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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern): 11:45 p.m. WestJet says it is suspending all commercial operations for international and transborder flights for a 30-day period.
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The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):

 

11:45 p.m.

WestJet says it is suspending all commercial operations for international and transborder flights for a 30-day period.

As of today, the Calgary-based airline says tickets for the period beginning March 23 will no longer be available for sale.

It says in a statement online that its final commercially scheduled flight will be Sunday night.

The company says it will then be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

WestJet says it is in the process of lowering prices on remaining seats for Canadians trying to return home.

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11:05 p.m.

Shoppers Drug Mart says all of their stores are dedicating their first hour of opening to customers who need assistance.

The company says that includes seniors and people living with disabilities.

It says it is also offering their 20 per cent seniors' discount on regular-priced items during their first opening hour.

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9:10 p.m.

Canada's largest movie exhibitor Cineplex Inc. says it's closing all of its 165 theatres nationwide until at least April 2 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The chain also plans to temporarily shutter entertainment complexes the Rec Room and Playdium effective tonight.

Chief executive officer Ellis Jacob says Cineplex leadership has closely monitored the escalating spread of COVID-19 in Canada and believes "the time as come for us to do more."

Cineplex represents about 75 per cent of the Canadian film exhibitor market across the country.

Other independent theatres and a number of smaller movie chains have already announced plans to close their cinemas in recent days.

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9:15 p.m.

Canadians who need help returning home will be able to apply for an emergency loan of up to $5,000 from the federal government.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says in a statement that Canada is "committed to providing all assistance possible to Canadians abroad affected by COVID-19 and to helping them return home safely."

The government is recommending people return to Canada and consider doing so as soon as possible.

It warns that people could face fewer travel options to get back to Canada and sudden spikes in prices.

The COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad is meant to temporarily cover what the federal government describes as their "life-sustaining needs while they work toward their return."

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8 p.m.

The Supreme Court is putting off hearings for constitutional challenges to the federal carbon price that were due next week.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner says the move is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court was supposed to hear cases brought by the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan.

They're postponed until at least June.

So is a hearing in a case involving a bid by the Toronto Star to stop the sealing of documents related to the estates of Toronto couple Barry and Honey Sherman, who were killed inside their Toronto mansion in December 2017.

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6:50 p.m.

Alberta has announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 74.

The province's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the update today via video-link.

Hinshaw says she has mild cold symptoms that are not consistent with the virus.

But she says she is taking her own advice and working from home while she awaits test results.

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4:55 p.m.

Vancouver's fire department is preparing to stop responding to the site of non-critical medical calls in order to preserve its resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fire Chief Darrell Reid says the department is looking at changing its service model so that firefighters only respond to the most critical medical calls, which may include COVID-19 cases in the future.

But he says the idea is to triage calls to ensure the department can still respond to major fires and other emergencies.

Under a triage system, he says emergency calls will be prioritized using a scoring system based on their severity.

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4:45 p.m.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault is announcing a new program to support workers who have to self-isolate during COVID-19 and are not eligible for federal employment insurance.

He says the program will pay out the equivalent of the maximum EI benefit of $573 a week for two weeks, which could potentially be stretched to four if needed.

He said program is intended to cover those who have to self-isolate because they have symptoms of the virus, have been in contact with those who have, or who have returned from travel, and who are not being paid by their employers or covered by other benefits programs.

The province will also boost public infrastructure spending and provide loans to businesses that are struggling financially due to the novel coronavirus.

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4:15 p.m.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he'll ask Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to clarify Tuesday how federal relief funding during the COVID-19 pandemic will flow to cities.

Stewart announced the closure today of public recreation centres, libraries, civic theatres and other non-essential services in an effort to encourage social distancing.

He is also encouraging bars and restaurants to limit their capacity if they cannot ensure at least one metre of distance between people, while suggesting residents order take out or delivery to continue supporting those businesses.

Three main service providers in the Downtown Eastside will remain open so that the city's most vulnerable will have continued access to food, shelter, and other supports.

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3:45 p.m.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health is recommending that all bars and restaurants close.

Dr. David Williams says establishments doing take-out and delivery would be an exception.

Ontario has already ordered all public schools stay closed for two weeks after March break and Williams is now recommending that all private schools and daycares also close, along with churches.

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3:20 p.m.

Saskatchewan has reported an additional presumptive case of COVID-19.

The new case brings the total in the province to seven.

The Ministry of Health says two of the seven cases have been confirmed by the national laboratory.

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3:15 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting one confirmed case of COVID-19 and four presumptive cases.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, says the confirmed case is the result of a positive test that came back on one of three presumptive cases announced Sunday.

Strang announced two new presumptive cases on Monday — a man and a woman from the Halifax Regional Municipality who are both in their 50s.

He says they were in close contact with individuals who had recently travelled outside the country.

Two other individuals in the household are now in self-isolation and are being tested while the affected individuals are in self-isolation and recovering at home.

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3 p.m.

Health officials and police are warning people about an email scam taking advantage of people worried about COVID-19 to steal money or sensitive information.

Winnipeg police sent a warning Monday about a scam where a person gets an email saying the recipient has been contaminated by the novel coronavirus.

The email also asks for credit card information in order to get a shipment of medication.

Manitoba chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says public health workers would never ask for financial information in an email or over the phone.

The Canadian Red Cross also sent out a warning over the weekend against clicking in any links in a text message claiming to be from the organization offering masks.

The World Health Organization, Better Business Bureau and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have also shared warnings about possible scams related to the pandemic.

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2:53 p.m.

Quebec is reporting several new COVID-19 cases and is now up to 50 across the province.

Premier Francois Legault revealed the latest numbers as he made a plea to Quebecers to donate blood to ensure stockpiles are not depleted.

There are 3,073 people under investigation for the disease in Quebec, and 3,079 have received a negative result.

Health Minister Danielle McCann says the province has enough tests and will be ratcheting up testing tomorrow with the opening of new centres allowing more than 6,000 tests per day, up from 1,600.

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2:45 p.m.

Yukon is joining other Canadian jurisdictions in restricting gatherings to a limit of 50 people.

The territory's chief medical officer is also telling people who have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days to self-isolate, including those who have been to Alaska.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says parents who can keep their children home from spring break daycamps, or daycare, should do so.

And people are being asked to work from home if they can.

Yukon does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, but Hanley says the territory is "very likely" to see a case soon.

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2:41 p.m.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the government is preparing to ask people to cancel gatherings larger than 50 people.

She says the move comes as community transmission of COVID-19 has begun in Canada.

Hajdu says it is too early to say whether the measures taken to date have been successful in slowing the spread of the virus, known as "flattening the curve" but the intent is now to contain the cases as rapidly as possible.

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2:26 p.m.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says extra measures are being put in place at airports to ensure people returning to Canada aren't spreading the virus there.

He says diverting most international flights to just four airports, as well as the upcoming ban on travel to Canada by almost anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, will reduce the volume of arriving travellers.

That means border security officials can insure that people are practising social distancing.

There will be masks on hand at airports and anyone who shows symptoms on a plane will be isolated upon arrival.

These steps are all in addition to increased screening measures at the border overall.

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2:30 p.m.

New Brunswick has reported another presumptive case of COVID-19, bringing the province's count to seven.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, says the woman between 20 and 30 years old lives in the southern part of the province and had recently travelled to Greece.

Public health officials are tracing her contacts in the province.

Russell is also advising a wide range of closures to start tomorrow, including bars, cinemas, libraries and museums.

She also recommends every New Brunswicker take social distancing measures to slow the spread of the illness.

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2:20 p.m.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says certain kinds of workers who need to cross the Canada-U.S. border will be exempted from requirements to self-isolate.

He says that includes airline, train and marine crews, truck drivers and other people whose profession requires cross-border travel.

Americans are also being exempted from a ban on international travel to Canada being put in place by the federal government.

Garneau says those measures will take effect on Wednesday.

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2:15 p.m.

British Columbia is reporting three additional deaths from COVID-19, all of them related to a care home in North Vancouver.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says the province is also reporting 30 additional cases today, bringing the total to 103.

The only other additional death in Canada was in B.C. at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver where there has been a cluster of cases.

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1:58 p.m.

Canada is now denying entry to nearly everyone who isn't a Canadian citizen or permanent resident but Americans are exempt from that ban.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the level of integration between Canada and the United States is behind that decision.

But he says there's more work to be done in the coming days to ensure Canadians are being kept safe and that the necessary goods keep flowing.

Trudeau says Canada and the U.S. are co-ordinating closely.

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1:52 p.m.

A doctor who has become the face of Alberta's medical response to the novel coronavirus outbreak is in self-isolation.

Government sources say Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical health officer, is experiencing symptoms of a cold and is waiting for results of her test for the virus.

Hinshaw has been delivering daily updates on COVID-19 cases and precautionary measures since the first case was reported in Alberta on March 5.

Sources say the Alberta government is looking at alternative ways, such as by video-link or teleconference, for Hinshaw to deliver her updates.

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1:45 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that starting Wednesday, international flights will only be allowed to land at four airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

He says that doesn't apply to trade and business flights, as well as those from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

The restrictions are part of three new measures announced today to stop the spread of COVID-19, with more coming later this week.

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1:40 p.m.

Canada is closing its borders to most people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says exceptions will be carved out for diplomats and people with family in the country.

He says airlines will also be required to refuse passage to people with symptoms.

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1:13 p.m.

Schools and daycare centres will close indefinitely in Newfoundland and Labrador starting this week as the province takes further measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Dwight Ball says teachers will have a planning day tomorrow and students will be permitted to pick up their materials Wednesday and Thursday.

Ball says his administration changed course on school closures after observing trends in other provinces.

The province still has one presumptive case of the illness, reported Saturday.

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12:35 p.m.

The Saskatchewan government is suspending all pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 classes indefinitely over concerns about COVID-19.

The government says the shutdown is to take effect Friday but is encouraging parents to keep their children at home immediately if they can.

Daycares located at schools will also close, but licensed daycare facilities outside of schools can remain open.

The province says there's no evidence that the novel coronavirus is spreading through sustained community transmission, but suspending classes is being done as a preventive measure.

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12:35 p.m.

A research centre in Vancouver that seeks new ways of treating prostate cancer has been repurposed in order to shave significant time off the process of finding a cure for COVID-19.

The Vancouver Prostate Centre has developed a shortlist of the top 100 candidate protease inhibitors that could lead to a treatment for COVID-19 using an artificial intelligence process normally used for developing oncology drugs.

The centre says the next steps over the coming eight weeks is to purchase and screen those candidates in order to whittle them down to one or two best options.

The 100 candidates will also be shared with researchers worldwide looking for a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

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12:26 p.m.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. says it is asking Canadian Tim Hortons restaurant owners to provide take-out, drive-thru and delivery only in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The company says it is closing all dining room seating effective Tuesday. The closures will continue until future notice.

The change comes as governments across the country urge Canadians to engage in social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Restaurant Brands says if there are further instructions from public health officials it will take further steps.

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12:07 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting two new presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of presumptive positives in the province to five.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health says the two new cases are in Halifax Regional Municipality and are related.

The patients include a male and female, both in their 50's, who were in close contact with individuals who had recently travelled outside the country

Two other individuals in the household are now in self-isolation and are being tested while the affected individuals are in self-isolation and recovering at home.

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11:49 a.m.

Health authorities say Quebec now has 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The province updated it's tally today, and it says 1,834 people remain under investigation.

Both new cases announced this morning are in the Montreal area.

Another 2,577 people's tests have come back negative.

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11:34 a.m.

Ontario's finance minister says he won't be introducing a full budget on March 25 as planned, but he will instead give a scaled-back fiscal update.

Rod Phillips says it will be an economic and fiscal update based on the current best understanding of the COVID-19 situation.

He says it will provide a "realistic, one-year economic outlook" and will include increased resources for the health-care system.

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11:27 a.m.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness says Canada needs to create more emergency shelter spaces to protect the homeless population from COVID-19.

President Tim Richter says people who sleep in shelters and outside are at a higher risk, because they often have underlying medical conditions and respiratory issues.

They also live in congregated communities where people come and go, making it difficult to self-isolate.

He says an outbreak in a major homeless shelter would have a serious impact on the health system.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness estimates as many as 35,000 people are homeless on any given night in Canada.

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11:19 a.m.

Montreal health officials say civil security and public health workers will be at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport to remind travellers they must self-isolate upon returning to Canada.

Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's director of public health, said the measures are needed because travellers arriving in the province did not appear to be taking Quebec's order requiring two weeks of isolation seriously.

She says the recently trained additional staff will be on the ground as of 1 p.m. today.

Drouin says travellers will pass by the employees before they leave the airport and be given an information sheet and asked to note their symptoms and take their temperature twice a day during the isolation period.

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10:43 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 32 new COVID-19 cases today.

That brings the total in Ontario to 177, including five that have been resolved.

The new cases are across the province, but largely in the Greater Toronto Area.

Other information, such as ages of the patients and how they became infected, is sparse.

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10:35 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address the nation this afternoon as governments and businesses take drastic measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Trudeau is scheduled to speak to Canadians at 1 p.m. ET, to update new actions the government will take following a cabinet meeting in Ottawa yesterday.

The Prime Minister remains in self-isolation at his Ottawa home, after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to London.

Trudeau chaired the cabinet meeting remotely.

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9:30 a.m.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to make an announcement this morning related to the province's COVID-19 response.

An advisory says the announcement at 11:15 a.m. will be related to protecting workers, and will involve the health minister, finance minister and labour minister.

Meanwhile, following complaints of long wait times for Telehealth Ontario services, Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is expanding resources.

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9:10 a.m.

An open letter from a group of Canada's top executives urged other business leaders across the country to make slowing the spread of COVID-19 their "singular objective."

The group of 30 executives, which includes the leadership of the country's largest banks, resource companies and others, say they stand united in the shared fight against the virus.

In the letter published in The Globe and Mail, the group noted that while the fight will have a significant economic impact on businesses in the short term, it is critical to weathering this storm and will hasten the recovery.

The group says governments across the country have taken steps to slow the spread of the virus, but the measures will only be effective if employers do their part too.

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9:00 a.m.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it's adding new screening questions for travellers arriving in Canada, asking whether they have symptoms of COVID-19.

The agency took heat all weekend for apparent disarray at entry points, especially airports.

The federal government wants people returning to Canada from abroad to stay in isolation for 14 days but travellers who knew that reported that customs officials weren't routinely telling new arrivals that.

The border-services agency says automated questionnaires administered by touchscreens at entry points are now asking whether people have coughs, difficulty breathing or a feeling of feverishness.

And they'll require arrivals to acknowledge that they're being asked to self-isolate for two weeks to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

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9:00 a.m.

The city of Calgary says it has declared a state of local emergency to support the province's efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 through Alberta.

A statement from the city says the declaration gives it the power to ensure no more than 250 people attend events or facilities in Calgary.

The city has also closed its library system, all recreation centres and partner-operated facilities including YMCAs, but grocery stores, airports, shopping centres, pharmacies and casinos are open.

Alberta reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province on Sunday to 56.

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8:59 a.m.

The British Columbia government is holding another news conference this morning to discuss the latest count of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province and new testing facilities that are in the works.

Over the weekend several ski resorts in B-C, including Whistler, announced a pause in operations, 10 casinos have been shuttered and B-C Ferries reduced sailings because of reduced demand.

The cities of Delta, Surrey and West Vancouver announced closures of their recreational facilities, rinks, pools and libraries and the city of Vancouver has scheduled an announcement with library and park board officials for later today.

As of yesterday, British Columbia had 73 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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8:20 a.m.

The Federal Court of Canada is cancelling all general sittings of the court until at least March 27.

Only urgent motions or requests will be heard as the court tries to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hearings, special sittings and case conferences already scheduled for teleconference will proceed.

If a shorter hearing was scheduled in person, a joint request by all parties to move it to a teleconference can be made.

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7:35 a.m.

Alcoholics Anonymous has cancelled its annual Ontario Regional Conference in downtown Toronto due to COVID-19 concerns.

It was scheduled to run from Friday through Sunday at the Sheraton Centre Hotel.

Other 12-step programs like Al Anon and Alateen were to participate in the conference as well.

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7:30 a.m.

Effective immediately, GoodLife and Fit4Less location across the country are being closed until further notice.

GoodLife says in a release that the action is being taken to help protect members and associates from the threat of COVID-19.

The company says it will reopen the clubs when it's safe to do so, based on direction from local authorities.

Member payments are being suspended as of March 17 and paid-in-full memberships will be put on freeze until further notice.

Goodlife says that while many of its associates will be temporarily laid off, it has committed to paying them for two weeks to help lessen the financial burden.

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7 a.m.

The U.S. futures market pointed to another plunge on North American stock markets this morning as fears about the economic impact of COVID-19 gripped investors despite a move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to boost the economy.

The Fed chopped its interest rate by a full percentage point — to a range between zero and 0.25 per cent — and said it would stay there until it feels confident the economy can survive a near-shutdown of activity in the United States.

The Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate target on Friday by half a percentage point to 0.75 per cent as part of a co-ordinated plan by the federal government to help the economy here.

Economists have warned that the Canadian economy is headed for a recession later this year due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and a crash in oil prices.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Bank of Canada's target rate is 1.25 per cent.




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