Trudeau announces funding for 10,000 new jobs for young people; Parent company of Chuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy | #students | #parents

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

1:30 p.m.: Ontario’s nursing homes are making progress on ending outbreaks of COVID-19, with the number of homes dipping below 60 for the first time in weeks even as residents and staff continue to catch the virus.

There were 57 outbreaks at long-term-care facilities on Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported, down from 62 the previous day. The number had been stalled in the mid-60s for much of June.

But daily statistics show new cases continuing to develop, with 44 more nursing-home residents and 53 more staff members taking ill with the highly contagious novel coronavirus in the last two days.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.

1:20 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford is urging Ottawa to keep the border with the U.S. closed.

“I just don’t think we’re ready,” Ford says.

Unlike Quebec, Ontario will continue the daily release of COVID-19 data. Health Minister Christine Elliott says Ontarians have the right to know.

1:05 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford announces $13 million for community-driven and youth-led projects to improve well-being of families facing economic and social barriers.

11:55 a.m.: CEC Entertainment Inc., the parent of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza, filed for bankruptcy protection after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered its locations and kept families at home.

The filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas makes CEC the latest in a string of companies upended by Covid-19. Lockdowns have drained revenue, keeping consumers at home and pushing corporations into bankruptcy.

CEC, acquired by private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc. in a 2014 leveraged buyout, has more than 600 Chuck E. Cheese outlets and over 120 Peter Piper Pizza venues.

As of June 24, 266 company-operated Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza restaurant and arcade venues have re-opened, CEC said in a statement. It expects to maintain operations in theses locations during the Chapter 11 process, and to open additional locations each week. CEC franchised locations operate under separate legal and financial structures and are not included in the Chapter 11 filings, the company said.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection without a deal in place. It said it will use the bankruptcy process to continue discussions with its stakeholders and landlords to achieve a balance sheet restructuring that “supports its re-opening and longer-term strategic plans.”

Both loan and bondholders to CEC were contemplating putting new money into the business to keep it afloat, Bloomberg reported last week. They brought in advisors to help them evaluate options, including fresh capital to help CEC ride out the pandemic.

11:50 p.m.: Quebec is reporting 142 new cases of COVID-19 on what health officials say will be the final day they release daily data on the pandemic.

The number is a jump from Wednesday, when the province reported 53 new cases, and it brings the provincial total to 55,079.

The decision announced Wednesday to end daily updates on the situation in the province comes after Premier Francois Legault named a new health minister, Christian Dube, on Monday.

Alexandre Lahaie, spokesman for Dube, said the decision came from the Health Department and not from the new minister.

A Health Department spokesperson said the province is switching to weekly updates, to be issued every Thursday, because the epidemiological situation is stabilizing.

Health authorities also today reported seven new deaths attributed to COVID-19 — six that occurred in the past 24 hours and one that occurred before June 17, for a total of 5,448.

10:38 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will invest to create 10,000 new job placements for young people between the ages of 15 and 30 through the Canada Summer Jobs Program.

Another 20,000 job placements will be made available for post-secondary students through the Student Work Placement Program.

8:45 a.m.: The number of laid-off workers who applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. declined slightly to 1.48 million last week, the 12th straight drop and a sign that layoffs are slowing but are still at a painfully high level.

The steady decline in claims suggests that the job market has begun to slowly heal from the pandemic, which shuttered businesses and sent the unemployment rate up to 14.7 per cent in April, its highest level since the Great Depression. The total number of people who are receiving jobless aid also fell last week, evidence that employers are rehiring some of the workers who had been laid off since mid-March.

8 a.m.: Export Development Canada says trade confidence among Canadian exporters hit all-time low in its latest survey due to the economic shock as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The export credit agency says its trade confidence index fell to 56.0 compared with 69.3 per cent at the end of 2019.

The economy plunged into recession earlier this year after public health restrictions forced the closure of non-essential businesses in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic.

7:03 a.m. A surge of coronavirus cases in India’s capital and largest city is overwhelming its health-care system, as the world’s second-most-populous country becomes a major focus in the global pandemic.

New Delhi, a sprawling metropolis of some 30 million people, has rocketed to the top of the country’s regional coronavirus sick list as cases have rapidly multiplied in recent weeks.

The central government took control of the local health-care response earlier this month — with the country’s powerful home minister overseeing it personally — in the midst of government warnings that some 80,000 hospital beds will be needed by the end of next month. That vastly exceeds the nearly 13,200 beds available across state-run and private hospitals in the city. Almost half of those are currently occupied, according to a government mobile app tracker.

The capital expects coronavirus infections to soar to 550,000 by the end of July, up from the 70,390 cases reported through June 24. Well over 3,000 new cases have appeared every day so far this week, vaulting Delhi past India’s second-largest metropolis and other major hot spot, Mumbai, where a population of some 25 million has recorded 68,481 cases as of June 24. So far, 2,365 people have died of the disease in Delhi.

6:23 a.m.: Demand in U.S. hospitals for a cheap, commonly used steroid has surged more than six-fold since U.K. research showed it reduced the mortality of patients who are severely ill with Covid-19.

Vizient Inc., a drug-purchasing group that works with more than half of the U.S. hospitals and health systems, said in a report Thursday that in six days orders for dexamethasone increased 610 per cent. Meanwhile, the so-called fill rate of dexamethasone fell from 97 per cent to 54 per cent, suggesting that as demand increased, hospitals have been able to buy little more than half of the amount they ordered.

Researchers and drug companies are trying to identify or develop vaccines and treatments that work to minimize hospitalizations and deaths caused by the novel coronavirus. Dexamethasone, introduced in the 1960s, is a generic drug that is used to treat inflammatory disorders and some cancers. Clinicians are using it to treat the most severe patients who require oxygen or a ventilator for assistance breathing.

Steven Lucio, vice president of pharmacy solutions at Vizient, said that even with a decrease in fill rates, the drug is still reaching hospitals around the U.S. Vizient categorizes dexamethasone as a “high impact” drug on its essential medicines list.

“If you don’t have these medicines, you shouldn’t have the doors of your hospital open,” said Lucio.

6:05 a.m.: In China, where the virus first appeared late last year, an outbreak in Beijing appeared to have been brought under control. China reporting 19 newly confirmed cases nationwide amid mass testing in the capital. Case numbers both nationally and in Beijing were up by only single digits from Wednesday.

South Korea was still struggling to quell an outbreak there, reporting 28 new cases on Thursday, mostly associated with nightlife, churches, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sales. But the numbers have not reached the hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.

6 a.m.: In Amsterdam, it appeared weeks before the first case was confirmed.

In the northern Italian cities of Milan and Turin, it was already there in wastewater in December, well before patients started showing up sick in hospitals.

And now in Toronto, researchers at Ryerson University are looking to sewage to track remnants of the virus that causes COVID-19, hoping that what we flush down the toilet can help provide an early warning system for a dreaded second wave of the disease. It could even identify spikes in hot spots around the city, they say, and no one can opt out.

Read the full story from May Warren here.

6 a.m.: India says it will carry out a massive survey for the coronavirus targeting the entire population in New Delhi of 29 million.

Officials will go each household to record each resident’s health details, and administer a test for the virus to those who show or report symptoms.

The exercise will be completed by July 6, according to a plan issued by the government of New Delhi, the worst-hit city in the country with 70,390 confirmed cases.

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Police will be deployed to enforce physical distancing and prevent the mixing of the population inside more than 200 containment zones in the capital, where large clusters of cases have been confirmed. CCTV or drone monitoring will also be used.

6 a.m.: The number of coronavirus infections in Indonesia surpassed 50,000 Thursday, an increase that is worrying experts at a time when the government is allowing businesses to resume operations amid increasing economic pressure.

The spiking case numbers in the world’s fourth-most populous country align with the country’s increasing testing capacity, which have averaged close to the government’s daily target of 20,000 over the past week, said Achmad Yurianto, the spokesman for the National COVID-19 Task Force.

But skepticism remains over the ability of the government to conduct enough tests to determine the true spread of the virus in the Southeast Asian nation, which is home to more than 270 million people living on thousands of islands.

The task force said Thursday afternoon the coronavirus has infected 50,187 people and killed at least 2,620 in Indonesia, the highest number of cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia. That’s up from just two positive cases in early March.

There are 20,449 patients who have recovered from the illness nationwide.

5:55 a.m.: The federal government is to launch a program today aimed at encouraging students to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19 — more than two months after first announcing it and just in time for those who haven’t been able to find a summer job.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also expected to announce a substantial increase in funding for a host of other existing programs, like Canada Summer Jobs, aimed at creating thousands of new opportunities for youth.

Back in April, Trudeau announced creation of the Canada Student Service Grant, a way of giving students who can’t find a summer job a chance to earn some money while volunteering in “national service” activities related to fighting the pandemic.

Eligible students are to receive grants of $1,000 to $5,000 to support the costs of post-secondary education in the fall.

3:13 a.m. Governments and businesses are ramping up precautions as coronavirus case numbers rise to dire new levels in parts of the U.S. and around the world, potentially wiping out two months of progress.

Indonesia was expected to pass the 50,000 mark for confirmed infections on Thursday. In Melbourne, health workers planned to go door-to-door to test more than 100,000 residents in a coronavirus hot spot that threatens to undo the nation’s success in battling the virus.

In the Indian capital of New Delhi, which has reported more than 70,000 cases, authorities said they would conduct house-to-house screening over the coming two weeks. With the city’s hospitals overwhelmed, military personnel were providing care at makeshift medical wards fashioned from railroad coaches.

India reported a record high 16,922 cases on Thursday, taking the national total to 473,105, with nearly 15,000 deaths.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the continent’s cases have surged to more than 336,000, up by 10,000 from a day earlier. The Africa CDC chief said the pandemic on the 54-nation continent “is picking up speed very quickly” while shortages of testing materials and medical equipment remain severe in many countries.

The actual numbers of cases everywhere, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing.

World financial markets were rattled by the setbacks in fighting the pandemic, which cloud prospects for recoveries of economies mired in their worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Wednesday 10:26 p.m. Mongolia’s ruling party retained a supermajority after parliamentary elections, as the government’s relative success against the coronavirus outbreak offset concerns about corruption and the erosion of democratic institutions.

The Mongolian People’s Party appeared poised to secure at least 62 of the 76 seats in the Great State Khural, according to preliminary results released Thursday by the General Election Commission in Ulaanbaatar. The result reaffirms Prime Minster Khurelsukh Ukhnaa’s grip on power, representing a loss of only one seat in parliament.

The main opposition Democratic Party —led by former Prime Minister Amarjargal Rinchinnyam —won 11 seats, while independents and coalition groups secured three others. More than 600 candidates competed in the election Wednesday, the country’s first since the MPP’s landslide win four years ago.

Since taking the premier’s post in 2017, Khurelsukh has strengthened his political position through unlikely cooperation with President Battulga Khaltmaa, 57, of the rival DP. They pushed through a series of legislative changes last year including the removal of measures intended to protect the independence of the courts and anti-corruption investigators. Khurelsukh also secured new powers to select Cabinet members and extended the length of the president’s term.

Mongolia has managed to keep its coronavirus cases low by closing its border, banning public gatherings and establishing curfews on restaurants and pubs, giving Khurelsukh a boost. The country has confirmed 215 cases and no deaths.

9 p.m. Mexico confirmed 947 more COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, the country’s second-highest daily toll since the coronavirus pandemic began. The highest daily toll came June 3 with 1,092 deaths.

The Health Department said the country has seen a total of 24,324 deaths so far.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 5,437. The case load has increased by about 5,000 each day in the last two weeks, and the total now stands at 186,847.

The numbers are clearly an undercount, given Mexico’s very low rate of testing.

Mexican officials have repeatedly predicted the peak of the pandemic had been reached, or would do so soon, only to be proved wrong.

The Health Department’s epidemiology director, José Luis Alomía, used almost comically couched language Wednesday, saying the country is on “a slight tendency that may insinuate a descent” in infections.

Because the case load continues so high, authorities have had to delay planned re-openings of theatres and concert halls.

One of Mexico City’s biggest venues, the Arena Mexico, announced Wednesday that it will start drive-in movie screenings starting July 4.

Mexico City once had drive-ins, but most closed years ago. One company resumed outdoor screenings in 2011.

Click here for more coverage from Wednesday.


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