The COVID-19 pandemic maintained a grip on much of Canada on Tuesday even as at least three provinces stepped up their efforts to resume the trappings of life prior to the outbreak.
Efforts to reopen more businesses in Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan were embraced only in part, with several stores indicating they were not in a position to observe the public health measures needed to operate in the post-pandemic era.
And measures to combat the deadly virus continued, with Ontario opting to cancel school for the rest of the academic year and the federal government extending a planned border closure with the United States.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision to prolong the ban on non-essential travel between the two countries until June 21 was a necessary step to protect the health of residents on both sides of the border.
Canada’s top public health official also highlighted the need to keep borders closed and concentrate on ensuring the domestic situation is well in hand before welcoming outside visitors.
“We have to cautiously lift measures within our borders first just to see slowly what actually happens,” Dr. Theresa Tam said at an early afternoon briefing. “We will want to see that cases are still suppressed. We’re still going to manage, detect and clamp down on any new spots that might come up.”
Canadian and American officials mutually agreed to the extended closure, which prohibits discretionary travel while permitting trade shipments, commerce and essential workers to flow in both directions.
One of the provinces hardest hit by COVID-19 also opted to continue with one major measure intended to curb the spread of the virus. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the province’s schools would now remain closed until at least September, noting overnight summer camps would also be shuttered for the upcoming season.
“I’m just not going to risk it,” Ford said as he announced the move. “This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision.”
The Ontario government also extended emergency orders shuttering businesses such as libraries, restaurants and bars until May 29, also extending a ban on public gatherings of more than five people. The extension comes as the province reported more than 400 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, a 1.9 per cent uptick that’s the highest seen in days.
Word of the extended safety measures came as Ontario — along with Saskatchewan and British Columbia — continued ramping up their regional economic recovery efforts.
Retailers across Ontario began reopening their doors on Tuesday, though with significant physical distancing measures remaining in place to protect staff and shoppers.
Many businesses had previously expressed doubts about their ability to conduct businesses while customer traffic is heavily restricted and in-store safety protocols are still in the works. But at those retailers that did relaunch business, customers seemed to feel it was safe to resume operations.
“I think this is no different than what we’re already doing with grocery stores,” Toronto resident Madeleine Lewis said as she stood in line outside a pet store in Toronto’s west end. “We’ll be careful — it’s just much easier for me to shop for the dogs here than online.”
Car dealerships and some outdoor recreation spaces were also included in the reopening, which marked Phase 1 of the province’s gradual economic recovery plan.
Reopening efforts were more widespread in British Columbia, where a much larger number of businesses have been given the green light to resume operations if they’re able to observe sound public health practices.
Among those cleared to reopen on Tuesday included restaurants, cafes and pubs, retail and personal service establishments, libraries, museums and galleries, office spaces, child care facilities, parks and beaches.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s chief medical health officer, urged businesses to “take it slow” as they work towards operating in a world transformed by the pandemic.
In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, Phase 2 of the province’s reopening plan went into effect as malls, salons, massage parlours and dentists offices were cleared to resume business. Some restrictions remain in place, however, with personal service workers being encouraged to wear protective gear and clothing stores discouraging customers from trying on their offerings.
Regina-based barber Jason Zalusky said longer service times, lowered store capacity and more stringent disinfection protocols mean his shop will only be able to handle about 60 per cent of its usual business levels.
“There’s a lot more work definitely for a lot less pay, but that’s what we gotta do,” he said. “… I don’t think it’s going to benefit many of us being open, but people are ready and they want it.”
For at least one Canadian retailer, the economic damage has already been done. Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. filed for court protection from its creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Quebec on Tuesday. It said losses caused by the pandemic mean the company will have to restructure operations across its 576 stores, which operate under five banners and employ about 6,800 staff.
More than 5,900 Canadians have died of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 79,000 others.
With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2020.
Ontario, Quebec continue to account for majority of Canada’s new novel coronavirus cases – Globalnews.ca
Despite hundreds of new novel coronavirus cases still being reported in Ontario and Quebec, the number of overall cases across Canada continued to trend downward Friday.
More than 600 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday raised the national tally past 94,000 cases overall. More than 52,000 people are considered recovered, with more than 1.9 million tests conducted.
The national death toll went up by 66 deaths, for a total of 7,703.
Quebec accounted for the majority of the daily death toll once again. The province has been the hardest-hit region in Canada for the past few weeks, with 55 per cent of the national caseload and nearly 5,000 deaths (more than 60 per cent of Canada’s death toll).
Quebec reported 50 new deaths and 255 new cases on Friday. More than 17,700 people are deemed recovered in the province.
Ontario reported 344 new cases and 15 new deaths, leaving the province with nearly 30,000 cases and more than 2,300 deaths. More than 23,000 people have recovered from the virus.
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B.C. reported one new case and one new death, for a total of 2,628 cases and 167 deaths. The province has seen 2,272 people recover so far.
The Prairie provinces recorded new cases in the single digits. Alberta saw seven new cases — the lowest daily number recorded by the province since March 12.
All four Atlantic provinces reported no new cases or deaths on Friday. Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases have been resolved for weeks now, Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases left out of 261 cases and three deaths, and Nova Scotia, where 61 people have died so far, saw bars and restaurants reopen.
New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday and has mandated face coverings in public buildings. Out of 136 cases, 121 are recovered.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked why his government didn’t collect race-based data
The Northwest Territories and the Yukon continue to see no new cases, having resolved all their cases for some time. Nunavut remain the only region in Canada that hasn’t reported a positive case of COVID-19 so far.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 6.7 million cases and nearly 394,000 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
'Safe restart' of Canadian economy will take 6-8 months, Freeland says – CTV News
A ‘safe restart’ of the Canadian economy will likely take at least half a year, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday, a day after Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam cautioned that relaxing current restrictions too much or too soon could result in an “explosive growth” of new cases.
“One other thing that we would like to really underscore is what we are talking about is the safe restart right now. So this is not a long-term plan,” Freeland told reporters when asked about the government’s plans for the $14 billion earmarked to help provinces and territories.
“This is for ensuring a safe restart over the next six to eight months. And I think it’s important for Canadians to understand that’s the timeframe that we are focused on.”
Canada is fast approaching 95,000 COVID-19 cases and has recorded more than 7,700 deaths across the country. Most provinces and territories have begun reporting no or very few cases and deaths and are beginning to look at how to restart the economy, but Ontario and Quebec are still reporting close to or morethan 300 new cases a day and numerous deaths. The two provinces now account for more than 90 percent of the cases, but have also begun plans for reopening.
Tam said Thursday that until an effective vaccine or treatment becomes available, Canada needsto remain vigilant with its containment efforts to prevent an “explosive” second wave, with the latest federal modelling showing that another peak was possible in October without sufficient prevention measures.
The last time the federal government made a projection was in late April, when it estimated that the country was on track to report between 53,196 and 66,835 cases of COVID-19, and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths. In reality, there were 62,046 confirmed cases and 4,043 people had died by May 5.
Freeland said the government understands that the needs of each province and territory vary a great deal, and that it wanted to work collaboratively with them.
“We really are approaching this by saying to the provinces and territories, we understand that a safe restart is essential. And that it is expensive.”
With files from Ottawa news Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello
Feds to send $600 to some Canadians with disabilities – CTV News
Canadians with disabilities will be sent a one-time tax-free payment of up to $600, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday, in an effort to help offset the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new financial aid will go to all who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, as of June 1.
Canadians who have a valid certificate for the Disability Tax Credit will receive $600. Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will receive $300. Canadians who are eligible for both of these programs and are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will be receiving $100.
The government says that because of the special one-time payments going to seniors, the amount seniors with disabilities will receive through this stream will be less, but in the end will total the same amount of $600.
“People who are eligible for this special payment will receive it automatically,” the federal government has announced, meaning that eligible recipients of these new one-time payments will not need to apply. However, as announced with the seniors funding on Thursday, it could be weeks before the money lands in the hands of those eligible.
For those who are eligible and under the age of 18, the special payment will be sent to their primary caregiver and in cases of shared custody, each parent will receive $300.
“This payment will go to existing disability tax credit certificate holders, which includes parents with children or dependents with disabilities, seniors, veterans and many other Canadians that we know have costs associated with severe and prolonged disabilities,” Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said on Friday.
Some Canadians with disabilities had been watching the various announcements for students, seniors, and other targeted demographics and have been left wondering why they appeared to have fallen through the cracks.
For many already living on a low income, they are facing more expenses due to the pandemic, such as increased costs for personal support workers, grocery delivery fees and prescription drug dispensing fees.
The government estimates that 1.2 million Canadians will be eligible for this one-time top-up, which will cost $548 million. Among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely.
NEW ACCESSIBILITY PROGRAMS
In addition to the one-time payments, the federal government is launching two new accessibility-focused programs.
One, focused on national workplace accessibility, will see $15 million go to community organizations to develop programs and expand current training opportunities to help Canadians with disabilities adapt to the realities of COVID-19, including helping set up effective work-from-home arrangements and training for in-demand jobs.
The second is a $1.8 million fund being shared between five projects to develop accessible technology such as accessible payment terminals for individuals with sight loss; arm supports that will allow Canadians with disabilities to use standard technology; systems to allow Canadians with neurological conditions to interact with technology for a longer period of time; and to develop software to expand expression and voice recognition.
“We know this pandemic has deeply affected the lives and health of all Canadians and disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities in particular,” Qualtrough said. “We also recognize that persons with disabilities are at a higher risk of job loss during economic downturns.”
Asked more broadly whether the government has plans to extend or amend the $2,000 a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit in light of the shifting economic situation and gradual reopening, the minister said that conversations are underway.
“Our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers while not disincentivizing work, and absolutely those conversations are happening right now.”
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