COVID-19: Recent updates on the coronavirus pandemic
Laura Eggertson | Wolfville, N.S. | March 30, 2020

Mar. 30: Canada mobilizes industry, military

  • Canadian companies are stepping up to begin producing personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, said Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces are ready to assist with Canada’s COVID-19 response, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Some 24,000 members, reservists and Canadian Rangers are on standby, although no provinces or territories have asked for their help yet.

Mar. 30: 1 in 4 patients in critical care in Ontario may have COVID-19

  • A quarter of patients in Ontario intensive care units have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario. Ninety-two patients in critical care wards have tested positive for COVID-19, while another 342 patients are suspected to have the disease.
  • Ontario’s online assessment tool for COVID-19 has directed more than 100,000 people with severe difficulty breathing or severe chest pain to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Mar. 30: Ten people dead in Ontario nursing home outbreak

  • Nine residents and one volunteer at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died from complications of COVID-19, while 34 staff members have symptoms or have tested positive.

Mar. 30: Newfoundland reports first death, community transmissions

Mar. 30: Mixed messages on wearing masks

  • Conflicting messages about whether healthy people should wear face masks have led to confusion and culture clashes for Asians living in the West. Canadian officials have urged people not to wear masks unless they’re sick, but in many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks as a precaution.

Mar. 30: Alberta doctors protest payment changes

  • More than 800 Alberta doctors asked the province to suspend planned changes to the way they are paid. According to Alberta Health, the provincial government has cancelled proposed changes to billing modifiers for complex visits and suspended reductions in stipends paid to physicians.

Mar. 30: More than 1,200 dead in New York

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that 1,218 people in the state have died from COVID-19. A United States Navy hospital ship docked in Manhattan to relieve the overcrowded hospitals in New York City, which has most of the state’s cases.

Mar. 30: Explaining Germany’s low death rate

  • Germany’s death rate for COVID-19 is just 0.8%, much lower than the tolls reported in China (4%) and Italy (11%), according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Widespread testing in Germany has led to the detection of many mild and asymptomatic cases, providing a fuller picture of the outbreak there.

Mar. 30: US approves limited use of anti-malaria drugs

Mar. 30: Indigenous populations in South America barricade communities

Mar. 27: Medical regulators warn against stockpiling untested treatments

  • The Canadian Pharmacists Association and provincial medical regulatory colleges are warning physicians against stockpiling or prescribing drugs not yet proven effective in treatment of COVID-19. There is now a shortage of hydroxychloroquine in Ontario, which is affecting people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis who require this medication, says the Ontario Medical Association.

Mar. 27: BC to provide safe supply of treatments for substance use disorders

  • Changes to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and prescribing guidelines in British Columbia now allow patients receiving treatment for substance use disorders to take home supplies of regulated substances such as hydromorphone and methadone. Previously, regulators restricted the provision of these drugs to clinical settings, which posed a major obstacle to treatment under social distancing restrictions.

Mar. 27: Manitoba to deliver online cognitive behavioural training for pandemic anxiety

  • Manitobans experiencing anxiety because of the pandemic crisis will soon be able to access a 12-week cognitive behavioural counselling course online. According to Premier Brian Pallister, people won’t need a referral from a doctor to access the course.
  • Manitoba also announced its first death from COVID-19, a woman in her 60s.

Mar. 27: Quebec warns against travel to Montreal, Eastern Townships as deaths increase 

Mar. 27: Retired respirologist posts his ventilator design, free for everyone

  • A London, Ont. respirologist who developed a low-cost ventilator to respond to the COVID-19 crisis has posted the design on an open-source website so anyone can use it. John Strupat says he’s making his design available because hospitals are experiencing critical ventilator shortages.

Mar. 27: Ottawa announces wage subsidy for small, medium businesses

  • Canada’s unemployment rate could rise to 15% by the end of the year, according to a federal forecast based on the possibility of physical distancing lasting until August.
  • The federal government increased a subsidy to small and medium-sized businesses to cover 75% of wages paid to employees in isolation during the pandemic. The federal government will also make $40,000 loans available, interest-free for the first year.

Mar. 27: Italy reports highest single-day fatalities, likely to extend lockdown

  • Although new case numbers declined, Italy reported 969 deaths, the country’s highest number in a 24-hour period during this outbreak. Officials warned that the outbreak has yet to peak and the country’s lockdown will likely extend beyond April 3, which may be a window into the future of other jurisdictions.

Mar. 27: Refugees among the most vulnerable during pandemic

  • Aid workers and international health workers are worried about the potential spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in refugee camps and other temporary shelters with few health care workers and supplies.

Mar. 26: Trump considering placing troops near Canada-US border during pandemic

  • United States President Donald Trump is considering placing soldiers along its border with Canada to prevent irregular crossings during the COVID-19 crisis, but Canada is resisting the move. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world, and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way.” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa has made it clear to U.S. cabinet ministers that there is “no public health justification” for the move.

Mar. 26: BC bans resale of food, medical equipment, cleaning supplies

Mar. 26: Testing delays and mask rationing in Ontario

Mar. 26: More than 100 Quebecers hospitalized

Mar. 26: Cases in Italy, US set to surpass China

  • More than 480,000 people around the world have tested positive for COVID-19, and cases in both Italy and the United States are close to surpassing the total number in China, where the virus originated. The number of deaths in Italy has considerably passed those in China.

Mar. 26 Researchers investigating gender differences in pandemic

  • Despite various hypotheses concerning differences in smoking rates and hand-washing practices, researchers are still unsure why more men than women are dying of COVID-19. More data and investigations into innate biological differences are required.

Mar. 25: Alberta medical students assist contact tracing

  • Alberta quadrupled its contact tracing capacity by enlisting the help of medical students and residents. At least 150 medical trainees are now trained to trace close contacts of people with COVID-19.

Mar. 25: Parliament passes emergency spending bill

  • Parliament passed emergency legislation giving the federal government the authority for all spending required to address the COVID-19 public health emergency for the next six months, without requiring Parliamentary approval. The new law, which received royal assent, includes an $82-billion stimulus and a $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The benefit, from Mar. 15 until Oct. 3, is for anyone who can’t work because of unemployment, sickness, childcare duties or care-giving due to the pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said money should begin flowing by the week of April 6 or sooner.
  • Canada also invoked the Quarantine Act, mandating all returning travellers to isolate themselves for 14 days, with the exception of essential workers. Anyone arriving in Canada with symptoms of COVID-19 will also be banned from using public transit, said Health Minister Patti Hajdu.

Mar. 25: Shortage of reagents barrier to scaling up testing

  • Health officials and politicians at all levels of government acknowledged the importance of scaling up testing, but shortages of the chemical reagents necessary to conduct the tests continues to be a barrier because all countries are seeking the same supplies.

Mar. 25: Transplants, orthopaedic surgeries and routine testing delayed

  • Lung transplants are delayed except in cases of critical deterioration, which will affect patients across Canada. Orthopaedic surgeries are also postponed in Nova Scotia and some cancer treatment may be affected, health officials reported. In Manitoba, routine diagnostic testing is on hold as well.

Mar. 25:  India bans export of malaria drug being trialled for treatment for COVID-19

  • India will fulfill existing contracts but is banning export of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Humanitarian exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis, the Indian government said. The country is home to the world’s largest manufacturers of the drug and its component ingredients.

Mar. 24: Leaked document shows Saskatchewan preparing for 15,000 deaths

  • The Saskatchewan Health Authority forecast earlier this month the pandemic would overwhelm the healthcare system and could cause 9,000 to 15,000 deaths. A leaked internal document outlining province’s strategy predicted there “will almost certainly be pronounced loss of life and health.”

Mar. 24: British Columbia offering drive-through testing to health workers

  • Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in Vancouver can now get drive-through testing to see if they have COVID-19. A single site is open as part of British Columbia’s attempt to stop the spread of the virus by health care workers, particularly among long-term care facilities.

Mar. 24: Tensions rise over social distancing in Canada and internationally

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned again that the federal government will put “much more stringent” measures in place if people do not abide by social distancing recommendations. He urged Canadians to stay home to protect others, especially “the health care workers we can’t afford to lose during the biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen.”
  • Despite the World Health Organization’s warning that the United States could become the new epicentre of the pandemic, President Donald Trump said he’d like to see the country reopened by Easter because of the economic harm the shutdown is causing.
  • A day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut down Britain, Londoners continued to ride the Underground with commuters posting images of packed tube trains on social media. Transport for London faced criticism for reducing services to discourage commuters, which led to people being forced closer together. Meanwhile, the British government has drafted emergency legislation to strengthen enforcement and allow border closures.
  • Italian mayors used video to angrily call out people for breaching quarantine via social media. One mayor posted an expletive-filled rant against people who hire hairdressers to visit them at home.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his citizens just four hours’ notice before shuttering the country, banning everyone from leaving their homes for 21 days. He declared “every district, every lane, every village” was under lockdown, leaving it unclear how people were to get food or work in essential services.

Mar. 24: Canadians returning home

  • More than a million Canadians and permanent residents returned home from abroad last week, according to the Canadian Border Services Agency. All people returning to Canada are being told to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said many people are still having troubling finding flights home because of lockdowns and travel restrictions. The federal government has scheduled at least one more flight from Morocco and is working on flights from Panama, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Mar. 24: China begins to lift lockdown in Hubei province

  • China will begin lifting the lockdown in Hubei province on March 25, although most residents of Wuhan, the city at the centre of the country’s outbreak, will have to wait until April 8 to move about freely. China cancelled all travel in Wuhan and ordered most people to stay home on January 23.

Mar. 24: New York demands more ventilators as cases soar

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lashed out at the Trump administration over a lack of support as cases in the state are doubling every three days. The state has only 7,000 of the 30,000 ventilators it needs and some are already occupied. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” Cuomo told Washington. In response, Vice-President Mike Pence said the federal government had shipped 2,000 ventilators to New York on Mar. 24 and would ship another 2,000 on Mar. 25.

Mar. 23: Nearly half of Canadian COVID-19 cases due to community spread

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed that nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in Canada have been acquired through community spread. The remaining cases can be traced to infected travellers returning to Canada or to close contact with those travellers. Canadians could therefore get the virus from anyone, making social distancing critical to slow the spread of the virus.

Mar. 23: Ottawa invests in $192 million in vaccines, treatment  

  • The federal government is providing $192 million to directly support the development and production of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 in Canada. The money will be divided among Vancouver-based AbCellera to support their work on drug treatments, Quebec City-based Medicago for vaccine testing and production, the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization for development and clinical trials, and the National Research Council in Montreal to prepare for the roll-out of vaccines.

Mar. 23: Social distancing enforcement and non-essential workplace closures

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also urged all Canadians to “go home and stay home” and abide by social distancing instructions. The federal government launched an advertising campaign to educate people about the risks and will enforce the rules, if necessary.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential workplaces to close for two weeks as of Mar. 24, and Quebec Premier Francois Legault did the same for three weeks. According to Ford, business can continue so long as workplaces are shut down. Ontario schools will also not reopen on April 6.

Mar. 23: New COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries

  • Nova Scotia, which on Mar. 22 declared a state of emergency, reported 41 new cases, including in a child under 10. Cases in children have been rarely reported in Canada. The province is stopping cars crossing its border and ordering people to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • BC’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, reported that the province is now conducting between 3,300-3,600 tests per day. BC reported three new deaths, but 100 people are officially recovered from COVID-19 in the province.

Mar. 23: Thirteen healthcare workers test positive in Toronto

Mar. 22: WHO launches global trial of promising COVID-19 treatments

  • The World Health Organization is organizing a global trial called SOLIDARITY to test four promising treatments for COVID-19: the antiviral remdesivir, malaria medications hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, and a combination of the HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir. Physicians can enter patients into the trial via a website, which will randomize patients to one of the treatments or to the local standard of care. The trial is not double-blind, but WHO said it had to balance rigor against speed.

Mar. 23: Twenty-three Italian doctors dead

  • Italy’s Istituto Superiore di Sanità is reporting 23 doctors have died, according to CNN, and 4,824 health workers are infected with COVID-19. According to the Italian federation of doctors, many have died suddenly, even if the cause of death was not directly attributable to the virus.

Mar. 23: New York orders hospitals to increase capacity

  • As New York state becomes the focus of American efforts to suppress COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered hospitals to increase their capacity by 50%. Cases across the state surged 38% overnight to 20,875, and Cuomo predicted that 80% of residents will likely be infected.

Mar. 20: Canada will turn back asylum seekers

  • Canada will turn away asylum seekers coming from the United States; the countries will mutually close their borders at midnight on Mar. 20. Previously, the government planned to isolate incoming asylum seekers for two weeks at unspecified facilities.

Mar. 20: Addressing Canada’s medical supply shortage

  • Doctors called for a “war-like effort” to prevent medical supply shortages, warning that hospitals are facing dire shortages of ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies.
  • The federal government has secured more than 11 million N95 respirator masks and will begin delivery immediately as guided by public health officials. The government is also working on a strategy to scale up production of protective equipment, including by helping auto parts manufacturers switch to making medical supplies.

Mar. 20: EI applications and cannabis sales surge

  • More than 500,000 Canadians have filed for employment insurance in the past week, compared to under 27,000 during the same week last year.
  • Cannabis stores are seeing increased traffic, with Ontario’s cannabis store reporting an 80% to 100% increase in sales volumes from last weekend.

Mar. 20: Medical students take care of frontline workers’ kids

  • More than 100 University of Alberta medical students are volunteering to care for the children of frontline health care workers after the province cancelled in-person post-secondary classes. The students will offer the service until Mar. 27, when they may be reassigned to clinical duties. So far, about 150 frontline workers have signed up.
  • Quebec schools are likely to remain closed until May, said Premier François Legault.

Mar. 20: Global death toll passes 10,000

  • Worldwide, the death toll related to COVID-19 passed 10,000 and recorded infections exceeded 255,000. Italy’s reported death toll surged by 627 to a total 4,032 – the country’s largest daily increase yet. 

Mar. 20: Confusion over ibuprofen

  • The World Health Organization backtracked on an earlier warning against using ibuprofen to relieve symptoms of COVID-19, tweeting that it “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.” The controversy stemmed from a letter in the Lancet that hypothesized that ibuprofen may make people more vulnerable to infection because the virus attaches to lung cells by way of an enzyme (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE 2) and ibuprofen might increase the number of ACE2 receptors on a cell. However, according to the European Medicines Agency, there’s “currently no scientific evidence” to back this theory.

Mar. 19: NB declares emergency as cases climb across Canada

  • New Brunswick declared a public health emergency. There are no new cases in the province, but Premier Blaine Higgs said too many people were not following restrictions recommended by the chief medical officer. The province is now mandating that all non-essential businesses closes and premises cap gatherings to no more than 10 people. Grocery stories, pharmacies, the province’s liquor and cannabis stores, automotive repair businesses, post offices, gas stations and hardware stores remain open.
  • Alberta recorded its first death related to COVID-19, an Edmonton man in his 60s who was infected in the community and had a preexisting condition. The province confirmed 27 new cases, bringing its total to 146.
  • Ontario announced 43 news cases and it’s second COVID-19 death, a Milton man in his 50s who had no recent travel history or contact with other known cases. Associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe says 22 people in the province with the virus are now hospitalized. Information about whether people are self-isolating or hospitalized, and how they were infected is listed as pending in more than half the new cases.
  • Toronto’s medical officer of health urged the closure of all non-essential businesses, including hair salons and clothing stores.
  • Quebec reported a total of 121 cases, up from 94 the day before. Seven are hospitalized. The province advised people not to travel from one region of the province to another, and to avoid gathering for meals, even in groups as small as six or seven people.
  • British Columbia announced 45 new cases, bringing the province’s total to 231. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it’s unclear when life will get back to normal and social distancing may extend “through the next weeks to months.”

Mar. 19: Trudeau calls on Canadians to donate blood

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to donate blood, after Canadian Blood Services reported a spike in appointment cancellations by donors. The organization said Canada’s inventory is strong, but blood shortages are being reported in other countries affected by COVID-19.
  • Canada and the United States are still working out the details of the closure of their shared border, but the closure will likely come into effect sometime on Mar. 20 or 21, Trudeau said.

Mar. 19: Italy’s death toll surpasses China as Wuhan reports no new cases

  • Italy has now recorded 3,405 deaths related to COVID-19, up 425 deaths from the day before, overtaking China’s total of 3,245. The total number of cases in the country increased 14.5% to 41,035.
  • France reported 108 new deaths, increasing the country’s toll by 41% to a total 372; 1,222 people are on life support, up 20.5% compare to the day before.
  • Meanwhile, there were no new infections in Wuhan, China – a promising sign that the city’s lockdown has helped to curb the outbreak.

Mar. 19: US data highlights risks to younger people

  • Nearly 40% of the 508 people hospitalized in the United States for COVID-19 have been younger than 55, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20% were aged 20 to 44 and 18% were aged 45-54. The new data comes amid reports of spring breakers ignoring social distancing recommendations at popular party destinations in Florida.

Mar. 18: France to expand testing of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

  • The French Minister of Health approved expanded trials of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria and autoimmune drug, as a potential treatment for COVID-19 after a small trial showed promising results. The unpublished trial of 36 patients with COVID-19 found that 70% of those treated with the drug tested negative for the virus within six days compared to 12.5% of those who didn’t receive the treatment. Previously, Chinese scientists reported the drug was effective at killing the virus in laboratory experiments.

Mar. 18: PM announces $82 billion in economic aid

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional $82 billion in relief measures to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including $27 billion in direct support for workers and businesses. The relief package represents more than 3% of Canada’s GDP.
  • For Canadians without paid sick leave who must self-isolate or care for family members or children, the government is introducing an Emergency Care Benefit that will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. Ottawa will also provide up to $5 billion for unemployed workers without access to employment insurance and may subsidize businesses up to 10% of employee wages to help prevent layoffs.
  • The federal government will postpone the tax-filing deadline to June 1 for individuals and up to August 31 for people who owe taxes. Ottawa will also double the maximum Goods and Services Tax credit, increase the Canada Child Benefit by an extra $300 per child, and increase the tax credits available to businesses.
  • Canada’s six big banks will allow mortgage deferrals for up to six months, in addition to the opportunity for relief on other credit products. The banks will also reduce hours and close some branches in keeping with social distancing recommendations.
  • The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced it would bring back a revised version of the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program it used during the 2008-09 financial crisis that would see the government purchase up to $50 billion worth of insured mortgage pools to ensure banks and mortgages continue lending to Canadians.

Mar. 18: Canada-US border closes 

  • Canada and the United States mutually agreed to temporarily close their shared border. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “these measures will last in place as long as we feel they need to last.” The border closure will not affect cross-border trade or citizens who cross the border every day to do essential work. International students, workers on visas and temporary foreign workers will still be able to enter Canada and are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Canadian citizens will be able to return home, although those with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board flights. Canada Border Services will stop deporting people with the exception of “seriously criminal cases” that will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Trudeau also said he “looking at all options” for containing the virus, including potentially limiting travel within Canada.

Mar. 18: WestJet warns of potential COVID-19 exposures

  • WestJet released a list of 14 recent flights between Feb. 28 and Mar. 12 that had passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19. The airline identified rows of passengers who should self-isolate and monitor their symptoms. Other passengers are advised to contact local health authorities if they have signs of fever, cough or respiratory symptoms within 14 days.

Mar. 18: How long can the virus survive on surfaces?

  • The novel coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for days or in the air for several hours, according to research from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that the virus was detectable for up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The team also used a nebulizer to simulate a person coughing and found that the virus remained suspended in the air for almost three hours. Some critics questioned whether a nebulizer accurately mimicked a human cough. The researchers performed similar tests on the SARS virus and found that both viruses had similar levels of viability outside the body, suggesting that other factors like asymptomatic transmission may be contributing to the greater spread of COVID-19.

Mar. 18: No evidence COVID-19 was engineered

  • An analysis of the public genome sequence data for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered, as has some have speculated online. Based on comparisons of the genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, “we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said Kristian Andersen of Scripps Research, one of the authors of the paper. The researchers focused on features of the spike proteins on the outside of the virus that it uses to grab and penetrate the outer walls of host cells. They found the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which behaves like grappling hook allowing the virus to grip on to host cells, was so effective at binding human cells that it could only be the result of natural selection. And had the virus been engineered, its overall molecular structure likely would have mimicked pathogens known to cause illness in humans; instead, the scientists found that it mostly resembled viruses found in bats and pangolins.

Mar. 18: Japanese flu drug shows promise for COVID-19

  • Chinese medical authorities reported that a Japanese-made flu drug, Avigan or favipiravir, has shown to be safe and effective in reducing the duration of COVID-19 in clinical trials involving 340 patients. Patients with COVID-19 who received the drug in Shenzhen tested negative for the virus after a median of four days versus 11 for those who did not receive the treatment. X-rays also showed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of patients treated with the drug versus 62% of those who did not receive it. Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies of patients with mild to moderate symptoms, but an official there said it was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms.

 Mar. 17: Alberta, BC declare emergencies

  • Alberta declared a public health emergency and banned gatherings of more than 50 people, including weddings and funerals. Grocery stores, shopping centres, health care facilities, airports and the legislature are exempt from the ban.
  • British Columbia also declared an emergency and closed all schools indefinitely after reporting three more deaths related to COVID-19. Two of the deaths were linked to the outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. The third person who died was a man in his 80s in the Fraser Health region.

Mar. 17: Trudeau may enact federal Emergency Act

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may recall Parliament to pass legislation to support Canada’s response to COVID-19, including changes to employment insurance and potentially enacting some parts of the federal Emergencies Act. The act allows the government to take special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies and to amend other laws. Unlike the former War Measures Act, which the Emergencies Act replaced in 1988, the declaration of a national emergency must still be reviewed by Parliament and any temporary laws made under the act are still subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Trudeau also announced that Parks Canada will be suspending visitor services at all national parks and historic sites.

Mar. 17: Ontario, PEI declare emergencies

  • Ontario confirmed its first death related to COVID-19, a 77-year-old man who tested positive for the virus after close contact with another positive case.
  • Earlier in the day, the province declared a state of emergency and banned public events with over 50 people until March 31. The Ontario government ordered the closure of all indoor recreation facilities, libraries, private schools, daycares, theatres and concert venues, as well as all bars and restaurants, except those that offer takeout or delivery. Premier Doug Ford said most businesses won’t be affected by the order and essential services such as grocery stores will continue to operate. Ontario’s liquor, beer and cannabis stores will also remain open for now.
  • Cases in Ontario increased rapidly over the weekend, suggesting the province may be seeing community transmission, said associate chief medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe. According to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, some cases “do not seem to have a travel history or a contact case at this stage.” Ontario confirmed eight new cases on Mar. 17, only one of which was linked to recent travel, bringing the total of active cases in the province 180.
  • The provincial government is drafting legislation to ensure that people who self-isolate or care for others do not lose their jobs and to ban employers from requiring sick notes for those in self-isolation.
  • Hospitals in British Columbia and Ontario are cancelling elective surgeries to prepare for an influx of patients. At Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, cataract surgeries and cosmetic surgeries have been cancelled, as have some cancer surgeries. Several hospitals across Canada have set up screening facilities offsite to assess people who may have the virus. Some are also training nurses and physicians from other departments in intensive care.
  • PEI declared a public health emergency and announced a $25-million emergency contingency fund for Islanders affected by the pandemic. The province closed all schools and daycares and directed all public employees who can work from home to do so for the next two weeks. Most provinces and territories have now ordered school closures and the shutdown of some recreational facilities.
  • Following official recommendations to cancel gatherings of 50 or more people, Cineplex Inc. and Landmark Cinemas, Canada’s largest movie theatre operators, closed all theatres across the country. GoodLife Fitness closed all locations across Canada and froze membership payments.

Mar. 17: Europe plans full border closure

  • The European Commission is preparing to ban all non-essential travel through the Schengen free-travel zone. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats would be exempt as well as healthcare workers and people transporting goods.
  • France has ordered people to stay at home and only go out for essential duties. The country will close all land borders on Tuesday.
  • Germany has closed recreational facilities, churches and schools, and restaurants must enforce a minimum distance between patrons.
  • Spain, one of the worst affected country outside of China, has nationalized all private hospitals, declared a national emergency, and closed all schools and public spaces. People may only leave their homes to go to work or to buy essentials like food, and authorities are using drones to monitor the movement of citizens.

Mar. 17: Human trials of vaccine and treatments underway  

  • The first human trial of a potential vaccine developed by Moderna Therapeutics started in the United States. The vaccine, mRNA-1273, is not made from the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead it contains a short segment of genetic code copied from the virus.
  • Therapeutics Drug manufacturers Sanofi and Regeneron launched a clinical trial of the arthritis drug Kevzara to treat the severe immune response that can occur in patients with COVID-19. The drug works by inhibiting the interleukin-6 pathway, which regulates the body’s immune and inflammatory response, which may play a role in the acute respiratory distress seen in some patients with COVID-19.
  • The companies are also developing new therapies in response to the pandemic. Sanofi is investigating potential vaccine candidates , while Regeneron announced it aims to have doses of a potential treatment for COVID-19 ready to start human trials by early summer.
  • In addition, five clinical trials of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir are underway to assess its potential as a treatment for mild to moderate and severe cases of COVID-19.

Mar. 16: WHO calls on countries to ramp up testing

  • World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to increases testing for COVID-19, suggesting they screen everyone suspected of having the disease. Canada is screening for COVID-19 more widely than some other countries. As of Monday, 34,000 Canadians have been tested for the virus, compared to 23,000 people in the United States, which has 10 times the population. However, testing criteria vary across Canada and still tend to exclude people who haven’t travelled or had contact with a known case.

Mar. 16: US warns against gatherings of 10 or more people

  • United States President Donald Trump urged Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 people as part of new guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19. He also recommended school closures and urged people to avoid non-essential travel and going out to bars, restaurants and food courts. Public health officials said they expect to see a surge in cases as the government ramps up testing, starting with health providers, first responders and people over 65 with respiratory symptoms and fever.

Mar. 16: Canada closes borders

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will close its borders to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Trudeau said some exceptions will be made, including for air crews, diplomats and citizens of the United States. Airlines will ban anyone who is showing symptoms of the virus from getting on a plane and only four airports will receive international flights – Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montreal Trudeau Airport and Calgary International Airport. Domestic flights and those from the United States and Mexico will not be affected, and the measures do not apply to trade.
  • Trudeau urged Canadians travelling abroad to return home while they still can and those recently returned to self-isolate for 14 days. Assistance will be made available for Canadians travelling abroad while they wait to come back to Canada.
  • Trudeau also reminded all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, stay at home and buy only what they need from stores. The government will make available $10 billion in support for Canadian businesses to offset the impact of the pandemic. “It’s time to take every precaution to keep people safe,” he said.

Mar. 15: First cases in PEI, NL, NS

  • Prince Edward Island reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, a woman in her 50s who recently travelled on a cruise ship. She is recovering at home with mild symptoms. Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador announced its first presumptive case, another woman who recently travelled on a cruise.
  • Nova Scotia reported three presumptive cases, the first in the province, all of whom had recently returned from travel abroad. The province immediately closed public schools, childcare centres and casinos. Nova Scotia also banned visits to long-term care facilities and gatherings over 150 people, and mandated businesses to keep patrons six feet apart.

Mar. 14: Quebec, Ontario limit visits to seniors

  • Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault declared a provincial health emergency and asked people over age 70 to stay home until further notice. The province banned all visits to seniors’ residences, long-term care facilities and hospitals, and will open 19 specialized assessment clinics to test people who may have the virus.
  • Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams urged long-term care residences to bar all but “essential visitors,” such as the relatives of people who are dying or gravely ill.

Mar. 14: Prisons prepare for COVID-19 spread

  • Canadian prison officials are adapting an existing flu-outbreak plan to prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus in correctional facilities. According to Correctional Services Canada, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canadian prisons. Ontario banned personal visits to inmates in provincial jails, and offenders serving sentences on weekend will see their restrictions loosened.

Mar. 14: Kijiji cracks down on price-gouging

  • Online marketplace Kijiji banned listings for surgical masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and toilet paper to curb price-gouging. Some people are reselling the supplies at marked up prices as stores across the country struggle to keep up with demand. While many Costco, Superstore and Walmart locations have sold out of toilet paper, online resellers are listing single rolls for $4-$10, and up to $1,000 for a 12-pack.

Mar. 13: Royal College exams cancelled

  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada announced on Twitter it is postponing all exams, “including written exams in March and April, which will have have an impact on oral exams this spring.” The College said it is working with local university partners and resident groups to deliver the exams as soon as feasible at no additional cost, and it will provide an update on progress “no later than April 1.”
  • Trainees and others questioned why the announcement was made on Twitter, instead of informing examinees directly. Many noted that the exams could be written locally under supervision and with proper social distancing. Earlier this week, an Edmonton physician warned that testing delays will disrupt the lives of doctors who may have planned pregnancies, fellowships and office leases around the completion of their residencies.

Mar. 13: Medical regulators ready to grant emergency licenses

  • Provincial medical regulators are ready to issue emergency licenses to allow physicians to combat COVID-19 in different jurisdictions across Canada if necessary, according to the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC). Doctors would need to show that they have medical liability insurance and a certificate in good standing from their provincial college in order to obtain the license. FMRAC President Dr. Linda Inkpen said licenses could be available in as little as minutes or hours, depending on the physician. “We’re not talking a week or a month or anything of that sort,” she said.

Mar. 13: United States declares national emergency

  • United States President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, unlocking up to $50 billion for state and local response efforts. Trump said he would also give the Secretary of Health and Human Services emergency authority to waive laws and regulations to give US doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

Mar. 13: Trudeau in isolation, working from home

  • Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife,  tested positive for COVID-19. She and the Prime Minister will remain in isolation for 14 days. The Prime Minister remains in good health with no symptoms and will continue his duties from home.

Mar. 13: Provinces ramp up response

  • Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba health officials recommended the immediate cancellation of all events over 250 people and urged against travel outside of Canada. In a memo, Ontario’s Dr. David Williams advised organizers of smaller events to consult with local public health units. Meanwhile, some of Ontario’s largest universities, including the University of Toronto and McMaster University, are moving classes online.
  • Following Ontario’s lead, Manitoba will also close all public schools in the province for three weeks, effective March 23.
  • Nova Scotia discouraged all gatherings over 150 people, and directed public employees and students returning from travel outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. The province has also asked the federal government to delay the beginning of cruise ship season.
  • New Brunswick is suspending jury trials until May 12 and recommending that all non-essential gatherings of 150 people or more be cancelled.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia is asking retired doctors of all specialties to consider coming back to work to back up colleagues as the province’s COVID-19 outbreak worsens. Quebec health authorities are similarly calling on retired nurses to help screen calls to the province’s 811 line.
  • Quebec officials asked the public to stop calling 811 if they have symptoms of the coronavirus after the service was overwhelmed by calls. Instead, people with flu-like symptoms are asked to call a new COVID-19 hotline before heading to a special testing clinic. Provincial 811 services in Alberta and Nova Scotia also experienced extremely high call volumes and long delays.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, Eastern Health has established an emergency operations centre and will have a COVID-19 assessment clinic running by next week.

Mar. 13: Shortages of protective equipment

  • Some Vancouver doctors are turning away patients because of a shortage of personal protective equipment for physicians and support staff. According to Doctors of BC, physicians across the provinces are concerned that protective supplies are running short and there is no timeline for their replacement. One doctor with depleted supplies directed 20 patients who called with possible COVID-10 symptoms to call the provincial 811 health line instead or go to the emergency department.

Mar. 12: Doctors call for expanded testing criteria

  • Some Canadian physicians reported difficulties getting patients tested due to a lack of consistent communication about who qualifies for testing. Federal, provincial and local public health officials have relied on a narrow list of countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, but it doesn’t include places like Germany, France or the United States. The Public Health Agency of Canada now directs clinicians to use the World Health Organization’s list of countries reporting COVID-19 cases as a guide, but provincial and local advice still varies.

Mar. 12: Trump address sows confusion

  • United States President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel to the United States from European countries and restrictions on cargo, but he later clarified on Twitter that he was only stopping travel and the plan did not apply to Americans or US permanent residents. Confusion over the announcement caused panic abroad as Americans sought to arrange last-minute flights home. European Union leaders criticized the ban and lack of consultation.
  • US stocks sold off sharply after Trump’s announcement and the Dow Futures plunged more than 1,000 points, despite the President reassurances that the economy will emerge from the crisis unscathed.
  • The United States government also faced criticism over continued difficulties related to COVID-19 testing. Health providers across the country reported difficulties obtaining tests and conflicting advice from authorities. Meanwhile, there are shortages of key chemicals needed to run the tests. As of early March, the United States had tested just 7,000 people, falling far behind other developed countries. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease scientist, called the testing situation a “failing.”

Mar. 12: New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan report first presumptive cases

  • Manitoba’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 was reported in Winnipeg. Asked about a rumoured COVID-19 risk at a city fire hall, officials confirmed “an incident” happened in the fire paramedic community and the city has a contingency plan should it be necessary to quarantine first responder units.
  • Saskatchewan also announced its first presumptive case, a person who recently travelled to Egypt, while New Brunswick reported the first presumptive case in Atlantic Canada, a woman who returned from travelling in France.
  • Earlier this week, New Brunswick banned international travellers from schools for two weeks.

Mar. 12: Ontario closing public schools

  • The Ontario government ordered all public schools in the province to close between March 14 and April 5. The announcement impacts about two million elementary and high school students. Previously, Premier Dough Ford had told families to go ahead with March Break travel plans despite the pandemic, conflicting with advice from the federal health minister Patty Hajdu that Canadians should consider staying home during the break.

Mar. 12: Quebec asks sick people, returning travellers to self-isolate

  • Quebec is asking all people returning from abroad or who experience flu-like symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days. Government workers, including teachers, are required to stay home for that period. The province is also banning indoor events of more than 250 people and has asked employers to be understanding if workers need to stay home.

Mar. 11: WHO declares global pandemic

  • The World Health Organization declared the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. As of Wednesday, 114 countries have confirmed 118,000 cases. “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He explained that the situation is likely to worsen. “We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he said.
  • Earlier, the organization published a guideline on handling the mental health toll of stress related to the new coronavirus, including specific advice for health-care worker, caretakers of children and older adults, and people in isolation.
  • As of Mar. 11, there are more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 41 in Ontario, 39 in British Columbia, 14 in Alberta and seven in Quebec. Most cases are related to travel, and a handful to close contact with other confirmed cases. However, two of BC’s latest cases appear to have been acquired in the community, indicating the virus may be circulating more widely.
  • Outbreaks in China and South Korea appear to be stabilizing. Japan saw an uptick of cases on Mar. 10, reporting 54 more cases for a total of 581. Italy reported 168 deaths – the highest toll in a single day since the country’s outbreak began. Nearby European nations have also seen alarming spikes in cases this week; as of Mar. 11, there were 2,173 cases in Spain, 1,784 cases in France and 1,629 in Germany.
  • The United States issued guidelines for the general public, schools, businesses, and community organizations on mitigating community transmission of COVID-19. The advice includes staying home when sick, disinfecting surfaces and opening windows, reconsidering travel and rearranging large activities and events.

Mar. 11: Canada creates $1-billion response fund

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1-billion fund for the domestic and global response to COVID-19. The fund includes $500 million for the provinces and territories, including money for buying protective equipment, public education, surveillance and monitoring, and access to testing.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada issued guidelines on when to cancel mass gatherings to delay the spread of COVID-19; these urge organizers to assess risk, including factors like the age of attendees, and whether they are likely to be travelling from areas affected by COVID-19. However, the guideline doesn’t dictate under what conditions events should be cancelled.

Mar. 10: Can people be held liable for knowingly spreading COVID-19?

  • While there is no official legislation, people who knowingly spread COVID-19 could be charged with criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm under the Criminal Code, according to the Department of Justice Canada. The offences could apply to doing anything that shows a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other people. However, to meet that definition, a person’s behavior would have to differ substantially from the typical behavior of a reasonable person.

Mar. 10: COVID-19 could markedly affect Canadians

  • A disease-transmission model developed by University of Toronto researchers predicts that the novel coronavirus could infect 35% of Canadians with modest controls, including finding and isolating about half of mild cases. Reducing that burden further will require aggressive social distancing and large-scale quarantines, said Dr. David Fisman, one of the model’s creators.
  • Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas cautioned that COVID-19 does not register as a dire global crisis, based on the number of cases and deaths reported so far. He noted that the daily number of new cases peaked at 4,083 in February, as the outbreak in Hubei began to wind down. “Over the past month, the geography of COVID-19 has changed, but the global numbers have, if anything, become smaller,” Schabas explained. It is still possible that outbreak may become a pandemic, “but as the days pass and the global patterns stay the same, this becomes less and less likely,” he said.

Mar. 10: EU states ban travel, mass events

  • In the wake of Italy’s national lockdown, other European countries announced travel bans and cancelled mass gatherings.
    • Austria will deny entry to people arriving from Italy, except for medical emergencies, and has cancelled university lectures, indoor events for more than 100 people and outdoor events for more than 500 people.
    • Denmark cancelled all flights from northern Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Spain, where the number of cases doubled to more than 1,000 on Mar. 9, suspended flights from Italy and shut schools in several regions.
    • Greece and the Czech Republic announced nationwide school closures and cancelled mass events.
    • Belgium and Romania banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, while Slovenia banned gatherings of more than 100 people.

Mar. 10: Research supports 14-day quarantine

  • On average, people infected with COVID-19 start to show symptoms in 5.1 days, and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days, according to a study of 181 confirmed cases published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the study authors, the findings support current recommendations to quarantine people for 14 days after potential exposure to the virus.

Mar. 10: Iran’s death toll rises

  • Iran reported 54 deaths related to COVID-19, the highest toll in a single day since the outbreak started in the country.

Mar. 10: American universities move classes online

  • Universities across the United States, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford, are closing their premises to students and transitioning to virtual classes to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus on campuses. Universities also warned students to avoid travel to COVID-19 hotspots over spring break.

Mar. 9: Italy expands unprecedented restrictions

  • Movement will be restricted all over Italy, as the government expands an unprecedented lock-down to contain COVID-19. The country’s prime minister warned that people should not move other than for work and emergencies, and otherwise stay at home. All public gatherings will be banned, including sporting events, and schools and universities across the country will be closed.

Mar. 9: First Canadian death related to COVID-19

  • British Columbia announced Canada’s first death related to COVID-19. The patient, a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, was one of two people diagnosed last week at a North Vancouver care home.

Mar. 9: Public Health Agency of Canada warns against cruises

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada recommended that Canadian avoid all travel on cruise ships due to COVID-19. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the disease can spread quickly on board due to close contact between passenger. Several Canadian cases, including three from Alberta, stemmed from a Grand Princess cruise to Mexico in mid-February.

Mar. 9: CNN calls new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

  • CNN started using the term “pandemic” to describe the COVID-19 outbreak, even though the World Health Organization has not yet declared a pandemic. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained that numerous epidemiologists, public health leaders and clinicians agree the outbreak meets the definition of a pandemic. The virus has spread to every continent on earth except Antarctica, new cases outside of China now outnumber those inside the country, and several countries have reported sustained community transmission.

Mar. 8: Italy quarantines northern provinces

  • Italy imposed strict limits on travel in 15 regions after a spike in new infections and deaths. People will need permission to travel in and out of those regions and could face fines or jail time for violating the restrictions. The government has shutdown schools, theatres, and other public gathering places and events. Officials are advising people to stay at least one meter away from others at bars, cafes and supermarkets. The measures affect more than 16 million people, nearly a quarter of Italy’s population, and could remain in place until April.
  • The plan leaked early and thousands of people tried to leave the affected areas. Regions in southern Italy are screening people coming from the north and some have asked northerners to self-quarantine.
  • Violent protests broke out in 27 Italian prisons over coronavirus restrictions, including a ban on visits from relatives. Six people died in one protest. Many inmates are calling for amnesty due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Mar. 6: Doctors raise concern about preparedness

  • A group of 1,600 Edmonton doctors criticized Alberta’s handling of COVID-19 an hour before the province announced its first presumptive case. In a press release, the doctors warned the government’s lack of readiness was putting Albertans at risk. Key among their concerns was the lack of communication about emergency plans and difficulties accessing protective equipment.
  • Canada needs to urgently establish the capacity to assess and test people with COVID-19 symptoms in their homes or in special clinics outside of acute care hospitals, warned physicians from eight Toronto hospitals in an analysis published in CMAJ.
  • Infectious disease experts in Ontario warned the province’s cautious policies may make it difficult for the health system to respond in an outbreak. The province is advising health workers to take “airborne precautions” when treating suspected cases, including isolating patients in negative pressure rooms and wearing N95 masks. However, infectious disease experts say these precautions are not supported by evidence that suggests the virus spread via droplets, which would only require health professionals to use gowns, eye guards, gloves and regular surgical masks to protect themselves.
  • In Japan, supplies of protective equipment are running so low that one hospital is allocating only one surgical mask per staff per day. The Tokyo hospital said it only had enough stock to last for another month, so staff should use the same mask throughout the day.
  • In Australia, primary care physicians have warned the federal government that the country’s primary care system is unprepared to test and see suspected cases. The government said it will establish dedicated coronavirus clinics so that emergency hospital beds can be reserved for the sickest patients, but it’s unclear when those will be established.

Mar. 6: Hospitals report thefts of medical supplies

  • British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix condemned alleged thefts of medical supplies from hospitals. At least two hospitals in the province reported that workers have had to stop people from trying to steal boxes of masks.
  • BC Nurses’ Union President Christine Sorensen said supplies of protective equipment are being drained quickly as more people are requesting masks in health care facilities, even when they don’t need them.

Mar. 6: California cruise ship quarantined

  • Some 235 Canadians are among the 3,500 passengers quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California after a traveler from a previous voyage died from illness related to COVID-19 infection. Several other passengers from the earlier voyage, including two Canadians, have tested positive for the virus since returning home.

Mar. 5: Canada confirms first community case of COVID-19

  • British Columbia announced its first case of apparent local community transmission, a woman with no recent travel history and no known contact with anyone infected with the virus. Until now, all cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada involved people who had travelled to hotspots, such as China or Iran, or had close contact with travelers. According to BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, “there’s likely at least one other person out there who has either has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them and find their contacts so we can stop any further transmission.”

Mar. 5: Alberta reports first presumptive case

  • Alberta’s chief medical officer confirms the province’s first presumptive case of COVID-19, a woman who travelled on the Grand Princess cruise ship that is now quarantined off the coast of California. The woman returned to Alberta on Feb. 21 but didn’t go into self-isolation until Feb. 28. Health officials are asking anyone in the province who has been on a Grand Princess cruise in the last two weeks to self-isolate and contact Health Link if they’re feeling unwell.

Mar. 5: Ontario expands testing

  • Ontario’s public health agency is expanding testing for missed cases of COVID-19 at hospitals in six cities. So far, no patients hospitalized with acute respiratory illness have tested positive for the virus. A similar expanded testing program helped catch the first community case in British Columbia. Ontario may also piggyback on an existing flu-monitoring program to proactively test patients who show up to doctors’ offices with flu-like symptoms.

Mar. 5: Universities facing financial crunch

  • Canadian schools and universities that rely on fees from international students are assessing the possible financial impacts of COVID-19. Immigration experts warn that the closures of some visa application centres abroad will make it difficult for students to attend school in Canada. Two private post-secondary schools in British Columbia have closed because of a case of COVID-19. The business school and an arts and design school at University Canada West will be closed three days for deep cleaning after a student received a visit from her father who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Mar. 5: What changes with community transmission?

  • Canada will likely see community transmission of the novel coronavirus, at which point tracing cases to a single source outside the community becomes impossible, according to Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu. At that point, officials will likely shift to social distancing strategies, such as discouraging mass gatherings and closing schools and workplaces. However, experts say Canadian officials are unlikely to cancel public transit or quarantine entire communities, as has happened in other countries.

Mar. 5: Canada warns against any travel to Iran

  • The federal government updated its travel advisory to urge Canadians to avoid all travel to Iran, citing the spread of COVID-19 and the volatile security situation in the country.

Mar. 5: Rising financial anxieties related to COVID-19

  • An Ipsos poll of 10,000 adults in Canada and nine other countries conducted between Feb. 28 and 29 found that 37% of Canadians believe the spread of COVID-19 will affect their personal finances, up from 20% two weeks earlier. Respondents from the other countries, which included Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, also reported higher levels of anxiety compared to two weeks earlier. Anxiety was highest in Japan, where 56% of respondents said they expected their personal finances to take a hit. The poll surveyed about 1,000 people from each of the 10 countries.

Mar. 4: Trudeau creates COVID-19 committee

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a new Cabinet committee to focus on COVID-19. The committee will complement the work being done by the Public Health Agency of Canada and meet regularly to ensure “whole-of-government leadership, coordination and preparedness” in addressing the health and economic impacts of the outbreak.

Mar. 4: Military shifts to “pre-pandemic planning”

  • Canada’s military has shifted to “pre-pandemic planning” mode and is preparing for an absentee rate among its ranks of about 25%. Troops will only travel to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks if it is operationally essential, the military will increase protection to supply chains, and commanders have been warned to reconsider large gatherings among its forces.

Mar. 4: Study finds the new coronavirus has mutated at least once

  • A preliminary study by Chinese scientists identified two different strains of the new coronavirus. A more aggressive type accounts for roughly 70% of analyzed strains and a less aggressive type accounts for about 30%. Researchers found the more aggressive type was prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, but has become less so since January. The researchers cautioned that the data examined in the study were “very limited,” and studies of larger datasets are needed to better understand the evolution of the virus.

Mar. 4: Potential vaccine may soon undergo trials  

  • Trials of a potential vaccine by a company called Moderna may begin as early as April. However, completing trials and scaling up production of a successful vaccine would likely take until next year. Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson also announced new partnerships with the US government to work on potential treatments after the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases criticized large companies for not stepping up to produce vaccines.

     

Mar. 3: COVID-19 appears to be deadlier than flu

  • The mortality rate among people diagnosed with COVID-19 is 3.4%, according to the World Health Organization – higher than the seasonal flu fatality rate of less than 1% and the mortality rate of the Spanish flu, which killed 2.5% of people infected between 1918 and 1919. However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than the flu, and therefore may still be contained. However, he also warned that the world’s supplies of protective gear such as face masks and gloves will run out unless production is increased by about 40% immediately.

Mar. 3: Canadians should prepare for disruptions to daily life

  • Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said communities should prepare for stronger public health measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, including closures of schools and workplaces and the suspension of large-scale gathering.
  • In the meantime, the Public Health Agency of Canada has advised schools to increase hand sanitizing stations, discourage food sharing, encourage sick students and staff to stay home, and separate those who develop symptoms while at school.

Mar. 3: More travel warnings and cancellations

  • The government of Canada issued a travel advisory for Iran, warning against non-essential travel due to the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Many airlines have suspended or reduced flights to and from Iran and most neighbouring countries have closed their borders.
  • Some Canadian companies, including Manulife Financial and Home Depot, are cancelling business travel and telling employees to self-quarantine on return from COVID-19 hotspots.

Mar. 3: Coronavirus poses “uncharted” challenge

  • Public health officials are operating in “uncharted territory” as they work to contain COVID-19, said World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet. As of Mar. 2, there were more than 90,000 cases across 73 countries and territories, and the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

Mar. 3: UK warns outbreak could affect one in five workers at its peak

  • Up to a fifth of workers could be off sick at the peak of a COVID-19 epidemic, according to the United Kingdom’s coronavirus action plan. Some non-urgent hospital care may be delayed, and recently retired doctors and nurses may be called back to work. The UK may also close schools, ban large gatherings and encourage work from home.

Mar. 3: Handwashing dance challenge goes viral

  • A Vietnamese public health announcement sparked a global dance challenge demonstrating proper hand hygiene. The challenge was popularized by social media personality Qang Dang, who posted a video on TikTok performing a handwashing dance to a government-issued song describing how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mar. 2: More Ontario cases linked to Iran, Egypt

Mar. 2: Canadians stockpiling supplies

  • Some stores have been cleared out of household disinfectants and personal hygiene products, in addition to face masks, as Canadians have begun preparing for potential quarantines.
  • The American Chemistry Council’s Center for Biocide Chemistries has compiled a list of disinfectants suitable for use against COVID-19.
  • Food banks have prepared pandemic plans to continue serving people who are unable to afford to stockpile a week’s worth of groceries as recommended by Health Canada.

Feb. 29: Nurses question protections for health workers

  • Nurses’ unions warned that Canada’s national guidelines on precautions health workers should take when assessing and treating possible cases of COVID-19 are less stringent than in other jurisdictions. For example, while the US Centers for Disease Control recommend that health workers wear respirators, Canada’s guidelines call for looser surgical masks in most cases.
  • Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the Public Health Agency of Canada will consider the unions’ concerns but being overly cautious may jeopardize limited supplies of protective equipment.

Feb. 28: Customs officers call for more nurses at airports

  • Canada’s Customs and Immigration Union urged Health Canada to deploy more nurses and quarantine officers to airports. Currently, there are two or three Health Canada employees, including one or two nurses, at each of the country’s three biggest airports in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There are no on-site quarantine officers, but nurses can consult them by phone.

Feb. 28: WHO issues highest alert over COVID-19

  • The World Health Organization increased the risk assessment of COVID-19 across all countries to “very high” – it’s highest level of alert. According to Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready.”
  • The organization hasn’t declared a pandemic because most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said the outbreak has “pandemic potential,” but noted that declaring a pandemic “has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems.”
  • There are now more positive cases outside of China than inside the country, with growing concern about outbreaks in Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan. Japan and Iraq have ordered schools closed, while Iran is limiting travel within the country and Italy has quarantined 11 towns. Meanwhile, the United States recorded its first confirmed case of unknown origin, a person in California who had no relevant travel history or exposure to other known patients, sparking worries about wider spread in the community.

Feb. 28: New Canadian cases linked to Iran

  • Quebec reported its first presumptive COVID-19 case, a woman who returned to Montreal from Iran. If confirmed, it will be the 14th case in Canada, and the first outside of Ontario and British Columbia.
  • Ontario reported three new cases linked to Iran this week: a woman in her 60s, her husband, and a man in his 50s.

Feb. 27: Canada preparing for possible pandemic

Feb. 27: Doctors urge stronger quarantine policy

  • A group of 23 Chinese-Canadian doctors signed an open letter urging a 14-day quarantine for everyone returning to Canada from China and other COVID-19 hotspots. Dr. Stanley Zheng, who drafted the letter, said the current policy of only quarantining people who have been in Wuhan, at the epicenter of China’s outbreak, won’t go far enough to contain the virus, given large outbreaks elsewhere.

Feb. 27: Stock markets plunge over coronavirus fears

  • International financial markets suffered seven consecutive days of losses driven by coronavirus fears in the worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis. Investors were spooked by warnings from major companies including Disney, Apple and Microsoft that the outbreak is hitting their business. Growth in China is expected to slow, and some economists warned of possible recessions in the United States and the eurozone if the outbreak becomes a global pandemic.

Feb. 21: More changes to China’s tally

  • China changed how it counts confirmed cases of COVID-19 again. A recent decision to count clinical diagnoses by physicians based on lung scans led to a spike in the number of confirmed cases. But officials have since changed how they count those cases; now, only patients with positive lab tests will be counted as “confirmed,” while those diagnosed clinically will be listed as “suspected.” Some epidemiologists say these changes are making it difficult to track trends in the outbreak.
  • China also confirmed more than 500 cases of COVID-19 in prisons across the country, with 230 cases in Wuhan’s women’s prison.

Feb. 21: FBI stockpiling hand sanitizers and masks

  • The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered $40,000 of hand sanitizer and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic,” according to an acquisition document. The masks and disinfectants “are to be stored throughout the country for distribution in the event of a declared pandemic.”

Feb. 20: Iran cases point to wider spread

  • British Columbia reported a sixth case of COVID-19. Notably, the patient had recently travelled to Iran, and not to China or neighbouring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases. The World Health Organization said that cases linked to Iran are a “worrisome” sign of more widespread transmission of the virus.

Feb. 20: Surge in cases in South Korea

  • Some 9,000 members of a religious group in South Korea were told to self-quarantine after a member spread COVID-19 to at least 37 people while attending services. There are more than 50 other suspected cases linked to the event. In total, South Korea has 204 cases, the largest cluster outside mainland China and the cruise ship docked off Japan.

Feb. 20: Amazon pulls products over coronavirus claims

  • Amazon is removing listings from its online marketplace that contain unapproved claims about treating, curing or preventing COVID-19. Several tech giants, including Amazon and Facebook, recently met with the World Health Organization to discuss how to curb misinformation on their platforms.

Feb. 19: China says most cases are mild

Feb. 19: Some deportations deferred

  • Canada is deferring deportations to Hubei province at the epicentre of China’s COVID-19 outbreak, but not to other parts of the country. A federal court rejected the appeal of an unsuccessful refugee claimant to delay his deportation to Guangzhou in southern China, ruling that his individual risk of infection is relatively low.

Feb. 19: Research sheds light on transmission

  • A review published in the Journal of Travel Medicine suggested that the basic reproduction number or R0 for COVID-19 (that is, the number that indicates how quickly the virus spreads) is higher than the World Health Organization previously estimated. The review looked at 12 studies published between Jan. 1 and Feb. 7, which estimated a basic R0 ranging from 1.4 from 6.49, for an average of 3.28 and a median of 2.79 – higher than previous estimates ranging from 1.4 to 2.5.
  • According to preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, making it capable of spreading more easily than SARS, which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract. Among 17 symptomatic patients, higher amounts of the virus were present in the nose than in the throat, adding to evidence that the virus may spread more like influenza.

Feb. 14: Cases among Chinese health workers declining

  • The World Health Organization reported that COVID-19 cases among health workers in China peaked in late January and have rapidly declined in the past two weeks. According to Chinese health officials, 1,700 health workers have been infected since the beginning of the outbreak, and six have died.

Feb. 14: Demand for masks remains high

  • Some Canadian pharmacies are having trouble keeping up with high demand for face masks, despite health officials advising that they won’t necessarily protect against COVID-19. According to the Canadian Pharmacist Association, some pharmacists are discouraging customers from purchasing the masks. At a recent briefing, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the masks are more useful for people who are “actually sick.” Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that healthy people only need to wear a mask if they are caring for someone who is sick.

Feb. 14: Volunteers supporting people to self-quarantine

  • A group of 260 volunteers in Edmonton are helping travelers from China to self-quarantine. The volunteers pick up returning travelers from the airport, and deliver food and groceries. Some 50 people are currently under self-imposed quarantine in Edmonton.

Feb. 13: New coronavirus named

  • The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses named the new coronavirus “severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2, while the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the virus “coronavirus disease 2019,” or COVID-2019. The release of two names on the same day caused some confusion, and WHO clarified it will only use COVID-19 in communications to avoid the disease being mistaken for SARS.

Feb. 13: China reports largest one-day spike in cases

  • China reported 15,152 extra cases of COVID-19 and 254 additional deaths going back over an unknown number of days and weeks. WHO said the spike was due to a change in the way that Chinese authorities are counting cases; previously, they only counted lab-confirmed cases, but now they’re including clinical diagnoses based on lung imaging without requiring laboratory confirmation of coronavirus.

Feb. 13: Canadian hospitals unprepared for outbreak

  • Hospital overcrowding represents a potential critical weakness in Canada’s preparedness for an outbreak of the new coronavirus, warned a Perth, Ontario emergency physician. According to Dr. James Simpson, “There is no capacity in the system right now to manage a crisis. In fact, most hospitals currently have negative capacity as many are running with over 100% of their beds being filled.”

Feb. 13: Cruise passengers will finish quarantine on land

  • Twelve Canadians infected on board a quarantined cruise ship docked at Tokyo, Japan, have been moved to local health facilities, and three have been hospitalized. Japanese authorities will begin to allow passengers to leave the ship in phases and complete the quarantine on land.

Feb. 13: Faulty testing kits

  • Some of the testing kits sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to laboratories across the United States were faulty. The agency has stopped shipments of the tests to 30 other countries until their accuracy can be confirmed.

Feb. 12: Ontario reports resolved case

  • Ontario confirmed the province’s third case of COVID-19 is now resolved. The other two patients have recovered but continue to test positive for the virus and remain in isolation at home.

Feb. 11: Canada may expand self-quarantine advice

  • Canadian health officials are weighing whether to ask all travelers from China to self-quarantine for 14 days. Federal and provincial officials already recommend that travelers from Hubei province self-isolate to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. About 70 to 80 people from Hubei area are arriving in Canada each day, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Feb. 10: WHO warns cases outside China may accelerate 

  • Countries should prepare for the spread of the new coronavirus to accelerate outside of China, warned WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The recent detection of cases with no link to China indicate “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
  • So far, 99% of confirmed coronavirus cases are contained within China, and of those 80% are in Hubei. Developing nations could be at particular risk if quarantine efforts fail in China. Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines have recorded cases. As of Feb. 3, only two African nations, Senegal and South Africa, had capacity to diagnose coronavirus.

Feb. 10: Canadians infected on quarantined cruise ship

  • About 3,700 people are quarantined on a cruise ship docked at Tokyo, Japan, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with 2019-nCoV. According to the cruise operator, 135 people have been infected on board, including eight Canadians.

Feb. 10: Conflicting reports on aerosol transmission

  • A Shanghai official reported that the virus can be spread through direct transmission, contact transmission and aerosol transmission, and as such, could linger in the air for long periods. However, other Chinese officials later told reporters there is no evidence that the virus can form aerosols and the most likely route of transmission appears to be via droplets coughed or sneezed by infected people.

Feb. 9: New spike in infections

  • China reported 3,062 new infections on Feb. 9, up 15% from Saturday, breaking a string of daily declines that some had hoped indicated the success of containment measures. The death toll in China also rose by 97 to 908 over the same 24-hour period.

Feb. 9: Canadian leading WHO investigation

  • Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Bruce Aylward is leading a team of international experts to investigate China’s outbreak for the WHO. It took nearly two weeks for the agency to receive permission for the mission from the Chinese government.

Feb. 9: Possible fecal transmission 

  • A study published in JAMA found that nearly half of the first 138 patients diagnosed at one hospital Wuhan were infected at the hospital. Data in the study indicate rapid person-to-person transmission, with each patient spreading the infection to 2.2 others, on average.
  • The study also raised questions about the potential for fecal transmission of the virus. About 10% of patients initially presented with diarrhea and nausea before developing fever and difficulty breathing, and 2019-nCoV has been found in the feces of patients with abdominal symptoms.

Feb. 6: Doctor who issued early warnings dies

  • A Chinese doctor who issued early warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan died after becoming infected with the virus. Li Wenliang faced government censure for warning fellow doctors to wear protective clothing after noticing cases that he thought looked like SARS. Local authorities later apologized, and the news of his death triggered an outpouring of grief in China.

Feb. 6: Mass quarantines in Wuhan

  • The Chinese government has ordered authorities in Wuhan to round up all infected residents and place them in isolation, quarantine or designated hospitals. The order includes sending city investigators to the homes of infected patients to check the temperatures of all residents and interview close contacts. However, there is growing concern about the basic conditions in the makeshift mass quarantine shelters, with reports of power failures and shortages of medical staff and supplies.

Feb. 4: Rising tensions over travel

  • Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong went on strike to compel the government to shut its borders with mainland China to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV.
  • The WHO reaffirmed that there is no need to impose restrictions that “unnecessarily” interfere with travel and trade
  • China’s foreign ministry criticized the United States and other countries for overreacting to the outbreak. The US was the first to impose a travel ban on foreign nationals who have travelled in China within the past two weeks.

Feb. 4: Canadians with coronavirus won’t be evacuated

  • The federal government has a plane ready to evacuate Canadians from Hubei province in China, where the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated. Some 325 people have requested evacuation but those with respiratory symptoms will not be allowed to board the flight. On return to Canada, evacuees will be kept under observation for two weeks at a military base in Trenton, Ont.

Feb. 3: Human trials of potential treatments

  • Doctors in China are testing the efficacy of the antiviral drug Remdesivir as a potential treatment for 2019-nCoV in some 270 patients in Wuhan with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus. The HIV medicine Kaletra is also set to undergo human trials.
  • Thailand’s health ministry reported dramatic improvements in a patient with coronavirus treated with a combination of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir and the HIV treatments lopinavir and ritonavir. The ministry is awaiting further research into the case.

Feb. 3: China builds hospital in 10 days

  • China’s government built a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan in 10 days to increase capacity to respond to the outbreak in the city. The country deployed 1,400 doctors, nurses and other personnel from the military to staff the new hospital. A second 1,500-bed facility is due to open this week.

Feb 3: Could coronavirus be spread via imported goods?

  • According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence of transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods. In general, because of the poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.

Feb. 2: Death toll exceeds that of SARS outbreak

  • According to Chinese health officials, there were 361 deaths from 2019-nCoV in mainland China in the past month, exceeding the 346 deaths from SARS between 2002 and 2003.
  • Health officials in the Philippines reported the first death from 2019-nCoV outside of China, although the deceased, a 44-year-old man from Wuhan, harbored a mix of pathogens.

Jan. 31: How serious is the outbreak?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency following a second emergency meeting about the 2019-nCoV outbreak. In a statement, WHO said it is still possible to interrupt the spread of the virus, so long as countries put in place strong measures to detect, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts and promote social distancing measures.
  • Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the risk to Canadians remains low and Canada’s response is fully in line with WHO recommendations.
  • The number of cases in China exceeds the number of worldwide SARS cases (8,098) during the 2003 outbreak.

Jan. 31: How does the virus spread?

  • According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this coronavirus strain is linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, which suggests that it was first spread from animal to person. However, there have since been cases of people who didn’t have contact with any animal markets, indicating that the virus is able to travel from person to person.
  • Symptoms appear within 2 to 14 days and people without symptoms may be infectious during that period, according to Chinese health officials.

Jan. 31: What are the symptoms?

  • According to Health Canada, typical coronavirus symptoms include headaches, coughing, a sore throat and fever. Milder cases may be indistinguishable from a cold or flu. More serious cases can lead to pneumonia, organ failure and death.
  • A Lancet study of 99 confirmed cases in Wuhan found that 83% had fevers, 81% experienced fits of coughing, and 31% experienced shortness of breath. Three-quarters showed signs of bilateral pneumonia. Eleven patients, most of whom had other underlying conditions, later died of multiple organ failure.

Jan. 31: How can people protect themselves?

  • The WHO recommends the following standard hand and respiratory hygiene and safe food practices:
      • Frequently clean hands using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
      • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
      • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with an elbow or a tissue, and immediately throw used tissues away and wash your hands
      • Avoid consuming raw or under-cooked animal products, and avoid contact with live animals in affected areas
      • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share travel history with your care provider
  • A diagnostic test is available to detect infection, but there is no vaccine yet.

Jan. 30: Evacuations, quarantine and travel advisories

  • Canada has warned citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and avoid all travel to Hubei province, where the outbreak originated.
  • Many countries are evacuating citizens from China, including the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, and countries in the European Union. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the government is working out the logistics of evacuating Canadians and has a plane lined up to do so.
  • Italy is stopping air traffic with China, Russia is closing its far-east border, and numerous airlines including Air Canada are suspending flights to and from mainland China.
  • Some 60 million people in the city of Wuhan and across Hubei province are on some level of lockdown and travelers from the region have been ordered to self-quarantine.

Jan. 30: Misinformation and anti-Chinese racism on the rise

  • Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam urged a stop to racist acts and stigmatizing comments on social media against people of Chinese and Asian descent. Memes have spread on the internet blaming the outbreak on Chinese eating habits and hygiene. Chinese businesses in Canada also reported declines in customers.
  • Misinformation has spread online including false claims of tens of thousands of deaths and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories linking the outbreak to espionage and biological warfare. Three Canadian post-secondary schools have issued warnings about false information circulating on campuses.

Jan. 29: Global run on face masks  

  • A global run on surgical masks saw Amazon and Alibaba run out of stock. There were also reports of masks selling out at retailers in major cities in the United States and Canada, including Toronto and Montreal. But health professionals caution that masks are unlikely to protect people from the virus.

Jan. 28: When will the virus peak?

  • Speaking to Chinese state media on Jan. 28, respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said he expected the number of cases to peak within 10 days. Researchers at Imperial College London estimated there may be anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 cases in China, including those already confirmed.

Jan. 28: Real-time map shows spread of virus

  • Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering have developed an online dashboard showing the daily status of coronavirus infections worldwide. The dashboard culls data from major health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, China CDC, ECDC and others.

Jan. 28: Work on vaccine underway

  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations announced that it will give three companies a total of $12.5 million to develop 2019-CoV vaccines. Work started within hours after Chinese researchers posted a sequence of the virus in a public database, and two of the companies say they could have enough vaccine produced in one month to begin animal testing.
  • Canada’s chief public health officer says it will likely take at least a year before a vaccine is developed to protect people. In the meantime, people infected with the virus will be treated with supportive care.

Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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