The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available:
1:53 p.m.: The total number of deaths worldwide due to the Coronavirus has surpassed 100,000, according to John Hopkins University.
The number 100,376 deaths was reported on their worldwide tracking map.
1:45 p.m.: The RCMP announced new powers aimed at enforcing the Quarantine Act, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted Friday that rules could be loosened this summer if Canadians act now to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The police force says it has been asked to assist in enforcing the act in the midst of the pandemic. Officers could visit homes to ensure anyone entering Canada is self-isolating for 14 days, and police can now make arrests, rather than issue a court appearance notice or summons.
The RCMP says arrests under the act, violations of which could include a fine of up to $750,000 and imprisonment for six months, will be a last resort.
Trudeau said Friday he is not planning to invoke the Emergencies Act, which would give the federal government sweeping powers.
1:25 p.m.: The Quebec government says 25 more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths to 241.
There province is reporting 765 new cases.
Premier Francois Legault says he’s cautiously optimistic that despite reporting 11,677 confirmed cases and 733 people hospitalized, the numbers are beginning to stabilize. The cases in intensive care actually went down today to 186.
Legault says provincial health authorities are confident that physical distancing measures imposed by the province are working.
The premier repeated today that in the coming weeks, the province will begin to resume some activities and a gradual restart to the economy.
Legault’s main message to Quebecers is that better days are ahead.
1:14 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford held his daily press conference as usual Friday with health minister Christine Elliott and Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health. “We’re laser-focused on ramping up our testing capacity so we can protect the most vulnerable in our communities and those who protect them, like our front-line health care workers and first responders,” said Premier Ford. “By expanding our testing capacity, we will be able to find cases faster, intervene earlier, reduce the spread, and save lives.”
The provincial government anticipates that they’ll be able to double the number of tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15, 2020 and 14,000 by April 29, 2020. At this point, overall lab capacity will have been further expanded, says the government.
12:24 p.m.: Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, addressed the nation Friday afternoon from Ottawa.
Tam says that Canada currently has 21,243 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and that more than 383,000 tests have been administered across the country. Included in that case count is 531 deaths, many of them at long-term care homes, Tam said.
Tam praised Canadians for adhering to the public health guidelines laid out by the government, saying that the public’s cooperation has “kept our health system from being overwhelmed.”
“We’ve achieved a great deal together over the past few weeks,” Tam said.
Tam also endorsed a “staycation for the nation,” urging Canadians to spend this holiday weekend at home.
12:18: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be at the House of Commons on Saturday as the government attempts to pass the wage subsidy bill. He has been working from home since March 12.
Trudeau calls the wage subsidy bill the largest economic measures Canada has seen since the Second World War.
The bill will allow companies to get a 75-per-cent subsidy on each employee’s wages.
Meanwhile, Trudeau is not planning to invoke the emergencies act, which would give the federal government sweeping powers.
11:45 a.m.: City of Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua has requested all flags at the city’s facilities be lowered to half-mast to honour the victims of COVID-19. He also paid tribute to healthcare workers.
“I want to recognize all workers playing an important role in maintaining essential services. Thank you for your hard work, dedication and commitment to ensuring the well-being of our community.”
As the Easter long weekend begins, along with the desire to connect with family, he reiterated the pleas of other community leaders to maintain physical distancing and social isolation protocols.
11:00 a.m.: Ontario has seen another 524 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Star’s latest count.
With most of the province’s 34 regional health units still to report their daily tally as of 11 a.m. Friday, the Star is counting 6,768 confirmed and probable cases of the disease, including 244 deaths.
Peel Public Health reported a steep increase in deaths Friday morning, to a total of 15, from 10. A cleaner at Brampton Civic Hospital died Thursday in what is believed to be Ontario’s first death of a health-care worker from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
New deaths were also reported near Sarnia and in Waterloo Region.
Earlier Friday, the province reported a jump in the number of patients who had been tested for COVID-19 the day prior. The province reported 5,573 were completed, up about 1,500 from the Thursday report, and approaching levels from the start of the month. Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford called low testing rates “absolutely unacceptable” given the province has the built up the capacity to complete around 13,000 tests a day.
According to the province, 673 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 260 in an intensive care unit. The province also says 2,574 patients have now recovered after testing positive for COVID-19
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths — 222 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in its reporting system.
The Star’s count is based on the public tallies and statements of the regional health units. It includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
10:41 a.m.: The federal Health and Human Services department says it’s releasing the first $30 billion in grants provided by the stimulus bill to help keep the U.S. health care system operating during the coronavirus outbreak.
Congress provided $100 billion for the health care system in the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Officials say the relief funds will go to hospitals and doctors through Medicare and will be based on their billings to the program last year. Hospitals are supposed to use some of the money to cover COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, although an independent study earlier this week suggests it may not be enough.
10:00 a.m.: Figures from the federal government this morning show that 5.08 million people are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The figure includes about two million workers who previously qualified for employment insurance benefits after March 15, but were moved to the new benefit when it became available on Monday.
So far this week, 3.08 million people have filed claims for the benefit, including just over 615,000 claims alone on Thursday.
The $2,000-a-month benefit is available for up to 16 weeks for eligible workers affected by COVID-19.
9:58 a.m.: Thousands of people surged for food aid in a brief stampede Friday in Kenya’s capital, desperate for help as coronavirus restrictions keep them from making a living. Police fired tear gas and injured several people, witnesses said.
Residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, spotting a food distribution, tried to force their way through a gate outside a district office for their chance at supplies to keep their families fed for another day. In the chaos, men with sticks beat people back as they fought over packages of food, some with face masks dangling off their chins. Some people fell and were trampled. Dust rose. Women shrieked. Injured people were carried to safety and placed on the ground to recover, gasping for breath.
“The people who have been injured here are very many, even we cannot count,” said one resident, Evelyn Kemunto. “Both women and children have been injured. There was a woman with twins, she has been injured, and even now she is looking for her twins. … It is food we were coming for since we are dying of hunger.”
The crowd had heard that popular opposition leader Raila Odinga had donated the food, said witness Richard Agutu Kongo, a 43-year-old who operates a motorcycle taxi. But in fact the distribution was from another well-wisher who had given selected families cards to turn in and receive aid, he said.
“They didn’t care about government restrictions that we were to stay 1 metre apart,” he added.
Kongo’s family, including six children, was given a card. They received two packets of maize meal, cooking oil and cereals. People in the crowd “could see those with cards getting food and this caused the stampede as they tried to force their way in,” Kongo said.
He described his business as a standstill as Kenyans are discouraged from going out.
“Before, I used to make (the equivalent of) $10 and now with the coronavirus restrictions I can barely make $5,” he said. “It’s becoming hard to ensure my family gets three meals a day. Yesterday they missed breakfast.”
With Friday’s donation, his family now has enough for three meals, he said: “We are thankful for the donation, but it will only last two days.”
He lamented that Kenya’s government appears to have no plan to feed him and millions more.
8:27 a.m.: In Israel, the number of coronavirus infections has risen to more than 10,000. The government imposed strict measures to contain the pandemic early on but has seen it tear through the insular ultra-Orthodox religious community.
The Health Ministry on Friday reported more than 10,000 cases, including 92 deaths.
In Oman on Friday, authorities ordered those living in the capital, Muscat, to remain there while banning people from travelling into the city over the virus. The country has more than 450 confirmed cases with two confirmed deaths.
There are more than 134,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Middle East, including over 5,300 fatalities. Some 4,200 of those deaths are in Iran, which has the largest outbreak in the region. Authorities there had recorded over 68,000 total cases as of Friday.
8:21 a.m.: The top U.S. infectious disease official says coronavirus antibody tests are just days away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says at the last White House coronavirus task force meeting, the people responsible for developing, validating and disseminating the tests were saying “a rather large number of tests” will be available within a week.
Fauci told CNN on Friday he’s “certain that that’s going to happen.”
An antibody test could show whether a person was recently exposed to the coronavirus. Fauci says the test would say “that you were infected and if you’re feeling well you very likely recovered.”
Fauci says medical experts could then try to determine how deeply the virus “has penetrated the society” and whether previously infected people would be vulnerable to reinfection, which is particularly “important for health care workers.”
Fauci says testing for an antibody doesn’t mean medical experts are shifting away from testing for the virus to see who’s infected. He says, “those things are done in parallel.”
8:08 a.m.: Yemen’s internationally recognized government Friday announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the war-torn country, a 73-year-old Yemeni national who works at the al-Shahr port in Hadramawt province. He is in a stable condition. The case stokes fears that an outbreak could devastate an already crippled health care system.
Yemen is a uniquely dangerous place for the coronavirus to spread. Repeated bombings and ground fighting over five years of war have destroyed or closed more than half its health facilities. Deep poverty, dire water shortages and a lack of adequate sanitation have made the country a breeding ground for disease.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels declared a cease-fire on Thursday on humanitarian grounds to prevent the spread of the pandemic. However, fighting continued unabated Friday, diminishing hopes that a halt in the fighting will open doors for peace talks.
To try to curb the spread of the virus, provincial Gov. Farag al-Bouhsni announced on his Facebook page a partial curfew. He also placed all workers at one of the area’s key ports, Al-Shahr, under a 14-day quarantine.
7:46 a.m.: France’s only aircraft carrier has confirmed 50 cases of the virus aboard and is heading back to port.
The French military says three of those aboard the Charles de Gaulle with the virus have been flown to a French hospital for treatment. Medics are staying aboard to track the infections and prevent further spread among the 1,700 crew after 50 of the 66 tests were positive.
7:30 a.m.: Pakistan is reopening some factories amid a national lockdown to counter the deadly coronavirus pandemic as the south Asian nation expects its exports will decline by 50% in the next two months, Bloomberg reports.
The companies with export orders will start working again with precautionary measures including calling in only essential employees and ensuring regular disinfection, Abdul Razak Dawood, the commerce adviser said in a phone call, late Thursday. Exporters such as Interloop Ltd., which supplies to Nike Inc. and Puma SE, have reopened their factories.
7:29 a.m. (updated): Still damaged and scarred by fire, Notre Dame Cathedral came back to life — if only for a fleeting instant — as a centre for prayer on Friday in a Paris locked down against the coronavirus.
Just days before the first anniversary of the April 15, 2019, inferno that ravaged the beloved Paris landmark, the French capital’s archbishop led Good Friday celebrations unlike any that have gone before inside the centuries-old jewel of Gothic architecture.
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Archbishop Michel Aupetit and three clergymen who accompanied him wore hard hats as they entered the damaged cathedral that is closed to the public and which he described as “half collapsed.” They then took off the helmets for the ceremony, in front of a large cross and the gaping hole in the cathedral’s roof.
Venerating a crown of thorns that survived the flames, the bishop said the 40 minutes of prayer, music and readings under the blackened remains of the vaulted stone ceiling showed that “life is still here” amid the coronavirus pandemic “spreading death and paralyzing us.”
“A year ago this cathedral in which we find ourselves was burning, causing shock and momentum worldwide to rebuild it,” he intoned.
“Yes, Lord, come to show us that you are not abandoning us.”
The fire brought down the cathedral’s spire and melted its lead roof, showering the wreckage and surrounds with toxic dust and horrifying Parisians and people across the world. Renovation work ground to a halt with the coronavirus lockdown in place nationwide in France since March 17.
Dressed in white protective overalls for the ceremony, classical musician Renaud Capuçon played violin, the mournful notes echoing off the walls and pillars that have witnessed months of silence since the blaze.
Dressed in the same protective gear, actors Judith Chemla and Philippe Torreton delivered readings. In a limpid voice, Chemla sang an “Ave Maria” that sent shivers down the spine.
With the cathedral off-limits to the public and Paris in lockdown, the half-dozen people were the only participants in the proceedings, but they were broadcast live.
7:01 a.m.: The union representing correctional officers in Ontario says some of its members have refused to work after they were not allowed to wear protective gear amid the spread of COVID-19 in provincial jails.
Some institutions allow guards to wear surgical masks and gloves while others don’t, said Chris Jackel, a spokesman for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Solicitor General said jails across the province have access to protective equipment, adding that the health of its workers and inmates is a “top priority.”
“The ministry is currently working with bargaining partners to address outstanding matters, such as the use of personal masks,” said Kristy Denette.
6:52 a.m.: As the coronavirus spreads in Japan, the chief executive of the Tokyo Games said Friday he can’t guarantee the postponed Olympics will be staged next year — even with a 16-month delay.
“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely. “We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”
“We have made the decision to postpone the games by one year,” Muto added. “So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”
“Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort,” he said when asked if there are alternative plans to 2021. “Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines.”
Muto was asked several times about the added costs of postponing, which has been estimated by Japanese media at between $2 billion-$6 billion. He said it was too soon to know the price tag and who would pay.
5:37 a.m.: Turkey is sending a planeload of surgical masks, N95 masks and hazmat suits to Britain to help the country battle the coronavirus outbreak. State-run Anadolu Agency said a military cargo plane carrying the medical supplies took off from an air base near the capital Ankara on Friday.
A second plane carrying more equipment would depart on Saturday, the agency reported. There was no information on the quantity of the supplies sent.
In the past weeks, Turkey has similarly donated medical supplies to Italy, Spain as well as five countries in the Balkans.
The items were sent in boxes displaying the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: “There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”
4:52 a.m.: Russian doctors will start treating all patients with pneumonia for the new coronavirus without waiting for test results to confirm the diagnosis, the country’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said.
“We’re seeing that the disease progresses fast, and it has specific clinical presentation, (allowing) to diagnose (it) without confirming in the lab based on the clinical presentation,” Murashko said in a TV interview that aired on Thursday night.
Murashko’s statement echoes earlier comments from Moscow doctors involved in treating coronavirus patients, saying that the vast majority of pneumonia cases in Russia are most likely caused by the new virus and should be treated as such.
“Existing tests for confirming COVID-19 are 70-80% accurate,” Denis Protsenko, chief doctor of a top Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients, said Thursday.
4:33 a.m.: Boris Johnson’s father says the British prime minister needs time to recover from the new coronavirus and is unlikely to be back at work imminently.
The U.K. leader spent three nights in the intensive care unit at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened. He was moved back to a regular ward on Thursday evening, and his office says he is in “the early phase of his recovery.”
His father Stanley Johnson said the prime minister needed to “rest up.”
“He has to take time,” Stanley Johnson told the BBC. “I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment.”
4:00 a.m.: While Canadian businesses wait for Parliament to approve a $73-billion wage subsidy program, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to highlight today another measure that will tide some companies over in the meantime.
At his daily briefing on the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau is expected to draw attention to the Canada Emergency Business Account. Under the program, the federal government is backing interest-free bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses and not-for-profit companies that have seen their revenues drop as the economy has deteriorated.
Qualifying companies must be able to demonstrate that they paid between $50,000 and $1 million in total payroll last year. Canada’s banks and credit unions began offering the loans on Thursday. One-quarter of each loan will be forgivable if the remainder is paid off by the end of 2022.
4:00 a.m.: Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi says it is donating 100 million doses of a malaria drug being tested for use as a treatment against the new coronavirus.
In a statement Friday, the company said the hydroxychloroquine doses will be given to 50 countries. The company said it also is ramping up production, aiming to quadruple is capacity to manufacture the drug. Sanofi said it “will continue to donate the medicine to governments and hospital institutions if ongoing clinical studies demonstrate its efficacy and safety in COVID-19 patients.”
But the company also cautioned that hydroxychloroquine has “several serious known side effects” and tests are so far inconclusive over its safety and efficacy in treating COVID-19.
It said that “while hydroxychloroquine is generating a lot of hope for patients around the world, it should be remembered that there are no results from ongoing studies, and the results may be positive or negative.”
4:00 a.m.: Pakistani police and rescue officials say at least one woman was trampled to death and 20 others were injured in a stampede as authorities distributed money among families affected by a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Pandemonium broke out Friday at a school in Multan, a city in eastern Punjab province, when hundreds of women gathered there to receive 12,000 rupees (about $70) promised by the government for each family. Pakistan plans to distribute financial assistance among 10.2 million low-income families across the country. The program began in Multan.
1:51 a.m. (updated with OPEC statement): A proposed reduction in oil production by OPEC and other oil-producing countries involves a 10 million barrels per day cut until July, then an 8 million barrels per day cut through the end of the year, Saudi Arabia said Friday as the deal hung in the balance.
OPEC said Friday that a proposed cut to oil production “is conditional on the consent of Mexico” after a marathon teleconference ended without a decision.
Saudi state television alerted terms of the deal Friday, which also called for a 6 million barrel per day cut for 16 months beginning in 2021.
1:02 a.m.: Plans to turn the Cathedral of St. John the Divine into a vast coronavirus field hospital were abruptly shelved Thursday, with public health officials saying that a leveling off in virus-related hospitalizations in New York City had made them reassess the need for the project.
12:53 a.m.: The number of confirmed cases has reached nearly 1.6 million globally as of April 10, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News.
12:08 a.m.: Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood will not be welcoming any guests until at least June, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to play out.
“We are extending the closure of Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood through at least May 31,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “This includes our theme parks and Universal CityWalk at both destinations. The Universal Orlando Resort hotels have also temporarily suspended operations through this time period.”
Guests who’ve already purchased tickets to visit the Florida or California parks during the closure will be able to use them through Dec. 18. (Customers should bring the old tickets to the front gate turnstile when they visit.)
“If you cannot visit during this time, you can apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward a new purchase,” Universal said in its FAQ. Guests who purchased tickets for dates after the park has reopened can still use them or put the money towards a new purchase. Annual and season passholders who have paid in full will have their passes extended by the number of days the theme park is closed.
Thursday’s announcement marked the second time Universal has they’ve extended their coronavirus closures.
12:08 a.m.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended a “no sail order” Thursday that it imposed last month to help quell the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC order states that cruise ships can’t board passengers and return to their sailing schedules until one of three events takes place:
-Expiration of the Department of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency.
-The CDC director’s own decision to modify or rescind its no-sail decision.
-Passage of 100 days from the time the new order is published in the Federal Register.
Until then, the about 100 cruise ships in the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf of Mexico must remain idle, either in port or wallowing at anchor, the CDC said. Those ships currently have nearly 80,000 crew aboard.
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