Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to speak at noon CT

By | March 12, 2020

The latest:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to speak about how the federal government is handling the COVID-19 outbreak this afternoon, a day after the top public health official urged Canadians to “act now and act together” to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Concern about the virus — which has spread to more than 140 countries — has rattled economies and sparked sweeping changes from governments, both in Canada and abroad. Provinces and territories have cancelled classes, cities are shutting down public spaces like libraries and recreation centres, and public health officials are urging people to practice proper hand hygiene and social distancing.

On Sunday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, urged Canadians to “act now and act together.” 

“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” said Tam. “We all need to act now. COVID-19 is a serious public health threat.”

Tam repeated previous government messages about avoiding large public gatherings, practising social distancing and avoiding travel outside of Canada. She also said Canadians returning from trips abroad should immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply self-monitoring.

On Monday, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said on Twitter that it is adding additional screening measures at all international airports. The change came a day after Tam said that federal officials, who have faced criticism over screening practices, were considering additional screening questions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday urged people to keep supporting one another as the outbreak unfolds.

“We’re taking every step possible to slow the spread of the virus, and we need our partners to do the same,” Ford said, expressing concern about how screening is unfolding at the border and urging the federal government to do more. 

He urged people not to panic buy, and said he’s been in touch with major retailers about supply chains.

“There’s plenty of food and household essentials to go around,” the premier said at the briefing.

Ford also announced that his government is working on a plan for people whose work life is impacted by the outbreak, though full details weren’t immediately clear. 

As of 12:15 p.m. ET on Monday, there were more than 370 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country, with one known death linked to the virus. British Columbia and Ontario — the only two provinces that are currently offering information on the number of people who have recovered — listed a combined total of nine “resolved” cases.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said the risk from the coronavirus to the general public is low, but cautions that seniors, people with underlying health issues and individuals with compromised immune systems face a higher risk of “more severe” outcomes if they contract it.

Top officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging countries around the world to take a “comprehensive” approach to the pandemic. 

The Geneva-based agency said it’s working with companies to ramp up the availability of tests for those most in need.

 

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

“This is the defining health crisis of our time,” Tedros said, adding that the days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of the world’s resolve, a test of trust in science and a test of solidarity.

“Although we may have to be physically apart from each other for a while, we can come together in ways we never have before.”

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

In B.C., officials say testing for COVID-19 will focus on places where there is a cluster of cases, on health-care workers, and on people in hospital and long-term care facilities. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top health official, said not everyone needs to get tested, even if they have recently travelled outside of Canada. But Henry did ask that people who return to the province from outside the country self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

Alberta on Sunday joined the growing list of provinces closing schools to students for an extended period. “We will be indefinitely cancelling classes across the province,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said. The City of Calgary made its own move on Sunday, declaring a state of emergency that closes public facilities like rec centres, arenas and libraries. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, and visit this site for a list of closures in Calgary.

Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer says schools in the province are staying open for now. Dr. Saqib Shahab said Sunday, “with the number of cases we have and the fact that they’re all travel-related, we really don’t think that there’s any reason to close schools anywhere in the province at this time.” Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba, which has seven presumptive and confirmed cases, says all of its reported cases to date are travel-related. The province has four dedicated testing centres, which as of Sunday had seen 900 patients. A new testing centre is slated to open in Thompson, with more to come in rural areas this week. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.

Hospitals in Ontario are being asked to begin “carefully ramping down” elective surgeriesHealth Minister Christine Elliott said over the weekend that the move will help preserve capacity to respond to COVID-19. Elliott said in a statement the approach will allow hospitals the discretion to make decisions based on “local circumstances” while also allowing “the province to take a more prescriptive approach, should it be warranted based on evidence.” All casinos in the province are being closed, and Metrolinx is reducing services starting later this week. In Ottawa, the city’s top doctor is recommending that people cancel events, and avoid going out for “non-essential” reasons, saying community transmission is likely taking place in the city. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario here, including what Premier Ford said Monday at a news briefing. 

Quebec ordered the closure of bars, clubs, gyms and movie theatres over the weekend. Spas and saunas are also being closed, the province said. Restaurants can stay open, but are being asked to operate at half capacity. “We have to give ourselves the best chance to slow the contagion over the next days,” Premier François Legault said Sunday.  The province, which had already announced the closure of schools, is also urging people to embrace social distancing and avoid going out for non-essential trips. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick’s top doctor says testing centres for COVID-19 are being set up in the province — but the testing will be made available by appointment, and only to those showing symptoms.  Dr. Jennifer Russell urged everyone in the province to “do their part” as the province, which has five presumptive and one confirmed case. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick here.

Schools and daycares are closing for an extended period on Prince Edward Island. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the province is monitoring COVID-19 and will reassess the situation as needed. “If we make some good decisions now, it might help us in the weeks ahead,” she said. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Nova Scotia is also closing schools and daycares for an extended period, with the premier cautioning that the closure could be extended. “Our No. 1 priority will be the public’s safety and the health [and] safety of Nova Scotians and their children,” Stephen McNeil said over the weekend. On Monday, the province announced two new presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to five presumptive cases.  Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia. 

Newfoundland and Labrador students will be out of class for an extended period. The province currently has one presumptive case, and is making broader plans to try and tamp down the spread of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are not yet any confirmed cases in Canada’s North, but governments there are ramping up their efforts to get ahead of the virus. On Monday, schools in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut announced they would be closing for an extended period. Read more about what’s happening in Canada’s North here.

Here’s a look at the latest numbers in Canada, which as of 12:15 p.m.. ET on Monday had 377 presumptive and confirmed cases. Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

  • Ontario: at least 172 confirmed cases, including five cases listed by the province as resolved.
  • British Columbia: 73 confirmed, including one death and four cases listed by the province as resolved.
  • Alberta: 56 confirmed.
  • Quebec: 41 confirmed.
  • Saskatchewan: five presumptive, one confirmed.
  • New Brunswick: five presumptive, one confirmed.
  • Manitoba: four confirmed, three presumptive. 
  • Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: four confirmed.
  • Nova Scotia: five presumptive.
  • Prince Edward Island: one confirmed.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: one presumptive.

Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 11:00 a.m. ET

The U.S. surgeon general said Monday that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has reached the level that Italy recorded two weeks ago, a sign that infections are expected to rise in America as the government steps up testing and financial markets continue to fall.

“We are at a critical inflection point in this country, people. We are where Italy was two weeks ago in terms of our numbers,” Dr. Jerome Adams told Fox News. “When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy.”

Adams said the U.S. has “turned the tide” on testing, a critical part of tracking and containing pandemics. The U.S. effort has been hobbled by a series of missteps, including flaws with the testing kits first distributed by the federal government and bureaucratic hurdles that held up testing by private laboratories.

Bars, restaurants, theatres and movie houses in New York and Los Angeles were ordered to shut down to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as central banks around the world took aggressive steps to cushion the economic impact of the disease.

The U.S. Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, for the second time in less than two weeks, to near zero and other central banks followed suit, but stock markets and the dollar continued to tumble.

The Dow plunged 2,250 points, or 9.7 per cent, as markets opened Monday. The results triggered a 15-minute halt in trading as investors worried the impact of coronavirus could lead to a recession.

Europe’s main stock markets plunged more than six per cent in brutal opening trading, while Wall Street futures for the S&P 500 index had hit their downlimit in the first quarter-hour of Asian trade as investors rushed for safety.

The White House put in place new measures Monday to protect President Donald Trump and his staff during the coronavirus outbreak, including taking the temperature of anyone who enters the complex, including visitors and members of the press corps.

The steps expanded on screenings the White House began on Saturday for anyone who gets close to Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, who is leading the administration’s response to the virus. 

On Saturday, Trump said he had taken the test in response to questions at a Friday news conference. The White House doctor reported late Saturday that the test came back negative. 

WATCH: Dr. Peter Lin answers your questions about COVID-19

CBC News medical contributor discusses your concerns about the coronavirus with host Michael Serapio. 11:16

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to only sell food on a takeout or delivery basis. He also said he would order nightclubs, movie theatres, small theatre houses and concert venues to close.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city,” he said. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued similar orders. Any restaurant, bar or cafe selling food will only be able to do so via delivery or takeout, officials said.

The worldwide co-ordinated policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but this time the target is a fast-spreading health crisis with no certain end in sight that is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

The chief of the European Union has proposed a 30-day ban on all nonessential travel into the European Union.

EU leaders are set to hold Tuesday a summit via video-conference on efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control figures released Monday show that 51,771 coronavirus cases have been reported in Europe, most in Italy, Spain, France and Germany. A total of 2,316 people have died, the overwhelming majority in Italy.

With Italy reporting the most COVID-19 cases and deaths anywhere in the world except China, neighbouring countries like Austria and Slovenia have moved to slow traffic. But other EU nations, including Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Cyprus have also introduced restrictions.

Greece is imposing a compulsory 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country and extending shop closures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Spain has become the fourth most virus-infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea with a sharp curve of contagion, and closing its borders is a “real possibility” being considered. Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said a total lockdown could be the next step, after deploying the army to the streets and to clean train stations, ordering 46 million to stay at home and taking over control of private hospitals.

Medical staff with protective gear work at one of the emergency structures that were set up to ease procedures at the Brescia hospital in Italy on Monday. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (Luca Bruno/The Associated Press)

Serbia has closed its borders to foreigners and demanded self-isolation for returning Serbian citizens to up to 28 days. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that if people continue to ignore the self-isolation orders, as they appear to be doing in Belgrade on Monday, the government will introduce a police-enforced curfew. Serbia has 55 infected patients.

In Geneva, all gatherings of more than five people have been banned. Geneva social affairs department spokesperson Henri Della Casa said the measure was about “common sense.”  The ban is one of a panoply of orders from the Geneva regional government set to take effect at 6 p.m. local time on Monday. Others include the closure of all restaurants, bars and retail shops, other than grocery stores and pharmacies.

European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits of prime ministers and presidents from the 27 EU nations, tweeted Monday that he was calling what will be the second meeting of its kind in two weeks. “Containing the spread of the virus, providing sufficient medical equipment, boosting research and limiting the economic fallout is key,” Michel said.

Michel’s call for the summit, to be held Tuesday, came shortly after he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU is urging its member countries to put common health screening procedures in place at their borders to limit the coronavirus spread, but not to block the transport of important medical equipment.

“Essential goods and medicines must be able to cross borders as smoothly as possible. This is a time for solidarity and co-operation,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides tweeted, after hosting a separate virtual meeting of the bloc’s health ministers Monday.

The ministers agreed to start purchasing protective equipment, testing kits and ventilators together to help those member countries hardest hit, Kyriakides said.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Asia 

From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

Malaysia is implementing a drastic two-week lockdown in the country to slow the spread of coronavirus following a sharp spike in the number of cases.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said all religious institutions, schools, businesses and government offices will be shut from Wednesday until March 31. All mass gatherings will be banned and only essential services, including supermarkets, banks, gas stations and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open.

The country recorded 315 new cases of the virus in the past two days, causing its total to surge to 553, the highest number in Southeast Asia. Many of the new cases are linked to a recent 16,000-member religious gathering at a mosque in a Kuala Lumpur suburb that also sickened dozens from Brunei and Singapore.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday placed the northern third of the country under an “enhanced community quarantine” that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home.

Most office work and mass public transportation on Luzon Island, which includes the capital, Manila, will be suspended, officials said. Public movement will be restricted and large gatherings banned except for medical and other emergencies.

Banks, hospitals, drugstores and supermarkets will remain open but only one family member can leave home to buy food, and the establishments should observe “social distancing,” officials said.

Duterte also placed the rest of the Philippines under “a state of public health emergency” and ordered mayors and village officials to take steps to fight the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the archipelago of more than 100 million people.

“This is not martial law,” Duterte said in televised remarks. But he also threatened people who defy the moves with arrest.

Sri Lankan authorities say they intend to take legal action against an individual infected with coronavirus who ignored repeated calls by health officials to seek testing and treatment after his travelling companion tested positive.

Police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said Monday that the two Sri Lankans had travelled together in four European countries and returned on March 11. One was confirmed as infected with the virus the next day. 

Rohana said health officials repeatedly asked the other person to undergo medical tests but he ignored the request for three days. He eventually admitted himself to a state-run hospital and tested positive for the virus. 

China is relaxing travel restrictions in Hubei, the province hardest hit by the virus, sending thousands of workers back to jobs at factories desperate to get production going again.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that cities just outside the epicentre of Wuhan were chartering buses to send back to work residents who had returned home for the Lunar New Year in late January.

The move comes as Chinese officials say the outbreak that spread from the city of Wuhan starting in late December has mostly run its course domestically, while they remain vigilant against imported cases.

WATCH: How social distancing can slow the spread of the coronavirus

Social distancing measures like working from home, school closures and cancelling sporting events could lead to a drop of new infections of coronavirus. 1:54

The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on China’s service sector and industries from autos to cellphones, although President Xi Jinping has pledged that economic growth targets for the year will still be met.

In the latest tally, China’s National Health Commission reported 16 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of them were imported from overseas. China now has 80,860 confirmed cases. The health commission said that 67,749 patients have recovered and discharged from hospitals. Fourteen more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the toll to 3,213.

In South Korea, officials reported a downward trend in new infections on Monday, Yonhap reported. The country has reported 8,236 cases to date, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 75 people have died in the country, most of them older and with underlying disease.

Japan is dealing with around 800 local cases as well as the passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive. The Bank of Japan is also looking at taking emergency measures to tamp down the impact of the outbreak on the country’s economy, NHK reported.

Here’s a look at some of what’s happening around the world, including hard-hit Iran

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

A member of the Iraqi Civil Defence disinfects an area in Baghdad on Monday as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iran’s reported death toll from the coronavirus has reached 853, with 129 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a health ministry official tweeted Monday, adding that a total of 14,991 people have been infected across Iran. “In the past 24 hours we had 1,053 confirmed new cases of coronavirus and 129 new deaths,” Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted. To contain the outbreak in Iran, one of the deadliest outside of China, officials have called on people to stay at home.

  • Turkey identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Monday, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week. Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country, while seven had travelled from Europe and three from the U.S.

  • South Africa will revoke nearly 10,000 visas issued this year to people from China and Iran, and visas will now be required for other high-risk countries that had been visa-free, including Italy and the U.S. The health minister said a lockdown might be necessary if tough new measures to deal with COVID-19, including travel restrictions and school closings, don’t work. He warns of a high risk of internal virus transmission with “the problem of inequality in our society.”

  • Liberia has announced its first case Monday as the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama, was among the first officials on the continent to contract the virus. Liberia, along with its neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea, were devastated by Ebola outbreaks from 2014 to 2016 that killed more than 11,300 people, including 4,000 in Liberia alone.

  • Bangladesh’s government has shut down all educational institutions and private tutorial centres across the country until March 31. Bangladesh confirmed three more cases of infection on Monday, taking the total to eight.

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