Governments scramble to limit spread of coronavirus, secure critical supplies

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As global reported coronavirus case numbers pass one million — including 12,549 known cases in Canada — governments are scrambling to secure critical supplies, implement tough public health measures and deal with growing job losses. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the country’s premiers on Thursday about a range of issues, including the shortage of protective gear for health-care workers, an issue that emerged again Friday amid concern over whether Canada was getting the equipment it needs from abroad, including from the United States.

Speaking outside Rideau Cottage on Friday, Trudeau said his government is “confident” Canada will receive the necessary equipment. He said the government would do everything it can to ensure no part of Canada goes without the supplies it needs during the pandemic.

Trudeau said his government has been working “very closely” with the Americans to make clear that essential supplies, products and services flow both ways between Canada and the United States every day, highlighting the example of nurses from Windsor, Ont., who travel to Detroit to work. 

“These are things that Americans rely on and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border.”

WATCH | Trudeau talks about controversy around cross-border flow of critical supplies:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacts to the news that the Trump administration has ordered a major manufacturer 3M to stop exporting N95 masks to Canada. 1:43

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday that the Canadian-American relationship is very important. She said during a pandemic, “all relationships” face challenges and the cross-border one is no exception.

Canada continues to work with 3M and its U.S. partners, Freeland said, adding that the government is working with a range of suppliers around the world.

“We are totally seized of this issue,” Freeland said when asked about the need to get medical workers critical supplies. 

WATCH | Freeland reacts to Trump administration’s 3M order: 

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government will “pull out all the stops” in response to the Trump administration’s decision to order 3M to stop exporting N95 masks to Canada. 3:03

When asked about the U.S. blocking medical exports, Freeland said the Canadian government is prepared to do “whatever it takes” to defend the national interest.

The prime minister said the government has signed a deal with Amazon Canada to use its distribution network to send medical supplies to meet provincial needs.

Ontario releases coronavirus projections

Faced with rising case numbers and tighter restrictions, there have been some calls for more information from governments about what is expected and what information is driving decisions.

Trudeau has said that such national modelling is coming “soon,” but that the federal government requires more data from provincial and territorial governments — a subject he discussed with premiers during his more than two-hour first ministers’ conference call.

WATCH | Public Health Ontario head projects between 3,000 and 15,000 deaths over pandemic’s full course: 

The best case scenario for the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Ontario is 3,000-15,000 over the full course of the pandemic, says Dr. Peter Donnelly, the CEO of Public Health Ontario. 2:56

Ontario released its provincial projection and modelling information on Friday, with Premier Doug Ford saying that he wants the province’s residents to know “what I know.”

The modelling projects the coronavirus crisis could last 18 months to two years and kill 3,000 to 15,000 people, even with public health measures in place.

“Had we done nothing, Ontario may have suffered 100,000 deaths,” said Public Health Ontario CEO Peter Donnelly, referencing the province’s physical distancing and other measures. “Thankfully, that is not the position we are in.”

Donnelly said he understands these figures may seem “scary, intimidating” and to many, “unlikely.”

But, he said, every year about 1,350 people die from normal seasonal flu. In a bad year, 1,500 people die.

“When you think that the mortality of this disease is up to 10 times higher, and you remember we have no vaccine, and we have no specific treatment … then suddenly the figure of 15,000 becomes entirely logical and comprehensible.”

Everyone has paid a price: Ford

On Friday, Ford implored Ontarians to do their part to help ease the burden on the province’s hospitals and announced more shutdowns — including some construction projects. Given the projections released today, it was the right thing to do, he said.

“Everyone has had to pay a price in this war,” he said. “Daily life has ground to a halt.”

Speaking ahead of the release of the Ontario figures, Trudeau said again that “how we get through this depends on you,” and that Canadians are “looking to do the right thing.” Trudeau has reiterated daily the need to practise physical distancing, stay at home whenever possible and practise proper hand hygiene.

A health-care worker wearing protective gear walks in front of a COVID-19 assessment centre at the Scarborough Hospital in Toronto on Friday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press )

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said people should remember that these figures are not real data but projections for planning purposes. 

When asked about the death toll projections from Ontario, Tam said that it’s important to look at the evolution and growth rate of the outbreak as it is actually happening in an area, as well as the projections.

She encouraged people to focus on the “here and now” and do everything they can to flatten the curve.

The prime minister also announced $ 100 million on Friday to meet the “urgent” needs of food banks, and said that an increase in the Canada child benefit that was scheduled for May will be sent out a month earlier. The government will also be delivering additional aid to low-income people through the GST credit sooner than expected.

Trudeau also said Friday that the Canadian Armed Forces will assist in northern Quebec to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in isolated communities, at the provincial government’s request. The Rangers, which are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve and provide a Canadian Armed Forces presence in northern and isolated communities, will help set up tents and other medical equipment, as required by the communities.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says the situation is evolving daily but that the risk to Canadians from COVID-19 is “considered high.”

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world Friday.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

As of 8:45 p.m. ET Friday, Canada had 12,549 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 219 deaths. The provinces and territories that list information about recovered cases have reported 2,296 cases as resolved or recovered. There have also been two reported COVID-19-related deaths of Canadians abroad — one in Japan and one in Brazil. 

Public health officials caution that reported case numbers don’t provide a complete picture of the scale of the outbreak as that data doesn’t capture people who haven’t been tested and cases that are still under investigation. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has urged people nationwide to practise physical distancing and behave as though there is COVID-19 in their community, even if there is no known case. 

In British Columbia, 10 more people have died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 35 in the province. On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said one of the new cases reported was an inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

BC Ferries announced that service reductions will go into effect beginning Saturday on major ferry routes for 60 days, including the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route between West Vancouver and Nanaimo, B.C.

Alberta has declared coronavirus outbreaks at nine seniors’ facilities. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said there are now 74 confirmed COVID-19 cases in continuing-care facilities “and I expect that more will be confirmed in the coming days.” The province reported five more people have died. That brings the death toll to 18, and the total number of cases to 1,075. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan’s top doctor says six more health workers have contracted COVID-19. “We are aware of at least six instances where individuals may have been working in a health-care setting but it’s not clear where the exposure was,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including a call from health-care workers for more transparency from the provincial government.

In Manitoba, unions representing Health Sciences Centre workers say at least 70 staff members — including doctors, nurses, clerks and security guards  — are self-isolating after COVID-19 exposures. Read more about what’s happening at the Winnipeg health facility and across Manitoba.

WATCH | COVID-19: Are we doing a 180 on whether masks are beneficial?

Doctors answer your questions about the coronavirus, including whether or not the advice on masks has changed. 3:03

Ontario reported 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The province now has a total of 3,255 reported cases, of which 1,023 are listed as resolved. The province’s case tally puts the COVID-19 death toll at 67. But based on our own reporting and after gathering data from local public health units, CBC News has counted 97 deaths in the province.

The announcement of the new figures came just hours before health experts released projections for how the COVID-19 outbreak could unfold in the province.

Quebec’s premier said health-care workers who are in contact with COVID-19 cases will get an increase in pay. “I don’t think there is a group that has ever been more deserving of a pay raise,” said Premier François Legault, who also announced a smaller raise for health workers not in direct contact with the virus, as well as a raise for workers in long-term care facilities. Read more about what’s happening across Quebec, and get the details of the planned pay hikes.

Health officials in New Brunswick are worried about a potential shortage of COVID-19 test suppliesPremier Blaine Higgs told CBC’s Power & Politics if the province “ramped up a bit we could be within like a week of running out of test supplies.” Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia on Thursday extended its state of emergency for another two weeks. The province also announced help for small businesses and a temporary program to help workers who don’t qualify for employment insurance. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island has announced a $ 1-million fund to help people not covered by other support programs announced since the COVID-19 crisis began. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I, and get the latest update from Premier Dennis King.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister is urging people to prepare for an increase in cases. “We are, from experience of our other jurisdictions, not yet into our likely surge period. This is likely to come over coming weeks, and we are working hard to understand when that might be,” John Haggie said. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Northwest Territories health officials have reported two travel-related COVID-19 cases, including one in a small community. The latest cases bring the territory’s case count up to four. Read more about what’s happening across the North.

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

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging all U.S. governors to impose stay-at-home orders to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“It is vital that states keep residents at home to avoid overwhelming our health-care systems and depleting the equipment, resources and manpower needed to care for the influx of critically ill patients,” the AMA said in a letter to the governors signed by the group’s CEO, Dr. James Madara.

The AMA also wants governors to enact emergency orders to close non-essential businesses, limit non-essential activities and prohibit gatherings.

Physical distancing is the only effective mechanism to stop the spread of the virus, the group said.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the state had recorded its highest single-day increase in deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19. The death toll climbed to 2,935, an increase of 562 people, while 1,427 new hospitalizations pushed that overall total to nearly 15,000 statewide.

Cuomo has warned that New York could run out of breathing machines in less than a week. He has consistently expressed concern that states are competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines with private suppliers, or are being outbid by the federal government.

“People are going to die in the near term because they walk into a hospital and there are no ventilators,” he said on Friday.

WATCH | Trump says CDC advising the use of cloth face covering but it’s voluntary:

U.S. president lists face mask recommendations from the CDC today, but stresses they are voluntary. 2:17

In Washington D.C., President Donald Trump on Friday said his administration is encouraging many Americans to wear face masks in public, though he stresses that the recommendation is optional and conceded that he will not be complying with it. 

The latest guidance suggests that Americans use makeshift coverings, such as T-shirts, scarves or bandanas to cover their noses and mouths. Medical-grade masks, especially N95 masks, are to be reserved for those on the front lines of trying to contain the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, said Friday physical distancing is still the best practice where possible to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The mayor of Los Angeles has already recommended its citizens there wear masks or cover their faces when out in public.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in hard-hit Italy, Spain and parts of Europe

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Europe’s three worst-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — surpassed 30,000 dead, or over half of the global toll.

Spain is closing Friday a black week, with its death toll for the new coronavirus nearing 11,000. More than half of those occurred during the past seven days. There are also more infections than any other country in Europe.

The bottleneck in Spanish labs conducting the tests has led to relatively low levels of testing in Spain compared to other European countries, authorities have acknowledged.

Medical personnel are seen as they work at a temporary hospital inside IFEMA conference centre, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Madrid. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

But even with statistics that are believed to be conservative in showing the extent of the epidemic, Spain on Friday neared 118,000 cases, second only to the United States. Official Health Ministry data showed that 7,472 of those infections had been in the past 24 hours. Spain also registered 932 new deaths, 18 less than its daily record of 950 the day before.

In Italy’s hard-hit Lombardy region, hospitals are beginning to lighten up a little, says the region’s health commissioner. Giulio Gallera says that the number of arrivals at Lombardy’s emergency rooms and hospital admissions were decreasing. He attributes the encouraging numbers to citizens heeding the strict rules of a national stay-at-home decree and even tighter regional rules, but is urging people to continue following the rules.

The head of Germany’s disease control agency says the number of people who die of COVID-19 is likely being undercounted. Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute said Friday that he believes “we have more dead than are officially being reported.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Wieler was suggesting that deaths are being undercounted only in Germany, or worldwide, and reporters were unable to ask follow-up questions during his online news conference. Germany’s low death rate from coronavirus has drawn international attention. Experts say the difference compared to other countries is partly due to mass testing and well-equipped hospitals, but they caution that the number of deaths is likely to rise.

The United Kingdom’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 684 to 3,605 as of Thursday afternoon, up 23 per cent from the previous day. A total of 173,784 people have been tested, with 38,688 testing positive as of Friday. A new hospital was opened in London on Friday, erected to provide thousands of extra beds for patients with the coronavirus and built in just nine days. The Nightingale Hospital, which will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen, will eventually be able to treat about 4,000 patients.

A drive-thru farm shop has been opened at Tulley’s Farm in Turners Hill, England, where contact-less payment is taken on the end of a pole to observe physical distancing on Friday. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

With help from the military, it is the first of six new temporary hospitals to be set up across the country to cope with the outbreak. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter on Friday he was remaining in isolation with mild symptoms of the coronavirus, including a high temperature. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth will give an address about the coronavirus on Sunday at 8 p.m. local time.

France’s death count has jumped to more than 6,500 — up by more than 1,000 — as authorities are now including victims in homes for the aged. The chief of the country’s national health agency, Jérôme Salomon, says reports from 3,000 establishments for the aged — still far from the total — show 1,416 residents died in the facilities from COVID-19.

The rising figures were announced as 160,000 police officers were deployed to ensure France’s strict confinement measures are respected at what normally would be the start of spring vacation.

Greece has quarantined a migrant camp after 20 asylum seekers tested positive, the country’s first such facility hit since the outbreak. Police in Greece say they have issued 17,358 fines for people breaking the new restrictions on leaving home since a lockdown began on March 23.

The Netherlands is not in a full lockdown, but bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities are closed and the government is urging people to stay home and practise social distancing.  Amsterdam is banning boats from its central canals beginning Sunday as authorities fear warm spring weather will lead to overcrowding on the famed waterways. The country’s public health institute on Friday reported 148 new deaths in the outbreak, bringing the Dutch death toll to 1,487.

Here’s a look at China, South Korea and some other areas of concern around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 5:45 a.m. ET

The South Korean capital of Seoul says it will ask more than 8,500 theatregoers to self-monitor at home after Canadian and American cast members of The Phantom of the Opera were found to have the coronavirus.

Seoul City official Na Baek-ju said Friday the musical’s international tour was halted following the positive test of an unidentified Canadian actress, who began experiencing throat pain and dry coughs days after she began performing at the city’s Blue Square theatre on March 14. She last appeared on stage on Monday, a day before her test.

Officials have since tested 138 of her contacts, including colleagues and guests at the downtown Somerset Palace hotel, and confirmed the infection of an American actor on Thursday. Na said officials were still awaiting test results for 48 people while the other 89 tested negative. He said the hotel was ordered to prevent guests from leaving the property and stop taking new customers.

South Korea earlier on Friday reported 86 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its nationwide total to 10,062.

WATCH | Debunking COVID-19 myths about lemons, masks and holding your breath:

China on Friday reported 31 new confirmed virus cases, 29 of them from overseas, and four new deaths. China now has recorded a total of 81,620 cases and 3,322 deaths, although those figures are generally considered too low because of a lack of testing and a reluctance to report the scale of the original outbreak.

More than 3,000 health-care workers contracted COVID-19 and the government says 14 died of the disease. Among them was Dr. Li Wenliang, who was threatened with punishment by police after publicizing news of the outbreak but has since been listed among the national “martyrs.” His family was issued a “solemn apology” and two police officers were issued “disciplinary punishments” for their handling of the matter.

Singapore will close schools and most workplaces for a month as it moves to curb the increase of COVID-19 transmissions in the country. Most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors, will be closed from next Tuesday, and schools will be closed from Wednesday. Essential services such as food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and banking services will remain open.

People queue Wednesday to get a free refill of hand sanitizer at a mall amid the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

“Looking at the trend, I am worried that unless we take further steps, things will gradually get worse, or another big cluster may push things over the edge,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Lee urged residents to stay home and only leave to buy essential items.

The country has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, and has routinely reported more than 50 new cases daily. As of Thursday, Singapore had 1,049 cases and five deaths. Singapore has also reversed its recommendations that people should wear masks only if they are feeling unwell.

“We will no longer discourage people from masks. Wearing a mask may help to protect others in case you have the virus but don’t know it,” said Lee, adding that the government will distribute reusable masks to all households as of Sunday.

Indonesia’s coronavirus death toll rose to 170, passing South Korea as the country with the highest number of recorded fatalities in Asia after China.

More than half of Africa’s 54 countries have closed their land, air and sea borders, while fears rise that the coronavirus-related restrictions are delaying access to critical aid. Humanitarian organizations are now in the extraordinary situation of negotiating humanitarian corridors in peaceful regions. And in Kenya, travel restrictions have delayed the delivery of pesticides needed to fight the most devastating locust outbreak some East African countries have seen in 70 years. A World Food Program official says lockdowns and other restrictions “may affect us very, very much” on a continent where millions of poor people must now stay at home.

Jeffrey Tucker adds items to a basket he lowered from his window as a sign of social solidarity with poor and homeless people in need amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday. The sign asks anyone who can to leave something, and says those in need can take something. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

India will pull out of a three-week lockdown in phases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as officials battle to contain the country’s biggest cluster of infections in New Delhi.

Cuban officials say a shipment of coronavirus aid has been blocked by the six-decade U.S. embargo on the island.

Cuba was one of 24 countries in the region meant to receive the donations announced March 21 by a foundation started by China’s richest person, Jack Ma, but officials say the cargo carrier of Colombia-based Avianca Airlines declined to fly the aid to Cuba because its major shareholder is a U.S.-based company subject to the trade embargo on Cuba.

The embargo has exceptions for food and medical aid, but companies are often afraid to carry out related financing or transportation due to the risk of fines or prosecution.

Human-rights groups have been calling for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and Iran during the pandemic in order to permit the flow of more aid. The Trump administration has argued only the countries’ governments would benefit from the sanctions relief.

The Middle East has confirmed over 85,000 cases of the virus and over 3,700 deaths, most of them in Iran. Iran state TV reported Friday the virus killed another 134 people, pushing the country’s death toll to nearly 3,300 amid more than 53,000 confirmed cases. Iran’s parliament speaker is among those who have contracted the disease.

Pakistan, with 2,450 confirmed cases and 35 deaths, has been sharply criticized for moving too slow to curb large gatherings, including a gathering of tens of thousands of Muslims from several Islamic countries in March. A gathering of Tableeghi Jamaat missionaries in India is blamed for several outbreaks of the new virus elsewhere in the world. The first confirmed cases that emerged in Gaza were traced to the gathering.

A man wearing a face mask to protect himself against coronavirus walks past people queuing for shopping in Duduza, east of Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

Turkey is preparing to treat COVID-19 patients with blood donated from people who have survived the disease. Kerem Kinik, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent organization, late Thursday called on “heroes who have come out victorious from the ‘Corona War”‘ to donate blood for the treatment, which uses plasma from people who have recovered to help seriously ill patients. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry sent a circular to the country’s 81 provinces setting out guidelines for the volunteer blood plasma donations, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Australian officials closed internal borders on Friday and warned people to stay home over the upcoming Easter holiday as the country seeks to capitalize on a further fall in the rate of new coronavirus cases.

WATCH | How Canadian cities are enforcing physical distancing:

As more jurisdictions in the country adopt new rules against gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Canadian law enforcement is tasked with enforcing them. 1:52

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