- Canada has 109,995 coronavirus infections, including 96,819 recoveries, 8,882 deaths.
- Wearing a mask is mandatory in Quebec as of Saturday.
- How close are we to a vaccine for COVID-19?
- Ottawa’s wage subsidy program to be expanded, extended to December.
- Statistics Canada plans ‘contactless’ census for 2021.
- Parts of Australia back in lockdown amid COVID-19 surge.
- Global coronavirus infections pass 14 million, total deaths pass 600,000.
- EU negotiations stretch into the night over budget, coronavirus fund
As of Saturday, masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces across Quebec. The new measure is kicking in as the province witnesses a slow but steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“It’s better to wear a mask than to be confined at home,” Premier François Legault said as he made the announcement last Monday. “It’s not fun wearing a mask, but it’s essential.”
The new directive, which applies to people aged 12 and older, coincided with tens of thousands of Quebecers spanning out on vacation with the beginning of the traditional two-week construction holiday.
The regulation applies to everyone 12 and older, although Legault said even children as young as two could be encouraged to wear a mask — either a certified medical face covering or a handcrafted one, as long as it covers the nose and mouth.
Quebec is the first province to mandate face-covering, despite criticism from some who say the government shouldn’t have a blanket policy when most regions outside Montreal weren’t deeply affected by COVID-19.
But Quebec’s director of public health said with the possibility of a second wave of the virus, all Quebecers should get in the habit of wearing masks.
Businesses will be expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the directive.
That’s rankled small- and medium-sized business owners. A group of 13 associations representing the majority of those businesses called on the burden to be shifted to their delinquent clients.
WATCH | Quebec’s new mandatory mask rule is in effect:
“We do think that asking people to wear masks in indoor, closed public spaces is fine. We prefer that rather than having to go into a second confinement and having to close our businesses again,” said Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“Where we are having some trouble is that we have to play police, we have to be the enforcer of this measure.”
WATCH | Labour lawyer cautions enforcing mask policies is likely to cause some conflict:
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 111,001 coronavirus infections. Provinces and territories listed 96,912 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 8,881, lower than Friday because Ontario retracted a reported death.
Ontario added 166 new cases on Saturday for a total of 37,440. The province also logged 132 new recoveries for a total of 33,294.
Many parts of Ontario moved to the next phase of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan on Friday.
Stage 3 of the reopening effort took effect across 24 out of 34 public health units, though the jurisdictions that will keep operating under Stage 2 rules are among the busiest in the province. Stage 3 rules allow restaurants to resume indoor service, and businesses such as bars, gyms and theatres can start welcoming patrons again.
The latest rules for the province limit indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, while as many as 100 people are allowed to congregate outdoors. The rules don’t yet apply in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, Niagara Region and Windsor-Essex, all of which are still trying to reduce the numbers of local COVID-19 cases.
Quebec added 158 new cases on Saturday for a total of 57,300, including 50,027 recoveries. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador logged no new infections on Saturday.
WATCH | Provinces to get $19B for ‘safe restart’ of cities:
In Edmonton, an outbreak at Misericordia Community Hospital continues to grow. The hospital now has 53 cases, including 17 that emerged after the institution closed its doors last week when it declared a full facility outbreak. Seven deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
The hospital stopped admitting new patients last week. All services including the emergency department remain closed.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
Millions more children in the United States learned Friday that they’re unlikely to return to classrooms full time in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic as death tolls reached new highs.
It came as many U.S. states — particularly in the Sunbelt — struggled to cope with the surge, and governments worldwide tried to control fresh outbreaks. In a sign of how the virus is galloping around the globe, the World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Saturday, with the total rising by 259,848 in 24 hours.
In the U.S., teams of military medics were deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deluged by coronavirus patients. The two most populous states each reported roughly 10,000 new cases and some of their highest death counts since the pandemic began.
In Texas, Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine said the current situation is worse than after Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston with floodwaters in 2017. The state reported a new daily record for virus deaths on Friday and more than 10,000 confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day.
“I’ve never seen anything like this COVID surge,” said Haddock, who has worked in emergency rooms since 2007. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”
Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, she said, and the least sick people are lying in beds in halls to make room for most seriously ill.
Big numbers in Florida, Arizona and other states are also helping to drive the U.S. resurgence that’s forcing states to rethink the school year.
Texas gave public schools permission to stay closed for more than five million students well into the fall. Under the guidelines, schools can hold online-only instruction for up to the first eight weeks, potentially pushing a return to campus in some cities until November.
In Florida, Miami-area authorities began stepping up enforcement of a mask requirement. Code and fire inspectors have authority to issue tickets of up to $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses not complying with guidelines to wear masks and practise physical distancing. Police already had that power.
At least half of all states have adopted requirements for wearing face coverings.
WATCH | Fauci calls on leaders to be ‘forceful’ on mask-wearing:
But in Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has banned cities and counties from requiring face coverings. He sued Atlanta late Thursday to prevent it from defying his order, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was prepared to go to court to maintain the requirement.
Globally, confirmed cases surpassed 14 million, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, and COVID-19 deaths neared 600,000. WHO reported a single-day record of new infections: over 237,000. Experts believe that the true numbers are even higher.
India’s total confirmed cases surpassed one million Friday, the third-highest in the world — behind the U.S. and Brazil — and its death toll reached more than 25,000. That followed an announcement Thursday that Brazil’s confirmed cases exceeded two million, including 76,000 deaths.
The surge in India — where experts believe the vast majority of cases are still being missed — drove home concerns over the readiness of some countries to cope with outbreaks that could test feeble health-care systems.
In sub-Saharan Africa, which already had the world’s greatest shortage of medical personnel, nearly 10,000 health workers in 40 countries have been infected, WHO said.
South Africa on Saturday could join the U.S., Brazil, India and Russia as the most badly hit countries as its cases near 350,000. Current case trends show it will surpass Peru.
That comes as the world marks Mandela Day, remembering South Africa’s first Black president and his legacy of fighting inequality. The country, however, remains the world’s most unequal, and health officials have warned that the pandemic will lay that bare.
On Friday, UN officials urged wealthy countries to do more to help developing nations respond to the pandemic. “COVID-19 and the associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries,” Mark Lowcock, a senior official with the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.
WATCH | Wealthy nations must increase aid to poor countries, UN official says:
He was speaking at a WHO briefing in Geneva, where he unveiled the UN’s third version since March of its Global Humanitarian Response Plan, now estimated to cost $10.3 billion US, to prevent “multiple cascading crises” related to the coronavirus.
He said the pandemic could push up to 100 million people back into poverty this year and urged wealthy countries to fund the response plan.
European Union leaders are searching for compromises on Saturday as a summit to reach a deal on an unprecedented 1.85 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion US) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund enters its second day with tensions running high. A full day and night of discussions by the 27 leaders on Friday only added to the irritations over how the huge sums should be spent and what strings should be attached. The atmosphere “was grumpier this evening than this afternoon,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Dutch reporters after Friday’s marathon talks. “This is going to take a while, I think.”
In China, the number of confirmed cases in a new coronavirus outbreak in the country’s far west has risen to 17. The National Health Commission said Saturday that 16 more cases were identified in the previous 24 hours in the Xinjiang region, on top of a first case. As of Friday, mainland China had 83,644 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
South Korea has reported 39 newly confirmed infections of COVID-19, most of them cases imported from abroad. The figures brought the national caseload to 13,711, including 294 deaths. Authorities said at least 28 cases were tied to overseas arrivals. Eighteen others came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which had been at the centre of a virus resurgence that began in late May as restrictions eased.
Brazil on Friday reported 2,046,328 confirmed cases, up from 2,012,151 the day before, when it crossed the two-million mark. Total deaths rose to 77,851 from 76,688, according to the Health Ministry.
Britain said on Saturday it was pausing its daily update of the death toll from the coronavirus in the United Kingdom after the government ordered a review into the calculation of the data over concern numbers might have been exaggerated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said he hopes the country will be “able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”
He also offered employers “more discretion” in bringing their employees back to work, starting in August.
WATCH | British PM hoping for ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas:
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday delayed the opening of parliament for several weeks as the new coronavirus continued spreading through the country’s two most populous states. Australia’s Victoria state saw a marked drop in new COVID-19 infections — from Friday’s record high of 428 to 217. The Health Department said Saturday that two more people in the state, a man and a woman both in their 80s, had died, raising the state’s death toll to 34 and Australia’s national total to 118.
WATCH | Australian PM says situation in Victoria ‘very concerning’:
Iran’s president on Saturday estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak’s beginning, as he urged the public to take the pandemic seriously, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. Hassan Rouhani cited a new Iranian Health Ministry study in offering the unprecedentedly high numbers. Rouhani also said about 30 million to 35 million Iranians will be infected to the virus in the coming months.
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France will enforce mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces, including banks, shops and indoor markets, from July 20, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday, as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of COVID-19 across the country.
The government has accelerated plans to make it compulsory to wear masks after a series of indicators have suggested the virus could be gaining momentum, especially in areas in western and southern France that had been relatively spared during the height of the outbreak between March and May.