Liberals and Conservatives wrangle on reopening Parliament as some countries begin relaxing restrictions

The latest:

  • G20 health ministers meet to discuss COVID-19 strategies. 
  • Canada has 34,813 cases of COVID-19, 1,628 deaths and 11,817 recoveries.
  • Trudeau promises support from Canadian Rangers for northern Quebec communities. 
  • India’s COVID-19 lockdown is among the strictest in the world but has yet to slow the spread.
  • Countries, including South Korea, Iran and Italy, plan to lift some restrictions on movement. 
  • Liberals propose five days of question period be condensed into two during pandemic.
  • Armed Forces members arrive in Quebec to help in long-term care homes.
  • INTERACTIVE | See the latest figures on COVID-19 in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said the number of coronavirus cases in Canada “is trending in the right direction,” but urged people to stick to physical distancing requirements.

He promised more support for isolated communities in northern Quebec amid the COVID-19 outbreak, following a request from the provincial government.

Members of the Canadian Rangers, a military reserve force in northern Canada, will be providing the extra assistance; Trudeau did not specify what specifically the Rangers will be doing or how many members of the force will be deployed.

The prime minister also criticized the opposition Conservatives as “irresponsible” for demanding more live sittings as negotiations continue on reopening Parliament.

The hiatus in Parliament was scheduled to end tomorrow, with all 338 MPs returning, unless the Liberal government and opposition parties can agree on an alternative arrangement.

The Liberals have proposed one in-person sitting with a limited number of MPs per week bolstered by a virtual sitting on another day, saying that would prevent COVID-19 from spreading among MPs and Parliament Hill staff.

But Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives are pushing for three in-person sittings per week to hold government accountable for its pandemic response.

WATCH | Some good news from around the world on Sunday:

With much of the world struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still some good-news stories to report. Here’s a brief roundup. 4:37

Trudeau’s daily briefing, lighter on specific announcements than others this week, came as health ministers from the Group of 20 major economies held a virtual meeting on Sunday to work on a joint response to the pandemic.

Member countries will be joined by leaders from Spain, Singapore, Jordan and Switzerland as well as international and regional organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, a G20 statement said, as they look to calibrate responses to the pandemic.

Some countries hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, including South Korea, Spain, Italy and Iran, are planning to relax some restrictions on movement and commerce as new infection numbers drop.  

(CBC)

On Sunday, Trudeau said the government is not currently calling for an investigation into China’s handling of the virus, as other Western nations, such as Australia, have done.

He also said that businesses important for economic recovery may be exposed to predatory foreign investors and that the government will closely watch foreign takeover bids of Canadian firms at this vulnerable time.

Canada has 34,813 cases, 1,628 deaths and 11,817 recoveries, plus two Canadians who died overseas, according to a CBC tally updated Sunday. 

On Sunday, Trudeau said decisions on restarting economy and on health-care options are better made at a provincial level.

“We have a tremendous amount of confidence that provinces are going to be able to continue to manage their health-care systems appropriately,” Trudeau said.

WATCH | ‘Being a new mom is already scary’: Having a baby during the pandemic:

Natalie Kiparisas says it has been a ‘rough ride’ not being able to have her family around after the birth of her son. 5:19

Trudeau’s messages of collaboration among provinces contrasted with the situation in the United States. As protests against mandatory closures were held this week, U.S. President Donald Trump, on Twitter, urged supporters to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.

Trudeau’s government has so far held off on defining guidelines for provinces looking to lift restrictions, as Trump did for U.S. governors earlier this week.

The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 700,000 positive tests. Globally, there are more than 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 161,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Separately, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and other celebrities took part in a global special of music, comedy and personal stories in what Gaga called a “love letter” to front-line workers battling the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday evening.

WATCH | Trudeau announces extension of U.S. border restrictions:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses extending restrictions imposed on the U.S.-Canada border, new funding for Indigenous businesses and the arrival of shipments of medical supplies during his daily COVID-19 briefing Saturday. 7:06

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said Saturday three more people died of COVID-19, all from long-term care facilities. The announcement came a day after Henry and other health officials released modelling data showing B.C. is flattening the COVID-19 curve to the point where plans are underway to loosen some provincial restrictions. Nevertheless, Henry is saying no to large summer events that are often the highlight of the season, such as the Pacific National Exhibition and Vancouver’s Pride parade. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.

A medical worker and prison guards are seen at a secure mobile medical unit set up at Abbotsford Regional Hospital to treat prisoners infected with the coronavirus from the Mission Institution correctional facility, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

In Alberta, three workers at a Calgary Co-op location have COVID-19, though the store says there is no evidence the employees contracted the illness at work. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw  attributed the recent rise in cases partially to a spike in testing. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan reported six new cases in a Saturday briefing. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba reported three new cases on Saturday. Meanwhile, paramedics in rural parts of Manitoba say they’re not getting the same personal protective equipment as health-care workers in the bigger cities, putting them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including an analysis of how the provincial government is handling the outbreak.

In Ontario, 568 new cases and 334 recoveries were reported Sunday, meaning the province now has 10,578 cases and 5,209 recoveries, along with at least 573 deaths. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Cyclists and pedestrians make their way along Queen Elizabeth Drive in Ottawa as it is closed to motor vehicle traffic to allow people to get outdoors while practising physical distancing on Saturday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

In Quebec, Canadian Armed Forces members with medical training are arriving to help in the province’s long-term care homes. About 125 nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel have been sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Premier Legault said he took “full responsibility” for the “deteriorating” situation in the province’s long-term care homes. Such facilities are struggling with staffing as a number of workers have fallen ill, while the senior residents of those homes have been dying at an alarming rate. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa is seen, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, on Saturday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has floated May 1 as a possible date for lifting some restrictions in the province  if new case numbers remain low and recovery rates stay high. The province reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The province has 118 confirmed cases. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia reported two new deaths, bringing the provincial total to nine. Both patients were residents of the A Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, where another three deaths had been reported the previous day. According to Unifor, the union that represents workers at Northwood, the site is moving about 20 residents to a hotel. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

Funeral home workers remove a body from the Residence Yvon-Brunet long-term care home in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Prince Edward Island for the second weekend in a row is offering free care packages containing potatoes and dairy products at drive-thru locations set up by the government, Amalgamated Dairies Ltd. and the P.E.I. Potato Board. The province, which is in its second day under a state of emergency, reported no new cases on Saturday. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.

Newfoundland and Labrador did not report any new cases Sunday, but did add two recoveries to the provincial total, bringing it to 191Read more about what’s happening in N.L., including the story of a hotel offering free isolation rooms.

The Northwest Territories isn’t saying who is on its COVID-19 enforcement task forceand Yukon reported one new case on Friday. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North, including the efforts at a micro-manufacturing centre in Inuvik to create items essential workers need.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:45 a.m. ET

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress are close to reaching agreement on a new coronavirus response bill, which would expand loans for small businesses.

An agreement would end a stalemate that has lasted more than a week over President Donald Trump’s request to add $250 billion US to a small-business loan program. Congress set up the program last month as part of a $2.3 trillion US coronavirus economic relief plan, but it has already run out of money.

Governors eager to rescue their economies and feeling heat from President Donald Trump are moving to ease restrictions meant to control the spread of the coronavirus, even as new hot spots emerge and experts warn that moving too fast could prove disastrous.

WATCH | ‘Still a free country’: Lockdown protests pop up in U.S. 

Some Americans are holding rallies to call for reopening the economy. 2:17

Adding to the pressure are protests against stay-at-home orders organized by small-government groups and Trump supporters. They staged demonstrations Saturday in several cities after the president urged them to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.

Protests happened in Republican-led states, too, including at the Texas Capitol and in front of the Indiana governor’s home. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already said that restrictions will begin easing next week. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb — who signed an agreement with six other Midwestern states to co-ordinate reopening — said he would extend his stay-at-home order until May 1.

For the first time in weeks, people were able to visit some Florida beaches, but they were still subject to restrictions on hours and activities. Beaches in big cities stayed closed.

Meanwhile, infections kept surging in the Northeast.

Rhode Island, between the hot spots of Massachusetts and New York, has seen a steady daily increase in infections and deaths, with nursing home residents accounting for more than 90 of the state’s 118 deaths. The state’s death rate of around 10 people per 100,000 is among the nation’s highest per capita, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.

Passengers ride the subway with seats marked for social distancing in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Massachusetts had its highest number of deaths in a single day on Friday, with 159. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, citing health experts’ advice, said states should wait until infection rates and hospitalizations decline for about two weeks before acting.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 10:40 a.m. ET

South Korea reported just eight more cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time a daily increase has dropped to single digits in about two months. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional figures raised the country’s total to 10,661, including 234 deaths. South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March.

China on Sunday reported 16 new coronavirus cases but no deaths while authorities remained on guard against a major resurgence and monitored the spread of cases in northeastern Heilongjiang province. Nine of the new cases were imported infections, according to data from China’s health commission. Authorities reported that total confirmed cases across mainland China had risen to 82,735 with 4,632 deaths as of April 18.

A woman wears a protective mask to protect from coronavirus in London on Saturday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

Singapore reported a sharp, one-day spike of 942 infections, the highest in Southeast Asia, mostly among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories. That brought the total to almost 6,000 in the city-state of six million.

Iran allowed so-called low-risk businesses — including many shops, factories and workshops — to resume operations in Tehran on Saturday, a week after re-opening in the rest of the country. Universities and schools remain closed, along with a ban on cultural, religious and sports gatherings in the country with 80,868 confirmed cases of infection and more than 5,000 deaths.

In Egypt, Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, has held Easter services in an empty monastery in the desert amid coronavirus restrictions which kept the faithful from gathering at churches and monasteries across the country. Easter services in other countries with Orthodox Christian communities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East were also held in empty churches. 

Britain is not considering lifting the lockdown imposed almost four weeks ago to control the coronavirus outbreak given “deeply worrying” increases in the death toll, a senior minister said on Sunday. Britain is at or near the peak of a health crisis in which more than 15,000 people have died, the fifth highest national death toll of the global pandemic.

France‘s national health agency said Saturday that the number of virus patients in intensive care dropped for the 10th straight day, and overall virus hospitalizations have fallen for three consecutive days. The country has seen almost 20,000 virus deaths. The agency urged the French public to stick to strict confinement measures, which have been extended until at least May 11: “Don’t relax our efforts at the moment when confinement is bearing fruit.”

Russia on Sunday reported a record rise of 6,060 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours. The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.

A medical staffer gestures after performing swabs for coronavirus in the Santa Cecilia nursing home in Civitavecchia, near Rome, on Saturday. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via The Associated Press)

Spain’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose by 410 on Sunday, down from 565 on Saturday, the Health Ministry said, bringing the total to 20,453 deaths in one of the world’s hardest hit countries.

Italy’s Premier Giuseppe Conte is promising a clear indication “in the coming days” of loosened restrictions in the country’s response to the virus outbreak. He is expected to allow more freedom of movement and an easing of the industrial shutdown. Schools are expected to remain closed until September, while there is no indication yet of how Italy might be able to relaunch tourism, even domestically. Italy was the first Western country to be struck by the virus and has registered the most deaths in Europe, at 23,227. 

Also in Italy, Pope Francis called on Sunday for an all-embracing vision of the world after the COVID-19 crisis, saying moving on without global solidarity or excluding sectors of society from the recovery would result in “an even worse virus.”

The pope left the Vatican for the first time in more than a month to say Mass in an almost empty church a few blocks away to mark Divine Mercy Sunday.

A police officer stands in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo on April 18. (Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)

In Guatemala, 32 migrants on a deportation flight from the United States earlier this week have now tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Central American nation’s health ministry. The Trump administration has pressured Guatemala to keep receiving deported migrants despite growing concerns returnees are bringing the virus with them and could infect remote communities.

Major cities in Brazil saw protests Saturday by hundreds of people denouncing pandemic lockdown measures also opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro, a fierce critic of stay-at-home measures imposed by state governments.

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