More COVID-19 restrictions eased as top doctor warns vaccine a ways off

More COVID-19 restrictions eased as top doctor warns vaccine a ways off

Children played physically distanced games in a Quebec schoolyard and more Ontario shops began offering curbside pickup Monday as Canada’s top doctor warned a COVID-19 vaccine is still a ways off.

Quebec, which accounts for more than half of the country’s roughly 69,000 novel coronavirus cases, was the first province to start allowing kids back to classes.

Daycares and elementary schools outside the Montreal area were allowed to open with a maximum of 15 students per classroom. Schools in the hard-hit city are to restart May 25 at the earliest.

At Ecole St. Gerard in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal, children were playing “walk the dog.” Hockey sticks with pictures of dogs attached were meant to show proper distancing.

The day began with kids posing for parents’ photos on coloured dots painted on the ground outside to mark how far apart they should be from classmates.

Marie Fortin watched as her twin seven-year-old daughters each received a spray of disinfectant from a staff member wearing a mask. She said she was reassured by the school’s preparations, which included sectioning off classrooms with tape and devising a hand-washing game.

“We don’t feel unsafe at all,” she said.

The province has said attendance is not mandatory. One bus pulled in with a lone student aboard.

Ontario began allowing non-essential retailers to offer curbside pickup after hardware and safety supply stores reopened on the weekend.

But Cat and Jason Van Wert, who own the Guild House gaming store in Toronto, said arranging for same-day delivery works better than standing out front with a table.

“A lot of the pickups have just been ad hoc,” said Jason van Wert. ”With the delivery, people are happy to just pay the $5 and have it delivered to them rather than try and figure out the best time for them to come by.”

Newfoundland and Labrador was allowing some medical procedures to resume Monday, as well as golf, hunting and fishing. Low-risk businesses, including garden centres, and professional services such as law firms, could also reopen.

Alberta is planning to allow some retail stores in the coming days, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba began to gradually reopen last week.

British Columbia is to phase in resumption of certain health services, retail outlets, restaurants, salons and museums in mid-May.

A vaccine has been seen as a key condition for resuming life as it was before the pandemic, but Canada’s chief public health officer cautioned research is still in its early stages.

Dr. Theresa Tam said more than 100 different vaccine candidates are being looked at worldwide and some are in early clinical trials. She said Canada is monitoring all of them and considering how they could be rolled out domestically.

“But right now, you can’t actually say, ‘Here is the vaccine that is going to be the most successful.’ That’s still undergoing evolution globally.”

Also Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would be the “lender of last resort” for large companies in all economic sectors where financial needs aren’t being met by private lenders.

“We will not allow millions of people to lose their livelihoods because of unprecedented events beyond their control,” he said.

Those wanting to receive the federal money are subject to limits on dividends, share buybacks and executive pay. Any companies convicted of tax evasion won’t be eligible.

Trudeau said his government’s top priority has been the health and safety of Canadians, followed by ensuring the economy is able to bounce back from the pandemic.

“That means doing things strongly right now to support people, but also (making) sure that there is an economy to come back to once we do start reopening and life starts to get back to normal.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2020

— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and John Chidley-Hill in Toronto

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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