Updated at 4:30 p.m. (EDT): Canada has so far managed to avoid the worst outcomes of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks that have marked Italy and Spain, but it’s still too soon to relax physical distancing measures, experts say.
“The fact that we’ve been able to avert disaster at this point emphasizes the fact we need to maintain the policy of physical distancing,” Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, told the Globe and Mail.
Several reports show Canada’s hospitals are not yet overwhelmed, but some hospitals could experience ICU bed shortages if and when more COVID-19 cases arise.
A best-case scenario, which would result in 2.5 percent of Canada’s population suffering from infection, only Ontario would report ICU shortages, according to data models released by the University of Toronto and Harvard University. If infection rates were to reach 5 percent or 10 percent, every province could experience shortages, the models predicted.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters on Saturday that he’s sending surplus personal protective equipment and ventilators to other provinces that say they are short on supplies, including British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
Public health projections, finally released on Thursday for the country, estimate that 11,000 Canadians will die if 2.5 percent of the population gets sick.The death toll will climb to 22,000, if 5 percent of the population contracts the virus.
Cases continue to climb in Canada, with 24,383 current confirmed or probable cases.
Ontario has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases (7,049) behind Quebec (12,846). On Friday, Ontario reported it’s largest spike in deaths with 269—a 35 percent increase from the day before. (The province’s death toll has since climbed to 274.)
Virus outbreaks in long-term care facilities continue to make up most of Canada’s death toll: 31 residents in Montreal’s Résidence Herron alone have died, with police now investigating following concerns from family members who believe the centre was understaffed and unsanitary; in Calgary, 20 McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre residents and nine people living in a Markham, Ontario long-term care home have died.
Facilities in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, and Bobcaygeon have also seen COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in seniors’ facilities.
Long-term care homes have experienced the gravest of COVID-19 outbreaks, so the government announced new recommendations for all seniors’ facilities.
Only visitors and volunteers deemed essential—for compassionate or medical reasons—should be allowed into care homes; everyone should be screened for symptoms; staff with symptoms should not work and need to report symptoms as soon as they show up; everyone visiting or working in care homes should wear masks and other personal protective equipment; and “high touch” and “high risk” surfaces should be cleaned often.
Money for temporary foreign workers
The government is allocating $50 million to help farmers and other food producers to hire temporary foreign workers.
Like all travellers, foreign nationals will have to quarantine for 14 days to avoid new COVID-19 infections. The government will provide employers with $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to cover costs associated with the two-week quarantine, including room and board.
The money will be available as long as the Quarantine Act is in play.
Public health approves news COVID-19 tests
Health Canada approved rapid test kits over the weekend.
The handheld device was created by Ottawa’s Spartan Bioscience and will allow healthcare professionals to test people on site. Until now, tests had to be sent to provincial and national labs.
According to Spartan, the tests can be administered outside of laboratories, including in airports, doctors’ offices, and remote communities.
Federal wage subsidy passes
MPs passed the new federal wage subsidy over the weekend.
That means businesses of all sizes affected by COVID-19 will soon be able to apply for up to a 75 percent subsidy, providing employers with $847 per week per employee as a way to keep staff on payroll and ideally, prevent further layoffs.
It’s unclear when businesses will be able to apply, but payments will be retroactive to March 15.
Air Canada has announced it is aiming to bring back more than 16,000 staff members that were part of recent COVID-19 layoffs.
Last week. 1.7 million people applied for Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit, which pays people who have lost their jobs or can’t work because of COVID-19.
Cases continue to climb
As of Monday morning, the country had 24,383 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 734 deaths.
Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 1,490
Newfoundland and Labrador: 242
New Brunswick: 114
Nova Scotia: 445
Prince Edward Island: 25
Northwest Territories: 5
Late Sunday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 cases neared 1.7 million, with more than 105,000 deaths.
With files from Sarah Berman.
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