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Canada COVID-19 11 a.m. update: $192 million for vaccine development

Here are the latest stories on COVID-19 from around Canada

Black Press Media is updating this file throughout the day. This files below from our wire services were created at 10:55 a.m., Monday, March 23.

B.C.: 3 more deaths, 472 people now test positive

British Columbia has recorded three more deaths from COVID-19 since Saturday.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says 472 people have now tested positive for the respiratory virus.

She says the three deaths were all related to long-term care facilities, including one in the Lynn Valley care centre in North Vancouver where several other deaths have occurred, and another at a care home in downtown Vancouver.

Henry says of the 472 positive cases, 33 people have been hospitalized and 14 are in intensive care.

She says 100 people now listed as “recovered” have been released from isolation.

In total, the virus has so far claimed the lives of 13 people in the province.

Quebec: Cases triple

The total number of COVID-19 cases has nearly tripled in Quebec, reaching 628.

Premier Francois Legault says there is reason to believe the novel coronavirus is now being transmitted in the community.

He says all non-essential businesses will be ordered to close no later than midnight Tuesday, adding that grocery stores and pharmacies will be among those allowed to remain open.

The number of cases jumped by 409 since Sunday. There are 45 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Quebec, of whom 20 are in intensive care.

Legault notes that the province is now grouping probable and confirmed cases, which accounts in part for the major increase.

Top doctor warns about using unsanctioned medicine

1:15 p.m.

Canada’s chief public officer Dr. Theresa Tam is warning against using any medication, including hydroxychloroquine, to try to treat COVID-19 until scientific evidence confirms its efficacy.

The warning follows reports on social media that hydroxychloroquine can cure the respiratory illness.

Among those who have repeated the claim is U.S. President Donald Trump.

Tam says there is a large number of pre-existing medications that scientists are looking at to see whether they can treat COVID-19, but people should not take anything until the results are confirmed.

Tam adds that some of the medications have serious side effects that can actually hurt those who take them.

Prime minister to contact premiers today to determine next moves

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s phone call with premiers later today will be important for getting a sense of the situation in different provinces and whether the federal government needs to do more.

Freeland was responding to questions about whether the federal government plans to invoke the Emergencies Act this week.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is also leaving the door open to strict enforcement of social distancing, describing it as “not nice to have,” but absolutely essential.

Chief public health officer Theresa Tam, meanwhile, says more than a dozen people remain in quarantine at CFB Trenton after being evacuated from the Grand Princess cruise ship earlier this month and subsequently testing positive for COVID-19.

Tam also says public-health authorities are continuing “rigorous contact tracing” to identify anyone who comes in contact with a person who has COVID-19.

PEI: No new cases

Prince Edward Island’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, says there are no new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

There are still just three confirmed cases on P.E.I.

She says 400 tests have been done so far and she wants that to increase in the days ahead.

Morrison again stressed the need for social distancing and self-isolation.

Ontario: $200 million in relief funding

Ontario says it will provide $200 million in relief funding to food banks, shelters and other emergency services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding aims to help municipalities and other providers deliver services and hire additional staff to help their clients.

The province says local municipal service managers will be able to allocate the funding where they need it most.

Manitoba: Cancel non-essential travel

Manitoba officials are telling people to cancel non-essential travel outside of the province as another case of COVID-19 is confirmed.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, says anyone who returns from travel, either international or domestic, should self-isolate for 14 days.

The latest case is a man in his 50s from Winnipeg and it is believed to be travel-related.

Roussin said one other probable case has been found not to be the novel coronavirus.

There are a total of 20 confirmed and presumptive cases of the virus in Manitoba.

New flights for Canadians stranded abroad

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is announcing multiple new flights to bring home Canadians who have been stranded abroad due to the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau says Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet and Sunwing airlines all have flights planned this week.

The government announced earlier today there would be three new Air Canada flights to bring Canadians back from Peru, which has otherwise closed its airspace.

Trudeau says two more Air Canada flights are confirmed to reach Canadians in Morocco in the coming days.

Trudeau says an Air Canada flight to Spain is also confirmed, while Air Transat has been cleared for two flights to Honduras and one each to Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Alberta sets up testing priorities

Alberta is prioritizing who will be tested for COVID-19.

Groups at the greatest risk of local exposure and people in high-risk populations are to receive tests first if they show symptoms.

Included will be people in hospital with respiratory illness, residents in continuing care homes and travellers who returned from abroad between March 8th and March 12th before self-isolation was required.

Health-care workers who have respiratory symptoms will also receive priority.

Nova Scotia: 13 more cases

Thirteen new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Nova Scotia, bringing the province’s total to 41.

The new cases were confirmed yesterday and announced this morning.

The province says the cases are related to travel or to earlier reported cases.

It says the 41 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70s.

At this point, there has been no evidence of spread within communities.

$192 million to be invested in vaccine development

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is planning to invest $192 million to help create and produce vaccines for COVID-19.

The money will be distributed to a number of different companies and universities in the drive to find a way to stop the illness’s spread.

The federal government is also unveiling advertisements to hammer home the importance of social distancing.

The move is in response to concerns some people are continuing to ignore calls for distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Trudeau says the government will take whatever steps are needed to get people to comply, including enforcement.

Prime Minister supports decision to not participate in the Tokyo Olympics

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Olympic Committee made the right decision in announcing Canadian athletes will not go to the Tokyo Olympics or Paralympics if they start on the scheduled date in July.

Trudeau says the move is heartbreaking for athletes, coaches, staff and fans, but feels it’s the right call in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

He called on all Canadians to follow the lead of the COC.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to start July 24.

The International Olympic Committee announced Sunday that it will make a decision on if the Games are postponed in the next four weeks.

Later Sunday night, the COC announced Canada would not go if the Olympics start at the scheduled date.

Ontario: 78 new cases in Ontario

Ontario is reporting 78 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 503.

It’s the largest increase in a day so far.

The total includes six deaths and eight cases that have fully resolved.

At least six of the new cases are hospitalized.

Black Press Media is updating this file throughout the day. This files below were created at 6:45 a.m., Monday, March 23.

Only 12 B.C. MLAs will site today for urgent legislation

Just 12 members of the British Columbia legislature will be present this afternoon as the sitting resumes in Victoria to consider what the New Democrat government says is urgent legislation related to COVID-19.

NDP, Green and Liberal representatives approved plans for the scaled-down sitting to meet social distancing requirements, although the proceedings will be broadcast online and via legislative TV.

The handful of politicians are expected to enact amendments to the Employment Standards Act, intended to provide greater protection for B.C. workers whose jobs are at risk because of the global pandemic.

B.C. declared a state of emergency last week to support its response to COVID-19.

Some Canadians will be stranded abroad, Canada concedes

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says it won’t be possible for the government to repatriate all Canadians stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with CBC’s The Current this morning, Champagne says the challenges the government faces are unprecedented with airport and airspace closures, border closures and the fact some countries have imposed martial law.

He says Global Affairs Canada has had 10,000 calls and 14,000 emails in the last 48 hours.

Earlier today, the minister said on Twitter that the government has arranged for three new flights to bring stranded Canadians home from Peru.

Vancouver: $50,000 fines for businesses violating declaration

Anyone who ignores Vancouver’s state of local emergency declaration could receive a ticket and stiff fine if city council approves a recommendation supporting enhanced powers to enforce it.

Council votes later today on the recommendation that would immediately impose fines of up to $50,000 on businesses violating the declaration.

If approved, bylaw officers would also have the power to hand out $1,000 tickets to anyone not honouring social distancing requirements to stay at least one metre apart.

Vancouver declared a state of local emergency last week and did not include violation penalties in anticipation of compliance, but Mayor Kennedy Stewart says that didn’t happen, prompting the call for stricter measures.

Peru: Arrangements made to repatriate Canadians

Ottawa says arrangements have been made to help repatriate Canadians stranded in Peru due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says in a tweet that the government has secured authorizations for Air Canada to operate three flights from that country this week.

The minister is urging Canadians in Peru to register with the federal government so they can receive further information.

Champagne said Saturday that negotiations are also underway with other countries that have closed airspace and borders to try to get Canadians out.

Blood supply threatened by coronavirus

Canadian Blood Services says it’s concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in cancellations for blood donation appointments in several cities.

The organization, which is responsible for the national blood system outside Quebec, says it’s safe for those who aren’t ill to give blood.

The agency says those who have been told by public health authorities to self-quarantine, or who live with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, are also barred from donating for 14 days after their last contact with the infected, or potentially infected, person.

It says Canada’s blood inventory is currently strong but the cancellations are worrying given that shortages have been reported in other countries affected by the novel coronavirus.

Air Transat: 70% of staff laid off

Transat AT Inc. says it has temporarily laid off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people.

The decision comes as non-essential travel around the world comes to a standstill as governments close borders in an effort to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transat says some of these layoffs are effective immediately, while others will take effect following advance notice of up to one month.

The layoffs include all flight crew personnel.

The company says the final Air Transat flight prior to the full suspension of its operations is scheduled for April 1.

Transat says operations are being stopped gradually in order to enable it to repatriate as many of its customers as possible to their home countries.