Canada expects coronavirus deaths to soar; job losses hit 1 million

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s coronavirus death toll is set to soar from the current 435 to as high as 22,000 by the end of the pandemic, health officials said on Thursday, while the economy lost a record 1 million jobs last month.

Officials outlined the two most likely scenarios, showing that between 11,000 and 22,000 people would die. The total number of positive diagnoses of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, ranged from 934,000 to 1.9 million.

The officials said they expected between 500 and 700 people in Canada to die from the coronavirus by April 16. There have been 18,447 positive diagnoses so far.

“Models are not a crystal ball,” Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told a briefing, saying it was too early to predict when the peak would be.

Tam said it was crucial that people continued to obey instructions to stay at home as much as possible.

“While some of the numbers released today may seem stark, Canada’s modeling demonstrates that the country still has an opportunity to control the epidemic,” she said.

“We cannot prevent every death but we must prevent all the deaths that we can.”

Local governments across Canada have ordered non-essential businesses shut to combat the spread of the coronavirus, throwing millions out of work.

Canada lost a record-breaking 1 million jobs in March while the unemployment rate soared to 7.8%, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, adding that the figures did not reflect the real toll.

“Sticker shock for sure. This was about as bad as it could be,” said Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.

More than 5 million Canadians had applied for all forms of federal emergency unemployment help since March 15, government data showed on Thursday, suggesting the real jobless rate is closer to 25%.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has so far announced a range of measures to help businesses that total around C$110 billion ($78.3 billion) in direct spending, or 5% of gross domestic product.

Canada’s independent parliamentary budget officer predicted the budget deficit would balloon to C$184.2 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year from C$27.4 billion in the 2019‑2020 fiscal year.

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Indonesia reports biggest jump in coronavirus deaths as Malaysia trend improves

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the total confirmed number to 280 in the world’s fourth most populous country, the highest death toll in Asia outside China where the virus first emerged.

Indonesia confirmed 40 more deaths and its death toll accounts for nearly half of the more than 590 across Southeast Asia. More than 16,500 cases have been reported across the region.

Indonesian health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said the country had registered 337 new infections, also a new daily high, taking the total to 3,293.

Health experts say Indonesia faces a surge in cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak in Southeast Asia’s biggest country.

Indonesia has brought in “large-scale social restrictions”, but President Joko Widodo has resisted bringing in the type of tough lockdowns imposed by neighbours and only moved to allow areas like Jakarta, where there has been a spike in cases, more powers to tackle the crisis.

Researchers at the University of Indonesia have predicted there could be 140,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases by May without tougher curbs on movement and gathering.

Indonesia has stepped up the number of tests to 16,511 as of Wednesday, but for a country with more than 260 million people it has one the lowest testing rates in the world

Neighbouring Malaysia, with only 32 million people, has conducted 69,675 tests.

There are also growing fears that the outbreak could spread across the archipelago during the annual exodus to home villages for the Muslim Ramadan holiday.Widodo has said the government would give aid to poorer families, particularly in Jakarta, to persuade them to stay put but has rejected calls for an outright ban on the “mudik”, as the holiday is known.

Malaysia reported 109 new infections on Thursday, the second-lowest daily increase since a partial lockdown was imposed on March 18.

The data comes a day ahead of possible ministerial discussions on whether to extend the curbs on travel and non-essential businesses beyond April 14.

The country has so far recorded 4,228 infections – the highest in Southeast Asia – with 67 deaths. But government officials have said the restrictions are showing results.

“We have done well,” Ministry of Health Director General Noor Hisham Abdullah told a news conference. “We have a small window of opportunity. If we do it right we may be able to avert the surge that we have seen in other countries.”

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Boris Johnson health: How is Boris Johnson? ‘Things getting better’ – coronavirus update

Boris Johnson has now spent three nights in intensive care after his condition worsened on Monday. The Prime Minister was forced to hand over the reins of Government, asking Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise for him where necessary as he moved into the ICU. But what is the latest on Mr Johnson’s condition?

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced Mr Johnson is now sitting up in bed and “engaging positively” within the clinical team at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.

Mr Sunak said: “The latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving.

“I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.

“The prime minister is not only my colleague and my boss but also my friend, and my thoughts are with him and his family.”

A No 10 update is expected later on Thursday.


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Mr Johnson was admitted to hospital on the advice of his doctor on Sunday, 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

Upon arrival, he was given oxygen treatment, but his coronavirus symptoms continued to worsen.

He was moved to intensive care on Monday where he has remained ever since.

Downing Street has said he is now in a stable condition and that he “continues to make steady progress”, but remains in intensive care.

Speaking on Thursday culture minister Oliver Dowden confirmed Mr Johnson’s condition had not deteriorated claiming “things are getting better” for the PM.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It remains as we said yesterday.

“He’s stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff.

“I’ve known the Prime Minister for a long time and I wish him well in this difficult time and I think things are getting better for him.”

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Well-wishers from across the globe continue to send Mr Johnson their best.

On Wednesday US President Donald Trump said Mr Johnson’s condition had improved.

Speaking during the White House briefing, Mr Trump said: “I just spoke with the representatives of the UK and I think that their great prime minister is doing much better today, or at least better.

“But certainly he’s had a tough bout, and he’s still going through a tough time but he seems to be doing better and that’s good.”

Boris Johnson is likely to be missed as ministers discuss a review of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown today, considering whether restrictions on people’s movements should be extended.

The Government’s emergency Cobra meeting will examine scientific evidence and the impact of lockdown thus far to decide whether to extend the lockdown.

Although discussion is expected, a formal decision is not yet expected.

In Wales, it has already been confirmed that lockdown measures will stay in place beyond next week, raising expectations this will be the case across the UK.

The health ministry recorded 938 deaths from the new coronavirus in 24 hours.

In total there have been 60,733 cases in the UK, of which 7,097 people have died.

Predominantly, the cases have been located in London with 14,355 and the Midlands with 8,589.

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New Zealand orders quarantine for returning citizens in coronavirus battle

SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand will begin moving citizens to compulsory quarantine from Friday as they return from overseas, stepping up its efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus halfway through a four-week nationwide lockdown.

The shutdown began in late March in the Pacific nation of about 5 million, and a state of national emergency was declared to stifle local transmissions of the respiratory disease.

“No one goes home, everyone goes into a managed facility,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that 14 days spent in a government-approved facility would be a prerequisite for all foreign travellers.

“Even one person slipping through the cracks and bringing the virus in can see an explosion in cases, as we have observed with some of our bigger clusters,” she told a media briefing in Wellington on Thursday.

Ardern added that her cabinet would decide whether to extend the nationwide curbs on April 20, two days before the lockdown is set to end.

The lockdown has reduced domestic transmissions, authorities said, with a steady fall this week in the daily rise in infections.

The tally of infections rose by 29 to stand at 1,239 on Thursday, for the lowest daily rise since March 21, a sign the epidemic could be on the retreat since the lockdown began 15 days ago. Overnight, 35 people were declared to have recovered.

New Zealand, like neighbouring Australia, has fewer infections than many countries and the pace of infections in both nations has slowed dramatically in the past week.

Despite some signs of a plateau in infections, the government said it had no plans to relax the curbs over the Easter weekend and warned of hefty fines for non-essential travel then.

Police will step up activity around holiday spots during the Easter holidays, authorities said, with some roadblocks planned.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open in an external browser.

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Catholic bishops, faith groups urge Trump to back debt relief for poor countries

WASHINGTON, April 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an alliance of faith groups have urged President Donald Trump to champion a moratorium on debt payments for poor countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic that has triggered a global recession.

In a letter sent to the U.S. president on Wednesday, the groups said U.S. leadership was needed to both to help the 76 poorest countries in the world combat the pandemic and safeguard U.S. economic interests.

A move by rich countries, the Group of 20 major economies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to suspend debt payments for those countries would allow them to bolster their health systems and provide for their own health safety, the groups wrote in a letter dated Wednesday.

The novel coronavirus that emerged in China in December has raced around the globe, infecting 1.41 million people and killing 87,700, according to a Reuters tally.

The IMF and World Bank, backed by the World Health Organization, have called on China, the United States and other bilateral creditors to temporarily suspend debt payments by the poorest countries so they could use the money to halt the spread of the disease and mitigate its financial impact.

G20 finance ministers and central bankers are due to consider the issue when they meet online next week during the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

The letter from the Catholic bishops and Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit alliance of religious, development and advocacy groups, comes amid growing concern about the high level of debt of developing countries and emerging market economies.

“The current financial crisis threatens U.S. imports and exports from and to the developing world,” the bishops and Jubilee USA wrote. “Providing a suspension of debt payments and debt relief will help safeguard our common interests of returning the U.S. economy to prosperity and growth.”

The groups said the debt payment moratorium should both be interest-free, and expose all debts, including private and predatory loans.

Such a decision could help better assess debt sustainability and vulnerabilities, and, if warranted, trigger a process to restructure debt, the groups told the U.S. president.

Lending by Western countries and multilateral institutions slowed after a major round of debt restructuring in 1996, but the Chinese government, banks and companies have dramatically expanded their lending to developing countries since then. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Brazil turns to local industry to build ventilators as China orders fall through

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s health minister said on Wednesday that the country’s attempts to purchase thousands of ventilators from China to fight a growing coronavirus epidemic had fallen through and the government is now looking to Brazilian companies to build the devices.

“Practically all our purchases of equipment in China are not being confirmed,” Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said at a news conference.

An attempt to buy 15,000 ventilators in China did not go through and Brazil was making a new bid, he said, but the outcome is uncertain in the intense competition for medical supplies in the global pandemic.

In one positive sign for Brazil’s supply crunch, a private company managed to buy 40 tonnes of protective masks from China, with the shipment arriving by cargo plane in Brasilia on Wednesday.

The purchase of 6 million masks worth 160 million reais ($30 million) was undertaken by pharmaceutical and hospital equipment company Nutriex, based in Goiania, 220 kilometers east of Brasilia. The firm plans to donate part of the order.

Health authorities began to sound the alarm this week over supply shortages as hospitals faced growing numbers of patients with COVID-19.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country soared to 15,927 on Wednesday, with the death toll rising by 133 in just 24 hours to 800, the ministry said.

Rio de Janeiro reported the first six deaths in four of the city’s hillside slums, called favelas, alarming authorities who fear rapid contagion in crowded communities that have limited access to medical care and often lack running water for hygiene.

Two of the deaths occurred in Rocinha, one the largest slums in South America where more than 100,000 people live.

Mandetta reported the first case of coronavirus among the Yanomami people on the country’s largest reservation and said the government plans to build a field hospital for indigenous tribes that are vulnerable to contagion.

“We are extremely concerned about the indigenous communities,” Mandetta said.

Anthropologists and health experts warn that the epidemic can have a devastating impact on Brazil’s 850,000 indigenous people whose lifestyle in tribal villages rules out social distancing.

President Jair Bolsonaro said in an address to the nation that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was saving lives of coronavirus patients and should be used in the initial stages of COVID-19. Due to the absence of scientific evidence on its effectiveness and safety, Brazil’s health authorities limit its use to seriously ill patients who are in hospital.

Mandetta said Brazil has hired local unlisted medical equipment maker Magnamed to make 6,000 ventilators in 90 days.

Pulp and paper companies Suzano SA and Klabin SA, planemaker Embraer SA, information technology provider Positivo Tecnologia SA and automaker Fiat Chrysler have also offered to help build ventilators, he said.

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Britain's Jewish Chronicle to seek liquidation

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, which describes itself as the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper, is to seek liquidation, one of the most high profile media casualties of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to a collapse in advertising spend.

Founded in 1841, the title – often known as the JC – said the liquidation was expected to be finalised in the coming two to three weeks and it would make every effort to continue to publish over that time.

“Devastating news for us,” said Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

“I won’t be saying anything beyond confirming that the paper will be out as usual next week, and we have every intention of avoiding any interruption,” Pollard said.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has hammered marketing budgets, forcing media groups around the world to reduce staffing numbers, cut costs and halt publication of some titles.

“Despite the heroic efforts of the editorial and production team at the newspaper, it has become clear that the Jewish Chronicle will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form,” the JC said in a statement.

The Kessler Foundation, owners of the newspaper, said it was working to secure a future for the title after the liquidation.

The Guardian newspaper reported that staff had been told the parent company had run out of money during the lockdown.

The London-based Jewish Chronicle says it strives to reflect a wide diversity of Jewish religious, social and political thought across the spectrum, both Orthodox and secular.

In one of the newspaper’s most notable interviews, the JC in 1981 spoke to then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who described Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear plant as a step towards international anarchy.

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GM to supply 30,000 ventilators in $500 million U.S. contract

(Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday awarded automaker General Motors Co (GM.N) a contract worth $489.4 million to make ventilators needed to treat severely sick coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services contract is the first for ventilator production under the Defense Production Act, invoked by President Donald Trump to get companies to produce essential gear needed to fight the pandemic.

GM will work with ventilator firm Ventec Life Systems to deliver 30,000 ventilators under the contract to the U.S. government by the end of August, with deliveries of the first 6,132 ventilators taking place by June 1.

The company “will fulfill the government contract and (has) the capacity to supply more if needed,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said, adding that the contract also includes “consumables and accessories (hoses, stands, etc.) to support each unit.”

GM Vice President Gerald Johnson told Reuters last month the automaker is spending tens of millions on retooling costs as it produces the ventilators, and that if supplier retooling costs are factored in, total retooling costs were in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last week, smaller rival Ford Motor Co (F.N) also said it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a plant in Michigan in cooperation with General Electric Co’s (GE.N) healthcare unit.

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China's Wuhan lockdown ends, but another begins as local coronavirus cases rise

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The Chinese city where the coronavirus epidemic first broke out, Wuhan, ended a two-month lockdown on Wednesday, but a northern town started restricting the movement of its residents amid concerns of a second wave of infections in mainland China.

China sealed off Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, in late January to stop the spread of the virus. Over 50,000 people in Wuhan caught the virus, and more than 2,500 of them died, about 80% of all deaths in China, according to official figures.

The virus has since become a global pandemic that has infected over 1.4 million people and killed 82,000, wreaking havoc on the global economy as governments worldwide imposed sweeping lockdowns to rein in its spread.

Restrictions in Wuhan have eased in recent days as the capital of Hubei province reported just three new confirmed infections in the past 21 days and only two new infections in the past fortnight.

But even as people leave the city, new imported cases in the northern province of Heilongjiang surged to a daily high of 25, fuelled by an influx of infected travellers arriving from Russia, which shares a land border with the province.

Suifenhe City in Heilongjiang restricted the movement of its citizens on Wednesday in a similar fashion to that of Wuhan.

Residents must stay in residential compounds and one person from a family can leave once every three days to buy necessities and must return on the same day, said state-run CCTV.

In Jiaozhou City in the eastern province of Shandong the risk level had risen from low to medium, according to a post on an official website, but it gave no further details.

A county in central China with a population of about 600,000 went into a partial lockdown on April 1 following several new infections, including at least two asymptomatic cases.


Around 55,000 people are expected to leave Wuhan by train on Wednesday. More than 10,000 travellers have left the city by plane so far as flights resume at Wuhan Tianhe airport. Flights to Beijing and international locations have not been restored.

“I’m very happy, I’m going home today,” migrant worker Liu Xiaomin told Reuters as she stood with her suitcases inside Wuhan’s Hankou railway station, bound for Xiangyang city.

Still, Wuhan residents have been urged not to leave the province, their city or even their neighbourhood unless absolutely necessary.

People from Wuhan arriving in the Chinese capital Beijing will have to undergo two rounds of testing for the virus.

China is maintaining strict screening protocols, concerned about any resurgence in domestic transmissions due to virus carriers who exhibit no symptoms and infected travellers arriving from overseas.


Authorities are chiefly concerned with imported infections and asymptomatic cases, people who have been infected with the virus but do not show any symptoms such as fever or a cough.

Mainland China’s new coronavirus cases doubled over the past 24 hours as the number of infected overseas travellers surged, while new asymptomatic infections more than quadrupled.

New confirmed cases rose to 62 on Tuesday from 32 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said, the highest since March 25. New imported infections accounted for 59 of the cases.

The number of new asymptomatic cases rose to 137 from 30 a day earlier, the health authority said on Wednesday, with incoming travellers accounting for 102 of the latest batch.

Chinese authorities do not count asymptomatic cases as part of its tally of confirmed coronavirus infections until patients show symptoms such as a fever or a cough.

As of Tuesday, 1,095 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation in China, with 358 of them travellers arriving from abroad.

To stem infections from outside its borders, China has slashed the number of international flights and denied entry to virtually all foreigners. It also started testing all international arrivals for the virus this month.

Screening of travellers arriving overland was also recently tightened.

As of Tuesday, the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 81,802, including 3,333 fatalities, the National Health Commission said.

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Australia's parliament set to pass huge stimulus plan as S&P lowers 'AAA' outlook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s coveted ‘AAA’ rating came under a cloud on Wednesday as the country’s parliament returned to pass an emergency A$130 billion ($80 billion) stimulus package to help cushion the blow to the economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s government has so far pledged A$320 billion in fiscal support as the coronavirus pandemic shuts companies and leaves many unemployed.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has dealt Australia a severe economic and fiscal shock,” S&P said as it lowered the outlook on the country’s ‘AAA’ sovereign rating to “negative” from “stable”.

“We expect the Australian economy to plunge into recession for the first time in almost 30 years, causing a substantial deterioration of the government’s fiscal headroom at the ‘AAA’ rating level.”

A triple-A credit rating is given to only a select group of countries with the strongest finances in the world. The rating means a country can easily meet its financial commitments and have the lowest risk of default.

S&P’s decision came as a pared back version of Australia’s parliament votes on the government’s third tranche of fiscal measures on Wednesday. Fewer than normal lawmakers were present for the one-day sitting to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

In his address to parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said lawmakers were acting to “protect Australia’s sovereignty”.

“When Australian lives and livelihoods are threatened, when they are under attack, our nation’s sovereignty is put at risk, and we must respond,” he added.

The support measures come as economists predict the worst recession in Australia’s history, with the unemployment rate almost doubling to near 10%. The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday predicted a “very large” economic contraction in the current quarter.

Restrictions on people movement and gatherings to curb the spread of infection have forced many businesses in the hospitality, retail, transport and education sectors to shut. Businesses that remain open face falling sales and increasing operational restrictions.

Australian police said they will ensure social distancing and travel restrictions are enforced during the upcoming long Easter weekend as the national death toll from the coronavirus reached 50.

Health Minister Greg Hunt warned abandoning social distancing rules and stay at home advice over the long weekend would undo the success Australia has had in fighting the virus.

“The virus doesn’t take a holiday,” he told the Ten Network.

The total number of cases across Australia is creeping toward 6,000, although the pace of infections has slowed dramatically in the past week.

The early success in controlling the spread of the virus has fanned speculation some of the mobility restrictions could be eased from the beginning of May.

The New South Wales (NSW) state premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a televised briefing in Sydney that “there could be a chance, if the health experts deem it appropriate”.

However, she warned lifting restrictions could lead to a second wave of infections. NSW is the country’s worst affected state accounting for almost half the total infections.

“Every time you relax a restriction, more people will get sick. More people will die. And it’s a horrible situation to be in, but they’re the choices and we need to be up-front about that.”

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