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- More than 200,000 have died globally, Johns Hopkins University researchers say.
- Health Canada cautions against use of malaria drugs to treat COVID-19.
- New Brunswick and Saskatchewan roll out plans to ease COVID-19-related restrictions.
- Trudeau says reopening economy hinges on sectors having enough personal protective equipment.
- Trudeau announces $62.5 million to support fish and seafood processors.
- Close to 100,000 patients across Canada have had their surgical procedures delayed due to COVID-19, CBC News estimates.
- More than 1,000 of the 1,340 Quebecers who have died from COVID-19 were seniors in care.
- A growing chorus of experts is calling for the widespread use of masks.
- INTERACTIVE | See the latest data on coronavirus cases in Canada.
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca
Health Canada cautioned against the use of malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to prevent or treat COVID-19 on Saturday.
The Canadian health department said the two drugs may cause serious side effects, including serious heart rhythm problems. It advised use of the two drugs only if prescribed by a doctor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also cautioned against the use of malaria drugs in COVID-19 patients on Friday.
Earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s premature to talk of so-called “immunity passports” for Canadians because the science is unclear about whether people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from catching it a second time.
As some provinces began opening up their economies from COVID-19 lockdowns, Trudeau said on Saturday none of those recovery plans hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.
Trudeau said he spoke to premiers Friday and they discussed a basic framework that provinces will use as they reopen businesses, schools and other institutions. The focus, he said, is on preventing the spread of the virus through physical distancing and personal protective equipment.
“It is very clear that the science is not decided on whether or not having had COVID once prevents you from having it again,” he told reporters. “It’s something we need to get clearer answers to and until we get those clearer answers, we need to err on the side of more caution.”
Trudeau was responding to a recent World Health Organization brief stating there is no evidence that people who have recovered from the virus have antibodies that protect them from getting infected again.
The WHO issued the brief in the context of certain countries announcing the possibility of providing so-called “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to citizens who have already been infected.
WATCH | Tam says it’s ‘premature’ to consider immunity passports:
Also on Saturday, Canada’s top doctor says there isn’t enough evidence to back herd immunity as a way to reopen society.
Herd immunity is conferred when enough people in a given population have been infected with a virus, marking them immune to reinfection and slowing down the rate at which the virus spreads on its own.
“The idea of … generating natural immunity is actually not something that should be undertaken,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Saturday, urging people to be “extremely cautious” about the concept.
Sask. and N.B. unveil multiphase plans
As the global death toll from COVID-19 topped 200,000 on Saturday, countries and jurisdictions around the world took cautious steps toward easing some lockdowns, while fears of infection made even some pandemic-wounded businesses reluctant to reopen.
At his regular news conference at Rideau Cottage on Saturday, Trudeau said any plans to reopen the economy will be based on science, data and expert advice.
Trudeau said Canada shouldn’t be reopening any sector without a plan to protect workers, which hinges on adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). He says planeloads of PPE are expected in the coming weeks, and domestic production will be on line soon.
WATCH | Trudeau details joint guidelines to reopen economy:
In addition to multiphase plans unveiled by New Brunswick and Saskatchewan this week, the federal government has circulated a set of draft guidelines that could form the basis of the joint document. The federal guidelines were prepared largely by the Public Health Agency of Canada and include feedback from provincial medical officers.
N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs released early details of a phased reopening plan for that province Friday afternoon. Also on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that his government will offer some details early next week about its reopening plans.
The framework will provide a “gradual and measured approach” to opening up, Ford said, adding that health and safety will “always come first.”
WATCH | Some good news from around the world on Saturday:
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called for a national plan, expressing concern about a “possible patchwork approach across the country.”
Higgs said New Brunswick’s plan would begin immediately with the loosening of physical distancing restrictions to allow two-household gatherings. Post-secondary students, who require access to their campus to fulfil their course requirements, will be able to do so, but elementary, middle and high schools won’t reopen until at least September.
Further steps would see the province eventually reopen elective surgeries, child-care facilities, barbers, churches and other facilities in stages over the coming weeks, as long as cases in the province remain low.
$62.5M for fish and seafood sector
Also Saturday, Trudeau announced $62.5 million to support fish and seafood processors.
The prime minister said the money will help processors buy personal protective equipment, adapt to new health protocols and support physical distancing.
He says the funding can also help pay for other equipment, such as freezers, so that companies can store food products while they adapt their factories to ensure workers can maintain a safe distance from one another.
WATCH | Trudeau says new funds will help industry adapt to COVID-19 challenges:
According to a Johns Hopkins University database, there are now more than 2.8 million known COVID-19 cases worldwide, with more than 200,000 deaths. The U.S., where some states are also taking steps toward reopening, accounts for more than 906,000 of those cases, as well as 52,000 deaths.
As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 45,354 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 16,438 listed by provinces and territories as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of coronavirus-related deaths, which is based on provincial data, local public health information and CBC reporting, put the death toll at 2,555 in Canada, plus two deaths abroad.
Public health officials caution that the numbers don’t capture the full story, as they don’t include people who haven’t been tested or potential cases that are still being investigated.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has urged people to behave as though there is coronavirus in their community, even if there aren’t any officially recorded cases. There are no proven treatments or cures for the novel virus.
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia reported two new deaths on Saturday, including the province’s first death related to COVID-19 in a First Nations community. B.C. also reported 95 new cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are no new outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
The province also announced it is enacting a public safety order to move homeless people living in tent city encampments into hotels in Vancouver and Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers Mike Farnworth, Shane Simpson and Judy Darcy made the announcement, along with representatives from BC Housing, on Saturday morning. The plan is supported by an order under the Emergency Program Act and the ongoing provincial state of emergency. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
In Alberta, the government has authorized the finance minister to borrow up to $25 billion to deal with the crisis. The opposition NDP supports the move, but has suggestions on how that money should be spent. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan is reporting that seven of its eight new COVID-19 cases are in the province’s far north. In total, there were 349 cases in Saskatchewan Saturday, and four people have died.
Premier Scott Moe announced Friday that non-critical travel to the province’s north was being restricted as the region deals with an outbreak in the remote community of La Loche, about 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. Moe said the far north had 25 active cases — more than anywhere else in the province. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
WATCH | See how Saskatchewan plans to handle a phased reopening:
Manitoba is set to ramp up surgeries after a month of postponements due to COVID-19. The number of new coronavirus cases continues to be low enough that health officials say they can pivot some of the system’s resources back toward surgeries.
“Our numbers have been looking like they’re in the right direction, and we’re at a position right now where we can start to plan on gradually loosening some of these restrictions,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
WATCH | First Nations take extreme measures to prevent COVID-19 spread:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says front-line workers, including people working at shelters and long-term care homes, will receive a raise of $4 per hour for the next four months as they help in the fight against COVID-19. Ford says eligible workers will also receive an extra payment of $250 per month if they work more than 100 hours in a month. The provincial government says 350,000 workers will be eligible for the pay premium.
Also on Saturday, Ford called anti-lockdown protesters at Queen’s Park “a bunch of yahoos” and said they were being “selfish” and “irresponsible” for demonstrating against provincial emergency orders in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda has changed his guidance on masks, now recommending people wear them if they anticipate being in a situation where distancing isn’t possible. He said people should closely follow guidelines the government released yesterday for masks, including washing hands before putting one on and removing them. Arruda said people could make their own masks, as long as they are clean and have at least two layers of fabric.
Arruda had been adamant before that his fear was masks would provide Quebecers with a false sense of security because they may be more inclined to touch their face when wearing one. He also didn’t want people to purchase masks in short supply that would be more useful to health-care workers. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec
New Brunswick’s gradual recovery plan has already started, with physical distancing restrictions loosened to allow two households to partner in a “two-family bubble.” Public health reported no new cases on Saturday, marking one week since there was a positive case. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia is reporting six more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total to 22. Five deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality, while a man in his 80s with underlying medical conditions died in the Western Zone of the province. He was not a resident of a long-term care home.
The province is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 865 confirmed cases. There are 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 191 residents and 90 staff. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Prince Edward Island is working on a plan to begin easing COVID-19 restrictions in May, but gatherings with people outside of one’s household still are not permitted for now, said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer. More details on P.E.I.’s plan to ease restrictions are expected in the coming week, said Premier Dennis King. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador announced one new case on Saturday, after going a full week without any new COVID-19 cases. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer, on Friday praised people for the “dedication” they have shown and urged everyone to keep following public health rules. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging careful science to prove whether any of the drugs being explored as COVID-19 treatments actually work. Fauci, the infectious diseases chief at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said Saturday during an online meeting of the National Academy of Sciences that the only way to get answers beyond perpetual ambiguity is by doing randomized controlled trials.
“We need something out there, but safety and efficacy is something we owe to the global population,” Fauci said.
Fauci also stressed that caution is needed as economies reopen, pointing to a step-wise approach with restrictions gradually lifted as areas reach certain milestones.
“Any attempt to leapfrog over these almost certainly will result in a rebound, and then we can set ourselves back,” he said. “If we don’t get control of it we will never get back to normal. I know we will, but we’ve got to do it correctly.”
Fauci also cautioned against looking for a magic number of available tests needed as the U.S. reopens.
“We don’t want to get fixated on how many tests you need,” Fauci said. Instead, places must “have enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur.”
Meanwhile, many governors warned it might be too soon to reopen their states.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated his warning on Saturday that reopening businesses too soon was risky, while Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo pushed back against a protest at the State House in Providence as short-sighted, arguing it could force her to delay her restart date.
“At this point to violate social distancing rules, it’s just selfish,” Raimondo told a briefing, referring to the protest against a lockdown in effect until at least May 8.
“If everybody today went out and violated the rules I will definitely have to push back the date at which we can reopen the economy.”
Cuomo said Saturday that his state began conducting antibody tests of nurses, doctors, police officers, grocery clerks and other essential workers while also allowing local pharmacies to collect samples for diagnostic tests.
The focus on testing comes as the crisis appears to be subsiding in New York, the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, with hospitalizations falling to their lowest in three weeks. “Twenty one days of hell, and now we are back to where we were 21 days ago,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. “Testing is what we are compulsively or obsessively focused on now.”
Yet New York also reported an additional 437 coronavirus-linked deaths, up from 422 a day earlier and the first rise in four days. New Jersey, its neighbour to the south, disclosed 249 more deaths. Together the two states account for about half of the nearly 53,000 fatalities in the United States.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that while his curve of cases was “undeniably flattening” he would not yet open parks or beaches and suggested he would move cautiously with broad parameters of the state’s reopening plan to be disclosed as soon as Monday.
“We need to see more progress and more slowing before we can begin implementing any effort to get ourselves on the road to the new normal that awaits our state on the other side of this pandemic,” Murphy told a daily briefing.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
Italy has reported 415 deaths and 2,357 new cases in the last 24 hours. The Italian health ministry puts Europe’s highest death toll at more than 26,000. The total known infections stand at more than 195,000.
The Lombardy region registers the most cases in Italy, adding some 700 on Saturday for a total of nearly 72,000 cases there since Italy’s first case in that northern region on Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, nearly 200,000 Italian companies have asked authorities for permission to be able to operate during the lockdown, either because they help essential businesses or because they deem themselves strategic for the national economy during the coronavirus pandemic. The interior ministry said Saturday that a streamlined procedure is being implemented that “trusts the sense of responsibility of individual business persons” in allowing companies to resume operations.
Spain’s health authorities say 2,944 new infections were confirmed in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to nearly 206,000 cases. There were 378 reported deaths in that period, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic in Spain to nearly 23,000.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced in a televised address Saturday that Spaniards will be allowed to leave their homes for short walks and exercise starting on May 2 after seven weeks of strict home confinement “if the evolution of the epidemic remains favourable as it has recently.”
Since the start of the state of emergency, Spaniards have only been allowed to leave home for essential shopping, except those workers in industries who cannot work from home. Sanchez also announced that he would present a detailed plan on the “de-escalation” of the lockdown on Tuesday that he hopes to put into effect in the coming weeks.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron is aiming to ease some lockdown measures on May 11 with schools reopening first, although the government has yet to finalize how it might work in practice.
France has also offered retailers some relief by saying it wants them to reopen when the lockdown is due to end on May 11, although some curbs could remain in certain areas to delay a new wave of the coronavirus.
The country’s health ministry reported 369 new deaths on Saturday, bringing the toll to 22,614.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be back at work on Monday, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed on Saturday. Johnson has been recovering from COVID-19 at Chequers, his official country residence, after spending three nights in intensive care earlier this month.
The government says 20,319 people with COVID-19 have died in British hospitals, an increase of 813 from the day before. The figure doesn’t include deaths in nursing homes, which are likely to number in the thousands.
There are signs the United Kingdom outbreak has peaked, with the number of people hospitalized declining. But the government says it is too soon to ease a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 23 and extended to May 7. Still, some businesses are planning to reopen after implementing physical distancing measures. Several automakers say they will restart production in May.
China for the 10th straight day reported no new deaths. Twelve new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 of them brought from overseas and one local transmission in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, according to the National Health Commission.
Just 838 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19, while another 1,000 people are undergoing isolation and monitoring for being either suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms.
China, widely believed to be the source of the global pandemic, has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,816 cases.
In Brazil, there are concerns Latin America’s largest country is veering closer to becoming a pandemic hot spot.
Medical officials in Rio de Janeiro and four other major cities warned that their hospital systems are on the verge of collapse or already overwhelmed.
In Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon, officials said they have been forced to dig mass graves in a cemetery. Workers have been burying 100 corpses a day — triple the pre-virus average.
South Africa plans to reopen its agriculture sector and allow some manufacturing and retail to resume as the country balances the need to restart the economy and curb the spread of the coronavirus, Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Saturday.
Iran says it registered 76 more deaths in the previous 24 hours. That puts the reported death toll from COVID-19 at 5,650 and confirmed cases at over 89,000. Iran is the country hardest hit by the virus in the Middle East.
Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour says more than 1,100 new confirmed cases were detected from the previous day. Jahanpour added nearly 3,100 patients are in critical condition.
South Korea on Saturday reported no new deaths for the second straight day. The figures released from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 10,718 cases, while deaths remained at 240.
While a slowing caseload has allowed South Korea to relax its social distancing guidelines over the past week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun raised concern over possible transmissions by “quiet spreaders” and instructed officials to conduct antibody tests in Daegu and nearby towns.
Chung also called for stronger financial tools to ease the epidemic’s economic shock, which has caused severe cash flow problems for airlines while also hurting major exporters, such as carmakers and shipbuilders. The government is looking to create a 40 trillion won ($45 billion Cdn) fund through bonds issued by state-run banks to protect jobs in key industries, but the plan needs parliamentary approval.
Turkey’s health ministry has documented 106 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 2,706. Minister Fahrettin Koca shared daily figures Saturday, showing 2,861 new confirmed cases. The total number of confirmed infections has reached 107,773.
“The rate of positive tests is decreasing,” Koca tweeted and urged continued precaution.
Turkey ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. But experts believe the actual toll of the pandemic around the world is higher than the tally.