A COVID-19 update and new provincial measures: March 16, 2020

A COVID-19 update and new provincial measures: March 16, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 16 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address the nation this afternoon (1 p.m.) to update Canadians on the latest action being taken to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Cabinet ministers leaving a meeting in Ottawa yesterday promised big action, but didn’t elaborate.

Canada’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned Sunday that COVID-19 has become a serious health threat.

She said people must stay home in an effort to “social distance,” to prevent the virus from spreading so fast that health-care facilities are overwhelmed.

She added that Canadians returning from trips abroad should immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply self-monitoring.

Over the weekend, the number of confirmed cases in Canada climbed from 197 to 341.

Some provinces are taking more drastic measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We have to limit outings,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault told a briefing yesterday. “We should go out only to work, buy bread, go to the pharmacy, get health care, take a walk or go help people age 70 and up.”

Meanwhile, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says there is now evidence of community transmission in the province.

She told a briefing yesterday the development changes the landscape and led the province to cancel classes for students in kindergarten through Grade 12 and also close licensed daycares.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced Sunday schools in the province will be temporarily closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said that although classes are currently out for March break, schools and day-care centres will be close for two additional weeks starting March 23.

The announcement came just hours after health authorities reported the province’s first three presumptive cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Snowbirds …

Ottawa’s directive to immediately return from international travel has left snowbirds grappling with whether to enter self-isolation in Canada or stay in sunnier climes.

The government’s strong suggestion came over the weekend as some countries closed their borders in an effort to stop COVID-19’s march across the globe, raising the possibility that Canadians could get stuck abroad.

But not all travellers were following the advice, including Alycin Hayes, who traded Ontario’s winter for the warmth of Gainesville, Fla.

She says she’s not planning on returning immediately, noting that she’s far more comfortable in Florida than in Canada where her home is poorly stocked.

The Canadian Snowbird Association is urging its members to heed the advice of public health officials regarding coronavirus disease.

And certainly, some snowbirds are doing just that.

David Whitford and his wife Barbara who live in London, Ont., returned from Florida on Thursday after three weeks in Sarasota.

“We could have stayed longer but saw all these things in the newspapers about travel restrictions and things like that, so we thought we’ll go back,” said David Whitford. “We’d rather be home.”

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

The White House is putting in place new measures to protect U-S President Donald Trump and his staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

Starting today, the White House will take the temperature of anyone entering the complex, from visitors to members of the press corps.

The new measures expand on screenings the White House began on Saturday for anyone who will get close to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, governors in California, Illinois and Ohio told all bars and restaurants to close or reduce their number of customers.

And New York City will shutter the nation’s largest public school system as early as Tuesday, sending over 1.1 million children home.

With fears increasing that the pandemic will depress U.S. economic growth, the Federal Reserve took emergency action by slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero and deciding to buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds.

COVID-19 around the world …

The new coronavirus pandemic has now infected more than 169,000 people around the world and killed more than 6,500.

Ireland ordered all pubs and bars to close for two weeks — including on Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day — and urged people not to hold house parties.

Italy on Sunday reported its biggest day-to-day increase in infections — 3,590 more cases in a 24-hour period — for a total of almost 24,747. And 368 more deaths brought its toll to 1,809, more than a quarter of the global death toll.

Spain was under lockdown amid a two-week state of emergency, it’s Health Ministry saying the country has recorded 288 deaths, up from 136 on Saturday. The number of infections rose to 7,753 from 5,700.

Czech authorities are ordering a lockdown of 21 towns and villages in an area 250 kilometres east of the capital to prevent the virus from spreading.

The Czech Republic has 298 cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Iranian news agencies say a 78-year-old member of the Iranian clerical body that chooses the country’s supreme leader has died from the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The outbreak has infected nearly 14,000 people in Iran and killed more than 700, with the toll jumping by more than a hundred in the last 24 hours.

And Turkey is now closing its bars and nightclubs to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It has also set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

COVID-19 in the sports industry …

Canadian sports teams are stepping up to make sure their employees don’t go without wages during the suspension of all major sporting events.

The company that owns the Winnipeg Jets changed its plans, saying it will now pay its workers who will be without employment during the suspension of the NHL season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

True North Sports and Entertainment sent a letter to its employees affected by a halt in operations at Bell MTS Place to let them know that they would be paid in full for all remaining Jets games until the end of March.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s five prominent sports organizations have teamed up to create a special assistance fund for event staff affected by the suspension of major sports in the city.

The “Team Toronto Fund” was announced in a joint statement by the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and Argonauts.

The program is designed to further assist arena, stadium and support staff should they be in need of extra financial assistance due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 in the entertainment industry …

The TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto has closed its doors at least until mid-April.

All events and programming at the theatre and film centre have been cancelled in an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

All cancelled events will be refunded and will be refunding to credit cards automatically.

Meanwhile, Mirvish Productions has suspended performances at all of its theatres in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cancellations took effect over the weekend and run until April 12. 

Ticket sales plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years at North American movie theatres as the coronavirus pandemic led to one of Hollywood’s worst weekends at the box office.

Receipts totalled about $56 million in U.S. and Canada theatres, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Most of Europe’s cinemas have shuttered in recent days, along with closures in China, India, Lebanon and Kuwait.

But the wide majority of North American theatres remained open for business over the weekend.

And an Australian television journalist says he has the new coronavirus and assumes he contracted it while meeting with actress-singer Rita Wilson in Sydney.

Wilson and her husband. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. have been isolated in an Australian hospital since they were both diagnosed with COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press