Updated at 3 p.m. (EDT): Ontario is considering the gradual reopening of businesses, but the hopeful outlook might not apply to everyone: people 70 and over as well as anyone with “complex immune systems” should self-isolate until a vaccine is found for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the province’s premier, Doug Ford, said on Tuesday.
Timelines for mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine continue to sit between 12 to 18 months from now.
On Monday, Ontario released new data modelling that suggested the province is faring better than originally expected when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus.
At the start of April, original projections estimated 1,600 deaths by the end of the month, and anywhere between 3,000 and 15,000 deaths during the course of the pandemic.
As of Tuesday morning, Ontario had recorded 622 deaths, much lower than expected.
The news prompted Ford to announce his government is now working on a plan to reopen the economy. Ford said he doesn’t want to offer a timeline yet.
“I do not want to put a date on this. I really don’t because this could bite us in the backside in about 10 seconds. It could come up with a second wave again,” Ford said. “There is no one who wants to open the economy more than I do. But we just need to hold off for a bit.”
But the province shouldn’t reopen until it ramps up COVID-19 testing, experts told the National Observer, otherwise people won’t have an accurate understanding of how many cases there really are in Ontario.
Ontario has the lowest level of provincial testing per capita in Canada with about 9,000 tests per day as of Monday. (The goal is 16,000 tests by early May.)
Elsewhere, governments are also discussing new measures that will slowly reopen the economy.
A plan to lift restrictions is expected in Saskatchewan this week, but the province’s top doctor said physical distancing will continue indefinitely—until there’s a vaccine or until enough people develop immunity and COVID-19 doesn’t pose a major threat anymore.
Despite only recording 254 COVID-19 cases and six deaths, Manitoba decided to extend its state of emergency for another 30 days, until May 18.
British Columbia and Prince Edward Island could also ease some physical restrictions in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly urged provinces to remain vigilant on Saturday, saying that lifting current measures too soon could undo all of the progress Canada has made so far.
Trudeau’s wage subsidy is finally launching
Businesses will finally be able to apply for the long-awaited Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy starting Monday, Trudeau announced on Tuesday.
The subsidy pays eligible employers up to $487 per week, per employee, so that businesses can keep staff on payroll as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to batter Canada’s economy.
Trudeau was unable to say when businesses will start receiving payments.
“We realized that the wage subsidy was going to take a bit of time to be delivered and we’re still working on that, “Trudeau said. “It will take a number of days at the very least.”
The Canada Revenue Agency has launched a calculator on its website that allows businesses to calculate the amount they can expect to claim.
Trudeau also announced $350 million for a new emergency fund for community support. The aid will be given to nonprofits and charities so they can ramp up services, including delivering groceries to seniors, training volunteers, and offering transportation services to people with disabilities during the pandemic.
Some of the money will support small, independent, front-line groups. Another portion will support national organizations like the Red Cross and the United Way, Trudeau said.
As of April 19, the federal government processed a staggering 8.4 million applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides people who are out of work or cannot work because of COVID-19 $2,000 every month for four months.
That means the government has dolled out roughly $19.8 billion in CERB aid alone.
Class action against seniors' home, shutdown of slaughterhouse
Quebec has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, and now, an application to launch a class-action lawsuit has been filed against one home.
The suit cites punitive damage and seeks $2 million from the Maison Herron facility in Dorval, Quebec, for the "inhumane and degrading treatment of the elderly people who lived there.”
Thirty-one Herron residents died between March 13 and April 17.
A COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta is linked to the Cargill Ltd. slaughterhouse, with one worker now confirmed dead.
High River, a town with about 13,000 residents and sits half an hour south of Calgary, has reported 358 cases linked to the facility, including long-term care home staff.
Cargill Ltd. announced Monday it’s shutting down the plant amid the onslaught of cases, marking the first major shutdown in Canada’s food supply chain.
Scheer loses battle
Outgoing Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has lost his battle to have several in person sit-ins in parliament.
MPs voted 22 to 15 to host one in-person parliamentary sitting—with a small enough contingent of MPs to maintain physical distancing—per week, as well as two virtual ones. All parties voted in favour of the outcome, except for the Conservatives, which was looking for two sittings per week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The decision extended the House of Commons closure, which originally came into play on March 13, until May 25.
Scheer has been pushing for more government activity in the House of Commons for days, arguing that in-person sittings will allow his party to hold Trudeau’s government to account.
“Right here on Parliament Hill, construction workers are continuing to renovate Centre Block, a project that is expected to take at least 10 years,” Scheer said. “If they can safely renovate the building that houses our Parliament then surely we can do our duty to uphold the bedrock of our democracy.”
Canada’s COVID-19 cases, deaths
As of Monday night, Canada had 37,382 cases and 1,728 deaths.
Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:
British Columbia: 1,699
Newfoundland and Labrador: 257
New Brunswick: 118
Nova Scotia: 721
Prince Edward Island: 26
Northwest Territories: 5
On Monday, the World Health Organization warned the “worst is yet to come” for the pandemic, as several countries are starting to ease restrictions. The organization did not offer any specifics.
Late Sunday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 surpassed 2.3 million, with more than 157,000 deaths.
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