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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern): 10:45 p.m. The Conservative party is suspending its leadership race in the face of the ongoing crisis caused by COVID-19.
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The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):

10:45 p.m.

The Conservative party is suspending its leadership race in the face of the ongoing crisis caused by COVID-19.

The party says it's no longer possible to meet the deadlines to process memberships and donations, and handle the ballots for the scheduled June 27 election.

No new date has been set. The party says it will re-evaluate the decision on May 1.

Pressure had been mounting for days on the organizers to hit pause on the contest.

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10:00 p.m.

The federal government is shutting down the network of in-person Service Canada centres over COVID-19 concerns.

Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa's city hall, have already started to close across the country as cases have increased and workers were needed elsewhere or felt uncomfortable about going in due to the pandemic.

The Liberals say the move, announced late tonight, shouldn't affect most unemployed workers who seek EI benefits since the majority of applications are done online.

The minister in charge of Service Canada says officials will make alternative arrangements for those who still need in-person services.

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9:00 p.m.

An Ontario regional health unit says two members of a long-term care home have died after developing symptoms following a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says one resident died Tuesday and another on Wednesday at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon.

The two who died were not tested for COVID-19.

The deaths came after three residents tested positive on March 20. Fourteen staff members also tested positive.

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8:00 p.m.

Yukon is preventing evictions for the next 90 days to protect tenants who are self-isolating or unable to pay their rent on time because of COVID-19.

The government is also allowing tenants to pay their rent late if they can't make a payment when it's due to help those who might have lost their jobs or seen their incomes drop.

The territorial government says it recognizes landlords have also been affected by the virus, and it is working with them to find ways of providing assistance.

The government says a tenant will have to pay any unpaid rent as soon as they can or after the 90 days, whichever comes first.

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6:40 p.m.

Another 66 people in British Columbia have been diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 725 cases in the province.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are no new deaths. Fourteen people have died from COVID-19 in the province.

Henry says there are also new guidelines that will allow doctors to prescribe drugs to illicit drug users, giving them a safe supply to ensure they're able to comply with self-isolation requirements.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says staff at the government's 811 health helpline managed to answer 5,070 calls on Wednesday, dealing with the anxiety and the realities of being sick with COVID-19.

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6:00 p.m.

Netflix is lowering video quality for its subscribers in Canada to reduce soaring demands on internet bandwidth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The streaming giant says it will introduce changes designed to slash its data traffic by 25 per cent.

The company says the lower bandwidth streams of Netflix programs should still deliver the usual quality of each plan whether it's ultra-high definition 4K, high-definition or standard definition.

The move comes as telecom companies see a rise in data usage with Canadians self-isolating at home.

Netflix already introduced bandwidth measures in other regions, including Europe, India and Australia.

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5:50 p.m.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the federal government is allowing for a safe supply of drugs to be distributed in an effort to flight the overdose crisis in the Downtown Eastside.

Stewart says the city's Downtown Eastside has two health emergencies, and to properly battle COVID-19 a solution needs to be found for the poisoned drug supply.

The mayor says he's grateful the federal government is allowing a safe supply solution to move ahead and the province is hard at work to determine how it will roll out.

He says Vancouver's community action team is standing by to help those who aren't connected to the health-care system to ensure they can access safe drugs.

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5:35 p.m.

Alberta has identified 67 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 486.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical health officer, says the cases include 13 at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.

The virus was linked to one death at that centre earlier this week.

Hinshaw says 27 Albertans have so far recovered from COVID-19.

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4:35 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting nine more cases of COVID-19, increasing the province's total to 95.

The government says three people have recovered from the virus, while five others have been hospitalized.

It says two patients are in intensive care.

The Ministry of Health says most of the cases are travel-related, but there are five linked to community transmission, including one from the northern part of the province.

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4:30 p.m.

Seniors and those who want to help them in British Columbia are being urged to call a helpline to connect them for support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.'s seniors advocate, says they've expanded the 211 seniors' helpline in an effort to keep seniors from getting the virus.

MacKenzie says now is not the time for seniors to be out in their communities.

She says the government wants these people to be safe and there are volunteers who want to pick up their groceries, get their medication and drop off meals.

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4:15 p.m.

Vancouver is opening two emergency response centres in its downtown to provide additional spaces for homeless people.

The city says the centres will operate on a referral basis to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

City manager Sadhu Johnston says the opening of the facilities is "an unprecedented use" of community centres, but it's aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and reducing demand on the health-care system.

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4:10 p.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting four more cases of COVID-19, raising the provincial total to nine.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says the latest cases are all travel related.

She says all four are men who have returned from international travel, including two who were in Europe, one who was in the United States, and one in the Caribbean.

Morrison says all are self isolating.

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3:20 p.m.

Ontario says it will ramp up capacity to conduct approximately 18,900 COVID-19 tests a day by mid-April.

The government says it will gradually increase testing by 3,000 to 4,000 per week as it moves toward that target.

The province currently does 3,000 COVID-19 tests a day, and will increase to 5,000 a day later this week.

There is currently a testing backlog of nearly 11,000 cases, which the province hopes to have cleared by early next week.

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2:45 p.m.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is pushing back a promised cut to the provincial sales tax, because of the financial strain of fighting COVID-19.

Pallister says the novel coronavirus is taking a toll on the economy, and the province will drain hundreds of millions of dollars from its rainy day fund within three months.

Pallister also says the province is looking at borrowing more than a billion dollars, and will not proceed with a bill now before the legislature that would reduce the sales tax to six per cent from seven.

Manitoba has recorded 36 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and health officials say social-distancing measures are bound to remain in place for some time.

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2:30 p.m.

Saskatchewan is temporarily suspending eviction hearings over COVID-19.

The government announced starting immediately the Office of Residential Tenancies will not accept applications for missed or late rent.

It says the office will only hold eviction hearings for the most urgent matters where health or safety is at risk

Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan says tenants should be able to stay at home as per public health advice without fear of eviction.

The government says tenants unable to pay their rent during the province's state of emergency will be expected to once it's lifted.

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2 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting seven new cases of COVID-19 in the province Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 33.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell says all seven new cases are travel-related.

She says the current testing regime is focused on testing those most at risk.

Russell says she expects more people to be tested once the province sees any cases of community transmission.

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1:30 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald confirmed 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.

This brings the total number of cases to 82.

Fitzgerald says all of those cases are recovering at home.

The majority of cases have come from the province's Eastern health region. Minister John Haggie added that nine of the cases are health workers from the region.

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1:10 p.m.

A 91-year-old man from Quebec's Laurentians region is the eighth person to succumb to COVID-19 in the province.

Regional health authorities confirmed the man, who lived in a seniors' home, died Wednesday.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the province now has 1,629 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 290 from the day before.

Provincial health authorities had confirmed two additional deaths Wednesday, and Montreal's public health department announced later in the day the city's first COVID-19 death.

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1:10 p.m.

The B.C. government is taking a series of actions to ensure the provincial supply chain keeps goods and services moving, that consumers are protected and people follow the self-isolation rules.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth says the unprecedented steps will support the provincial heath officer in a cross-government approach to respond to the health crisis.

Premier John Horgan says they're aiming the actions at hoarders and those trying to make a profit during the COVID-19 crisis.

Farnsworth says the government is also considering using vacant convention centres and other large spaces for over-flow health facilities.

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1:05 p.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says any move by the United States to send American soldiers to the border to intercept illegal migrants would be seen as damaging to Canada's relationship with the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the two countries are discussing the possibility that U.S. troops could be deployed to the border, which was first reported by Global News.

Freeland says Canada has made its position clear at a number of levels, including at the health and political levels that such a step would be unnecessary and not appropriate, given the current public health situation in Canada involving the coronavirus.

She said keeping the border free of military presence is an important symbol of the close ties between the Canada and the U.S. and their close military partnership.

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12:50 p.m.

Prince Edward Island's top medical official said one person is considered to have recovered from COVID-19 and that there were no new cases of the virus on Thursday.

Five people have contracted the illness in the province.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says she expects the number of cases and hospitalizations to grow.

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12:45 p.m.

Canada's chief public health officer says random checks will be done to ensure Canadians returning to Canada from abroad are following the new mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Dr. Theresa Tam says contact information about travellers will be collected when they arrive at the border to allow for follow-up, which could include visits to their homes.

She says federal health officials will be working closely with local public health agencies to enforce the mandatory quarantine, which could lead to fines or prison time if breached.

Tam also said recent data on COVID-19 cases in Canada show one per cent of cases have been fatal, which means Canada's health system is not yet overwhelmed.

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12:30 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for an overall total of 73 confirmed cases in the province.

The province says most of the cases are travel-related or connected to earlier cases, although one of the new cases can't currently be linked to travel or an earlier case.

At this point, public health says it can't confirm the case is linked to community spread of the virus.

The 73 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70's and two patients are currently in hospital.

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12:20 p.m.

The Manitoba government is reporting another probable case of COVID-19, bringing the total of probable and confirmed cases to 36.

The latest case is a Winnipeg man in his 20s who is believed to be linked to a previously known patient.

The provincial lab has been able to ramp up testing, and ran 734 tests on Wednesday.

Health officials are expanding testing to include people with respiratory symptoms who work in health care, who live in remote communities, or who live in group settings such as nursing homes and shelters.

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11:55 a.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador legislators will sit today for an emergency session to pass legislation responding to social and economic upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendments will include protections for employees' jobs if they must take time away from work as a result of COVID-19 and ensuring renters cannot be evicted if they are unable to pay rent.

The legislation will also introduce 200-million-dollars in contingency to cover impacts of reduced oil prices and adjust deadlines for annual reports and audit reviews.

Borrowing capacity will also be increased to respond to revenue volatility during the pandemic.

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11:40 a.m.

The federal government is asking banks and credit-card companies to lower interest rates on Canadians struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Finance Minister Bill Morneau is in talks with Canadian banks asking them to look at ways to help Canadians struggling to pay their bills.

Trudeau says the government is also looking at extending lower-interest credit directly to consumers.

The prime minister also said he is in talks with the United States about ensuring the Canada-U.S. border remains free of military presence after reports the U.S. may be looking at deploying troops to the border to stop illegal border crossers.

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11:25 a.m.

British Columbia's College of Pharmacists is warning that unproven treatments for COVID-19 can be very dangerous.

A statement from the college urges health professionals to resist growing demands on social media for access to anti-viral or anti-malaria drugs to treat COVID-19 patients.

The college says doctors have a responsibility to their patients to focus only on evidence-based care and not yield to well-intentioned patient pressure.

It says if therapies such as the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine are prescribed outside of a clinical trial, pharmacists have been instructed not to fill the prescription.

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11:20 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 170 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 858.

That's the largest single-day spike in cases by far.

At least 12 people of the new cases are hospitalized, including two people in their 20s.

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5:10 a.m.

The City of Pitt Meadows, B.C., is asking for tax deferrals and financial supports from the province.

Mayor Bill Dingwall, along with 19 other mayors in the region have requested, in writing on March 23, an expansion of the Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program to include residential, business and non-profit organizations.

Dingwall says the pandemic has caused a financial strain on everyone, particularly families and small business.

The province, under the Community Charter, has the authority to defer property taxes for municipalities, which are due on the first regular business day after Canada Day.

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4 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will confer today with leaders of the world's biggest economies about the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He'll be taking part in a video conference with leaders of the G20.

They are expected to talk about co-ordination of international efforts to contain the deadly virus and cushion the devastating blow to the world's economy.

He's also expected to use his daily news conference outside his residence to highlight the billions worth of direct financial aid the federal government is providing to help Canadians and businesses weather the crisis.

Legislation enacting $52 billion worth of financial aid and another $55 billion worth of tax deferrals was approved yesterday by Parliament but the money won't actually start flowing for another few weeks.

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4 a.m.

Advocates and front-line workers say the COVID-19 pandemic could explode within Toronto's homeless population.

They say government actions to curb the spread of the illness may have the opposite effect on those who live without housing.

A number of drop-in and respite sites have closed, while others must limit their numbers inside.

Many feel people cannot practise safe social distancing inside those sites, nor can they easily go the bathroom or wash their hands because many food banks, restaurants and coffee shops have shut.  

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4 a.m.

Canada's agriculture sector is warning of higher prices and potential food shortages if it isn't designated an essential service.

Todd Hames, president of the Alberta Wheat Commission, says they have concerns about potential problems.

Hames says railways, the Port of Vancouver and companies that supply fuel and farm implements also need to remain open with spring seeding only weeks away.

He says it's especially important since there have been delays in getting grain to market due to strikes and rail blockades.

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4 a.m.

Canada's cattle industry has stabilized after seeing a sharp drop in prices when the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association's executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft says the industry has been working with Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure meat-packing plants remain open.

He says the association wants to make sure that market isn't affected and is relieved that borders are still open to beef as an essential good.

But first and foremost, he says there must be recognition of efforts to keep an adequate supply of food available to Canadians.

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4 a.m.

Bill George, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, says workable safety rules need to be developed for migrant farm workers.

He says they view farm work as an essential service, but sometimes it would be hard to maintain the six feet minimum separation.

He says either they to find a way around the separation distance or potentially look at relying on other countries to supply produce.

George says each day of delay increases the risk of crops not being planted in time — something that Canadians could see reflected at the grocery store.

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The Canadian Press




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