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Ontario loosens pot rules; 23 Canadians held at federal quarantine sites; U.S. songwriter John Prine dies – Toronto Star

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

10:15 a.m.: At his daily 11:15 a.m. briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce new measures to financially support entrepreneurs, small businesses and young people not eligible for previously unveiled federal aid programs. Thestar.com will have a livestream of the news conference when it begins.

10:05 a.m.: Vancity is temporarily cutting credit card interest rates to zero and and deferring minimum payments for those facing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19.

The Vancouver-based credit union says personal and business credit card holders who need to defer a payment due to the pandemic will be offered payment deferrals of up to six months at a zero per cent interest rate.

The move by Vancity comes after several of the large Canadian banks reduced their interest rates on their credit cards for those in financial hardship due to the pandemic.

10 a.m.: As India went into the world’s biggest lockdown to combat the deadly coronavirus, trains, planes, automobiles and factories came to a halt. And the skies in some of the most polluted cities on the planet turned blue.

Cities across the country, which was home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world last year, are breathing some of the cleanest air after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week nationwide lockdown, starting March 25.

9:30 a.m.: Ontario is using less than a quarter of its capacity to test for COVID-19, despite the mounting death toll and calls from experts that more tests need to be done to get an accurate picture of the spread of the virus.

While the province has the capacity to currently complete 13,000 tests per day, according to the health ministry, the testing labs have processed tests for fewer than 4,000 patients a day since Sunday, the Star has found.

Read the story from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace and Ed Tubb.

8:30 a.m.: Queen’s Park is loosening the rules around selling cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite cannabis stores being forced to close last weekend because they were not deemed essential under Ontario’s state of emergency, the province will temporarily allow the private retailers to offer delivery and curbside pick-up services.

Read the story from the Star’s Robert Benzie.

8 a.m.: More than 16,000 workers laid off by Air Canada last month in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are being hired back by the airline, the Star has learned. Read the story from the Star’s Josh Rubin and Waterloo Region Record’s Robert Williams here.

7:30 a.m.: Global shares mostly fell Wednesday amid uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak, which continues to claim more lives around the world and keep vast swathes of the global economy under lockdown.

France’s CAC 40 index dropped 1.5 per cent to 4,371 after the national central bank said the economy was in recession and was estimated to have contracted by 6% in the first quarter. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.9 per cent to 10,265 and Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 1.2 per cent to 5,638. U.S. shares appeared set for small gains, with the futures for the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 up 0.5 per cent.

A rally on Wall Street proved short-lived in a market dominated by sharp swings responding to the ups and downs of the news about the pandemic.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 2.1 per cent to 19,353.24, on stronger than expected machinery orders.

6:10 a.m. A two-time Olympic finalist in the 800 metres has died after getting infected with the coronavirus. The Italian Olympic Committee says Donato Sabia has died. He was 56. CONI says he is the first Italian Olympian to die with the virus. Sabia finished fifth in the 800 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and seventh at the 1988 Seoul Games. He also won the 800 at the 1984 European Indoor Championships. Sabia died in his hometown of Potenza in southern Italy shortly after his father also died from the virus.

5:55 a.m.: Millions of people enjoying a renewed sense of freedom when Wuhan’s 76-day coronavirus lockdown was lifted Wednesday. Streets in the city of 11 million people were clogged with traffic and masked pedestrians visited the few snack shops that had reopened in the nightlife area.

5:54 a.m.: Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll and the number of confirmed cases increased by the most in four days on Wednesday in Europe’s most-extensive outbreak of the disease.

There were 6,180 new infections in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 146,690, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 757 to 14,555, the biggest gain since April 4.

4 a.m. The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked an increase in online child sexual predators that organizations, governments and parents need to take more seriously, says the head of the United Nations children’s agency.

“We’ve got a couple of worrying signs, which is that the online predators are really — they’re multiplying,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said in a wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press this week.

With half the planet’s children now out of school because of the pandemic, Fore said that has created new risks for kids who are now spending more time on the internet.

“Because children are online more, they are vulnerable. And often they haven’t been taught about how to think about being online, how to have a video chat and what you do and do not do,” she said.

“There’s a lot of grooming, a lot of sexting, a lot of trafficking.”

4 a.m.: The Trudeau government says 23 Canadians were being held at federal quarantine sites as the week began to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that as of Sunday night, the almost two dozen Canadians were in federally designated quarantine sites and federally supported self-quarantine lodgings. The agency set up the sites and says it is working with partners to manage them.

Agency spokeswoman Maryse Durette says no information about the location of the sites is being disclosed to protect the privacy of quarantined Canadians, the Canadian Press reports.

4 a.m.: There are 17,897 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada, as of 4 a.m., according to data compiled by The Canadian Press.

  • Quebec: 9,340 confirmed (including 150 deaths, 720 resolved)
  • Ontario: 4,726 confirmed (including 153 deaths, 1,802 resolved)
  • Alberta: 1,373 confirmed (including 26 deaths, 447 resolved)
  • British Columbia: 1,291 confirmed (including 43 deaths, 805 resolved)

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  • Nova Scotia: 310 confirmed (including 1 death, 66 resolved)
  • Saskatchewan: 260 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 88 resolved)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 228 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 49 resolved)
  • Manitoba: 203 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 21 resolved), 14 presumptive
  • New Brunswick: 105 confirmed (including 39 resolved)
  • Prince Edward Island: 22 confirmed (including 8 resolved)
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed
  • Yukon: 7 confirmed (including 4 resolved)
  • Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 1 resolved)
  • Nunavut: No confirmed cases
  • Total: 17,897 (14 presumptive, 17,883 confirmed including 381 deaths, 4,050 resolved)

3:14 a.m.: Malaysia will hand out 24.62 million masks, four for each household, while advising people to only use them if they have symptoms, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement Wednesday.

2:12 a.m.: Zoom Video Communications Inc. was accused by a shareholder of hiding flaws in its video-conferencing app, part of a growing backlash against security loopholes that were laid bare after an explosion in worldwide usage.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court, the company and its top officers were accused of concealing the truth about shortcomings in the app’s software encryption, including its alleged vulnerability to hackers, as well as the unauthorized disclosure of personal information to third parties including Facebook Inc.

Investor Michael Drieu, who filed the suit as a class action, claims a series of public revelations about the app’s deficiencies starting last year have dented Zoom’s stock price — though the shares are still up 67% this year as investors bet that the teleconferencing company would be one of the rare winners from the coronavirus pandemic.

1:38 a.m.: The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany rose the most in the last three days, bringing the total to 107,663 in one of Europe’s worst-hit nations.

More than two weeks after the government ordered its citizens to avoid most social contacts, infections grew by another 4,288 on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. This compares with 3,252 a day earlier.

Germany registered 206 new deaths linked to the virus, compared with 226 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 2,016.

1:16 a.m.: Foxconn, the company responsible for assembling most of the world’s Apple Inc. iPhones, will aid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by developing and making ventilators in the U.S.

The Wisconsin plant owned by Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., will be used to manufacture ventilators, Medtronic Plc Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak told CNBC.

Foxconn confirmed the partnership in a statement on Wednesday but did not say where and when it will be making the medical equipment, Bloomberg reports.

10:46 p.m.: New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus rose past 4,000 on Tuesday, eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Center on 9-11.

9:50 p.m.: John Prine, one of America’s greatest songwriters, has died at age 73 from coronavirus complications, the New York Times reported.

His family posted a message on his official Twitter page on Sunday saying the singer had been hospitalized since Thursday and his condition worsened on Saturday. They added that he’d been placed on a ventilator to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

8:16 p.m.: Global Affairs Canada has confirmed to the Star that Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marta Morgan has tested positive for COVID-19.

“The deputy is exhibiting mild symptoms and is in good spirits. She is in regular contact with local health officials and is self-isolating for the duration of the illness,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs told the Star.

The revelation, initially reported by Global News, comes on the same day that stranded Canadians from India, Trinidad and Tobago made their way back to Canada thanks to flights facilitated by Global Affairs.

Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that “the hard work of Canada’s consular officials around the world has helped facilitate the return home of thousands of Canadians.”

“Unfortunately, it will not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home,” Champagne said. “Global Affairs Canada will continue providing advice and support to Canadians outside Canada.”

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Canada, allies condemn China on Hong Kong law after contentious Meng ruling – CBC.ca

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Canada joined with its major allies Thursday in condemning China for imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, one day after a contentious B.C. court ruling in the Meng Wanzhou affair. 

The statement of “deep concern” with the United States, Australia and Britain comes as experts warn that two Canadians imprisoned in China could face retaliation because Wednesday’s court ruling in the Meng case didn’t go the way the People’s Republic would have liked. 

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa angrily denounced the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes in the extradition case of the Huawei executive, who is wanted on fraud charges in the U.S., as it once more called for her immediate release. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, to reporters after an online UN conference, that Canada’s independent judicial system “rendered a judgment without any political interference.” He noted Meng would “undoubtedly avail herself of” further legal moves to fight the extradition request. 

The Meng dispute — which has plunged Sino-Canadian relations to an all-time low — did not dissuade Canada from signing on to the statement that criticizes China for imposing a national-security law on Hong Kong. 

Watch: Trudeau comments on B.C. court decision on Meng Wanzhou:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters during a United Nations web cast on Thursday. 0:38

The Chinese territory is supposed to have autonomy under a “one country-two systems” agreement. 

The statement said the law is “in direct conflict” with China’s “international obligations under the principles of the legally binding” agreement that saw Britain hand over its administration of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. 

“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the statement said. 

“Direct imposition of national-security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities … would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.” 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wouldn’t say if the security law violated the agreement between China and Britain when asked about it during a virtual press conference with Trudeau on Thursday afternoon. 

The sharp criticism comes as the Trudeau government has been dealing with its own China crisis since December 2018. 

Michael Kovrig, an ex-diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea, have been in Chinese prisons with no access to lawyers or their families since they were detained nine days after Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on Dec. 1, 2018. 

They are accused of violating China’s national security interests, and they have been denied regular monthly visits by Canadian diplomats since January because of COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese prisons. 

“We will continue to advocate for the two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China and I take this opportunity to thank the international community for standing by so strongly with Canada in this situation,” Trudeau said. 

Some analysts say their treatment could get a lot worse, especially based on Chinese government statements leading up to the ruling. 

The fate of Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig

“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has been a diplomat in Beijing. 

“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.” 

David Mulroney, the Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the Meng case. 

“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney. 

“China will also seek to lash out at Canada.” 

‘Delaying the inevitable’

Fen Hampson, a global security expert with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada should rethink whether it needs to intervene politically to end the case rather than let it play out in the courts for years. 

“You’ve got two Canadians who are in jail under fairly perilous circumstance, given COVID-19, and broader considerations at play in terms of Canada’s trade and investment relations with China,” said Hampson. 

“Whatever happens, it will end up on the desk of the justice minister — he’s the one who has to decide whether she gets extradited or not. In some ways, you’re delaying the inevitable. The government is still going to have to make that decision.” 

The roots of Canada’s current problems with China predate the Meng-Kovrig-Spavor affairs, said Wendy Dobson, an author and China expert who is co-director of the Institute for International Business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. 

The government’s current preoccupation with “diversifying” its trade relations with other Asian countries reflects a long-standing inability to do just that, she said. “We’ve been saying this to ourselves for years, but we haven’t gotten very far,” Dobson said. 

“We have not done a very good job of educating Canadians and deepening their understanding of who this partner is, where this partner comes from, and how to contribute in a way that is useful to both of us in the long term.” 

The president of Canada Hong Kong Link said her group and others planned to launch a comprehensive lobbying and educational effort aimed at different parties, and especially members of key Commons and Senate committees to influence Canada’s foreign policy towards China. 

Gloria Fung said a minority Parliament gives her group and other greater leverage to affect change. 

“It is very important for Canadian voters, civil society, to realize the kind of power we have towards our government,” she said. “I think, so far, the Liberal government has been very weak, as far as the foreign policy towards China is concerned.”

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Ontario needs to be more transparent with COVID-19 data, critics say – CBC.ca

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If information is power, Ontario seems to be experiencing a brownout.

Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, one of Canada’s hardest-hit provinces is still unable to share some basic details about the spread of the disease, including the number of tests being performed per region, statistics on the success of contact tracing, the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) or the location of outbreak “hot spots.”

The sort of data that is often readily available in other Canadian provinces and jurisdictions around the world.

On Wednesday, Toronto Public Health bowed to public pressure and released COVID case numbers for all of the city’s postal codes — information that may well spur more residents to get tested. This came just one day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford had rejected calls for a similar province-wide disclosure, saying he worried that the information could be “very stigmatizing” for people living in those areas.

Now, critics are calling for even more COVID transparency as Ontario struggles to flatten its curve and find a safe way to relax its lockdown.

“The province’s unwillingness and inability to collect the appropriate data, and in turn share it with the public, and public health units, is hindering our response to COVID-19,” said Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor and chair of the Board of Health.

Absence of information

Cressy cites not just the imprecise testing numbers but the absence of information on the race, occupation and living conditions of those who have fallen ill — details that might help authorities understand who is most at risk and how the disease is spreading.

WATCH | Toronto Coun. Joe Cressy says more COVID-19 data is crucial:

Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy disappointed in lack of provincial COVD-19 data. 0:19
He said this was especially crucial in the Greater Toronto Area, which currently accounts for 76 per cent of all new COVID infections in the province.

“In order to tackle a virus, you need to understand it,” said Cressy. “So for us to be able to tackle COVID-19, to test for it proactively, to respond with the appropriate protections in place, we need to know who it’s hurting and who it’s hurting most.”

It’s a call echoed by Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network.

“Having data is really important for all aspects of tackling COVID-19. It lets us know where we’ve been. It lets us know where we’re going,” he said. “If we don’t have that information, we don’t really have a good idea of the best ways for us to approach it. And we also don’t have an understanding of where our blind spots are.”

Morris said that hospitals in the province are still operating in the dark when it comes to things like the availability of hand sanitizer and PPE or localized surges in positive tests — something that might allow them to plan for busy emergency rooms days in advance.

Last week, Ford vowed yet again to “ramp up” testing, to levels that “this province has never seen.”

“I’m going to be all over this testing,” said the premier.

Meanwhile, his health minister, Christine Elliott, has defended his government’s record to date. 

“Do we hit the targets every single day? No. There is an ebb and flow to this but we are increasing our capacity on a daily basis,” she said.

Complicated reporting systems 

Part of the problem, Morris said, are “archaic” systems that don’t allow hospitals, regional health authorities and the province to readily and easily share and analyze the data they have on hand.

“I think a lot of this relates to the chronic under-funding of public health in Ontario,” said Morris. “Many of the problems that we’re experiencing today were experienced during [the 2002-03] SARS crisis as well… Our public health infrastructure has really not ramped up to the level that we’ve needed to.”

Even the flow of basic information between the province and its 32 public health units is complicated. For example, Ontario’s daily COVID update pulls together information from four different databases — the provincial integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS), which dates back to the early 2000s, as well as newer, municipally run reporting systems in Toronto, Ottawa and Middlesex-London.

Meanwhile, in the hastily constructed testing system — which is administered by the province — samples travel all over Ontario to both public and private labs for analysis. As a result, many local health regions say they don’t know how many tests they have performed, and can only disclose how many positive results have come back.

Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network, said that having data is important for tracking all aspects of COVID-19. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

The way that news of positive tests is shared with public health officials depends on which lab or hospital has processed the swab. A Toronto Public Health spokesperson told CBC that it has been receiving lab reports through a variety of ways: electronically, by phone, fax, even through the mail. 

As of Wednesday, Peel, York, Ottawa, Durham, Waterloo and Windsor-Essex County followed Toronto as regions with the greatest number of COVID cases. 

Scattered data

CBC News canvassed these additional six public health units to determine recent counts of COVID-19 swab testing. The response was scattered. 

While each unit publishes detailed COVID-19 updates online, York Region Public Health Services, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health are the only regions in the group that publish daily testing numbers. York’s website provides the most comprehensive daily counts, broken all the way down to specific testing centres. According to the data, the entire region tested 705 people on May 25.

All of this is a sharp contrast to British Columbia and Alberta, which have both managed to share regional testing numbers throughout the crisis. Or Quebec, which provides case numbers by district for its major urban centres. 

New York City, perhaps the hardest-hit spot in the worldwide pandemic, has a municipal website that tracks everything from hot spots to local testing levels to the distribution of PPE and free meals.

New York City’s public health authority shares extensive and comprehensive COVID-19 data, including daily testing counts, cases by zip code and the numbers of free meals that have been distributed so far during the pandemic. (NYC Health)

Then there’s South Korea, where the government has been providing the public with detailed information on where novel coronavirus patients reside, so they can steer clear of specific streets or neighbourhoods.

False impression of spread

The man quarterbacking Ontario’s COVID-19 response, Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of health, defended the provincial approach on Wednesday, suggesting that things like Toronto’s list of postal code hot spots might actually give a false impression of the spread of the disease. 

“You may find that you have a number of people in an area because you have the same postal code,” Williams said. “Does that mean that neighbourhood is the problem? Or that the people went and worked in different companies that happen to have outbreaks in those companies?”

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has defended the province’s decision to not disclose neighbourhood locations of COVID-19 outbreak ‘hot spots.’ (CBC)

Government transparency advocates say they don’t buy such claims.

“We feel that governments in general should be more open with the information that’s coming out,” said Ian Bron, a project co-ordinator with the newly formed Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group.

“Many Canadians don’t know where the hot spots are. And that’s the kind of information that citizens should have in order to make informed decisions about where to go and where to go afterwards. For example, if you’re going to visit a loved one in a long-term care facility.”

Bron acknowledged that governments have been forced to improvise during the crisis but said that shouldn’t be an excuse for obscuring information that could be ultimately useful for public health.

“It’s a little too easy to say we’re in the middle of an emergency so we can’t do anything right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t start taking steps in the right direction,” he said. In a new report, his group is calling for measures like federal and provincial COVID ombudspersons to help improve transparency.

U.S. produces ‘much better data than we do’

Bron points to American jurisdictions as a positive example for Canadian governments.

Ian Bron is a project co-ordinator with the newly formed Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group. (Courtesy of Carleton University )

“Although it seems like a terrible mess in the States, they produce much better data than we do. They go to much greater levels of granularity,” he said.

There are worries about the consequences of too little information as the COVID outbreak grinds on. Morris pointed to a recent mass gathering in a Toronto park as evidence that the public might be at risk of losing the COVID plot.

“Today, I’m not sure that the average citizen really understands why there’s a need to physically distance, self-isolate and [wear a] mask, and part of that relates to not having a clear [government] strategy,” he said. “I think if there were one overarching challenge that we haven’t overcome yet, it’s a clearer message.”

It’s an absence of illumination that threatens to leave an entire province groping around for a way forward.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada on May 27 – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday the province will immediately take over management of five long-term care homes, including four that were the subject of a scathing military report into horrific conditions in the residences. 

The Canadian Armed Forces released two reports this week about conditions at five long-term care homes in Ontario and 25 long-term care homes in Quebec where they were deployed to help during the pandemic. 

In the Ontario homes, the military report detailed allegations of insect infestations, aggressive resident feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections and residents crying for help for hours. The report also touched on staffing and training issues, supply shortages and poor communication. 

Ford called the report “horrific,” and said it was “the most heart-wrenching report” he’s ever read in his life.

On Wednesday, he told reporters that six teams of two inspectors each will be deployed to five long-term care homes to undertake “expanded and rigorous inspection and monitoring” for the next two weeks. 

WATCH | Ford lays out plan to take over management of 5 long-term care homes:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province will take over management of five long-term care homes and begin inspections in all residences. 2:08

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the report into Ontario’s homes “deeply disturbing,” and said more needs to be done to support people living in long-term care, a message he reiterated on Wednesday after Quebec released a report from the military about what members had observed in that province.

In those homes, the Armed Forces members observed issues with the division between “hot” and “cold” zones — where patients were infected with COVID-19 or not — the proper use of protective equipment and staffing shortages.

The report said military personnel helped train staff to improve the situation.

At his briefing Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault said he was not surprised by the findings, and the province will work to recruit 10,000 new workers for long-term care homes by fall.

WATCH | Legault says many problems rooted in staffing shortages in long-term care homes: 

François Legault says the problems come from having a lack of staff, and he is launching a major drive to train thousands of new orderlies. 2:58

In the meantime, Legault said he would like the contingent of soldiers deployed in Quebec homes to stay and help until Sept. 15.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says another four months of deployment will not be possible. “I understand the needs and concerns that Quebec may have,” he told host Vassy Kapelos on CBC’s Power & Politics, but he said the current situation would not be sustainable. 

“We will not be able to do this for any prolonged period.”

Sajjan said the military is talking with provincial officials but he stressed that while the Forces can buy time for the homes that need staff, it’s important to get the appropriately trained personnel into the facilities. 

The military has agreed to stay in Ontario long-term care homes until June 12.

WATCH | Seniors’ advocate outlines 3 key measures to improve residential seniors’ care:

Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, also urges care be moved to a more home-like setting and away from the current medical model.   1:25

States of emergency

As it deals with the fallout of the military report, Ontario has announced it is extending its emergency order until June 9. The province continues to deal with an uptick in COVID-19 cases and major issues in some long-term care homes, which house elderly and vulnerable residents who are at increased risk of severe illness and death from the disease.

A news release on Wednesday said under the extended emergency order, measures such as the restriction on gatherings of more than five people will stay in place, as will a range of other measures, including the mandated closure of bars and restaurants.

British Columbia also moved Wednesday to extend its state of emergency for another two weeks, making it the longest period of time it has been under such orders.

The province was under emergency orders for 10 weeks during the 2017 wildfire season. With today’s extension, it will bring the province to 12 weeks, with “no likely end in sight,” according to Premier John Horgan.  

Hot spots

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday that epidemic growth “continues to slow” nationally, but outbreaks are still an issue, especially in long-term care, shelters and workplaces.

Tam said on Twitter that “most worrying” is community spread in and around hot spots, such as Toronto and Montreal.

She urged people to stick with public health measures, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and staying home if sick.

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 87,519 confirmed and presumptive cases of coronavirus, with 46,177 considered resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 6,858. Public health officials have cautioned that recorded figures don’t capture information on people who have not been tested and cases that are still under investigation.

The novel coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness or death. There are no proven treatments or vaccines for the virus, which causes an illness called COVID-19.

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

B.C.’s elected officials will return to the provincial legislature June 22. Members have been working from home since mid-March, but Premier Horgan said Wednesday that most will return to Victoria while maintaining public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta health officials are investigating a possible case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MISC) in the province. Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday the illness has been seen in Quebec, the U.K. and the U.S., and that while it can sound scary, it appears to be rare and treatable. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported two new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, bringing the number of COVID-19-linked deaths in the province to 10. Both deaths were in patients in the far north of the province. There were also three new cases. Saskatchewan moved to Phase 2 of its reopening May 19, allowing businesses like clothing stores, hair salons and greenhouses to open with restrictions. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

WATCH | COVID-19: What are the risks of eating at a restaurant?

An infectious disease specialist answers questions about the risks of eating at a restaurant as they reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2:57

Manitoba will allow restaurants, gyms and pools to reopen on June 1, the province said Wednesday. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, where the government is considering changes to the multimillion-dollar aid package for businesses impacted by the pandemic and subsequent public health restrictions.

Ontario’s COVID-19 cases are concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area, with more than three-quarters of the active cases listed by the province found in Toronto, as well as Peel, York, Durham and Halton regions, CBC’s MIke Crawley reports. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario, where questions continue about long-term care after a detailed report from Canadian Armed Forces outlined major issues with five facilities. Ontario reported 292 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Quebec is expanding its COVID-19 testing by bringing more mobile testing to the Mauricie region. In Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan, municipal vehicles have been transformed so they can offer curbside testing. “When the unit comes to a neighbourhood, the team will go ringing doorbells, talk with people about their health, and if they have symptoms, we’ll invite them to be tested,” a local health official said. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, which reported 541 new coronavirus cases and 89 new deaths on Wednesday.

New Brunswick reported another new case of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region Wednesday, the third case within a week. The person is a medical professional who travelled to Quebec and did not self-isolate upon their return, said Premier Blaine Higgs. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported one new case on Wednesday. The province says many businesses that are ready can reopen June 5, including restaurants, bars, hair salons and gyms. “We believe we found a balance between public safety and restarting our economy,” Premier Stephen McNeil said.  Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia, including the story of one woman trying to help staff at the hard-hit Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

Prince Edward Island’s government is taking criticism from the Opposition over its decision to allow seasonal residents to travel to the island this summer amid the ongoing pandemic. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

WATCH | Hotels implement enhanced cleaning, safety measures to reopen during pandemic:

For hotels preparing to reopen during the pandemic, they are implementing enhanced cleaning procedures and with new measures in place to keep guests safe. 1:59

Newfoundland and Labrador has reported no new COVID-19 cases for 20 days now.  But despite the positive news, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, is urging residents to continue to uphold safety measures. “Experts around the world are predicting a second wave of COVID-19,” she said Wednesday, “and we must remain vigilant in following the public health measures in place so that when it happens we will be in the best possible position to respond.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yukon University is preparing for a fall semester with many online classes, and perhaps a late start for some classes, too. The university’s two degree programs in Indigenous governance and business administration will be delivered entirely online, as will early learning and child care, liberal arts and social work. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

Restaurant owners, wearing protective face masks, use measuring tape to measure the distance between tables to maintain physical distance inside a restaurant in Nice, France, on Wednesday, before the announcement by the French government of the further easing of lockdown measures following the outbreak of COVID-19. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

WATCH | Respirologist responds to questions about wearing a mask in the heat and the effect of vitamin D on COVID-19:

Even people with common chronic diseases such as asthma should be able to tolerate wearing a mask in the hot summer months, says Dr. Samir Gupta. 6:00

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