- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reinstate COVID-19 updates.
- Quebec urges limited social gatherings, while Ontario takes new approach to testing.
- Ontario offering COVID-19 testing in pharmacies starting today.
- Half of new cases of COVID-19 linked to bars and restaurants, says Manitoba’s top doctor.
- Disneyland Hong Kong opens as city’s cases fall.
- Moscow mayor urges older people to stay at home after spike in infections.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join Canada’s top public health officers today for their daily update on the worsening COVID-19 health crisis.
Trudeau is expected to have an announcement about his government’s ongoing efforts to protect Canadians and combat the potentially deadly novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
But he’s also expected to start joining Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy, Howard Njoo, more regularly at their daily briefings — a sign of how serious the second wave of COVID-19 has already become.
During the first wave last spring, Trudeau held daily news conferences outside his home, Rideau Cottage, but those tailed off and finally stopped as the pandemic went into a bit of a lull over the summer.
The coronavirus is now back, with caseloads spiking in the four largest provinces over the past few weeks.
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In a televised address Wednesday, Trudeau warned Canada is “on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” when the country went into a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Trudeau’s government, meanwhile, is reverting to a practice used throughout the pandemic last spring to urgently fast-track emergency aid legislation through Parliament.
The government introduced on Thursday legislation aimed at producing a more generous, flexible employment insurance system, along with the creation of three new temporary benefits to help those who’ve lost their jobs or had their hours drastically reduced due to the pandemic.
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The new benefits will also apply to those who are forced to take time off work because they are ill, forced to self-isolate or stay home to care for a dependent who is ill or in isolation.
The new regime ensures benefits of $500 a week — the same as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which comes to an end on Saturday.
What’s happening in the rest of Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 149,094 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 128,707 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,289.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé is urging people to minimize non-essential gatherings and cancel Thanksgiving plans in an attempt to slow the increase in COVID-19 cases. He says the contagion is being driven by community transmission at events such as family gatherings, private parties, funerals and weddings.
Ontario tweaked its approach to asymptomatic testing on Thursday as many centres in the province have struggled with long lineups. Back-to-school demand has contributed to a processing backlog of nearly 54,000 tests.
Back in May, Premier Doug Ford said anyone who wanted a test for COVID-19 should arrange to get one, with or without symptoms. He’s now saying the province needs to focus on people who actually need a test and not those who go to an assessment centre “because they’ll feel a little more comfortable.”
Asymptomatic people can still make an appointment at up to 60 pharmacies across the province to get tested — starting today — but that also only applies to those in certain higher-risk categories, including anyone who has contact with a known case or have a loved one in long-term care.
Alberta reined in its broad asymptomatic testing last week, limiting it to close contacts of confirmed cases and high-risk groups.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer on Thursday said half of the province’s COVID-19 cases in recent weeks have been in people who have visited bars, pubs and restaurants as it reported 37 new cases, the bulk in Winnipeg.
“We have cases that have attended more than one bar in the evening while symptomatic, one of which had more than 36 contacts,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 32.2 million. More than 983,000 people have died, while over 22.2 million have recovered.
Hong Kong Disneyland has reopened for the second time as the semi-autonomous Chinese city again appears to have brought new coronavirus cases down to near zero.
The resort shut down during the initial stage of China’s outbreak when Hong Kong closed schools and offices. Disneyland reopened after cases dropped off but then was shut again once infections began to climb again over the summer.
The resort reopened Friday with physical distancing measures for lines, restaurant seating, rides and other facilities, along with more frequent cleaning and disinfecting in the areas with the most visitors.
Hong Kong’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and the government has been moving steadily to bring back business without sparking new outbreaks.
Hong Kong reported seven new cases on Friday for a total of 5,056 and 104 deaths, according to China’s National Health Commission.
Mainland China reported eight new cases, all brought from outside the country. No new cases of local transmission have been reported in 40 days, with the death toll remaining at 4,634 among 85,322 cases recorded since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Moscow authorities have issued a recommendation for the elderly to stay at home and for employers to allow as many people as possible to work remotely, following a rapid growth of coronavirus cases in the Russian capital.
On Friday, health officials reported 7,212 new cases, the highest daily surge since June. In Moscow, the number of new daily infections started to grow last week and was up to over 1,500 on Friday from under 700 two weeks ago.
“None of us want to return to severe restrictions (that were in place) this spring. I hope we can avoid that,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote in his blog.
Sobyanin urged people over 65 years old and those suffering from chronic illnesses to stay at home starting from Monday, limit their contacts with others and leave their residence only when necessary. Employers are recommended to allow as many people as possible to work from home, disinfect the workplace regularly, observe physical distancing guidelines and use personal protective equipment in offices.