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Canadian companies Lululemon, MEC and Arc'teryx join Facebook ad boycott –



Canadian companies Lululemon Athletica, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc’teryx are joining a growing list of top international brands vowing not to advertise on Facebook in July because of hateful content that continues to spread on the social media platform.

The Vancouver-based athleticwear companies confirmed to The Canadian Press that they are pulling their paid ads from Facebook and joining the StopHateForProfit boycott that has already been supported by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Honda America, Patagonia and more.

Champions of the boycott say Facebook has not done enough to keep white supremacists and racist, false and dangerous content off its platform. They are also disappointed that Facebook has allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in the wake of the deaths of several Black Americans.

MEC said in an email to The Canadian Press that its boycott came into effect on June 25, when it pulled its organic content and paid ads from Facebook and Instagram until the end of July.

Lululemon tweeted its support for StopHateForProfit and said it is actively engaging with Facebook to seek meaningful change, while Arc’teryx says Facebook profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and violence.

Facebook said in a statement that it invests billions of dollars each year to keep its community safe, but knows it has more work to do, so it will continue to engage with civil rights groups and other experts when developing tools and technology.

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Canada's public health agency warns threat of COVID-19 resurgence in Canada 'not just hypothetical' –



While the COVID-19 epidemic in Canada remains “largely under control,” one of Canada’s top public health officials is warning that the potential for a significant spike in new cases “is not just hypothetical, as this is exactly what we are already seeing in some other parts of the world.”

As the United States nears three million cases of COVID-19 and states like Texas and California show record-high numbers of newly-reported cases, Canada’s public health agency on Wednesday released the latest figures in its modelling of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, showing the epidemic is on the same trajectory as it was at the end of June.

Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer of Canada, told a media briefing in Ottawa today that “the current patterns of COVID-19 infections show limited to no transmission in most areas of the country.”

Dr. Njoo pointed out that most of the recent outbreaks have been localized, citing northern Saskatchewan and Ontario’s Peel and Windsor-Essex regions as hotspots that emerged over the last two weeks.

These outbreaks have led to Canada’s Rt number — representing the average number of people infected by each individual case — rising above 1 after staying below 1 for most of the last 10 weeks. An Rt above 1 suggests the spread of the disease is growing.

Dr. Njoo said that “with cases low in number, the daily Rt is likely to fluctuate dramatically. It remains important for us to closely monitor for new cases and outbreaks that could arise in any part of the country, even in places which might have few or no cases at the moment.”

Watch: ‘Limited to no transmission’ of coronavirus in most of Canada: PHAC

The Public Health Agency of Canada says transmission of the coronavirus is waning in most parts of the country, but warned that Canadians must keep following public health measures to prevent a rebound. 49:52

‘Things can change quickly’

In a press conference in Ottawa earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the same warning.

“The situation is stabilizing in Canada today because Canadians did their part and followed public health instructions,” he said, “but we still have to be very careful. Things can change quickly.”

The models forecast that by July 17, Canada will have detected between 106,000 and 111,000 cases and suffered between 8,560 and 8,900 deaths.

As of July 7, the country had experienced 107,000 cases and 8,818 deaths, according to a tally by CBC News.

The data indicate that cases among Canadians over the age of 80 have declined the most, but that the prevalence of COVID-19 among Canadians between the ages of 20 and 39 has not declined at the same pace.

“To continue to prevent a resurgence and manage the epidemic,” Dr. Njoo said in French, “we need the rate of infection among this age group to decrease in a constant manner. Though severe illness is less frequent among younger age groups, young adults are not protected from serious consequences.”

Young people can also spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.

As of the public health agency’s data up to July 7, there have been only 24 recorded deaths among Canadians under the age of 39 due to COVID-19, representing just 0.3 per cent of the total. But they represent over eight per cent of hospitalized cases and nearly 10 per cent of those admitted to intensive care units.

Dr. Njoo said that, as businesses re-open and personal restrictions are lifted, he expects to see a resurgence in cases. He said there’s a risk of a significant spike in the summer and into the fall without enhanced public health measures related to case detection, contact tracing and quarantining.

The models suggest that without these measures in place, there is a “distinct possibility” that the caseload could explode beyond even the peak of the first wave in April, he said.

And while he thinks things are going well so far, Dr. Njoo said “we need to keep underlining the key public health messages and telling people that no, it’s not over, and if there’s too much of what we call a relapse … then certainly we’ll see more of these outbreaks.”

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Canada’s coronavirus deficit soaring to $343B as feds warn of ‘permanent change’ to economy –



The flood of federal spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis will see the deficit soar to $343 billion this year, as officials warn the economy might never go back to normal.

At the same time, Finance Minister Bill Morneau provided no indication of a roadmap for when or how the government plans to rein in spending. But he insisted in the 168-page fiscal snapshot that the country remains well-positioned to handle the weight of that deficit because of historically low interest rates .

That lack of clarity means there are few clues as to what Canadian taxpayers can expect down the road, either in terms of potentially higher taxes or service cuts.

READ MORE: 2nd coronavirus wave could have ‘serious impact’ on economy: Bank of Canada

What the snapshot does make clear is that there is a very real likelihood that the Canadian economy and consumer habits may not soon — if ever — return to what they were pre-COVID-19, and that the level of further spending required to spur recovery will depend on how seriously Canadians continue working to flatten the curve.

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“Uncertainty is inherent in any forecast. However, in the current context, uncertainty is magnified to unprecedented levels.  In addition to recovery being driven by public health outcomes, it may not follow historical patterns – crises can have a profound impact on economies that lead to permanent change,” the fiscal snapshot stated.

“The economy may not be able to produce the same level of goods and services, even if demand returns to pre-crisis levels.”

The fiscal snapshot cited as an example that will likely mean fewer seats at restaurants, leading to fewer jobs and less money for businesses.

Continued restrictions on travel, it also noted, could impact immigration, which would lead to slower growth in the workforce and employer’s ability to fill key jobs and services. 

READ MORE: Where will Canada’s coronavirus economy go next? Here are 3 possible scenarios

The fiscal snapshot comes after months of economic pain that has seen Canadian unemployment levels hit their highest-ever levels.

While national unemployment was at a record low of 5.5 per cent in January, the coronavirus crisis and the nationwide shutdown led to an unemployment rate of 13.7 per cent in May and a total of 30 per cent of the workforce either losing hours or unemployed.

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“The recession likely reached its lowest point in late April, although a large share of the economy still remains idled,” the snapshot suggested.

The economic impact of the coronavirus, explained

The economic impact of the coronavirus, explained

But even if the worst may have passed, that doesn’t mean the outlook is positive for businesses that will have to continue to find ways to adapt in difficult circumstances, the document warned.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“Even without resurgence of uncontrolled transmission, global uncertainty is likely to remain for some time. In the face of this, businesses have to decide when to start hiring and investing again,” the snapshot stated.

“There is a risk that this process could be prolonged until there is more certainty that the virus is no longer a threat and that the global economic recovery is solidly underway. In the interim, many businesses will have to follow strict physical distancing protocols and will be operating at greatly reduced capacity. “

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In short: any businesses or consumers hoping for a return to the life they once knew appear to be out of luck for quite a while yet. 

Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau says keeping COVID-19 transmission rate down key part of economic plan

Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau says keeping COVID-19 transmission rate down key part of economic plan

Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, also cautioned the government in response to the fiscal snapshot that Canadian businesses need clear guidance now.

“We need a longer-term fiscal plan and forward guidance from the government. Today should have been an opportunity to offer Canadians a clear picture of the challenges and a coherent strategy to address them,” he said in a statement.

“What businesses, investors, analysts and Canadians alike wanted to hear was how we will move away from the short-term measures that are quickly draining the federal treasury to helping families and businesses once again become self-sufficient.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also criticized the snapshot for failing to provide clearer details on how the government plans to shape the country’s economic recovery.

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He described the financial outlook in the snapshot as “dire.”

“Every single country on the planet will be desperately competing for the same opportunities and the same investments so where is the prime minister sending us?” he said.

“The prime minister has absolutely no plan … spending billions of dollars does not create economic growth.”

READ MORE: WHO says ‘evidence emerging’ that coronavirus may be airborne

The unprecedented economic shutdown sparked by the need to limit spread of the highly contagious virus saw the government roll out $212 billion in spending on income replacement and scientific research, business loans and grants to vulnerable Canadians.

Among those measures was the wage subsidy and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a $2,000 per month benefit for Canadians earning less than $1,000 per month because of the economic shutdown.

More than eight million Canadians have received the CERB. As well, 1.2 million who had previously claimed the benefit stopped doing so in May as lockdown measures began to ease.

The government also said in the snapshot that it will extend the wage subsidy for an unspecified amount of time beyond the most recent extension to Aug. 29.

READ MORE: COVID-19 wage subsidy program extended through August, Trudeau says

“We will have more to say on that in the very near term as we finalize those details as how it can be used to help us get back to work,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a press conference on Wednesday when asked about the extension. 

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The snapshot does not provide an estimate for the precise cost of whatever further extension is planned but noted when the program was first announced, it was earmarked to cost $45 billion and the three-month extension of the program to Aug. 29 upped that cost to $82.3 billion.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux had said in June that the cost of those programs would create a deficit of roughly $256 billion this fiscal year alone.

Officials speaking to reporters on background acknowledged the $343 billion deficit now projected could get worse if the uneven recovery forecast in several possible future scenario models included in the document come to pass, though said they did not see that as likely.

Low interest rates billed as way to limit coronavirus debt pain

For consumers, all of this effectively means uncertainty will continue to be the key watchword for the foreseeable future.

A further fiscal projection will come in the fall but there’s no commitment from the government right now to any kind of fiscal anchor or attempt to adjust its forecasts for possible future risks.

What the government is doing, however, is trying to lock in the historically low interest rates that officials have repeatedly cited in defence of their massive spending.

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The government will lock in long-term bonds at current low levels, meaning it will pay current levels of interest on future payments it makes towards getting rid of the deficit.

Because of the low interest rates, the government expects to pay $4 billion less on debt charges than it had planned to just last year.

“As challenging as this situation is, we’re in a position that the cost of our debt is lower than it’s ever been before,” said Morneau in a press conference.

When the pandemic first hit in January, the Bank of Canada has set its prime interest rate — which effectively acts as a guide for the rates given to consumers at their regular banks — at 1.75 per cent. But it has slashed that three times since, with the rate now at 0.25 per cent.

The debt-to-GDP ratio will rise from 31 per cent to 49 per cent because of the coronavirus emergency spending, the fiscal snapshot noted.

But overall, there fiscal snapshot puts an emphasis on the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty that causes for trying to create any kind of economic forecast.

Whether the economy begins to slowly recover or whether it contracts again due to another shutdown, officials said, comes down to public health and whether Canadians stop the spread.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ottawa to provide fiscal update on impact from pandemic; Cases in U.S. top 3 million – Toronto Star



The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1 p.m.: Four international film festivals are putting aside their traditional rivalries to try to keep film festivals alive.

The Toronto International Film Festival announced Wednesday that it has signed a letter of solidarity with the New York Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival committing to “co-operation, information sharing and support of one another’s global events.”

“The art form we love is in crisis,” the statement says. “Our own organizations have seen unprecedented challenges to our work and our financial security. The pandemic caught each of us as we were preparing for the biggest event of our year in the fall of 2020. We knew we had to adapt. We decided to collaborate as we never have before.”

The news release didn’t specify what forms that collaboration will take but said the four festivals have “moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals . . . We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find. We’re here to serve the filmmakers, audiences, journalists and industry members who keep the film ecosystem thriving. We need to do that together.”

12:52 p.m.: Nova Scotia’s top health official has revoked a special exemption for workers at Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding that allowed them to travel to and from the United States during the pandemic.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, issued a statement Wednesday saying questions and concerns have been raised about the exception granted in June by the province’s public health department.

He said “very tight restrictions” were placed on the exemption, which he approved. He did not offer details about the nature of the concerns that were raised.

Strang, however, made it clear there will be no further company travel to or from the United States while the border between the two countries remains officially closed for non-essential visits.

He also said he has ordered some Irving employees to isolate themselves at home for 14 days and submit to COVID-19 testing.

12:52 p.m.: The Nova Scotia Health Authority has issued a warning to travellers who were aboard an Air Canada flight from Toronto that arrived in Halifax on June 26, saying passengers could have been exposed to COVID-19.

Air Canada flight AC 626 departed Toronto at 8:15 p.m. and landed in Halifax at 11:17 p.m.

Health officials said anyone on the flight could have been exposed to the virus, but added an investigation has indicated that passengers in rows 29 to 23, and in seats A to C, were more likely to be at risk.

Passengers in those seats are being asked to call 811 for advice.

Anyone exposed to the novel coronavirus on the flight may develop symptoms up to and including July 10.

12:03 p.m.: DavidsTea is seeking court protection from creditors so it can continue operating while it restructures and plans to close a significant number of its stores.

The Montreal-based company said Wednesday it will seek an order in Quebec Superior Court to allow it to restructure under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

It also plans to seek similar orders for its U.S. subsidiary under Chapter 15 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The company said during the restructuring process it plans to continue operating online through and its wholesale distribution channel, which supplies grocery stores and pharmacies.

The chain’s stores have been shut since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It had warned in mid-June that it hadn’t paid rent on any of its stores for April, May and June and that it may seek a formal restructuring.

12 p.m. (updated): The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has hit 3 million, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. But U.S. health officials say the real number of infections is probably 10 times higher, or close to 10 per cent of the population.

The numbers have been surging in recent weeks amid a rapid expansion in testing. But experts say the rise cannot be explained as just the result of more testing.

They say the outbreak is worsening, as shown by such warning signs as an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus.

Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, Americans confronted with an alarming resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites and going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis. Some sites are running out of kits even as testing is ramped up.

Labs are reporting shortages of materials and don’t have enough workers to process the tests, leading to severe backups that could worsen as economies reopen and new infections emerge.

Scenes of testing sites turning away people and motorists waiting in the summer heat in long lines separated into numerous lanes by traffic cones have left Americans frustrated and wondering why the U.S. can’t seem to get its act together, especially after it was given fair warning over the past several months as the virus spread from China to hot spots such as Italy, Spain and New York.

11:53 a.m.: Quebec’s Health Department is reporting 13 additional COVID-19 deaths today, bringing the total to 5,603 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The province is also reporting another 82 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 56,079, including 25,534 cases that are considered recovered.

Six deaths occurred in the past 24 hours while seven others reported today occurred before June 30.

The number of people hospitalized decreased by 16 to 331, but one more patient was listed in intensive compared with the prior day, for a total of 27.

On Monday, the latest day for which testing results are available, the province said it conducted 7,576 tests.

The province’s health authorities have said in recent days they are determined to increase testing capacity.

11:32 p.m.: A hospital in Edmonton is no longer admitting patients due to a full outbreak of COVID-19.

An outbreak at the Misericordia Community Hospital was first declared by Alberta’s chief medical health officer two weeks ago, and restrictions were tightened as case numbers increased.

Alberta Health Services says that 20 patients and 15 staff have tested positive. Three patients have died from the infection.

The hospital, which is run by Catholic health provider Covenant Health, is not allowing visitors except in end-of-life situations and is postponing day procedures.

11:10 a.m. (updated): Ontario’s new cases of COVID-19 are remaining steadily low, but there were nine deaths reported overnight.

There were 118 confirmed cases of coronovirus reported Wednesday.

But the nine deaths is an increase from two the day before and zero on Monday. It was the most reported in one day since June 25 when there were 10 deaths.

There are 123 people in hospital with COVID-19 — 35 in intensive care units. Of those, 26 are on ventilators.

Ontario completed more than 22,832 tests for the novel coronavirus over the previous 24 hours.

10:15 a.m.: At the outset of the pandemic, Robert Witchel, executive director of the Blue Jays’ charitable arm, suspected underserved communities across Canada and children who were already marginalized would be hurt the most.

The Jays Care Foundation wanted to support Indigenous communities, families enrolled in their Challenger Baseball program for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities, and children who were already facing significant barriers in their everyday lives — like those in Toronto Community Housing.

So the foundation created and adapted programming intended to support families in underserved communities this year, a $7.5-million commitment set to be announced Wednesday.

The Star’s Laura Armstrong has the full story.

9:20 a.m.: Brooks Brothers Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy, felled by the pandemic’s impact on clothing sales and its own heavy debt load.

The two-century-old apparel company is the latest to succumb as a nationwide lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak added to the woes afflicting old-line retailers. Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J. Crew Group Inc. and John Varvatos Enterprises Inc. each filed for bankruptcy since the virus took hold.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in Delaware allows Brooks Brothers to keep operating while it works out a plan to turn the business around and pay its debts. The company listed assets and liabilities of at least $500 million (U.S.) each in court papers, and a spokesperson said via email it had lined up a $75 million (U.S.) bankruptcy loan.

The pandemic has hit Brooks Brothers hard, shuttering office buildings and hurting demand for business wear as people worked from home. The retailer has been trying to sell itself since last year as many of its roughly 250 U.S. locations struggled with declining sales, Bloomberg reported earlier. It’s continuing to seek a buyer, according to the spokesperson.

9:15 a.m.: The CN Tower is scheduled to reopen on July 15, remaining open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. With new COVID-19 measures in place, the tower will offer timed tickets, allowing only four people to enter elevators at once. The restaurants will remain closed.

Meanwhile, the Royal Ontario Museum will reopen its doors to its members Thursday and the general public on Saturday. Visitors can book timed-entry tickets and the museum will be limiting the number of admissions.

8:45 a.m. Ascena Retail Group Inc., the owner of mall brands that occupy almost 3,000 stores in the U.S., is preparing to file for bankruptcy and shutter at least 1,200 of those locations.

The company, which owns brands such as Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, could enter Chapter 11 as soon as this week with a creditor agreement in place that eliminates around $700 million (U.S.) of its $1.1 billion debt load. Lenders including Eaton Vance Corp. would assume control of the company, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter.

Ascena has experienced years of financial losses amid a boom in online shopping and slowdown in foot traffic at malls. The bankruptcy filing would allow the company to keep some of its brands operating while it shutters or sells others, the people said. Catherines and Justice are among the chains it’s considering to close or sell, they said. The plan is not final and certain details could change. Read the full story.

7:47 a.m. Global stock markets were mixed Wednesday as uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic sapped the buying enthusiasm that has been driving prices higher.

Wall Street appeared set to edge up on the open, with Dow futures up 0.1 per cent and S&P 500 futures 0.2 per cent higher. In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.7 per cent to 5,007, while Germany’s DAX was down 0.3 per cent at 12,580. Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat at 6,188.

Given the current murky outlook, investors are likely to cash in on recent gains, analysts said.

“Investors are trying their best to look through the knotty COVID-19 economic entanglement,” but the recent bullish mood remains on shaky ground, and could easily sour, said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp, said in a report.

“It is impossible for investors not to grow weary and eventually, at some point, fall prey to the endless drip of negative COVID-19 stories and how the second wave virus will crush the market,” he added.

7:10 a.m. Technology used by New York City public health officials to spot cases of Legionnaires’ disease or a serious food-borne illness has now been fine-tuned to pick up potentially connected cases of the novel coronavirus.

It is the latest advancement in an effort by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to tease out potential links in clusters over time and, hopefully, trace back to the initial sources of infection.

“It’s not just about test, test, test everybody, although that’s important,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner. “It is about how you take that information and make smart decisions and really track down where transmission is actively happening.”

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More than 200,000 people in New York City have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 23,000 have died or are presumed to have died as of Tuesday from the disease, according to city data.

7:07 a.m. France’s new government would seek to preserve the economy should a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic force it to bring back lockdown measures, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

“We won’t survive, economically and socially, an absolute and generalized lockdown,” Castex told BFM TV and RMC radio, adding that he advocated more targeted restrictions.

6:49 a.m. Court proceedings to determine criminal sanity for a man who pleaded guilty to killing five people at Maryland newspaper have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jarrod Ramos’ pre-trial hearings have been moved to August and a sanity trial was moved to December in the Capital Gazette murder case, news outlets reported.

This is just the latest delay after repeated postponements.

Ramos pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible by reason of insanity in October to all 23 counts against him for killing John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith in the 2018 newsroom rampage at the Capital Gazette.

If found not criminally responsible, Ramos would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.

6:15 a.m.: The federal Liberals will lay out today how they see the COVID-19 pandemic affecting government finances for the fiscal year including an estimated deficit and a projected path for the economy.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is to release what the government has styled a fiscal and economic snapshot.

The Liberals have regularly updated MPs about total spending on emergency aid, which by last count amounted to over $174 billion, but have yet to put a figure on the deficit for the fiscal year.

The parliamentary budget office has suggested the deficit could be as deep as $252 billion.

Other private sector estimates suggest $300 billion wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

Opposition parties have said they expect Morneau to provide a road map for reshaping emergency aid measures that are set to expire in the fall and keeping spending and deficits under control.

6:10 a.m.: Australia isolated the state of Victoria on Wednesday in a bid to contain the worsening spread of the coronavirus as the city of Melbourne prepared for its second lockdown, an example of a resurgent disease in places that initially succeeded in taming it.

Melbourne’s failure to curb the virus in the past three weeks is a starkly different pandemic experience to other parts of the country that have been reporting single-digit daily counts of infections if any.

6:06 a.m.: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he is confident that he will swiftly recover from the new coronavirus thanks to treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against COVID-19.

Bolsonaro said he tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.

The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.

He stepped back from the journalists and removed his mask at one point to show that he looked well.

6:03 a.m.: China on Wednesday defended the World Health Organization and lashed out at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the UN body.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the U.S. pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.”

WHO is “the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

The U.S. departure from the organization “undermines the international anti-epidemic efforts, and in particular has a serious negative impact on developing countries in urgent need of international support,” Zhao said.

The Trump administration formally notified the UN on Monday of its withdrawal from WHO, although the pullout won’t take effect until next year. That means it could be reversed by a new administration or if circumstances change.

6 a.m.: Africa now has more than a half-million confirmed coronavirus cases.

The continent-wide total is over 508,000, according to figures released Wednesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after South Africa recorded another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases as a new global hot spot.

The true number of cases among Africa’s 1.3 billion people is unknown as its 54 countries continue to face a serious shortage of testing materials for the virus. “A tremendous problem, a real crisis of access,” the World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said last week.

So far most testing has been concentrated in capital cities, but infections in many cases have spread beyond them.

Africa’s health systems are the most poorly funded and thinly staffed in the world, and already more than 2,000 health workers have been infected by the virus, according to the WHO.

6 a.m. Even if the CFL plays an abbreviated ’20 season in a hub city under the strictest of health-and-safety guidelines, an infectious diseases doctor believes there will still be positive tests for the coronavirus that could force the league play to end abruptly.

The CFL is reportedly looking at playing in a single hub or two hub cities to limit teams’ exposure to the virus. But Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at Toronto General Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said positive tests remain possible and could threaten play — just like in other leagues.

“The short answer is nothing in this era is going to be without risk,” Bogoch said. “There are certain things we can do to minimize the risk but as with anything, there’s going to be some element of risk of acquiring this infection.

“The league and players can work with medical professionals to make this as safe as possible but at the end of the day they’ll have to sit down collectively and decide, ‘Is this worthwhile.’ As individuals they’ll have to ask themselves, based on the protocols in place and individual risk perception, risk tolerance and risk threshold, ‘Am I willing to play?’”

5:55 a.m.: Ontario is expected to table a motion today to extend the province’s state of emergency until July 24.

The current state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire July 15.

Premier Doug Ford’s office says the government wants to extend the measure to ensure there is no gap between that declaration ending and a new bill extending Ontario’s emergency measures taking effect.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones introduced that bill yesterday, saying the province will need to keep some emergency measures in place in the months ahead.

Jones’s bill gives the province the power to keep some pandemic measures in place for up to a year, even as the state of emergency ends.

While the motion to extend the declaration will be introduced today, the government does not expect to debate or vote on it until early next week.

5:53 a.m.: Canada’s military says a higher number of soldiers will be on Ontario’s roads this morning as they head home from their recent deployments to fight COVID-19.

The Armed Forces says about 500 troops will be travelling from CFB Borden, west of Barrie, to points across the province throughout the day.

The military members were part of Operation Laser, a mission launched in April to help provide support during the first wave of the pandemic.

Read Tuesday’s coverage here

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