Canada now requires travellers returning from abroad to self-isolate as cases in U.S. soar

The latest:

Travellers returning to Canada from abroad are facing a new order requiring them to self-isolate, the latest measure from a government trying to deal with both a rise in COVID-19 cases and growing economic fallout.

The measure, which makes some exceptions for health-care workers and truckers, allows for fines and even jail times for people who ignore the order to stay home.

Canada Border Services Agency said on Twitter that people coming into Canada at ports of entry will be asked to make a declaration: 

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday that travellers “should be doing this already” but called the move a “serious further step.” 

There have been questions about whether the government’s measures at the border to date have been strict enough, and further concern that some returning travellers weren’t complying with the self-isolation period. Premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney, addressed the concern earlier this week, prior to the mandatory measure from Ottawa.

At a news conference on Monday, Ford said: “If you’re coming from the airport, do not — I repeat, do not — stop at a store. Go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days.”

Kenney, speaking earlier this week, called the quarantine period for returning travellers an “absolute public health imperative” and calling on people to go “directly and immediately to your home without stopping.”

WATCH | Alberta says it will enforce public health orders, authorizes fines:

Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday announced stringent new enforcement measures designed to make sure Albertans comply with public health orders. 3:21

Alberta has since granted law enforcement agencies authority to enforce public-health orders, and Kenney warned that returning travellers who violate the rules “will now be subject to stringent penalties and fines, with rigorous enforcement behind them.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa announced a temporary program Wednesday designed to get money into the hands of people who are losing income because of the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) collapses two previously announced programs into one in a bid to streamline the process of applying for the funding, which will provide eligible workers $ 2,000 a month for four months.

According to a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, there are more than 472,000 known cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with more than 21,300 deaths. The dashboard, which draws data from a range of sources including the World Health Organization and national health departments, lists the number of cases that are recovered or resolved at almost 115,000. 

Spain’s death toll has risen above 3,400, eclipsing that of China, where the virus was first detected in December, and is now second only to that of Italy, which has 7,500. Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid’s 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz, said more workers were desperately needed. “We are collapsing,” Perera said. 

The novel coronavirus, which has been labelled SARS-CoV-2, was first reported in China in late 2019. The virus causes an illness called COVID-19.

The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. There are no proven treatments or vaccines, but researchers around the world are looking for both.

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada and the United States.

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

As of 6 a.m. ET Thursday, there were more than 3,400 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 36 deaths and 197 cases listed as recovered or resolved. (Not all provinces are listing details about people who have recovered.) A Canadian has also died abroad, in Japan. Dr. Theresa Tam said the COVID-19 related death was an individual who had been a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was an early hot spot for the virus. 

For a detailed look at the latest numbers, visit CBC’s coronavirus case tracker.

British Columbia’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, says 55 long-term care health workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Hospitals are preparing for an increase in cases, and Henry said the province is monitoring the supply of personal protective equipment because “the burn rate is much higher than we expected.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta, which has granted power to law enforcement agencies to enforce public-health orders, reported cases in two residents and a worker at a group home for adults with disabilities. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said: “Over the past two days, despite the aggressive measures already in place, it’s become clear that additional measures are needed.” Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan is expanding the list of businesses that need to close during the COVID-19 outbreak. The province is also lowering the number of people permitted at a public gathering to 10, down from 25. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including a plan in Regina to get bagged lunches to kids who are not in class because of closures.

Manitoba’s top public health officer says more restrictions could be coming as the province tries to tackle COVID-19. Dr. Brent Roussin said the lab is working “around the clock” to try and increase testing capacity, but added that social distancing is “vitally important” right now. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Ontario saw its largest single-day case number jump on Wednesday, with 100 new cases announced. The association representing registered nurses in the province, meanwhile, issued a call for more protective equipment, including masks, saying: “We are in a war and the enemy is the COVID-19 virus.” Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

In Quebec, the province’s director of public health urged people to be honest about travel history and who they have been in contact with. “By hiding that information, you’re preventing doctors and our guardian angels from being able to protect themselves. By not collaborating, you are preventing us from doing an investigation that allows us to help people,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick is increasing testing, but still lags behind neighbouring Nova Scotia because of problems earlier in the outbreak. “I want to assure the public New Brunswick is testing more people more widely as the situation evolves,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, where a high school that sits empty during class cancellation is being used to help the homeless.

WATCH | Fredericton high school housing homeless during outbreak:

To make way for social distancing, the city’s out of the cold shelter has been moved to the Fredericton High School. 1:08

In Nova Scotia, the province’s top doctor is urging people to talk and stay in touch, even when they can’t be together. “Be open about how you’re feeling. Reach out for help,” said Dr. Robert Strang. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia, including news out of Halifax, where a transit garage has been closed after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.

Prince Edward Island, which has five reported cases of COVID-19, has closed a transition facility for people with addictions as part of its fight against the coronavirus. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the medical officer of health said the province will move ahead with testing for asymptomatic people who have been in contact with people who have COVID-19. “This is to make sure that we find as many positive people as we can and putting in the appropriate measures to reduce spread,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said.

Education leaders in the Northwest Territories are recommending schools close for the rest of the academic year. In Whitehorse, a new testing centre is open for people with “mild to moderate” respiratory symptoms. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic topped 1,000 in another grim milestone for a global outbreak that is taking lives and wreaking havoc on economies and the established routines of ordinary life.

In a recognition of the scale of the threat, the U.S. Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $ 2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health-care systems.

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.

New York is the epicentre of the domestic outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.

Public health officials in the city hunted down beds and medical equipment and called for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick patients will overwhelm hospitals, as has happened in Italy and Spain.

A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.

Workers construct what is believed to be a makeshift morgue behind a hospital during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Manhattan on Wednesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In Washington, President Donald Trump has called for Americans to dedicate themselves to social distancing for 15 days, including staying home from work and closing bars and restaurants to help try to stall the spread of the disease.

Yet, he has also grumbled that “our country wasn’t built to be shut down” and vowed not to allow “the cure be worse than the problem” — apparently concerned that the outbreak’s devastating effects on financial markets and employment will harm his chances for re-election later this year.

“The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

WATCH | New York expecting the worst as epicentre of U.S. coronavirus outbreak:

A third of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in New York and officials say they are already struggling with medical supplies and hospital beds. 2:05

Democrats say that Trump was prioritizing the economy over the health and safety of Americans.

“I’d like to say, let’s get back to work next Friday,” said Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. “That’d be wonderful. But it can’t be arbitrary.” Biden said the congressional aid package addressing the outbreak “goes a long way,” but that “meticulous oversight” is required.

“We’re going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into peoples’ pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayers funds that they receive, to make sure it goes to help workers, not rich CEOs or shareholders,” the former vice-president said.

Here’s what’s happening in Italy, Spain and some other areas of Europe struggling with COVID-19

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 8 a.m. ET

In Spain, the coronavirus death toll rose to 4,089 on Thursday, up from 3,434 on Wednesday. Spain’s coronavirus lockdown was extended on Thursday to last until at least April 12 as the country struggled to tackle a fast increase in the death toll. In Madrid, Spain’s worst-affected region, hearses continued to arrive at the city’s ice rink, which was converted into a makeshift morgue after authorities said existing facilities lacked resources.

“It is not easy to extend the state of emergency,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in parliament. “I am convinced the  only efficient option against the virus is social isolation.”

In Italy, COVID-19 related deaths topped 7,000 — but officials pointed to a sign of progress as the number of new cases reported went down for a fourth day. Premier Giuseppe Conte said 500 nurses and doctors are being sent to help in the hardest-hit areas of the country. According to a report in the Italian news outlet ANSA, a federation representing some medical professionals says 33 doctors and dentists have died. The same report cites a union that says 5,000 health workers have been infected.

Health-care workers dealing with the new coronavirus crisis applaud in return as they are cheered on by people outside the Burgos general hospital in Spain on Wednesday. (Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany has increased its ability to test for the virus to 500,000 a week, which the head of the country’s Robert Koch disease control centre says is the highest worldwide, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Germany has reported 36,500 cases of COVD-19 and more than 200 deaths, according to information provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

In the U.K., workers are building a temporary hospital at London’s Excel Centre, a venue normally used for trade fairs and similar events. Heath Minister Matt Hancock says the new hospital is scheduled to open next week. More than 9,500 people have tested positive for the virus in Britain and, according to BBC News, more than 460 people who tested positive have died. 

France has begun evacuating its citizens infected with the coronavirus from the Alsace epicentre on board a special medicalized high-speed train. France’s health minister said that the TGV train-turned-hospital is a “first in Europe.”

Around 20 patients are being evacuated from Strasbourg to hospitals in the Pays-de-la-Loire and other regions Thursday morning, thanks to the medical locomotive. It consists of five cars, each one kitted out with medical material and attended by an anesthesiologist-resuscitator, an intern, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses. The train has been employed to relieve the French region worst hit by the coronavirus that has already claimed over 1,300 lives in France — almost half of whom have died in the Grand Est region’s hospitals.

Medical staff gather for a transfer operation of people infected with COVID-19 from the Strasbourg railway station to western France hospitals, in Strasbourg, France on Thursday. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Sweden saw a surge in the number of deaths that could change the Scandinavian country’s rather lax approach to keeping primary and elementary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go out and enjoy the spring sun. Health officials have within the past 24 hours seen an increase of 18 deaths since Wednesday, bringing the total to 62 deaths in the country of 10 million. Some 2,510 people have tested positive, of which 176 are in intensive care.

The head of Stockholm’s health service, Bjorn Eriksson, said “the storm is over us,” hours after Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden told a news conference that the situation was “stable.”

In neighbouring Denmark, the government allegedly was planning to further tighten the law so that smaller groups — less than 10 — can be banned. And in Finland, the government said it will in an exceptional move block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spreading of coronavirus to other areas. The Uusimaa region includes Helsinki and the move affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Here’s what’s happening around the world, including Iran and South Korea

From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, updated at 8:30 a.m. ET

Iran started an intercity travel ban, a day after Tehran warned the country might face a second outbreak. Iran has reported 2,234 deaths and 29,406 infections so far.

Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local infections as Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose.

South Korea’s central bank says it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global coronavirus crisis. The country has 9,241 reported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, with 132 deaths. The country warned it would deport foreigners while its citizens could face jail if they violate self-quarantine rules after a surge in imported cases. 

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened a coronavirus task force meeting, instructing all 47 prefectural leaders to plan contingency measures to fight the virus in response to assessments that the coronavirus is now rampant in the country. The task force is backed by a special law passed this month that allows Abe to declare a state of emergency, though top officials say such a declaration is not planned immediately. Japan has about 2,000 cases, including 259 in Tokyo.

India, which is under a strict lockdown for a three-week period, announced a $ 22.6-billion US economic stimulus plan providing direct cash transfers and food security measures to give relief to millions of low-income residents.

WATCH | Canadians stuck in India as country goes into lockdown:

The thousands of Canadians stuck in India amid a COVID-19 lockdown are starting to lose hope, with no repatriation flights planned to get them out. 1:56

In South Africa, officials identified quarantine sites across the country on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 709. Ethiopia’s government told G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in a call ahead of Thursday’s summit that Africa needs a $ 150 billion emergency financing package due to the impact of the virus.

The Indonesian government reported 20 new deaths in the previous 24 hours. That brings the country’s death toll in the COVID-19 outbreak to 78, the highest in the Southeast Asia region.

In Brazil, the country’s governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus is worse than the disease. Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld virus mitigation plans that had been challenged by Bolsonaro. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,550 cases and 59 deaths.

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