Stephen Maher: Despite government policy, passengers landing over the weekend were not being adequately warned about the virus and the need to self isolate
The chief public health officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, wants me to tell you that if you have recently returned to Canada you should self isolate for 14 days to help prevent the spread of CORVID-19.
Tam said at a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday that journalists should help get that message out.
“We are asking that all travellers that come back self isolate. This is not essentially ordered. This is a voluntary self isolation. It is impossible to keep tabs on every single traveller who comes in. This is a social phenomenon. This is a societal response and everybody must take that responsibility. Public Health is going to do what it can.”
Tam did not explain—and really it is not her job to do so—why Canada Border Services Agency officials do not seem to have been instructing travellers to do so when they arrived in a wave Saturday after the government urged travelling Canadians to put away their sunscreen and make for the airport.
“That is rapidly being implemented right now,” she said. “That is true. Very important.”
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and the Canada Border Services Agency have not explained why travellers who arrived Saturday were not asked to self isolate, or why they had to wait for up to an hour in the Customs line at Pearson to be processed.
By Sunday morning, some travellers were receiving pamphlets with instructions. The pamphlet advises: “You are also asked to limit your contact with others for 14 days starting the day you began your journey to Canada.”
Thread. So there are plenty of examples that have been tweeted today that suggest what the government claims about their enhanced screening measures is incorrect. 1/#COVIDー19 #cdnpoli https://t.co/WKeqn9F4Qj
— ted laking (@tedlaking) March 15, 2020
The pamphlet instructs travellers to contact “the public health agency in the province or territory where you live within 24 hours of arriving in Canada (see back of sheet).”
The back of the sheet is blank.
In other cities, however, travellers were still not being instructed on Sunday to self isolate. A traveller who landed at Vancouver airport received a pamphlet that only suggested monitoring for symptoms and avoiding places where the traveller “can’t easily separate yourself from others if you become ill.”
This does not seem to be as good as it could be.
Conservative health critic Matt Jeneroux said in an interview Sunday afternoon that it is discouraging to see the lag between the policy announcement and the rollout.
“It’s one thing to go and say, this is what we’re telling people to do, but then you have all these airports across the country where we’re hearing story after story that that’s not occurring,” he said. “So to stand up and announce the policy, it looks good and it tries to create some calm, but it does the opposite when people go to the airport and see that it’s not happening. So we’re critical right now as to what’s happening on the ground.”
On Sunday, given the federal failure to sufficiently warn incoming travellers, the government of Quebec sent public health officers to do so in that province.
Former Health Minister Jane Philpott, a medical doctor, says she expects officials are scrambling to make it happen on the ground.
“My expectation is that as we speak Canadian Border Service Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada are actively working on a plan to institute better messaging at airports and border crossings,” she said in an interview Sunday. “If we expect people to self-isolate for two weeks after international travel, we must assume that not everybody has picked up that message from media reports, and hopefully we will see dramatic scale-up of public messaging in the coming hours and days. This will of course require the appropriate increase in human resources so that it doesn’t inadvertently cause more problems by causing backups at airports that will put people in more high-risk zones.”
American airports were overwhelmed on Saturday when an enormous wave of passengers arrived as a result of Donald Trump’s travel ban, which left thousands standing in crowds for hours awaiting screening, which public health experts warned was creating ideal circumstances for transmission of the virus.
Jeneroux put out a statement Sunday calling on the government to implement enhanced screening.
“We’ve been calling for enhanced screening from the beginning … because it’s reasonable when you’re seeing people land—I think there was a flight land from Italy recently and nobody asked any questions.”
Philpott said the research shows that airport screening does little good.
“There is not strong evidence of the role of screening using methods like temperature checks, for example. What really does need to happen at international entry points is strong public health messaging.”
Philpott said she thought the federal government is handling crisis communications relatively well, although she noted that different levels of government were giving Canadians different messages.
“I think it’s been relatively well-managed from a communications point of view in that regard,” she said. “Where people are getting a little bit confused is that there are continuously changing guidelines and multiple jurisdictions weighing in on what they are. So there’s obviously work to be done on that.”
She noted that Ottawa is not able to centrally gather information.
“There are challenges in our public health legislation associated with our federated model,” she said. “There is not the kind of public health legislation that one might want to have in these serious emergency situations. Hopefully, provinces and territories will be highly co-operative in terms of sharing data to overcome the fact the federal government doesn’t have the authority to compel the data gathering.”
Jeneroux agreed that overlapping jurisdictions present a challenge for managing this crisis.
“I don’t know what the solution to that is.”
MORE ABOUT CORONAVIRUS:
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca
Eligible Canadians who lost income because of COVID-19 can start applying for a new emergency benefit program on Monday as the government tries to keep people afloat during a pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives worldwide.
People born in January, February and March can apply for the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) as of Monday. The system, run through the Canada Revenue Agency, staggers the application window for people born in later months as the week goes on.
The emergency funding program, which offers eligible applicants $2,000 a month for a period of up to four months, is just one of the measures the Canadian government has launched to try and buoy families and businesses feeling the fallout of the virus, which has to date resulted in nearly 1.3 million reported cases around the world.
According to a database maintained by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, nearly 70,000 people have died as a result of the virus, which was first reported in China’s Hubei province in late 2019. The true numbers are certainly much higher due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.
More than 15,500 of the cases are in Canada, with cases recorded in every province and territory except Nunavut. As of 6 a.m ET on Monday, officials had reported 307 COVID-19 related deaths in Canada. The provinces and territories that offer information on people who have recovered listed more than 3,100 COVID-19 cases as resolved.
Public health officials have cautioned that the numbers, which don’t include the deaths of two Canadians abroad, don’t provide a full picture of the outbreak as they fail to capture cases that haven’t been tested or are still under investigation.
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The vast majority of infected people recover from the virus, formally known as SARS CoV-2, which is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes.
For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause pneumonia and death.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says risk varies between communities but notes that the illness poses a serious health threat to Canadians and pegs the risk level as high.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
In British Columbia, the top public health official is warning people not to let up on physical distancing. “This is our time to remain unwavering in our commitment. To keep our firewall strong,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported three new COVID-19 deaths and 69 new cases on Sunday. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including the story of one woman who brought her elderly mother home amid concern about potential outbreaks in seniors’ homes.
Saskatchewan recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing its total to 249. Premier Scott Moe has said that his government will provide more information this week on both provincial modelling and how the province is preparing for an expected increase in cases. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba’s largest city has closed an underground concourse and downtown skywalk as part of the ongoing effort to stamp out COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including an initiative to house some homeless people who are considered at risk of contracting COVID-19 at a Brandon motel.
A hard-hit nursing home in small-town Ontario reported another death linked to COVID-19, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the Pinecrest nursing home up to 23. The province has 4,038 reported cases, and CBC News tallies put the number of COVID-19 related deaths at 146. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec’s shutdown on non-essential activity will run until at least May 4. “If we relax our efforts, we’ll just delay the moment when we’ll be able to go back to our lives,” said Premier François Legault. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including what police said after a security guard was hit by a vehicle in a Walmart parking lot.
New Brunswick’s premier is warning that the province, which currently has 101 reported COVID-19 cases, will see more. “That is why we are doing everything we can to fight this,” said Blaine Higgs. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia is going to step up testing of areas with “clusters” of COVID-19 cases. The province’s health authority has also created a mobile assessment centre staffed by paramedics that can move from one area to another. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.Prince Edward Island students begin virtual learning Monday. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which has reported 22 COVID-19 cases to date.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, chief medical officer of health Janice Fitzgerald announced 14 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, for a total of 217. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including the premier’s remarks on a move by U.S. President Donald Trump to limit the export of critical medical masks.
In the Northwest Territories, health officials have confirmed a fifth case of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North, including a Yukon government program that is providing vulnerable women with cellphones.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
From The Associated Press, updated at 6 a.m. ET
The U.S. surgeon general says that Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation’s infectious disease chief warned that the novel coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe.
Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could be a prelude to an eventual turn.
“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at a Sunday evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”
The president also insisted that both assessments from his administration — they came within 12 hours of each other — didn’t represent an about-face or were even “that different.”
“I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point — and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death — but it’s also a point at which things are going to start changing,” Trump said. “We’re getting very close to that level right now.”
The president added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents and, hopefully, we can get this over with.”
Still, Trump’s own briefing also struck a sombre tone at times. The president offered some of his most extensive comments to date to the families of those killed by the virus, urging the nation to pray for them and “ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief.”
“With the faith of our families and the spirit of our people and the grace of our God we will endure,” the president said. “We will overcome.”
WATCH | New York braces for expected surge of coronavirus this week:
Earlier Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.”
The nation’s top doctor went on to say: “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”
Also Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the toll in the coming week is “going to be shocking to some, but that’s what is going to happen before it turns around, so just buckle down.”
He said the virus probably won’t be wiped out entirely this year, and that unless the world gets it under control, it will “assume a seasonal nature.”
“We need to be prepared that, since it unlikely will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence,” Fauci said. “That’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard in getting our preparedness much better than it was.”
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600. More than 4,100 of those deaths are in the state of New York, but a glimmer of hope there came on Sunday when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state registered a small dip in new fatalities over a 24-hour period. Still, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state may run out of ventilators by week’s end.
Here’s what’s happening in hard-hit Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 6 a.m. ET
Italy reported its lowest daily death toll for more than two weeks on Sunday, as the health minister outlined plans for broader testing and beefed-up health services as part of measures following a future easing of the lockdown.
Coronavirus-related fatalities and recorded infections continued to drop on Monday in Spain, although authorities warned of possible distortions by a slower reporting of figures over the weekend. The country’s health ministry reported 637 new deaths for the previous 24 hours, the lowest fatality toll in 13 days, for a total of over 13,000 since the pandemic hit the country. New recorded infections were also the lowest in two weeks: 4,273, bringing the total of confirmed cases over 135,000.
Hospitals are also reporting that the pace of incoming patients to their emergency wards is slowing down, giving a much needed respite to overburdened medical workers.
France reported a slowing daily death toll, and Germany its fourth straight day with a drop in new cases.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly in good spirits following his first night in the hospital for what his office described as a “precautionary step” after contracting the new coronavirus. Johnson remains in charge of government despite being sent to St Thomas’ Hospital after COVID-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted. His spokesperson, James Slack. says he remains in hospital under observation.
The 55-year-old leader is the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.He has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his government aims to start allowing some shops to reopen next week at the beginning of a long, phased return to normal life. Kurz said that the aim is to allow small shops and garden centres to reopen next Tuesday, with a limited number of customers who must wear masks. He said the government hopes to reopen the rest of the shops, as well as hairdressing salons, on May 1. Restaurants and hotels won’t be able to open until at least mid-May. Events will remain banned until the end of June.
The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has topped 6,000 after the largest daily spike in new infections since the start of the outbreak.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit China, South Korea, Japan and other areas of concern
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 6 a.m. ET
China on Monday reported 39 new cases of coronavirus infection — 38 of them imported — one additional death, 10 suspected cases and 1,047 asymptomatic cases under observation.
There were no new confirmed or suspected cases in the epicentre city of Wuhan, where a 14-week lockdown is due to be lifted on Wednesday. China has now recorded a total of 81,708 cases and 3,331 deaths.
South Korea has reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus and three more fatalities, bringing its totals to 10,284 infections and 186 deaths. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said at least 769 of the infections were linked to passengers arriving from overseas, with most of the cases detected in the past three weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
The country’s caseload has slowed from early March, when it was reporting around 500 new cases a day, but officials have raised concern over a steady rise in infections imported from overseas or occurring in hospitals, nursing homes and other live-in facilities.
Japan will declare a state of emergency as early as Tuesday, media reported, as a shortage of beds and a rise in cases linked to hospitals are pushing Tokyo’s medical system to the brink of collapse. The U.S. forces, meanwhile, declared a public health emergency for its military bases in eastern Japan.
Singapore has placed nearly 20,000 foreign workers under quarantine in their dormitories after an increasing number in the community were found to be infected with COVID-19.
India is restricting the export of most diagnostic testing kits, as its cases topped 3,350 despite a three-week nationwide lockdown.
Malaysia on Monday reported 131 new coronavirus infections, raising the country’s total to 3,793 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. The Health Ministry has recorded 62 deaths, including one more reported as of noon Monday.
Currently able to conduct 5,000 tests per day, South Africa will increase its capacity to more than 30,000 per day by the end of the April, according to the National Health Laboratory Service. South Africa was one of only two countries in Africa that could test for the novel coronavirus when it began its global spread in January. Now at least 43 of the continent’s 54 countries can, but many have limited capacity.
Mexico said total cases were 2,143, an increase of 253 cases from a day earlier. The number of deaths rose by 15 to 94.
Haiti on Sunday reported its first death, with 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease.
Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved a constitutional amendment for a “war budget” to separate coronavirus-related spending from the government’s main budget and shield the economy as the country surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases.
COVID-19 provincial breakdown in Canada: 15,443 cases and 277 deaths as of Sunday – National Post
As of 4 p.m. Sunday, Canada has reported 15,443 confirmed and presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus and 277 deaths. Here is a provincial and territorial breakdown of the cases:
ONTARIO: 4,038 total
Another 25 people in Ontario have succumbed to COVID
-19, bringing the provincial death toll for those who have tested positive for the virus to 119.
Meanwhile, the provincial caseload has passed the 4,000 mark, with 400 new ones reported Sunday.
More than 150 people were on ventilators.
The province also reports 1,449 cases resolved.
More than three dozen outbreaks have been reported in nursing homes across the province, particularly at PineCrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, where 23 residents have died from the virus.
As of Saturday, Doug Ford has urged people to stay home except for essential outings.
Ontario has projected between 3,000 and 15,000 lives could be lost to the pandemic even with stiff stay-home restrictions.
QUEBEC: 7,944 total
The province has reported 19 new deaths today as well as 947 new cases. Meanwhile 464 cases have been resolved.
On Sunday, Premier Legault extended the shutdown of non-essential services and businesses until May 4, in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
As a positive, Legault cited data released by Google last week that showed Quebecers had reduced their movement more than any other place in Canada.
He said Quebec had also received some crucial shipments of protective equipment, and now had enough gloves and N95 masks for 13 days. The province has seven days’ worth of gowns and surgical masks, and is hoping for more orders in the coming days, Legault said.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: 1,203 total
So far, the province has confirmed 38 deaths and 704 resolved cases.
On Saturday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said the curve in the number of cases in B.C. appears to be flattening, which could allow for health care for those who need help both for COVID-19 and other illnesses.
COVID-19 has been diagnosed in another long-term care facility in the province, bringing the total to 23 care homes affected.
Henry said in all but two of those facilities, the outbreak has been limited to one or two positive cases.
ALBERTA: 1,181 total
On Saturday, the province reported two more deaths from the coronavirus, both of whom were women in their 90s living at McKenzie Towne Long Term Care in Calgary, bringing the death toll to 20.
The number of cases have also risen by more than 106 this weekend.
On Friday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw also announced visitors would no longer be allowed at hospitals, with some exceptions, including maternity visits, parents visiting sick children and individuals visiting dying beloved.
The government announced Saturday, that they would defer timber dues for forestry companies by six months to support the large resource industry.
SASKATCHEWAN: 249 total
The province’s number of cases rose by 29 this weekend, since 220 on Friday.
The government has also reported 20 deaths and 196 resolved cases.
In a provincial news release, the government is warning anyone who has COVID-19 to avoid contact with animals, just as they should avoid contact with people.
While there is no evidence domestic livestock and pets can be infected with or transmit COVID-19, it says the possibility has not been ruled out.
It says if there is already an animal in the household, that animal should remain in isolation along with the patient.
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website, some animals have become infected with through close contact with infected humans, but there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19.
Public health officials reported nine new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 203.
Eleven Manitobans remain in hospital, out of which seven of them are in intensive care.
The province has reported that 17 cases have been resolved.
The number of deaths remains at two.
The province is opening what it calls “alternative isolation centres” this weekend for people who may need extra support.
The province’s chief nursing officer says housekeeping staff at its acute care centres will start collecting “gently used” N95 masks for sterilization and re-use if the masks are deemed safe.
NOVA SCOTIA: 262 total
The province reported 26 new cases Sunday.
With the virus now spreading in communities, the province has ramped up testing at the province’s main laboratory, where processing of results will be a 24-7 operation as of Monday.
Health officials say six individuals are being treated in hospital, though 53 have already recovered from the viral infection.
NEW BRUNSWICK: 101 total
New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 101 confirmed cases.
Of the 101 cases, 58 are travel-related, and 32 are close contacts of confirmed cases.
However, five cases are the result of community transmission and six cases remain under investigation.
To date, 28 people have recovered from the viral illness.
The province recorded no new cases of COVID-19 compared with Friday.
On Saturday, the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison says P.E.I. received 169 negative test results and a total of six people have recovered from the disease.
Morrison is urging Islanders not to become complacent and to continue staying home in order to prevent community transmission.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR: 217
The province reported 14 new cases today, almost double the spike from yesterday, bringing their total to 217.
The government has also reported one death and 28 resolved cases.
Yukon has confirmed six cases. NorthWest Territories has confirmed four cases and one resolved.
Nunavut has no confirmed cases
Yukon: 6 confirmed
— Northwest Territories: 4 confirmed (including 1 resolved)
— Nunavut: No confirmed cases
Federal COVID-19 benefits could be deposited within 3 to 5 days of applying, Trudeau says – CBC.ca
Canadians can begin applying for emergency income support benefits Monday, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is also working on ways to help people who aren’t covered by the programs brought in so far, including students.
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) will give people who lose their source of income due to COVID-19 about $2,000 a month for 16 weeks.
Canadians who are eligible for employment insurance (EI) can apply for that coverage, and will receive CERB benefits for four months before the EI benefits kick in.
The public can start signing up for CERB as of 6 a.m. ET Monday, but Canadians are being asked to apply based on their birth month to avoid overloading the portal.
Applicants born in January through March can apply on April 6, the first day the portal opens. Those born April through June can apply April 7, those born in July through September on April 8 and Canadians with birth months October through December can sign up on April 9.
Trudeau said Canadians can expect to receive payments within three to five days via direct deposit, or within 10 days by mail.
Trudeau also conceded that there are gaps in the program, including for students. To be eligible, applicants must have been working and lost all income.
“This is an issue that we are very, very aware of, from modifications to the Canada summer job program, to looking at direct support for students,” he said.
“We know that we need to do more for people as they come out of university and look for projects and ways of securing income this summer. That is something that we are very closely engaged and should have more to say in the coming days.”
Temporary foreign workers may be in short supply
About 60,000 temporary foreign workers typically come to labour in the agricultural sector, planting, producing and harvesting. The government has allowed an exemption to a sweeping travel ban to allow the workers to enter Canada, but they must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
There have also been reported delays in the process to grant the necessary work visas due to the pandemic.
Watch as Trudeau discusses U.S. attempts to block mask exports:
Trudeau suggested students and other Canadians out of work could help fill some of those crucial roles.
“We see many, many Canadians out of work who are wanting to help out, students who are looking at opportunities for summer jobs that they might not otherwise have and we know there are many people interested in helping out in terms of feeding this country,” he said.
“So we’re going to be having more to say in the coming, coming days and weeks about how we’re going to pull together and make sure that our agricultural producers, our fisheries, our agricultural transformers are going to get the support they need.”
Conservatives push for changes
Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the government must find a way to enable people to qualify for the benefit, while still working reduced hours. He said the eligibility rules that say applicants must have no source of income effectively ban workers from putting in any hours.
“If they work and earn any money during the period when they’ve received the benefit, they lose the benefit altogether … they’re effectively banned from doing any amount of work,” he said during a news conference on Sunday.
Poilievre suggested applicants should be able to keep the benefit while still working a certain number of hours.
The government is also offering a 75 per cent wage subsidy so employers can keep people on the payroll, but Poilievre said that the three-to-six week wait to apply is too long, and that many businesses will go under before subsidies kick in.
He urged the government to do more to help small businesses stay afloat, including salary compensation schemes for operators and a refund of GST remittances for businesses for the past six months.
The government is also reaching out to people with specialized skills looking to help frontline workers. Health Canada is building an inventory of specialized volunteers that provinces and territories can draw on. These include people with the skills to track cases, trace contacts as well as collecting and reporting data.
Trudeau said the government is also offering full-time jobs to reservists in the Canadian Armed Forces, with the same pay and benefits as regular forces.
“Bolstering the military’s ranks will help offset some of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and ensure that our communities are well supported,” he said.
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