News

Coronavirus Updates Canada: When Ontario Reopens, Funerals Will Come First

More than 10,000 businesses have already applied for Canada's emergency wage subsidy; protesters rally against physical distancing measures; more than 4,000 new virus cases reported in Canada since Friday.
April 27, 2020, 1:07pm
Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Ontario is set to release its plan to reopen the economy on Monday. Photo by Tijana Martin (CP)

Updated at 2 p.m. (EDT): It’s unclear when Ontario will start reopening its economy, but when it does, the first of three phases will open up some public parks and allow for essential gatherings like funerals.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Ontario’s plan for reopening in a 13-page report, “A Framework for Reopening Our Province,” during his daily briefing on Monday.

When Ontario finally starts loosening physical distancing measures, the first phase will open select outdoor spaces and will allow for businesses that can adhere to public health guidelines to open, according to the report. Hospitals will likely start offering non-urgent procedures and scheduled surgeries.

Essential gatherings like funerals that host a limited number of people will also be permitted—but the report doesn’t specify how many people will be allowed to attend.

Currently gatherings are limited to five people or fewer.

The second phase will allow for larger public gatherings and will open businesses that can demonstrate they have “significant mitigation plans” in place. More public spaces will be opened as well.

The final phase will lead Ontario to a “new normal,” according to the report, and will open all workplaces. It will also relax restrictions currently preventing public gatherings.

“Large public gatherings such as concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for the foreseeable future,” the report said.

Each phase will include measures to protect “vulnerable populations” like seniors and the homeless.

No timeline has been announced for each of the three stages yet, but each will last two to four weeks. Then, Ontario’s chief medical officer will determine whether the province should tighten restrictions again, maintain the status quo, or move onto the next phase.

Before the economy can reopen, there need to be a decrease in daily cases of COVID-19 consistently for two to four weeks, the healthcare system can’t be overwhelmed, public health needs to be able to contact newly ill people within the day, and testing and surveillance of the virus needs to increase, Ford said.

“The framework is about how we’re reopening, not when we are reopening,” Ford said, adding that rash action could result in increased risk of the coronavirus.

There is a backlog of surgeries, including cancer surgeries, in Ontario, and the Minister of Health said the province will start thinking about how to reschedule medical procedures once everyone is safely out of the COVID-19 peak.

Ontario has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases (14,432) and deaths (835) in Canada after Quebec.

According to the Globe and Mail, Ontario has screened fewer people proportionally than most provinces.

Experts say testing will have to ramp up if Ford wants to reopen parts of the economy safely as early as he suggested, on the May long weekend (May 16-18).

Public schools in Ontario won’t open before May 31, the province announced on Sunday.

Even as plans to reopen economies surface, Canadians should expect to live in a new normal indefinitely, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“If you want to know when this is going to get back to normal, it won’t,” Trudeau said, adding we will feel the effects of this pandemic for the next several years.

He also urged caution as people get antsy to leave their homes.

“Historians remind us that the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 involved a very bad spring but an absolutely disastrous fall,” Trudeau said. “We must be very careful in order to not lose all the progress we have made thus far.”

Quebec—the virus’ Canadian hotspot—reported 24,107 cases as of Monday morning and 1,515 deaths, most caused by outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The province is also expected to announce plans to reopen this week.

Some regions across Canada are faring better than others. New Brunswick hasn’t reported a new COVID-19 case since April 18 and already started loosening physical distancing measures on Friday, while Saskatchewan has only reported five deaths from COVID-19 and was the first province to unveil its plan to reopen its economy

Despite an overall slow down in new infections, COVID-19 in Canada continues to climb by hundreds of new cases everyday: 4,000 new cases were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the total to 46,895 as of Monday morning.

That’s compared to a country like New Zealand, which claims to have “eliminated” the coronavirus; new cases are increasing by single digits daily.

The wage subsidy is finally here

The Canada Emergency Wage subsidy finally launched on Monday, with 10,000 businesses applying for it as of 10 a.m. Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said

The subsidy will cover up to 75 percent of salaries up to $58,700 earned, or up to $847 per week for all staff on payroll.

Payments will start on May 7, Trudeau said.

Businesses can apply directly through the Government of Canada’s website.

Anyone who is already receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which pays people who have lost their job or are unable to work because of COVID-19 $2,000 per month, cannot benefit from the wage subsidy, Trudeau said.

A lot of people who lost their jobs applied for the CERB—and already received money—might be rehired by businesses who are gearing up to get the wage subsidy, Trudeau said.

Going forward, people who do not need the CERB should stop applying for it, Trudeau said, and anyone who is benefiting from both subsidies will have to pay one back.

‘Reckless yahoos’ protesting physical distancing

Dozens of protesters rallied in Toronto on Sunday to push back against physical distancing measures, even calling the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a hoax.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the contingent a “selfish” and “reckless” bunch of “yahoos.”

Protesters in Vancouver also marched against physical distancing measures—again.

Don’t use this malaria drug to manage COVID-19

Health Canada is warning against the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, medications used to treat malaria and other autoimmune diseases, to fight COVID-19.

The medications can have serious side effects, including liver or kidney problems, heart problems, dizziness, fainting, seizures, and low blood sugar, Health Canada says.

Doctor supervision is required to safely use the drugs.

U.S. President Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine for its COVID-19-fighting abilities, but preliminary studies show the pharmaceutical likely offers no benefit for people who are fighting the virus.

Meat plants responsible for one quarter of COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Virus outbreaks in two slaughterhouses in Alberta have accounted for nearly one quarter of COVID-19 cases in the province.

A JBS cattle slaughterhouse in southern Alberta has resulted in one worker death and an uptick of cases in Brooks, a small, nearby town, the Globe and Mail reported. Three percent of Brooks’ population is reportedly infected with COVID-19.

The facility has dramatically downscaled its operations. Last week, Cargill closed its meat-packing plant amid its own virus outbreak.

The two facilities produce about 75 percent of the country’s beef.

COVID-19 cases, deaths in Canada

As of Monday morning, Canada had 46,895 COVID-19 cases and 2,560 deaths.

Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:

British Columbia: 1,948

Alberta: 4,480

Saskatchewan: 353

Manitoba: 271

Ontario: 14,432

Quebec: 24,107

Newfoundland and Labrador: 258

New Brunswick: 118

Nova Scotia: 873

Prince Edward Island: 26

Yukon: 11

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 0

Late Thursday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 surpassed 2.8 million, with more than 193,000 deaths.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.