Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on March 28

The latest:

Transport Canada has introduced new rules for domestic travel in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday, as the number of cases worldwide of the COVID-19 respiratory illness exceeded 600,000.

“As of Monday at noon, people showing any signs whatsoever of COVID-19 will be denied boarding on all domestic flights and inter-city passenger trains,” Trudeau said at his daily briefing, just outside his residence in Ottawa.

He said his government is giving “further tools” to airlines and rail companies to ensure that anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms does not travel and that it will be up to the companies to ensure the new rules are followed.

“It will be important for operators of airlines and trains to ensure that people who are exhibiting symptoms do not board those trains,” Trudeau said.

“It will be a Transport Canada rule that will be enforced, but at the same time, we’re telling people ‘stay home if it’s not absolutely essential for you to travel.'”

Late on Saturday, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau said she had recovered from COVID-19 after contracting the illness while on a trip to the United Kingdom earlier this month.

Canada now has 5,655 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, and at least 61 deaths, with 508 people recovered, according to figures compiled late on Saturday. 

WATCH | New travel restriction coming Monday, says Trudeau:

Starting Monday, people who show symptoms of COVID-19 will be denied entry on domestic flights and trains. 1:57

In China, the city of Wuhan — where the growing outbreak first emerged late last year — began lifting a two-month lockdown on Saturday. Wuhan restarted some subway services and reopened borders, allowing some semblance of normality to return and families to reunite.

Authorities had taken strict measures to stop people from entering or leaving the industrial city of 11 million people in central China. Families were confined to their homes. Bus and taxi services were shut, and only essential stores were allowed to remain open.

China reported 45 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for March 28, down from 54 on the previous day, with all but one involving travelers from overseas, the country’s health authority said on Sunday local time. China also reported five new deaths on Saturday, all of which were in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the COVID-19 respiratory illness was first identified. A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

A medical worker wearing a hazmat suit uses a swab on a woman to check if she has coronavirus at a health clinic in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on Saturday. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said on Twitter on Saturday that the Bank of China donated medical supplies to Canada, including 30,000 medical masks.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne welcomed the donations, saying on Twitter: “In the face of a global pandemic, supporting each other is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

In February, Canada donated 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China as it grappled with the peak of its outbreak.

In New York City, considered the centre of the outbreak in the United States with more than a third of the country’s cases, the Javits Convention Center has been turned into a temporary hospital and will start treating patients Monday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants four more temporary hospitals set up to meet the growing number of coronavirus cases. New York state has seen the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., more than 500. There are about 1,600 people in intensive care. Cuomo says state hospitals need 30,000 more ventilators.

The United Nations donated 250,000 protective face masks to the city, and Cuomo delayed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

Members of the Rhode Island National Guard look for passengers getting off from a train from New York as it arrives Saturday in Westerly, R.I. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong travel advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had spoken with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, among others, who wanted the federal government to restrict travel from the New York metropolitan area to their states.

“They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” Trump told reporters.

The notion of a quarantine had been sharply criticized by Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

Trump later said on Twitter: “I have asked the @CDCgov to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government. A quarantine will not be necessary.”

The U.S. now has roughly 122,000 confirmed cases, the highest figure in the world.

Messages on a sidewalk showing support for health-care workers are seen in Toronto on Saturday. (Alan Habbick/CBC)

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, says the fight against the pandemic is far from over and that it could include a second wave.

“We have now completed tests for over 184,000 people in Canada, which is 84,000 additional people tested since Monday,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Saturday.

More than a dozen Canadian flight attendants are sick with COVID-19, with one recently released from an intensive care unit in Calgary, CBC News has learned. Seven WestJet employees and five at Air Transat are also confirmed cases. The flight attendants’ union at Air Canada is calling for full protective suits for all air crews. This past week in the U.S., a flight attendant with American Airlines died after contracting the virus.

Air Canada lines up additional flights

Since March 21, Air Canada has operated nine special flights in collaboration with the federal government to bring Canadians home from various countries — three flights from Morocco, three from Peru, two from Ecuador and one from Spain. The airline issued a news release on Saturday, announcing the following flights for Canadians:

  • From Algiers, an Air Canada flight is scheduled to operate on March 31 with 292 seats on an Airbus A330.
  • From Quito, Air Canada Rouge will operate flights on March 29 and March 31, on 282-seat wide body Boeing 767 aircraft.
  • From Lima, Air Canada says it’s planning to operate one extra flight on April 1 on a 400-seat wide-body aircraft.

WATCH | Infected Canadian flight attendants speak out:

Airline crews tell CBC they didn’t feel adequately protected from COVID-19 after several employees test positive for the illness. 2:01

At sea, four passengers have died aboard a cruise ship now anchored off the coast of Panama, and two people aboard the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, the cruise line said Friday, with hundreds of passengers unsure how long they will remain at sea.

Foreign Affairs says it is aware of 248 Canadians on the ship — 247 passengers and one crew member — and spokesperson Angela Savard says the department continues to “engage with the Panamanian government and Holland America on their plans to get passengers home.”

Holland America Line has confirmed Canadians are not among the four dead. The company said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people aboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms.

Trudeau said Friday there are many projections around how the COVID-19 crisis will unfold — but those projections all “hinge on choices” Canadians have made in the past few days and will make in the days ahead.

WATCH | Coronavirus explainer for children:

If you’re a parent wondering how to talk to your kids about the coronavirus, here’s a video that’ll help start the conversation.  1:27

“We know we’re talking about weeks and possibly months,” Trudeau said. “But I am very optimistic that we’re going to get through this in the right way, because Canadians do what they need to do to be there for each other and to keep us all safe.”

He said the government, which had previously announced a temporary 10-per-cent wage subsidy, will boost that to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses — a move many in the business world, as well as labour groups and opposition politicians, had called for.

“We’re helping companies keep people on the payroll so that workers are supported and the economy is positioned to recover from this,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the subsidy for small- and medium-sized businesses would be backdated to mid-March. More details about the plan for small businesses, including a loan program, will be released in the coming days, he said.

WATCH | Toronto doctor describes what it’s like on the COVID-19 front lines:

Dr. Joshua Tepper is the president and CEO of North York General Hospital in Ontario.  1:53

Also Friday, the Bank of Canada made an unscheduled announcement, dropping its benchmark rate by 50 basis points to 0.25 per cent in an effort to support an economy hit hard by the outbreak.

Bank of Canada Gov. Stephen Poloz said the whole world is being impacted by the COVID-19 shock, but said some economies are being affected also by the oil price competition between Russia and Saudi Arabia. That means the Canadian economy has two shocks to deal with, he said.

Here’s what’s happening in Canada’s provinces and territories

Pet shelters in British Columbia are preparing for an influx. The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says it’s already taken in more than 100 animals in the last two days, and the SPCA — which is already working with a skeleton crew of staff and volunteer — is trying to make space for the inevitable wave of dogs, cats and other pets in need of temporary shelter when their owners fall ill from COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in B.C., including a note of cautious optimism from health officials who said Friday that physical distancing restrictions are succeeding.

Mandatory curfews have been implemented in an Indigenous community in northeastern Alberta, and residents are being warned that member benefits could be lost — and even stricter provisions brought in — if they don’t comply. Determined to keep COVID-19 out of the community of about 750 people, Fort McKay First Nation and McKay Métis had put up a barrier near the entrance of the community. Members need to log in and out, and visitors are not allowed in. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including a story from Edmonton about a laptop drive aiming to connect marginalized people during the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH | Canmore, Alta., and other small towns worried about influx of visitors:

As some Canadians across the country go to cottage country to isolate with their families during the COVID-19 crisis, small town mayors worry about the stress it will put on local health-care systems. 1:49

Saskatchewan said there’s been a large increase in cases connected with a snowmobile rally held earlier this month. Health officials now say 18 cases in total have been linked to the event, and all of them are self-isolating at home. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba is expanding its COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic health workers, people who live in group care settings (including long-term care and remote work camps), inmates and more. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin also said all people living on First Nations in the province who are experiencing respiratory symptoms will be tested. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, which recorded its first death on Friday.


Ontario is cracking down on price gouging for essential hygiene and medical supplies. On Saturday, Premier Doug Ford announced an emergency order bringing in immediate new fines and potential jail time. “I have zero tolerance for this kind of nonsense,” he said. The province has also banned gatherings of five people or more, effective immediately, with some small exceptions. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault is announcing police checkpoints as of this afternoon in eight regions outside major Quebec cities where the population is deemed more at risk. Guilbault says only essential travel will be allowed in those regions and that Quebec provincial police have also set up checkpoints near the Canada-U.S. border to intercept snowbirds returning to the province to ensure they understand there’s a 14-day quarantine. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

Members of Quebec’s provincial police force talk to a driver of a vehicle near the border of the United States in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick has announced a special line for health-care workers to call if they have symptoms. Public Health in the province is instructing health workers who’ve developed symptoms since March 20 to self isolate. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, including news on how many layoffs are being blamed on the pandemic, and how physical distancing is affecting parents of newborns.

In Nova Scotia, the head of the province’s telephone health service says anyone who gets a referral will get a COVID-19 test. Dr. Todd Howlett, medical director of 811, said the service is adapting to meet the demand created by the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island has reported a total of 11 cases of COVID-19, with two new cases, one woman in her 20s and another in her 50s who both travelled internationally. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

WATCH | How COVID-19 is affecting grocery stores:

As Canadians continue to grapple with physical distancing and how to deal with COVID-19, most grocery store workers still have to go to work and come in contact with others. 2:17

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are expressing concerns after finding the first case of community transmission of COVID-19. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a patient admitted to a hospital in St. Anthony, N.L., was one of the 18 new cases announced on Saturday. Fitzgerald describes the case as a significant development because the patient had no history of travel or exposure to a known case of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Yukon’s government is banning residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Air North, meanwhile, is laying off more than half of its workers and reducing service because of the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

Here’s what’s happening in the United States

From Reuters, updated at 10:00 p.m. ET

The U.S. death count crossed 2,100 on Saturday, more than double the level from two days ago. The United States has now recorded more than 122,000 cases of the respiratory virus, the most of any country in the world.

Cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing as hotspots of infection, while New York City continues to be pummelled. Nurses there are calling for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 52,000 people and killed over 700 in New York state, mostly in the city.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday warned residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut against non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

Health officials in Detroit, where poverty and poor health are longstanding problems. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths, as of noon Saturday.

“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.

WATCH | ‘We are fighting a war’ says Canadian nurse in Detroit:

Jenna Meloche lives in Amherstburg and works in Detroit where the number of COVID-19 deaths is rising. 2:05

On Friday, Trump signed a sweeping $2.2-trillion relief bill into law, only hours after it had been approved by the House of Representatives, after having been passed by the Senate earlier this week. 

He also invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co. to build much-needed ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

The death toll in Italy reached surpassed 10,000 on Saturday, making it the highest of any country in the world. The number of fatalities surged Saturday by 889, bringing the country’s total to 10,023, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

Italy has the second highest number of cases, behind the United States. It surpassed China’s tally on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Vatican said Saturday that tests carried out in the residence where Pope Francis lives showed that the 83-year-old pontiff and his closest aides do not have coronavirus. Tests were made on 170 people in the Vatican and six were positive, including one who lives in the Santa Marta guesthouse.

WATCH | Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus:

Under darkness and rain, Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus 1:23

In France the next two weeks will be the toughest yet in the fight against coronavirus, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned on Saturday as his government raced to add intensive care beds and source protective gear. To free up intensive care beds in worst-hit areas, the army and emergency workers were this weekend stepping up the transfer of patients to less-affected regions, using a military helicopter and a specially adapted TGV train. 

By Saturday, the coronavirus had claimed 2,314 lives in France, with more than 37,575 confirmed cases, according to official figures.

In the United Kingdom, 17,089 people have tested positive and 1,019 have died of COVID-19 as of Saturday morning, the Department of Health and Social Care said on Twitter.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack has developed mild symptoms consistent with coronavirus and is self-isolating, a spokesperson for his ministry said on Saturday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced Friday they had tested positive for the virus.

People practice physical distancing outside a grocery shop in London on Saturday. (Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press)

In Germany, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 48,582 and 325 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced his government will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday. In a publicly televised address, he said all workers are ordered to remain at home “as if it were a weekend” to “intensify” efforts to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Spain is approaching the end of the second week of stay-at-home rules and the closing of most stores, but workers were allowed to go to offices and factories if they were unable to work from home. Spain reported 832 deaths Saturday for a total of 5,690 fatalities, to go with 72,248 infections. Its health authorities say, however, that the rate of infection growth appears to be slowing.

Health workers are seen with a patient at San Pedro hospital, in Logrono, northern Spain, on Saturday. (Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press)

Ireland reported 14 deaths on Saturday, all in the east of the country and the most in a single day so far to bring the total number of fatalities to 36, the Department of Health said. The country also reported an additional 294 confirmed cases to bring the total to 2,415. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday ordered a lockdown until April 12. Travel more than two kilometres from home is banned, while all those over 70 are being instructed to “cocoon.”

In Russia, the mayor of Moscow urged residents on Saturday to stay home during the non-working week announced by President Vladimir Putin in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Russian authorities say they recorded 1,264 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a rise of 228, the largest daily increase since the start of the outbreak. The government says it will close all border crossings on March 30; the country has already grounded all international flights and declared next week a non-working week.

People are seen at a railway station in Moscow on Saturday. (Associated Press)

In southern Finland, police are preparing to enforce the new regulation aimed at ceasing all unnecessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that includes the capital, Helsinki, according to Social Affairs Minister Krista Kiuru. The Nordic country has so far confirmed 958 coronavirus cases — the vast majority of them in Uusimaa — and five deaths. The exceptional move, which is set to end April 19, affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Switzerland’s infections topped 11,800 as the government pumped money into the economy and army medical units helped hospitals. Swiss authorities are lighting up one of their most famed landmarks, the Matterhorn, to show solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus.

The iconic Matterhorn mountain is illuminated in Zermatt, Switzerland. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)

Here’s a look at what’s happening in some other parts of the world

Forty-six passengers onboard the German cruise ship Artania have been reported as showing COVID-19 symptoms, according to Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Saturday. The Artania was allowed to pull into in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Thursday and sick passengers were taken off to be treated in Perth on Friday. The state government initially had not wanted the ship to dock and tried to divert it to a military base. There are more than 800 people onboard the vessel.

India said on Saturday it was planning to turn some railway coaches into isolation wards for COVID-19 patients, as authorities brace for an expected surge in cases. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country’s 1.3 billion people this week to stay indoors for three weeks in the world’s biggest lockdown. India’s network of trains, the country’s lifeblood, has been idled.

Workers arrange beds to prepare a quarantine centre at a sports complex in Gauhati, India, on Saturday. (Anupam Nath/Associated Press)

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the pandemic, saying the country was close to a national emergency as infections surged. The size of the package will exceed that compiled in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, which was worth a total 57 trillion yen ($740 billion Cdn), Abe said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike issued a plea following a surge in infections this week that she said put Tokyo on the brink of an emergency. She asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, particularly this weekend.

Japan has 2,180 confirmed cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 59 deaths, according to the country’s health ministry.

People walk past temporarily closed shops in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district on Saturday. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Iran has confirmed another 144 deaths from the coronavirus and says thousands more are in critical condition as the military completed work on a 2,000-bed field hospital in an exhibition centre in the capital. Iran has reported nearly 2,400 deaths among more than 32,000 cases.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control, despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities. Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere in the region.

In the continent of Africa, coronavirus has now spread to dozens of the 47 countries of the WHO Africa region, with 2,650 infected and 49 dead, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday. 

Saudi Arabia recorded 99 new cases on Saturday, taking its total to more than 1,200 coronavirus infections — the most in the Gulf Arab region, with four fatalities. On Sunday local time, the Kingdom said it was extending indefinitely the suspension of international passenger flights and workplace attendance in both public and private sectors among efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa has the most cases in Africa and as of midnight entered a three-week lockdown. In Johannesburg, police fired tear gas at a crowd of Kenyan ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos. Elsewhere, officers were captured in mobile phone footage whacking people with batons.

South African National Defense Forces enforcing a lockdown patrol outside a hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg on Saturday. (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)

Indonesia authorities in Jakarta have extended a state of emergency for the next two weeks. The country has reported 102 deaths and 1,155 infections.

The United Arab Emirates extended on Saturday to April 5 a nightly curfew to sterilize public places to combat the coronavirus as neighbouring Qatar reported its first death from the disease.

Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday, as the number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

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