institutions.”
1:59 p.m. An inmate has died from an apparent complication related to COVID-19 at a prison in B.C.
Correctional Services of Canada says it is the first death from the novel coronavirus at a federal prison.
The agency says in a statement the inmate died at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on Wednesday. The inmate, who has not been identified, was serving time at Mission Institution.
Correctional Services says 54 people have tested positive at the medium-security prison.
1:40 p.m. A Canadian R&B singer’s video for his debut single has gotten a boost amid the COVID-19 lockdown from a new fan: Idris Elba.
“Need You,” by London, Ont.’s Emanuel, caught the ear of the British actor — one of the first celebrities to test positive for the virus — and Elba put out a call on social media for photos and videos from his followers of the things and people that comfort them in self-isolation.
Within 24 hours, more than 3,000 submissions came in for the song’s “visual collage”; the final total exceeded 4,500 entries from over 20 countries. The resulting video debuted Thursday on YouTube.
1:36 p.m. The TTC announced Thursday morning it would start blocking off some seats on buses to enable social distancing. On Twitter, the agency said it will initially use caution tape or duct tape, but could institute a more permanent solution later on.
1:35 p.m. Ford says Trudeau “should say no right away” to keep the border closed to the United States. “I don’t want them in Ontario.”
1:32 p.m. Premier Doug Ford says he will be discussing business relief measures with Prime Minister Trudeau and the premiers this afternoon. Wants support “for both the businesses and the landlords.” Ford also said he will tell Trudeau “we need help” on enhancing wages for workers in long-term care homes.
1:28 p.m. Police in a small New Jersey town got an anonymous tip Monday about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.
When police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue, intended to hold no more than four people.
The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.
For the others, the cause of death is unknown.
1:25 p.m. Quebec Premier Francois Legault says 143 more people have died of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 630.
He says most of the deaths did not occur in the past 24 hours, but have been added the list following a change of data collecting methods by the public health department as well as post-mortem investigations.
There were also 997 new cases, for a total of 15,857.
Legault said 2,000 doctors responded to his call yesterday to come help in the province’s overburdened long-term care homes.
1:25 p.m. The British Columbia government is offering cash-strapped communities relief measures that include tax payment delays, debt-borrowing initiatives and a 25 per cent commercial property tax cut, but not an outright financial bailout some cities have requested.
Finance Minister Carole James says most commercial property tax bills will be cut by a further 25 per cent with a second reduction in school property tax payments, which have already been chopped by 50 per cent.
James says in order to give businesses and landlords more time to pay commercial property taxes, the late payment date has been extended to October 1 from July.
She says to better address municipal cash flow and revenue shortfall issues, the province will allow local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital funds and carry debt into next year.
1:24 p.m. The Toronto Zoo is looking for funds to keep its animals fed while it remains closed due to COVID-19.
The zoo says that it relies on parking and admission fees to feed its 5,000 animals at a cost of roughly $1 million per year.
To make up for lost revenue, the zoo is fundraising with the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy.
The conservancy was established last year and typically focuses its efforts on protecting endangered species.
It will be “reaching out to the public” to provide information about the animals’ “feeding needs.”
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Aquarium says it could be forced into bankruptcy and permanent closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The aquarium has been closed since March 17 but faces monthly costs in excess of $1 million for animal care and habitat maintenance.
Ocean Wise Conservation Association, which operates the aquarium, says bankruptcy is likely by early summer if funding is not found.
The not-for-profit aquarium currently houses more than 70,000 animals.
1:19 p.m. Premier Doug Ford says Ontario should have updated modelling on the COVID1-9 toll next week.
1:14 p.m. New York state will extend its stay-at-home restrictions at least through May 15 amid signs the initial wave of the coronavirus outbreak is slowing down.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that transmission rates still need to be tamed as he prolonged the restrictions that have left most New Yorkers housebound.
The number of people hospitalized statewide has ticked down to around 17,000, far below initial projections. But there are still close to 2,000 newly diagnosed people coming into hospitals daily, Cuomo said.
New York recorded 606 COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, the lowest daily number in more than a week.
12:58 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today for a total of 252 confirmed cases.
Chief medical health officer Doctor Janice Fitzgerald says the new cases are in the province’s Eastern Health zone.
Fitzgerald says 170 cases are considered recovered or resolved.
She’s urging people to “stay in their bubble” in order to stay safe.
12:57 p.m. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is talking with the United States about the agreement keeping the border closed to non-essential crossings.
Freeland says Canada’s position is that the agreement should be extended.
She says regardless of what U.S. President Donald Trump says about wanting to re-open the border, decisions about opening Canada’s side will be made by Canadians only.
Freeland says there are also discussions between premiers about interprovincial travel restrictions.
12:52 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, keeping the provincial total at 26 cases.
The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, says there is a collective sigh of relief every time there are no new cases on the Island.
Twenty-three cases are considered recovered.
Morrison says all cases on P.E.I. have been travel-related with no cases of community transmission.
12:50 p.m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford to give an update on COVID-19 at 1 p.m. EST. A livestream of the news conference will be available on thestar.com.
12:38 p.m. Italy reported its highest new coronavirus cases in four days on Thursday, as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte consults emergency task-forces to map a restart for businesses trapped in a nationwide lockdown.
There were 3,786 new cases of the disease, compared with 2,667 a day earlier, the highest since April 12, civil protection officials said at their daily briefing in Rome. Confirmed cases in the country now total 168,941.
Italy registered 525 deaths linked to the virus, compared with 578 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 22,170. Hospitalized patients and intensive care patients both declined. Tests rose to a record high at 60,999.
12:35 p.m. Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, says models are now predicting between 1,200 and 1,620 deaths from COVID-19 by April 21.
Last week the projections expected between 500 and 700 deaths this week, and Canada today has confirmed 1,048 deaths.
Tam says the overall curve is “bending” when it comes to the number of new infections being confirmed in Canada but the death rate is higher than expected because such a high proportion of outbreaks are in long-term care centres.
Tam says more than 90 per cent of the patients confirmed to have died from COVID-19 are over the age of 60, and half of them lived in long term care centres.
(UPDATED) 12:25 p.m. Public Procurement minister Anita Anand says 1.1 million more N95 respirator masks will be distributed to the provinces this week.
She says six flights of supplies from China have already arrived, and four more are coming this week.
Anand says already 17 million surgical masks and 800,000 N95 respirators have arrived.
Anand also said Irving Oil is the latest Canadian company that is shifting its business to help in the pandemic, adjusting some of its operations to produce hand sanitizer.
12:24 p.m. Cottagers are being barred from Hiawatha First Nation near Peterborough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hiawatha First Nation has established a checkpoint station to stop non-permanent residents from entering the area or travelling through it.
Cottagers and other seasonal residents with property at Hiawatha, or those who must travel through the reserve to access their property, are not being allowed access.
Upon arrival, volunteers at the checkpoint are asking permanent residents to provide their driver’s license or a bill, for proof of permanent residency.
12:21 p.m. Peel Public Health has confirmed an “outbreak” at the Ontario Correctional Institute, which means there are two or more cases at the provincial jail in Brampton. Mayor Patrick Brown said Wednesday night that three staff members at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. An inmate at the institution told the Star on Wednesday afternoon that six inmates had been quarantined at the jail and that the inmates refused to eat in the cafeteria. Food was instead brought to their ranges, he said.
Peel Public Health are expecting to have an update on the “ongoing investigation” this afternoon. The Ministry of the Solicitor General has not yet provided an update on the number positive tests at jails province-wide. As of Tuesday, four inmates had tested positive at jails across the province, according to the ministry. Three from the Toronto South Detention Centre and one from Monteith Correctional Complex. Three staff members had tested positive, one from Toronto South, one from the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre and one from the Ontario Correctional Institute.
12:15 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting 30 new cases of COVID-19 today for a total of 579 confirmed cases.
Health officials say that as of yesterday, there are seven licensed long-term care homes in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 42 residents and 23 staff.
While most cases in the province have been connected to travel or a known case, officials say there is now community spread.
To date, Nova Scotia has 18,453 negative test results and three deaths.
11:58 a.m. New York City is getting ready to use 11,000 empty hotel rooms for coronavirus quarantines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
After initially lining up hotels to become temporary hospitals, the city is now planning to use the rooms as quarantine sites for some people in crowded apartments, for some homeless shelter residents and for health care workers who don’t want to risk infecting family members, de Blasio said.
In some communities where infection rates are high, some people are living in cramped multi-generational households, the mayor noted.
“If there is a threat that someone might get infected in the home and it might spread amongst the members of that family, we have to guard against that,” he said.
De Blasio said the city will work with community health centres to identify who needs the service and will start moving people into hotel rooms April 22.
11:54 a.m. The number of nursing home residents testing positive for COVID-19 has gone up 12 per cent in the last day, double the rate in the general population, according to statistics released Thursday by the Ontario government.
Another 99 nursing home residents have contracted the potentially deadly illness that is taking a heavy toll in several long-term care facilities, prompting Premier Doug Ford to target more resources to the sector he says has been hit like a “wildfire” by the virus.
At least 933 residents of nursing homes have tested positive to date, along with 530 staff, an increase of 77 in the government statistics based on reports from public health units as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.
While the province reports 162 nursing home deaths so far, a Star compilation from public health units shows at least 219 have died, raising concerns the provincial figures are too slow to be updated and do not provide officials with an accurate picture.
11:48 a.m. Facebook is about to begin letting users know if they’ve spread bad information about COVID-19.
The company will soon be letting users know if they liked, reacted to, or commented on posts with harmful misinformation about the virus that was removed by moderators, by directing those who engaged with those posts to information about virus myths debunked by the World Health Organization.
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Social media is awash in bad takes about the outbreak and platforms have begun to combat that misinformation.
Facebook said Thursday that people will begin seeing warning messages in coming weeks.
11:42 a.m. The U.S.-Canada border isn’t opening again any time soon if Canada has anything to say about it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it will be “many weeks” before the two countries can loosen restrictions that are keeping the frontier closed to all but goods and a small number of essential workers.
That’s to keep the virus that causes COVID-19 from crossing back and forth with travellers.
An agreement between Canada and the United States to limit border crossings is due to expire in days.
President Donald Trump says he’s eager to start returning to normal life, even as his country grapples with the world’s biggest outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
11:35 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it would be “absolutely disastrous” to reopen the economy too early and allow another explosion of cases that would undo all efforts to date.
Trudeau says reopening is also not possible until Canada has a plan for responding to cases that arise in second or third waves.
He says that response would include “massive” levels of testing, and rapid response plans to trace contacts and isolate patients immediately.
11:28 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is expanding a loan program for small businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and is working on a new support for companies having trouble paying rent.
The loan program will now be open to businesses that had payrolls last year between $20,000 and $1.5 million.
The Canada Emergency Business Account previously offered up to $40,000 in loans to business with payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million.
Trudeau also says a program is coming to help businesses cover rents for at least three months but the details still need to be worked out with the provinces and territories.
11:02 a.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 44 COVID-19 deaths since Wednesday morning, a 24-hour period that also saw the lowest daily growth in coronavirus cases on a percentage basis since the beginning of the Star’s count.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the health units were reporting 9,738 confirmed or probable cases of the disease, a jump of 470 cases or 5.1 per cent in 24 hours.
On a percentage basis, the epidemic’s spread has slowed in recent days. Last week, the province averaged 8.6 per cent daily growth; the week before that, it averaged 15.6 per cent growth.
Despite this, the daily death toll appears to still be rising in the province. By the Star’s count, which is based on the public tallies and statements of Ontario’s 34 health units, an average of 43 people have died of COVID-19 each day this week. Last week, that average was 25 a day; the week before that, it was 17.
In total 469 people have now been reported dead of the disease in Ontario.
By the Star’s latest count, nearly half of the people to die in the province were residents of a long-term care home.
Earlier Thursday, the province reported it had completed 9,001 COVID-19 tests the day prior, meeting Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to reach 8,000 tests a day by Wednesday. The province has said it has capacity to complete about 13,000 tests daily.
According to the province, 807 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 248 in an intensive care unit, of whom 200 are on a ventilator — totals that remain significantly less severe than Ontario’s worst-case projections. The province also says 4,194 patients have now recovered after testing positive.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths — 423 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in its reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
11 a.m. Ukraine’s two rival Orthodox churches clashed Thursday over public health guidelines for forthcoming Easter celebrations, after the one said believers could gather outside places of worship despite a government ban on public gatherings due to the pandemic.
The head of the Moscow-affiliated Orthodox Church in Ukraine did urge believers to stay home and watch televised Easter services. But Metropolitan Onufriy added that those who wanted could come and pray outside churches while maintaining social distancing.
Orthodox Easter is celebrated this week, culminating in Easter Sunday on April 19.
10:56 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce more financial help for small businesses struggling to survive COVID-19 at 11:15 a.m. EST. A livestream of the news conference will be available on thestar.com.
10:37 a.m. The Canadian premiere of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which was to begin in Toronto in October, will now be postponed till 2021.
It was to debut Oct. 23 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre with an all-Canadian cast, but David Mirvish and other producers announced the postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of physical distancing requirements, the months of preparations and rehearsals necessary to stage the technically complex production, with its “acclaimed illusions and special effects” could not take place in time for the fall opening.
10:29 a.m. Ontario is expanding its testing for COVID-19 priority groups, including for residents and staff of homeless shelters and group homes, people living with health-care workers and cancer patients.
Premier Doug Ford has expressed frustration that Ontario has been processing a daily number of tests well below its capacity of 13,000.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says the new guidelines will help Ontario take full advantage of the testing capacity it has built, and will help the province more effectively identify and contain cases among vulnerable populations.
The new guidelines say people living and working in “congregate” settings such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities and group homes should be tested as soon as possible if they have symptoms such as fever, pneumonia or “any new or worsening symptom.”
Essential workers, cross-border workers, and people living with health-care workers, care providers and first responders are also now to be tested as soon as possible if they develop symptoms.
The guidelines also say people who need to be in frequent contact with the health system, including cancer patients, people undergoing dialysis and pregnant women should be tested as soon as they develop symptoms.
10:19 a.m. COVID-19 has been confirmed in more than two dozen people working on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said.
While an offshore rig might seem like an unlikely place for the virus to show up, workers share close quarters and frequently touch surfaces including handrails that make it difficult to stop the spread, nola.com reported Wednesday.
As of April 8, 26 offshore workers in the Gulf had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Only seven of the 680 platforms in the Gulf had been affected at that point.
BP is among the companies that has had offshore workers test positive for the coronavirus, said spokesman Jason Ryan. The workers were already onshore when the virus was confirmed, he said, and the platform has since been cleaned and has new crew members on board.
9:56 a.m. Japan’s state of emergency has been expanded to the whole country from seven prefectures, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, as the novel coronavirus crisis deepens.
Everyone in Japan needs to reduce their social contacts by 80 percent in order to stem new infections, Abe urged, as the number of cases climbed to nearly 10,000, including 712 on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo in February.
About 180 people have died of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
The government “needs to take measures to keep the flow of people to minimum” before this year’s Golden Week holidays that start in late April, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the country’s economic minister, told a government meeting.
9:05 a.m. The 2020 RBC Canadian Open has been cancelled. The PGA Tour, Golf Canada and RBC announced the event’s long-speculated cancellation on Thursday morning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was scheduled for June 8-14 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
The Canadian Open is the third oldest event on the PGA Tour schedule behind the British Open and U.S. Open.
6:45 a.m.: Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said the online retail giant is developing COVID-19 testing capabilities as a first step toward a system of regular checks on its employees globally.
In an annual letter to shareholders, the billionaire founder outlined other steps the e-commerce giant has taken to curb the coronavirus, from shutting down non-essential services like Amazon Books to overhauling processes at Whole Foods. The next step was regular testing for all staff — including those who showed no symptoms, he said. On Thursday, Bezos said his company had assembled a team comprising scientists, managers and software engineers to build internal testing capacity, and hoped to build its first testing lab soon.
“Regular testing on a global scale, across all industries, would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running. For this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available,” Bezos said in the letter, which offers a rare window into the thinking of the world’s richest man and his plans for the company he founded.
6:28 a.m.: The head of the World Health Organization’s European office is hailing a show of support, including some “commitments” from around the world, for the U.N. health agency after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a halt to funding for it.
Amid an increasingly fraught financial situation for the WHO as it battles the coronavirus outbreak, Dr. Hans Kluge said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support of European countries.”
In an online briefing, the WHO’s regional director for Europe credited the United States for its historic support for the agency. The U.S. is WHO’s top donor, contributing between $400 million to $500 million annually in recent years. Trump on Tuesday ordered a temporary halt to U.S. funding pending a review of its alleged missteps in managing and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are looking at the finance situation. Some commitments have come in,” Kluge said, without elaborating. “But for the time, we’re in the midst of the crisis. So what we focus on is to save lives.”
“The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region,” Kluge said, noting that case numbers are still rising — and have doubled to nearly 1 million over the last 10 days.
He said the WHO’s European region is facing “about 50 per cent of the global burden of COVID-19.”
6:19 a.m.: More than 1 million coronavirus tests will be rolled out starting next week in Africa to address the “big gap” in assessing the true number of cases on the continent, the head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
“Maybe 15 million tests” will be required in Africa over the next three months, John Nkengasong said.
Africa has suffered in the global race to obtain testing kits and other badly needed medical equipment. While the number of virus cases across the continent was above 17,000 on Thursday, health officials have said the testing shortage means more are out there.
South Africa, the most assertive African nation in testing, has carried out perhaps 80,000 tests so far, Nkengasong said.
5:59 a.m.: China is refuting allegations that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated in a laboratory near the city of Wuhan where contagious samples were being stored.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited the head of the World Health Organization and other unidentified medical experts as saying there was no evidence that transmission began from the lab and there was “no scientific basis” for such claims.
“We always believe that this is a scientific issue and requires the professional assessment of scientists and medical experts,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing on Thursday.
“Only with reasonable response can the international community win this fight,” Zhao said. “China will continue to work together with other countries to help and support each other.”
China has also strongly denied claims it delayed reporting on the virus outbreak in Wuhan late last year and underreported case numbers, worsening the impact on the U.S. and other countries. The virus is widely believed to have originated with bats and have passed via another animal species to humans at a wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan, although a firm determination has yet to be made.
Allegations about a leak of the virus from the lab have been made in the U.S. media without direct evidence, and President Donald Trump has vowed to suspend funding for the World Health Organization, partly because of what he claims is its pro-China bias.
5:52 a.m.: Vietnam is donating 200,000 domestically made medical masks to the U.S., which has seen deaths from the novel coronavirus top 30,000.
The masks are worth at least $100,000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an email statement. The gift to the U.S., Vietnam’s largest single export market, follows similar mask donations to other countries, including Russia, France, Italy and Cambodia. Vietnam delivered 450,000 medical protective suits made by DuPont Inc.’s Haiphong facility to Dallas, Texas earlier this month.
The mask give-aways come as Vietnam’s garment industry shifts from making shirts and skirts to medical protective gear as the virus’ spread has led to slowing orders from the U.S. and Europe.
5:21 a.m.: Cameroon’s main opposition leader said he wants a top court to declare a power vacuum because President Paul Biya hasn’t addressed the coronavirus crisis in the country.
Africa’s second-longest serving president has been criticized on social media for his silence amid the rapid spread of the disease. Cameroon diagnosed the first case of the coronavirus on March 6 and is now among the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with 855 patients. The 87-year-old was last seen on March 11 after receiving the U.S. ambassador.
“In the face of the unprecedented political situation in which our country finds itself, characterized by the prolonged and unexplained absence of the head of state, I have decided to act,” opposition leader Maurice Kamto said on his Facebook page Wednesday. Kamto called on the speaker of parliament to seize the Constitutional Court.
Known for his secretive leadership style and his frequent, months-long stays in Switzerland, Biya’s silence has also fueled widespread speculation about his health.
5:10 a.m.: President Donald Trump is expected to announce new guidelines Thursday, allowing some states to quickly ease up on social distancing even as business leaders told him they need more coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment before people can safely go back to work.
On Wednesday, industry executives cautioned Trump that the return to normalcy will be anything but swift.
The new guidelines, expected to be announced Thursday, are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit places. The ultimate decisions will remain with governors.
4:57 a.m.: The British government is set to extend a nationwide lockdown for several more weeks, as health officials say the coronavirus outbreak in the country is peaking.
Authorities are expected to announce an extension of restrictions on movement and business activity after a meeting Thursday of the government’s crisis committee, COBRA.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “it is too early to make a change” to the lockdown introduced on March 23 in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
But as other European countries cautiously ease their measures, U.K. authorities face pressure to explain when and how the country will reopen.
As of Wednesday, 12,868 people had died in U.K. hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus. The figure does not include deaths in nursing homes and other settings.
4:57 a.m.: The coronavirus outbreak is set to wipe out more than $10 billion from Indonesia’s tourism revenue this year as leisure travel comes to a near complete halt, the government said Thursday.
The country is preparing stimulus packages for the industry and a safety net for workers to blunt the impact, President Joko Widodo said at a cabinet meeting Thursday. He predicted a leisure travel boom for next year after the pandemic is over, urging the industry to prepare for that opportunity.
The number of foreign tourists is expected to fall to 5 million this year from last year’s more than 16 million as countries impose travel restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly disease.
“Economic stimulus for businesses in the tourism and creative industry must be prepared so they can survive and don’t resort to large-scale layoffs,” Widodo said. “I am confident that this will only last through the end of this year and by next year there will be a boom in tourism.”
Indonesia may see a peak of virus infections next month with total cases reaching 106,000 by July, according to Wiku Adisasmito, an official at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
“Everyone wants to get out, everyone wants to enjoy the beauty that is in the regions that have tourism,” Widodo said Thursday. “Don’t let us get caught up in pessimism.”
4:43 a.m.: Business leaders across industries in South Africa are following President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet in taking about a third of their pay for the next three months and donating the money to a government fund to fight the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports.
For Rob Shuter, the chief executive officer of Africa’s largest mobile-phone company MTN Group Ltd., that will mean a donation of about 1.43 million rand ($77,000), based on his basic annual pay last year of 17.3 million rand. Alan Pullinger, the CEO of the continent’s most valuable bank, FirstRand Ltd., will be giving away more than 730,000 rand.
4:37 a.m.: Denmark is resuming citizenship ceremonies after temporarily suspending a handshake requirement with mayors due concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the government said Thursday.
The government had halted naturalization ceremonies following advice from health authorities, leaving 2,700 applicants in limbo. The handshake requirement, which was introduced by the previous government, has been criticized for targeting immigrants whose religious beliefs prevent them from touching members of the opposite sex.
The Social Democrat-led government plans to reinstate the handshake requirement as soon as health authorities advise that it no longer poses a health threat.
4:10 a.m.: Security personnel in Nigeria have killed at least 18 people enforcing restrictions introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus, ThisDay reported, citing a report by the National Human Rights Commission.
“Whereas COVID-19 has led to the death of about 11 patients to date, law-enforcement agents have extra-judicially executed 18 persons to enforce the regulations,” the Lagos-based newspaper said, citing NHRC Executive Secretary Tony Ojukwu. The Nigerian prison service and police force were responsible for 15 of the killings that happened between March 30 and April 13, with 12 of the total taking place in the northern state of Kaduna, it said.
4:09 a.m.: Singapore officers patrolling the city-state to enforce safe distancing measures have met some nasty response.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said criminal force has been used by recalcitrant citizens against a number of officers on the frontline.
He said an enforcement officer was slapped Wednesday by a man who didn’t comply with safe distancing measures, while a volunteer Safe Distancing Ambassador was punched after advising an errant member of the public to wear his mask properly. He wrote in a Facebook post that these were but two cases that the police will investigate.
Masagos warned that such behaviour was unacceptable and that action would be taken against these individuals. He said authorities have set up a mobile app for members of the public to flag instances of such misbehaviour and send other feedback on the safe distancing measures.
Enforcement officers were Thursday given special passes and red armbands for the public to identify them.
Singapore has reported 1,167 new coronavirus cases in the past three days to take its tally to 3,699, with 10 deaths. Most of the new cases are linked to foreign workers living in cramped dormitories, who now account for about half of total infections.
The city-state of under six million people has imposed a partial lockdown until May 4 and made it mandatory for people to wear masks outside their homes.
4:01 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today more financial help for small businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought much of Canada’s economy to a standstill.
It’s likely to involve some changes to the eligibility rules for the Canada Emergency Business Account program that banks and credit unions began delivering last week.
Under the program, the federal government is backing interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for businesses with annual payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million.
One-quarter of each loan will be forgivable if the remainder is paid off by the end of 2022.
Some small and medium-sized businesses with payrolls just under or just over the threshold have complained that they’re not eligible for the loans.
In a motion passed Saturday during an emergency sitting of the House of Commons, the federal government effectively promised to expand the loan program.
3:41 a.m.: South Africa’s mining industry could lose more than 45,000 jobs during a prolonged nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus, according to the country’s biggest producers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended a 21-day lockdown by two weeks, keeping most mines mothballed to the end of this month. A prolonged shutdown could curb output by 15%, threatening the viability of marginal operations, the Minerals Council South Africa said.
“A longer lockdown period, with lower production and no mechanisms in place to support the industry, could put 10% of the workforce at risk — and this excludes jobs in supplier industries,” said the Minerals Council, which represents major producers.
Moreover, producers aren’t prepared to pay for wages beyond the original 21-day shutdown, which was due to end this week, said Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. After that, workers will have to make “alternative arrangements,” such as approaching government agencies for assistance, he said.
While the companies had received government permission to resume partial operations at some mines, police have blocked workers from returning. More than 450,000 mineworkers were sent home when the lockdown started.
2:58 a.m.: Australia is planning a business-as-usual week of Parliament in May in an indication that the country is weathering the pandemic better than the government had feared. Parliament’s schedule was scrapped a week into March and a scaled-down assembly has sat on only two days since to pass billions of dollars in emergency economic stimulus measures. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he will discuss with the opposition and state leaders arranging for lawmakers to return to Canberra for a “trial week” in May. Obstacles include a shortage of domestic flights and most states demanding interstate travellers quarantine in hotels for two weeks.
Australia has recorded 6,457 cases of COVID-19, mostly infected overseas, but new detections have recently slowed to fewer than 50 a day. The death toll stands at 63 on Thursday with 42 patients in intensive care.
11:15 p.m.: 1,700 WestJet pilots have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company told the Star Wednesday night. The layoffs are effective on May 1 and June 1, depending on the pilot.
“These notifications are in response to the COVID-19 global crisis that is shutting borders, encouraging only essential travel and forcing a dramatic reduction in flying,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
Almost three quarters of the airline’s fleet has been reduced as a result of such measures, they said.
“Issuing layoffs, in response to this crisis, has always been a last resort for WestJet; however, the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry is colossal, and WestJet is making difficult but necessary decisions to right-size our airline to weather the crisis.” Read more: WestJet lays off 1,700 pilots amid COVID-19 pandemic
9 p.m.: Dozens of front-line TTC employees at two of the agency’s garages staged work stoppages Wednesday over claims management isn’t doing enough to protect them from COVID-19.
At least 38 bus drivers at the TTC’s Wilson and Queensway divisions refused to go out on shift, according to the agency and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents most TTC employees. Read the Star’s Ben Spurr’s report: At least 38 TTC bus drivers stop work over COVID-19 fears
7 p.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting that travel restrictions along the Canada-U.S. border could be relaxed sooner rather than later.
Trump, during a news conference at the White House, said Canada is doing well in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and that the border shared by the two countries could be among the first to be “released.”