Coronavirus updates: Parliament to hold emergency session on Tuesday; Ontario reports 47 new COVID-19 cases

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The latest local and Canadian news on novel coronavirus


3:08 pm Temporary new powers for hospitals

The province has issued a temporary order to give hospitals new powers to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Hospitals will now have the ability to cancel and postpone services to free-up space and staff, redeploy staff to different areas such as COVID-19 assessment centres, changing work assignments, including allowing non-bargaining unit employees, volunteers and contractors to do bargaining unit work and cancelling or deferring vacations and leaves, among other measures.

“While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed, to care for Ontarians and support our extensive efforts to contain this virus,” solicitor general Sylvia Jones said in a statement.


12:05 pm Ontario to allow select child-care centres to open to support essential workers

The province will exempt select child-care centres from last week’s emergency order to close to support health care and frontline workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We need to help our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers to be able to focus on protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians,” said health minister Christine Elliott said in a statement on Sunday. “By allowing select child care centres to open their doors during these challenging times, our province’s courageous frontline workers can rest assured knowing that their families are also being looked after.”

The goal is to ensure doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police and correctional officers have access to emergency child care. The centres be required to follow health and safety regulations and have a plan in place should staff, children or parents be exposed to the virus.

Once open, the list of locations will be posted online at ontario.ca/coronavirus.


11:45 am Parliament to pass emergency legislation on Tuesday

In his daily press briefing, prime minister Justin Trudeau said the House of Commons will hold an emergency session on Tuesday at noon to pass legislation that will be the government’s $82-billion relief package into motion.

The measures include boosting the Canada Child Benefit, adding new benefits for people who don’t qualify for employment insurance and supplementing the GST credit, among other initiatives.

A limited number of MPs from each party expected to be present due to social distancing. Trudeau thanked opposition parties for their efforts in helping pass the legislation, which will be exclusive focus o Tuesday’s session. A minimum of 20 MPs must be present for the House of Commons to pass legislation.

Trudeau added that “it is likely to take months before we’re fully through this” and said the relief package was a first step in a multi-pronged fiscal stimulus plan that could eventually involve direct support to Canadians, businesses and sectors hit hard by COVID-19.

Asked whether the federal government would declare a state of emergency, Trudeau said, “We are not there yet but we are watching and monitoring the situation carefully to see if that ever becomes necessary.

“For the federal government to take that step, that would take circumstances where we’ve gone beyond anything that can be done by the municipality and the provinces,” he added. “Stay home, engage in social distancing, protect yourselves, protect our system and let’s get through this strongly as a country.”


11:25 am Ontario reports 47 new COVID-19 cases

Public health officials said on Sunday there are 47 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, bringing Ontario’s total to 424. That number includes eight cases that have been resolved and three deaths. There are 8,361 cases under investigation and 17,634 people have tested negative.


9:33 am Canada’s number of COVID-19 cases 

As of Sunday evening, Canada’s total number of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases is 1,331. There have been 19 deaths and 16 recovered cases. Ontario’s count is 377, including three deaths and six resolved cases.


9:15 am 444 Canadians arrive home from Morocco

The first of Air Canada’s special commercial flights bringing Canadians home touched down in Montreal on Saturday, the airline said in a tweet. The plane departed from Morocco with 444 passengers aboard and landed in Montreal after 11 pm local time.

Foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne said he has spoken with his counterparts in Austria, Brazil, Germany, Peru, Turkey and the UK to coordinate helping Canadians stuck in those countries return home.

WestJet has also announced that between Monday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 25 the airline will operate 34 repatriation flights from international destinations.


@nowtoronto