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As a number of provinces outline plans for relaxing restrictions and reopening their economies, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer warns the federal deficit for the year could hit $252.1 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those numbers are based on the nearly $146 billion in spending measures the government has undertaken in response to the pandemic, the decline in the country’s gross domestic product, and the price of oil remaining well below previous expectations.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Manitoba unveiled its own phased plan for reopening some sectors of the economy, joining provinces as small as Prince Edward Island and as large as hard-hit Ontario and Quebec in offering a glimpse of what the coming months might hold.
The phased plan, which does not include schools, allows a range of measures in its first phase, which is set to begin May 4. Outdoor spaces will reopen, non-urgent health care will resume and many businesses will be allowed to operate — if they can do so while respecting physical distancing and other public health rules.
Pallister’s update came on the same day as the country passed a grim milestone, as the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 passed 3,000 on Wednesday, according to a CBC News tally based on provincial health data, regional public health information and CBC’s reporting.
Newfoundland and Labrador, which has reported a total of 258 cases and just three COVID-19-related deaths to date, is expected to offer details around its plan Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Nunavut reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, according to a media release. In the release, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Pattterson, wrote that such news “was only a matter of time” and that the individual is currently in isolation and doing well.
“We ask people not to place any blame, not to shame and to support communities and each other as we overcome COVID-19 in Nunavut,” Premier Joe Savikataaq was quoted as saying in the release.
As of 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, there were 52,057 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Canada, with 20,933 of the cases considered resolved or recovered. The CBC tally puts coronavirus-related deaths at 3,133 in Canada and another two deaths of Canadians abroad.
The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk varies between and within communities, “but given the increasing number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high.”
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia’s premier says the province will unveil its plan to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and open up some sectors of the economy at a briefing next week. The province also extended its state of emergency to May 12. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
A meat processing plant in Alberta that is at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak is set to reopen on May 4 with one shift, a decision the union for workers at the High River facility has described as “incredibly concerning.” The Cargill plant has been linked to more than 1,200 cases. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
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The Saskatchewan Health Authority says there is a cluster of cases linked to the hospital in Lloydminster. “Thirteen cases have been identified, including five health-care workers and eight patients, and transmission has occurred in the hospital setting,” the SHA said. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba is going to start easing some of its COVID-19-related restrictions starting on Monday by allowing dentists, physiotherapists, retail stores, hair salons and restaurant patios to open at no more than 50 per cent capacity. Campgrounds, museums, libraries and art galleries will also be allowed to reopen, and all will have to maintain physical distancing and comply with public health restrictions. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Almost 100 doctors in Ontario have come out of retirement or back from a leave to help with the coronavirus, and even more working doctors have signed up with an app that facilitates redeploying doctors to facilities that need help. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
Quebec says it will gradually remove police controls that have been limiting non-essential travel to certain regions, beginning on May 4. But some rural leaders are asking would-be travellers to be cautious as they come into more remote regions. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick had no new cases of COVID-19 to report again on Wednesday. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said the provincial total remains at 118 cases. Russell said she expects there will be more cases in the province and officials will have to respond with quick action when they occur. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
WATCH | How New Brunswick avoided a potential COVID-19 catastrophe:
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says while the situation around coronavirus in long-term care homes is still serious, it has “certainly stabilized.” Twenty-two of Nova Scotia’s 28 coroanvirus-related deaths have been residents of the Northwood care home in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Prince Edward Island’s premier is reminding people that the first phase of reopening that begins this week doesn’t mean a return to normal. “All of us, we have had to make painful and disruptive adjustments to our lives. I wish I could tell you that that would end on May 1, but that wouldn’t be the truth,” Dennis King said. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I, including how the virus’s spread is ensuring tourists won’t be coming to the Island anytime soon.
WATCH | COVID-19 could be more severe in people with asthma:
Newfoundland and Labrador is set to unveil its reopening plan on Thursday. “Our plan will balance the risk of businesses with the prevention of a resurgence,” Premier Dwight Ball said. “We’ve been taking the necessary time to do this right.” Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Nunavut reported its first case of COVID-19 on Thursday, with the individual reportedly in isolation and otherwise good health. The Northwest Territories has released a broad overview of how it plans to handle reopening amid COVID-19. The plan, which begins with a “response” stage, then a “recovery” stage, before moving to “resiliency,” had few specifics, sparking concern from the opposition. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
What’s happening in the U.S.
From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
The virus has killed more than 228,000 people worldwide, including more than 61,000 confirmed deaths in the U.S., and led to lockdowns and other restrictions that have closed factories and other businesses around the globe.
Confirmed infections globally have reached about 3.2 million, including one million in the U.S., according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers of deaths and infections is likely much higher because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.
The U.S. said its gross domestic product, or output of goods and services, shrank at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent in the January-March period, the sharpest quarterly drop since the global financial meltdown of more than a decade ago. That was before major shutdowns in many places.
And the worst is yet to come: the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the economy will shrink at a 40 per cent annual rate in this quarter.
Government figures released Thursday showed that 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for jobless benefits in the U.S. last week, raising the total to about 30.3 million in the six weeks since the outbreak forced the shutdown of factories and other businesses from coast to coast.
The U.S. unemployment rate for April is due late next week, and economists have said it could range as high as 20 per cent — a level last seen during the Depression.
There was some good news, as all three U.S. stock indexes ended Wednesday’s session closer to all-time highs reached in February after positive partial data from a trial of Gilead Science Inc’s antiviral remdesivir showed an improved recovery rate in COVID-19 patients.
The Federal Reserve pledged on Wednesday to expand emergency programs to revive growth but dashed hopes for a fast rebound, saying the economy could feel the weight of consumer fear and social distancing for a year.
WATCH | Excitement, caution follows upbeat news about trial of antiviral drug for COVID-19:
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected Thursday to order all state beaches and parks closed after people flocked to the seashore in a few locations last weekend. The order is expected to go into effect Friday, according to a memo sent to police chiefs around the state.
An Orange County official, where one of the state beaches is located, called it “an overreaction,” as residents have been following physical distancing guidelines. Some beaches under county jurisdiction have already been closed during the crisis.
California is approaching 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 2,000 deaths — the sixth highest total in the country, though California is the nation’s most populous state.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:15 a.m. ET
The head of the World Health Organization’s European office is warning that the continent remains “in the grip” of the coronavirus pandemic even as about three-fourths of the region’s countries are easing restrictive measures. Dr. Hans Kluge noted a reduction of cases in the region thanks to physical distancing measures, adding: “We must monitor this positive development very closely.”
He said Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain still have high numbers of cases, and pointed to increases in cases in Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Of the 44 countries in WHO Europe’s region that have enacted domestic restrictions, 21 have already started easing those measures and another 11 plan to do so in the coming days, Kluge said.
“This virus is unforgiving. We must remain vigilant, persevere and be patient, ready to ramp up measures as and when needed,” he said. “COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon.”
Spain recorded its lowest daily coronavirus death tally in six weeks on Thursday, but data showing the economy shrank by the widest margin on record in the first three months of the year laid bare the heavy cost of measures to control the outbreak. The death toll stood Thursday at about 24,500 after an increase of 268 in the last 24 hours, or 57 less than the increase the day before. The caseload is officially more than 213,000, although Spain is not counting untested infections or those that are becoming known through antibody tests, which mostly identify patients after they have passed the COVID-19 disease.
The British government acknowledges that it may miss a self-imposed goal of conducting 100,000 tests for coronavirus a day by Thursday, but insists it is on course to vastly expand the country’s testing capacity.
The government has been criticized for failing to catch most cases of COVID-19 and now says wide-scale testing will be key to controlling the virus and easing a nationwide lockdown. Earlier this month it vowed to perform 100,000 tests a day by April 30. The number has been climbing steadily, but the highest daily total reached so far is 52,000.
Germany’s health minister has warned against significantly relaxing restrictions imposed to curb coronavirus infections, saying this could “recklessly” endanger the country’s achievements in fighting the pandemic. Jens Spahn said the government wanted to take “small steps, rather than risk a big step back.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding talks with the governors of Germany’s 16 states Thursday to discuss the impact that existing measures have had on slowing the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 appeared to come late to Russia, compared with North America and Europe, but now, it’s striking with a vengeance, the damage compounded by the lack of personal protective equipment for hospital workers. The country is poised to surpass 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with approximately 900 reported deaths. Those are extremely low numbers compared with the experience of western Europe.
Still, many doctors — even those sympathetic to the government — have told CBC News part of the challenge is that Russia’s tests return an unusually large number of false negative results.
South Korea reported no new domestic cases. The national tally stood at 10,765, while the death toll rose by one to 247.
Indonesia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have surpassed 10,000. The government reported nearly 350 new cases, bringing the country’s total to over 10,000 with almost 800 deaths as of Thursday. The country also reported there are more than 1,500 patients who have recovered.
Total reported coronavirus cases in Brazil soared to 78,162, with 449 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus cases across the continent have increased 37 per cent in the past week.
Africa now has more than 36,000 cases, including more than 1,500 deaths.
While the continent’s capacity to test for the virus is growing, shortages of test kits remain across Africa. That means more cases could be out there. But the head of policy with the Africa CDC, Benjamin Djoudalbaye, tells reporters that the virus “is not something you can hide.”
In South Africa, which has the most cases in Africa with more than 5,300, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says that authorities are “very hopeful we have averted the first storm.”
The country has been praised for testing assertively and will slightly loosen a five-week lockdown on Friday.
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on WHO response to COVID-19, reopening Canada: