The resale housing markets in Calgary and most other Alberta centres saw some year-over-year improvement in January, says the monthly report from the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA).
“Driven by gains across most of the larger centres in the province, except for Edmonton, year-over-year residential sales activity improved by over five percent in January,” says Ann- Marie Lurie, AREA chief economist and chief economist at the Calgary Real Estate Board.
There were a number of concerns weighing on consumers at the beginning of last year that impacted the resale housing markets, says Lurie.
“The economic situation has not changed significantly over the past year, but some of the concerns have eased and modest improvements in the fundamentals supporting the housing market have occurred,” she says. “Despite modest gains, it is important to note that conditions have shifted in the past five years and since the energy sector adjustment, we are left with a housing market that has slower levels of demand, higher amounts of inventory and prices that remain lower than 2014 highs.”
Lurie says January’s average prices improved compared to last year, but much of the gains are expected to be due to distributional shifts.
“Most regions reported improving sales in the higher end of the market, pulling up average prices,” she says. “However, the large markets of Calgary and Edmonton reported easing in benchmark prices, which is consistent with expectations given the current levels of oversupply in their respective markets.”
Here is Lurie’s overview of Alberta’s two largest cities.
Housing market conditions continue to follow similar trends to last year. January sales activity improved by nearly 12 percent, while new listings fell by nearly eight percent. This contributed to a decline in inventory levels and caused the months of supply to fall to just over six months, a significant improvement from last year’s level of nearly eight months.
While conditions are improving, the housing market continues to favour the buyer, causing further price declines. However, as conditions start to adjust to a new normal, the pace of price decline is starting to ease.
January sales eased slightly compared to last year’s levels. Thanks to a significant decline in new listings, inventory levels eased, and the market saw the months of supply ease to under nine months, an improvement from last January’s level, which was nearly 10 months.
While the market remains oversupplied, both the average and median prices improved over the previous year, while the benchmark price eased. The improvements in average and median prices were likely driven by a shift in the distribution this month compared to last year as there was a jump in the number of higher-priced home sales.
Manitoba announced 40 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Thursday, the largest single-day increase so far during the pandemic.
Thursday’s numbers bring the total number of cases up to 167, including 11 in the Prairie Mountain Health region, said the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin. The total number of deaths remains at one, and five people are in intensive care.
The news follows the announcement on Wednesday that community transmission had started in the province. Roussin said there are five cases that Manitoba Health can’t trace back to travel or contact with another infected person. At this point, community transmission is only happening in Winnipeg, but he said everyone in the province should be taking the same social distancing measures.
“We want to ensure that people are aware that once we see this virus in the community at low levels, it’s possible to acquire that virus should you not practise social distancing,” he said.
“Stay home if you can, it limits your risk to acquiring this virus, it limits the risk to others of spreading this virus, so stay home as much as you can. That will be your biggest contribution to decreasing the spread of this virus.”
Now is not the time for any travel, even to cottages, Roussin said. While people may believe it allows them to more effectively isolate, it will put increased strain on rural health-care systems if they do get sick.
Several outbreaks of the virus have been identified in Manitoba health-care facilities, including at a personal care home in Gimli and the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Approximately 40 nurses at the Health Sciences Centre are self-isolating after possible exposure to the virus, while one worker at Betel Home in Gimli tested positive, he said.
In response, Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer, announced health-care workers in hospitals, testing centres and other places will begin wearing surgical masks, gloves and gowns during all contact with patients. She said Manitoba Health has enough personal protective equipment to sustain the measure and more will be distributed according to need.
Shared Health is working on implementing the change at sites across the province and she said more information would be shared with people Thursday.
“We have plans for this eventuality and the escalation of cases in recent days at health-care facilities means it is time for us to implement this change,” she said.
Hospital patients and personal care home residents who had close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19 are also being tested, she said.
“These cases cause us all a great deal of concern, and we cannot emphasize enough the responsibility that all Manitobans have to do what we can to slow the spread of this virus,” she said.
In response to a question about opening hospitals dedicated to the virus, Siragusa said Manitoba Health is planning COVID-19 wards in hospitals across the province. It isn’t feasible to have all cases in one building, but hospitals — including the Brandon Regional Health Centre — could focus staff in one area to treat all patients with the virus.
“The concept is we can’t have it all in one site, but we can have them all united in one unit so the staff are concentrated there,” she said.
According to a spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health, 342 people had been tested so far at the Brandon testing site as of the end of the day on April 1. At the Dauphin testing site, 23 people had been tested as of April 1.
Both testing sites are by referral only and are not walk-in clinics.
As of Thursday, the Cadham Provincial Laboratory had performed 11,327 tests in total.
Ontario will have to add nearly 900 new intensive-care beds to its existing supply to be able to handle the surge in COVID-19 patients forecast under the best-case scenario in provincial models of the pandemic.
The province has an estimated 415 ICU beds available now, as the Ford government attempts to create the hundreds of new spaces experts expect they’ll need.
The additional beds would result in an approximate total of 1,300 dedicated ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
The models released by the province on Friday suggest an increase in demand that could, in the best-case scenario, peak on April 18, but remain below Ontario’s total capacity if all 900 new beds are made available by then.
In the worst-case scenario, demand for ICU beds would rise sharply until at least the end of April, exceeding the province’s capacity as early as April 14, even with all 900 new spaces.
However, that scenario will likely never come to pass, as signs indicate that the number of COVID-19 patients isn’t actually increasing as quickly as researchers thought it would.
Health officials say a continued commitment to physical distancing will help Ontario avoid the untenable strain on hospitals suggested by the worst-case numbers.
“If we can keep the prevalence of the disease to a lower level, the capacity that we have online, or that we could bring online, would indeed be sufficient,” said Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health.
The latest models also suggest that between 3,000 and 15,000 people will die of COVID-19 in Ontario during the pandemic. The model also forecasts 80,000 total cases by the end of April.
Few ICU beds remain at several GTA hospitals
Data obtained by CBC News shows a rapidly dwindling number of ICU beds in the Greater Toronto Area.
Just nine critical-care beds remain available among the 153 ICU beds in the hospitals of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Reports also show just 18 ICU beds available among the 130 critical care beds among the hospitals in the Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network
The Ontario government has given permission to all hospitals in the province to expand their capacity for COVID-19 patients, though it is not yet clear if they will have the staff necessary to accommodate that growth.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is recruiting retired nurses, medical students and other volunteers to help staff overstretched hospital departments.
Elliott said other hospitals may begin renting hotels, motels or retirement homes to increase capacity. Others, she said, are using field hospitals to prepare for the influx of patients.
Christine Elliott says the province set up a website where people can volunteer to help staff overstretched hospital departments. 1:44
“That is something that is calibrated on an hour-by-hour basis, depending on where the outbreaks are happening,” Elliott said on Friday.
“We are ready to go, depending on where the hotspots are with COVID-19 and what each individual hospital needs, but they all have an individual plan in place right now to expand their capacity.”
There’s a ‘war being fought,’ emergency doctor warns
But some frontline workers say there’s not much more room to expand past their current capacity.
Dr. Brett Belchetz, a Toronto emergency room physician, said although their hospital isn’t yet overrun, they’re not far from their limit.
“If volumes are going to go up tremendously … we certainly will very quickly be in a situation where we will not have the equipment or the space or the supplies to care for those people,” Belchetz said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
Although he said fewer COVID-19 patients are arriving at his emergency room, most of the people who are coming in are quite sick.
And what people need to understand, Betchez said, is that “there is a war being fought out there.”
If the province’s COVID-19 restrictions are unsuccessful, he said there won’t be enough ventilators to help all patients who are critically ill.
“The only way that we can stop that from happening is to prolong the outbreak to make sure we don’t have all those cases at the same time,” Beltchetz said.
In an effort to assist governments with ensuring residents are remaining in their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak Google has provided Mobility Reports which depict growing and shrinking trends in a number of activities.
In both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the sections outlining retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transit use and attending the workplace all declined significantly.
However, two other sections actually saw increases: residential, which refers to time spent at home, climbed by eight percent in New Brunswick and five in Nova Scotia. But the other – parks – rose dramatically by 101 per cent and 95, respectively.
For Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, the last section continues to be a source of frustration while a state of emergency continues in the province.
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“At a glance, Nova Scotia is not doing well when it comes to staying away from our parks and beaches,” he said Friday before the conclusion of the day’s COVID-19 update with Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
“We don’t need online graphs to tell us what we need to do. We need to stay the blazes home.”
This type of data tracking isn’t new, nor is the idea of government’s using it to keep tabs on their citizens.
1:14 Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Critical time’ as Nova Scotia sees signs of community spread, officials say
Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Critical time’ as Nova Scotia sees signs of community spread, officials say
But it’s what’s done in the coming weeks and months surrounding the use of this technology that some cyber security experts say requires strong surveillance.
“History shows us governments, when they take on emergency powers during a crisis, don’t generally give those powers back,” explained David Shipley, CEO of Beauceron Security, a Fredericton firm that specializes in helping businesses become and remain secure online. “Any attempts to use this data has to have some careful consideration given to the sunset clauses.”
But Shipley warns that the data gained from tracking mobile users isn’t foolproof and could lead to problems if used to target or surveil individuals, rather than amass information.
“The data can be flawed,” Shipley said.
“The data accuracy of location data depends on the quality of the measurement,” he explained. “If you’re a person living in an urban area in Atlantic Canada like Halifax and you’re close to your wifi and other data points, the more data points the more accurate it is.”
“But if you’re living in rural Atlantic Canada and you only have the cell phone signal for example, maybe not the GPS data, it can be as inaccurate as a couple of miles.”
The possibility of the data coming through inaccurately Shipley says should influence how it’s used, likening it to political polls rather than a scientific study.
1:24 Driver dies of COVID-19 weeks after complaining of passenger’s cough
Driver dies of COVID-19 weeks after complaining of passenger’s cough
He says while it can be used as a guide, citing how a mobility report uptick in trips to parks could then be followed up on, it’s critical that the way people’s personal data is monitored closely and their right to privacy isn’t taken away unknowingly.
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“Using good data to make public policy decisions at an aggregate, anonymous level, again with respect to individual privacy and ultimately freedom, there’s potential,” he explained. “But tracking down individuals and treating us all like we’re under house arrest is a future I don’t think we signed up for.”
Although right now there’s no indication individual surveillance is being considered, it’s not that far-fetched according to Shipley who says it’s already ongoing elsewhere in the world.
“We actually saw examples in Asia, South Korea and Taiwan, where folks who took their devices off of them actually got visits from police because now they couldn’t be tracked,” Shipley explained. “If people start knocking on your doors to make sure you’re respecting quarantine because you haven’t had your device on you, well that’s effectively house arrest.”
“Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.”
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