Trudeau to announce cost-sharing agreements with provinces to top up the wages of essential workers; Russian health officials report a record daily spike

The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.

6:21 a.m.: The British government says a shipment of personal protective equipment from Turkey intended to help ease supply problems is sitting in a warehouse because it does not meet U.K. standards.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the 400,000 medical gowns are not “of the quality that we feel is good enough for our front-line staff” treating coronavirus patients.

The shipment has become an embarrassment for the British government since a minister announced on April 18 that it would arrive the next day. It was four days before a Royal Air Force plane was able to fly the cargo to the U.K.

6:16 a.m.: China is firing back at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, accusing him of “making up lies and covering up a lie by fabricating more lies.”

The strong language from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a Thursday briefing came as President Donald Trump and his allies continue to express confidence in an unsubstantiated theory linking the origin of the outbreak to a possible accident at a Chinese lab. U.S. officials say they are still exploring the subject and describe the evidence as purely circumstantial. But Trump, aides say, has embraced the notion to further highlight China’s lack of transparency.

“Under the situation that no scientists and experts can even draw any conclusions, why did Secretary Pompeo want to rush to the conclusion to hold the Wuhan laboratory accountable? Where is his evidence?,” Hua told reporters, while defending the integrity of the Wuhan lab. “Show us. If he can’t, is he still in the middle of concocting this so-called evidence?”

5:31 a.m.: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has surpassed 50,000 and deaths have surpassed 2,000. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Africa now has 51,698 cases, but the widespread shortage of testing materials means the actual number is unknown.

South Africa has the most virus cases with more than 7,800 but has been testing assertively with more than 10,000 tests carried out per day.

All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, have confirmed cases.

5:31 a.m.: Russian health officials reported more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday — a record daily spike which brought the country’s total over 177,000 confirmed cases.

Russia’s official caseload has thus surpassed that of Germany and France, becoming the 5th largest in the world. The actual number of cases is likely to be much higher as not everybody is getting tested and many people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms.

Last week, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suggested in his blog that as many as 2% of Moscow’s 12.7 million population — more than 200,000 people — may be infected with the coronavirus. Moscow has currently registered about 93,000 confirmed cases.

5:05 a.m.: The Bank of England has warned that the British economy could be nearly a third smaller by the end of the first half of this year than it was at the start of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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In forecasts published today, the bank said the British economy would shrink by about 25 per cent in the second quarter of the year, but would then start to recover as lockdown restrictions start to be lifted.

4 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today cost-sharing agreements with a number of provinces to top up the wages of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those agreements are expected to involve a transfer of federal funds to the provinces, each of which will be able to decide for itself which essential workers most need a pay boost.

The flexible agreements are intended to allow provinces to tailor the program to suit their different needs.

Wednesday 10:40 p.m.: Four children have contracted COVID-19 at a city-run daycare in Yorkville, said Toronto medical officer of health Eileen de Villa.

Eleven staff at the Jesse Ketchum Child Care Centre have also tested positive, she said at the city’s daily briefing on the pandemic.

“My understanding is that they are all doing well and recovering without incident at home,” she told reporters.

Wednesday 10 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said those setting fire to cellphone towers can face serious criminal charges.

“Vandalizing cellphone towers does nothing but threaten emergency services and impact the daily lives of Canadians across the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “These recent acts are serious criminal offences and carry severe penalties.”

The warning came after at least four cellphone towers were set on fire in Quebec over the span of a few days.

A spokeswoman for the town of Prevost, Que., where a Rogers-operated tower was hit Monday, said in recent weeks that residents have brought up unfounded conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to COVID-19.

Wednesday 6:15 p.m.: B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced the first stages of a gradual reopening plan for the province’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic — including opening parks for day use, opening schools on a voluntary basis, and allowing small social gatherings.

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic reopening plan came Wednesday on the tail of plans released in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and while Quebec is already planning a return to school for kids this month.

“We’ve put in place a plan that has slowed the growth of the virus and put us in pace for a safe restart of the economy,” Horgan said. “The good news is we’re already at Phase 1. That is because B.C. did not fully shut down.”

Click here to read more of Wednesday’s coverage.


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