Coronavirus Updates Canada: Provinces Are Starting to Talk About Reopening

Community transmission of COVID-19 is starting to slow down; Parliament to combine in person and virtual sittings; death toll continues to climb, with 1,690 deaths as of Tuesday morning.
April 21, 2020, 2:30pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to unveil more financial aid measures on Tuesday. Sean Kilpatrick (CP)

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Several provinces and cities across Canada—some forced to fight harder with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) than others—are starting to consider the gradual reopening of businesses.

But no timelines have been offered yet.

On Monday, Ontario released new data modeling 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 584 deaths, much lower than expected.

The news prompted Ontario Premier Doug 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.

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 favor 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.”

More federal aid coming

Trudeau is expected to announce more financial aid for vulnerable Canadians on Tuesday, as the COVID-19-related economic crisis continues to keep people out of work.

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 CAD [$1,407 USD] every month for four months.

That means the government has dolled out roughly $19.8 billion in CERB aid alone.

Canada’s COVID-19 cases, deaths

As of Monday night, Canada had 36,831 cases and 1,690 deaths.

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

British Columbia: 1,699

Alberta: 2,908

Saskatchewan: 316

Manitoba: 254

Ontario: 11,184

Quebec: 19,319

Newfoundland and Labrador: 257

New Brunswick: 118

Nova Scotia: 721

Prince Edward Island: 26

Yukon: 11

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 0

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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