Federal government to help employers get rapid COVID-19 tests through new portal

The latest:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced an expanded program for small and medium-sized businesses to get free rapid COVID-19 tests for their employees.

The tests, which screen for the virus in as little as 15 minutes, can be ordered from 40 Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Ontario hot spots. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s network is helping distribute kits to enterprises across the country.

The government has also opened a federal portal for online orders.

“More screening and testing means safer workplaces and less community transmission,” Trudeau said Friday as he announced the expansion. “That will help us reopen our economy faster.”

He spoke about deploying more of the tests two weeks after the federal government publicly revealed that only about four per cent of nearly 42 million procured COVID-19 rapid testing kits have been used.

Meanwhile, new public health orders will come into effect on Sunday in Manitoba to clamp down on a surge of COVID-19 cases.

WATCH | New restrictions in Manitoba as COVID-19 cases surge:

With Manitoba’s COVID-19 curve moving up, and ICU beds filling up, the province today announced new pandemic restrictions, higher fines for rule breakers and a new sick leave benefit. 2:01

Outdoor gatherings will be capped at five people, restaurants and bars will be limited to delivery or takeout only and indoor events, including religious gatherings, are prohibited.

Manitoba’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the measures — announced Friday as the province reported a record 502 new cases of infection — will be in place until May 30.

Nova Scotia, already under a two-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown that began April 28, will see even more restrictions.

Premier Iain Rankin announced Friday that schools will remain closed for at least the rest of the month and new border restrictions will come into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday.

WATCH | Nova Scotia tightens border and imposes new COVID-19 restrictions:

Nova Scotia is reporting another record high number of new COVID-19 cases and is bringing in new border and shopping restrictions to try to slow the spread. 1:47

The province will be closed to people coming from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. It was previously closed to non-essential travel from other provinces.

Nova Scotia reported a new daily high of 227 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and Rankin said overwhelmed staff had yet to enter another 200 positive cases into the province’s database.

What’s happening across Canada 

As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,273,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 81,218 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,529.

Ontario on Friday reported 3,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths.The Ministry of Health said because of a technical issue with the laboratory data feed, the case count issued Friday may be under-reported.

In Quebec, health officials reported 919 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. 

Newfoundland and Labrador reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, six of them related to travel within Canada.

Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday. New Brunswick health officials, meanwhile, reported eight new cases of COVID-19, including two travel-related cases of New Brunswickers who are isolating outside the province.

Saskatchewan reported 295 new cases of COVID-19 and one related death on Friday. Earlier, the provincial government said all residents 12 and older will be eligible for a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 20.

WATCH | How workers at a neighbourhood grocery store stay COVID-free:

A small grocery story in Toronto’s Little Portugal is stocked with food and frontline heroes. 5:02

Alberta reported 1,980 new COVID-19 cases and four related deaths on Friday. Earlier, Premier Jason Kenney said about 2,000 Alberta truckers are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine when they deliver goods in Montana.

British Columbia reported 722 new COVID-19 cases and seven related deaths on Friday.

A health official in the Northwest Territories said a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife is mostly affecting children and youth. There are 47 active cases in the territory’s capital, and all are linked to an outbreak declared at N.J. Macpherson School last week.

Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday.

What’s happening around the world

Medical staff attend to COVID-19 patients in the ICU ward at the Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi, India. Hospitals have been forced to turn people away, having run out of space for the crushing number of people seeking help. (Rebecca Conway/Getty Images)

As of early Saturday, 156.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 3.2 million.

Two southern states in India have become the latest to declare lockdowns, as COVID-19 cases surge at breakneck speed across the country.

The announcements from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka come as pressure mounts on the federal government to announce a nationwide lockdown.

On Saturday, India reported 401,078 new cases, including 4,187 deaths. That takes the total to over 21.8 million cases, in what is believed to be an undercount.

Karnataka’s capital of Bengaluru is reporting more than 300,000 active cases, the highest caseload of any Indian city. Experts say the surge in Bengaluru is fast eclipsing other hard-hit cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.

In China, more than 308.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered on the mainland as of Friday, said the National Health Commission on Saturday.

To advance the rollout, local authorities of Jiangsu province, just north of the city of Shanghai, have set up temporary vaccination sites at popular scenic spots, railway stations and shopping malls.

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