COVID-19 morning Canadian update: Cases nationwide climb to 3,500

Here is the latest round-up of Canadian news about the coronavirus crisis.

These files from the Canadian Press were posted by Black Press Media at 6:30 a.m., Thursday, March 26.

Cases in Canada climb to 3,500

TORONTO — Amid tightening restrictions aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s unrelenting climb in cases continued Thursday with the reported number of people known to be infected approaching 3,500, with 35 of those fatal.

The pandemic, which is taxing the health-care system, has idled large swaths of the work force in a matter of days. Claims for employment insurance benefits have skyrocketed.

To ease the financial devastation, governments across the country have opened the money taps. They’ve also urged creditors to go easy on those suddenly unable to make rent or other payments.

The grim situation is being seen around the globe, with close to half-a-million people identified as infected and more than 22,000 deaths reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was slated to hold discussions via video conference on Thursday with leaders of the world’s biggest economies about the global impact of the pandemic.

Parliament on Wednesday approved the flow of $52 billion in direct financial aid to Canadians and another $55 billion in tax deferrals. Despite the extraordinary all-party effort to get the legislation passed, it could be weeks before needy recipients start getting cash in their hands.

Pitt Meadows calls for provincial cash

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.

PM to confer with global economic leaders

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.

Fears about Toronto’s homeless population

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.

Agriculture sector warns of price increases and possible shortages

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.

Meat packing plants remain open

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.

Canada may have to look elsewhere for produce, association chair warns

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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