Manitoba’s non-essential businesses shuttered as province battles COVID-19

You won’t be able to pick out any new threads at the mall while the Manitoba public health order that mandates the closure of non-essential businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19 remains in effect — but you can get your lawn cut.

The list of businesses or services that are considered essential and can remain open in Manitoba as of April 1 — 74 in total — includes the health care, banking and telecommunications sectors, the food service industry, public utilities and grocery stores.

But some of the services on the list might surprise you, like office supply stores, dry cleaning businesses and lawn care services.

Read the health order and full list here. 

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Meanwhile, other retailers and wholesalers can remain open if selling sanitation and cleaning products or personal protective equipment.

Showcase — a nationwide store known more for selling as-seen-on-TV gadgets than cleaning supplies — had several Winnipeg stores open Wednesday.


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Winnipeg police change online crime-reporting processes during coronavirus pandemic

Winnipeg police are changing some of their crime-reporting processes during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The force announced Wednesday that it’s upping the accepted value of all online reporting categories from $5,000 to $25,000 during the pandemic.

That means that anyone reporting non-domestic theft, mischief or damage under $25,000 — as long as the crimes are not in progress — should do so by phone at 204-986-8666.

Phone reports can be made Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding holidays.

Police are also encouraging Winnipeggers to use their online reporting tool.

Online reporting categories include thefts, damages, frauds, hit-and-runs and retail thefts.

Police say their Virtual Police Response (VPR) system will now also accept reports of non-domestic assault and robberies that are not in progress where the suspect is unknown.

The VPR system was started as a pilot in the summer and was originally set up to allow Winnipeggers to report break-and-enters through a video chat system with a police officer.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Trudeau to provide update on Canada’s response to COVID-19 pandemic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to offer an update on Canada’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to his official itinerary, Trudeau will address Canadians at 11 a.m. ET from Rideau Cottage where he is in self-isolation.

Global News will stream his speech here.

On Friday Trudeau announced the federal wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak would be jumping up to 75 per cent.

Trudeau had previously announced a 10 per cent wage subsidy, but conceded that it wasn’t enough.

“It’s becoming clear that we need to do more — much more — so we’re bringing that percentage up to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses,” Trudeau told reporters. “This means people will continue to be paid even though their employers have to slow down or stop their businesses.”

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City of Peterborough closes all playground equipment, exercise station amid coronavirus pandemic

The City of Peterborough has closed all city playground equipment and the outdoor adult exercise station at Beavermead Park effective Friday morning to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The city issued the directive at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The city says Peterborough Public Health has recommended the closure of public playgrounds due to the types of playground surfaces as well as the limited cleaning and sanitization practices for outdoor playground equipment. Signage will be posted advising people of the closures.

“It’s a good strategy to help our children right now,” said Julie Ingram, the health unit’s manager of environmental health.

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Parks, trails and green spaces remain open to enable residents to get outdoors, however physical distancing must be observed, the city stated.

 

On Friday morning, the health unit announced there are now 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its jurisdiction, which includes Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.

The city continues to monitor the situation in consultation with health officials and will make additional changes as warranted.


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Coronavirus researchers tasked with balancing speed, scientific rigour

OTTAWA — Researchers in the race against time to provide a proven treatment for COVID-19 will have to balance scientific rigour against speed, according to global experts.

Clinical trials for possible treatments and cures have begun around the world, including an unprecedented international study by the World Health Organization.

But the scientific gold standard to test the efficacy of new, unproven treatments isn’t always practical with new cases of COVID-19 spreading around the world.

Earl Brown, a professor emeritus of virology at the University of Ottawa, says even in a pandemic, studies still need to meet all the usual scientific checks and balances.

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CAA Manitoba offers free services to healthcare workers, first repsonders

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is offering free roadside services to health care workers and emergency responders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAA said Friday they want to make sure anyone working on the front lines of the crisis are able to get to and from work safely, and is therefore offering free roadside assistance for Manitoba front-line workers.

According to the association, people who work in a hospital, health care centre, or are a first responder can request CAA roaside services by dialing *222 on your mobile phone, or calling 1-800-222-4357.

The free service is being offered to all front-line workers, despite whether they are a CAA member or not.

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Health care workers who use the service, and already have a CAA membership, won’t have the calls counted towards their membership.

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London, Ont., public board reassures students over potentially lengthy school closures

The public school board in London, Ont., expects more concrete information from the province early next week on how long school closures will extend.

The Thames Valley District School Board’s director of education, Mark Fisher, told Global News on Thursday that he believes Premier Doug Ford will make an announcement either Monday or Tuesday with an update on the status of Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

“We definitely anticipate the school closure being extended,” said Fisher.

“My best guess is that it’s going to be longer than two weeks.”

On March 12, the Ontario government first announced that all publicly-funded schools would be shut down for two weeks after March Break due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

On March 23, Premier Ford confirmed suspicions that publicly-funded schools would not reopen on April 6 as initially expected, but only said at the time that an announcement would be coming in the future.

Fisher also noted that, with the expectation that school closures could extend for some time, the board is working on a comprehensive plan to address students’ educational needs.

“On April 6 forward, I expect much more formal interaction between students and teachers. Some of those details are still being worked out at the provincial level,” Fisher said.

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“I know the provincial labour leaders in the ministry are working back and forth to talk about what the exact requirements will be. But I know our teachers in Thames Valley are committed to our students.”

He also addressed concerns about students’ access to resources going forward.

“We know a lot of our students don’t have access to the technology itself or families that have multiple siblings. So we’re taking a look at our internal resources, Chromebooks, iPods, laptops, making sure they’re thoroughly cleaned and we’re in the process of developing a distribution system so those that need technology will get technology,” he explained.

“For those students that live in the more rural and remote areas that don’t have access to the internet, we are working on the development of print resources and print documents to make sure that those students aren’t left behind.

“I want to make it really, really clear we’re going to ensure that no student is left worse off as a result of this stoppage.”

Fisher also stressed that students in Grade 12 who are on pace to graduate will still graduate and that every student in grade eight who expects to move on to high school next school year will still move on to high school.

“We will make sure that no single student’s year is jeopardized as a result of this crisis.”

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Scammers have never had a more target-rich environment amid coronavirus pandemic: experts

The coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm for scammers seeking to defraud panicked, isolated and emotionally vulnerable targets, experts say.

“I think we are in for a wild ride,” said Frank McKenna, an anti-fraud expert who has studied organized fraud networks in Canada and the United States. “We have this unprecedented global fear and panic. I’ve never seen an environment quite as ripe for fraud as now.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic rise in unemployment and financial stress, which is an optimal market disruption for scammers to exploit, according to McKenna. Meanwhile, most of the world has been put into physical isolation — creating a divide-and-conquer environment that predators thrive in. 

McKenna said in his studies, fraudsters in Canada work in well-organized rings that share information about successful scams. And it’s believed these networks are swinging into overdrive because of an increased supply of victims who are separated from normal social networks, which tend to offer support and advice.

And yet the world is extremely interconnected online, and a great deal of fraud now takes place in cyberspace, meaning fraudsters have a captive and receptive audience.

“People are inundated,” McKenna said. “They are on the internet looking for answers and they don’t know what’s real.”

This target-rich environment is compounded because the world is awash in promises of stimulus spending and financial assistance, McKenna said. Meanwhile, government agencies are issuing alerts regarding COVID-19 circumstances. 

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Inmate at Toronto South Detention Centre tests positive for COVID-19

An inmate at a Toronto prison has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed.

A statement from the ministry sent out Wednesday said that an inmate at the Toronto South Detention Centre tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the statement, the ministry was informed by local public health that the inmate was a possible COVID-19-related case upon admission, and was immediately placed in isolation.

All infection prevention steps have since been taken by the TSDC, and screening procedures for respiratory illness will continue, the statement continues.

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Here’s who will receive assistance under Ontario’s $17B coronavirus aid package

Billed as a “first step” by Ontario’s finance minister, Rod Phillips unveiled the government’s $17-billion aid package as the province continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government announced several measures aimed at helping residents, businesses, and the health care sector.

Phillips tabled Ontario’s economic and fiscal update at Queen’s Park on Wednesday. The total package contains $7 billion in direct support to various communities and entities as well as $10 billion in business tax and other tax-related deferrals.

Here are the highlights of the investments made by the Ontario government in its update:

Government budget

  • $2.5 billion reserve “to provide continued flexibility to respond to changing global circumstances”

Health care

  • $1 billion COVID-19 contingency fund to respond to “emerging needs”
  • $935 million aimed at addressing hospital capacity issues as well as for ICU/critical care beds, equipment, COVID assessment centres
  • $124 million for transitional projects (moving less severe hospital patients to other settings to free up hospital capacity)
  • $243 million for emergency long-term care home capacity and virus containment
  • $160 for public health units for COVID-19 monitoring, lab testing, virtual care and TeleHealth Ontario
  • $75 million for personal protective equipment for frontline staff
  • $80 million for paramedics
  • $70 million for new infection control measures at retirement homes, shelters, residential care facilities

Workers

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  • $100 million for skills training for workers impacted by COVID-19
  • Previously announced job-protected leave for employees in isolation, quarantine and those caring for children

Businesses

  • $6 billion in provincial business tax interest and penalty relief for five months
  • $355 million for a temporary increase in Employer Health Tax exemption (companies with less than $1 million will be exempt from paying, estimated to help 57,000 businesses)
  • 10 per cent corporate tax credit for regions with “lagging employment growth
  • $1.9 billion for the deferral of WSIB premiums for up to six months

Hydro

  • $1.5 billion increase in electricity relief
  • Previously announced changing time-of-use rate prices to the lowest rate for 45 days
  • Expansion of the low income energy assistance program’s eligibility and ensuring no disconnections for nonpayment

Parents and students

  • $340 million for one-time payments of $200 for each child 12 and under, $250 for each child 12 and under with special needs

Seniors

  • Doubling of guaranteed annual income system payments for low-income seniors
  • New coordination of meal and medicine deliveries

Post-secondary education debt

  • OSAP repayments suspended for six months

Indigenous Peoples

  • $26 million in emergency assistance for urban Indigenous communities

Municipalities

  • $1.8 billion to pay for the three-month deferral of property tax payments municipalities are required make to school boards for three months
  • Municipalities urged, but not required, to provide deferrals to municipal taxpayers

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