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

This story is no longer updating. Click here for Monday’s file.

10:05 p.m.: At least 40 staff members in Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for the coronavirus, Afghan officials said Sunday, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to isolate himself and manage the country’s response to the virus — amid a raging war — largely via video conference.

There is no evidence that Ghani himself is infected. His spokesperson would not comment on whether the president had been tested. But the reach of the virus deep into the centre of Afghan power, guarded behind several layers of security to protect against truck bombings and suicide assaults, was a troubling omen of difficult times ahead. Officials are grappling with the spread of the disease and its economic ramifications for the impoverished nation even as they fend off Taliban onslaughts.

An official at the palace said that most of the 40 people who tested positive work for the administrative wing of the president’s office, the National Security Council and the office of Ghani’s chief of staff. A second senior official confirmed that dozens had tested positive after hundreds of palace workers were tested more than a week ago. The official did not provide further details, but said those with confirmed infections were sent into quarantine.

Afghanistan has reported just under 1,000 cases of the virus. But those numbers certainly underestimate the spread, officials say, since testing has been extremely limited. The country has conducted only about 7,000 tests.

7:05 p.m.: U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will use the Defence Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus. Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further invoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus. Trump has generally been reluctant to do so.

But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production will reach 10 million per month. To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said that Vice-President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states.

Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Control says the continent now has more than one million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. According to a tally posted on the ECDC website on Sunday, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France. It listed Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium. According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths.

5:30 p.m.: As of Sunday at 5 p.m., Ontario’s regional health units were reporting a total of 11,866 cases of COVID-19 and 610 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The epidemic’s growth has slowed overall in the province this week, a trend continued in the last 24 hours. Since 5 p.m. Saturday, total cases have grown by 561 patients, or five per cent, which is slower daily growth than in recent weeks. The first seven days of April averaged 12.7 per cent daily growth; the second seven days averaged 6.8 per cent.

Among 37 new deaths reported were nine in Toronto, four each in York Region and Durham Region, and a single fatal case in Peel Region.

Since April 1, the case count has continued to rise day over day in the Greater Toronto Area, while staying relatively flat in the rest of the province.

The Star’s count is based on the public tallies and statements of the province’s regional health units, the local bodies that collect and publish this data often before reporting to the province through its central reporting system. Therefore, the Star’s count is more current than the data the province publishes each morning.

Earlier Sunday, the province reported that testing labs had processed 9,643 samples in the largest single day of testing since Ontario quietly changed how it reports that data.

The province says 809 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 247 in an intensive care unit, of whom 196 are on a ventilator — totals that are all down slightly from Saturday. A total of 4,209 people have recovered after testing positive for the virus, according to the provincial data.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths — 568 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

4:55 p.m.: About a dozen people from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside broke into and occupied a local elementary school this weekend in what organizers say was an attempt to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the so-called “Kennedy Stewart Squat” — named after Vancouver’s mayor — was short-lived. Around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Vancouver police arrested 14 people who had barricaded themselves inside Lord Strathcona Elementary School, just eight hours into the occupation.

Schools in Vancouver, like those in many cities across the country, have been shuttered and classes moved online in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The occupation is one of several efforts by anti-poverty advocates in recent weeks to raise awareness about the lack of support for the homeless community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2:09 p.m.: Quebec is reporting 72 new deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 877.

There were also 836 more cases, for a total of 18,357.

Provincial data shows that most of the deaths occurred in long-term-care homes, some of which have dozens of residents infected.

Both New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, sticking at 118 and 257 cases, respectively.

1:04 p.m.: The coronavirus pandemic showed the first signs of easing in Europe as Italy, Spain and France, the region’s hardest-hit countries, reported the smallest increases in fatalities in weeks.

Coronavirus deaths in Spain rose by 410 to 20,453 on Sunday, the smallest one-day increase since March 22, according to the Health Ministry. Italy reported the fewest deaths in a week, with 433 deaths linked to the virus, while fatalities in France rose at the slowest pace in three weeks. Data in Germany and the U.K. also showed social distancing measures taking hold.

12:12 p.m.: Negotiations around reopening the House of Commons are going down to the wire.

Members of Parliament from across Canada are expected to return to their seats tomorrow 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 to 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.

11:12 a.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 569 COVID-19 cases and 36 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 11 a.m. Sunday, the Star has counted a total of 11,503 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, including 593 deaths.

The case total has grown relatively slowly so far this weekend. The slower rate of growth in the 24 hours since this time Saturday — 5.2 per cent — is in line with a slowdown in new cases in recent weeks. The first seven days of April averaged 12.7 per cent daily growth, the second seven days 6.8 per cent.

The Star publishes two counts a day, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. They are based on the public tallies and statements of the province’s regional health units, the local bodies that collect and publish this data often before reporting to the province through its central reporting system. Therefore, the Star’s count is more current than the data the province publishes each morning. 

Earlier Sunday, the province reported that testing labs had processed 9,643 samples in the largest single day of testing since Ontario quietly changed how it reports that data.

The province says 809 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 247 in an intensive care unit, of whom 196 are on a ventilator — totals that are all down slightly from Saturday. A total of 4,209 people have recovered after testing positive for the virus, according to the provincial data.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths — 568 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count, includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

10:40 a.m.: Ontario reported Sunday an increase of 568 cases of COVID-19 and 39 more deaths in the last 24 hours.

The province’s totals in both categories, according to official numbers pulled from local health authorities as of Saturday afternoon, now reach 10,578 and 553, respectively. The new figures represent a rise of 5.7 per cent and 5.2 per cent from the previous day.

9:05 a.m.: Sweden’s unusual approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic is starting to yield results, according to the country’s top epidemiologist. Anders Tegnell, the architect behind Sweden’s relatively relaxed response to COVID-19, told local media the latest figures on infection rates and fatalities indicate the situation is starting to stabilize.

Sweden has left its schools, gyms, cafés, bars and restaurants open throughout the spread of the pandemic. Instead, the government has urged citizens to act responsibly and follow social distancing guidelines.

As of Sunday, Sweden had reported 1,540 deaths tied to COVID-19, an increase of 29 from Saturday — considerably more than in the rest of Scandinavia, but much less than in Italy, Spain and the U.K., both in absolute and relative terms.

Volvo, which was forced to halt production across Europe and furlough about 20,000 Swedish employees, will resume production at its Swedish plants on Monday.

8:27 a.m.: Tony Award-nominated Canadian actor Nick Cordero has had his right leg amputated after suffering complications from the coronavirus, his wife says.

Amanda Kloots on Instagram wrote late Saturday that Cordero “made it out of surgery alive and is headed to his room to rest and recover.” Cordero, a native of Hamilton, Ont., entered the intensive case unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 31 and has been on a ventilator and unconscious after contracting COVID-19.

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His wife has been sending him daily videos of her and their 10-month-old son, Elvis, so he could see them when we woke up. Cordero played a Mob soldier with a flair for the dramatic in 2014 in a stage adaptation of the Woody Allen film “Bullets Over Broadway,” for which he received a Tony nomination for best featured actor in a musical.

On the small screen, Cordero appeared in several episodes of “Blue Bloods” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as well as “Lilyhammer” and he had a role in the film “Going in Style.”

7:10 a.m.: Philipp Frese can’t wait to unlock the doors of his bed and mattress store in southern Germany on Monday, ending a month-long coronavirus lockdown. COVID-19 restrictions have been “a threat to our existence as a business,” said Frese.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is letting smaller stores reopen after a shutdown that deprived German retailers of 30 billion euros ($45 billion) in sales and pushed many shops to the brink of bankruptcy. After her government imposed social distancing measures on March 22, and her fast-tracking more than one trillion euros in aid to companies and workers, what’s happening now in Europe’s biggest economy is likely to be watched by other countries from Italy and Spain to the U.S. and beyond.

Retail spaces of less than 800 square metres — like Frese’s in the city of Freiburg near the French border — will be reopening, along with car dealerships, bike shops and book stores. Bars, restaurants, gyms and larger stores will have to remain closed.

7:06 a.m.: Two dozen crew members of a Taiwanese naval ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus after returning from a nearly two-month training mission that took them to the Pacific island nation of Palau.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said Sunday that 21 more cases had been identified from a refuelling ship, on top of three reported Saturday. More than 700 officers and sailors from the refuelling ship and the two warships that took part in the mission are in quarantine for 14 days.

The CDC said that a Taiwanese student returning from the United States had also tested positive. That brought the total for Sunday to 22, an upward spike for the self-governing island. New cases had fallen to single digits in the past week, including three days in which none were reported.

5:15 a.m.: South Korea’s prime minister says the country will maintain much of its social distancing guidelines until May 5 but will relax some limits.

The comments by Chung Sye-kyun came hours after South Korea’s health authorities reported eight more coronavirus cases, the first time a daily increase has dropped to a single digit in about two months.

Chung says the government will stop “strongly advising” religious organizations, gyms and bars to suspend their operations and allow less risky outdoor public facilities, like recreational parks, to be reopened. He says outdoor sports games also can be held if there are no spectators.

4:00 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. on April 19, 2020:

There are 34,678 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

-Quebec: 17,521 confirmed (including 805 deaths, 3,315 resolved)

-Ontario: 11,305 confirmed (including 573 deaths, 4,875 resolved)

-Alberta: 2,562 confirmed (including 51 deaths, 1,162 resolved)

-British Columbia: 1,647 confirmed (including 81 deaths, 987 resolved)

-Nova Scotia: 649 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 184 resolved)

-Saskatchewan: 309 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 234 resolved), 4 presumptive

-Newfoundland and Labrador: 257 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 189 resolved)

-Manitoba: 243 confirmed (including 5 deaths, 140 resolved), 10 presumptive

-New Brunswick: 118 confirmed (including 87 resolved)

-Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 23 resolved)

-Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

-Yukon: 9 confirmed (including 7 resolved)

-Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 3 resolved)

-Nunavut: No confirmed cases

Saturday 7:55 p.m.: A suspect has been charged after a Toronto enforcement officer was assaulted in a city park on Friday.

The city also reported 201 new COVID-19 cases and eight more coronavirus-related deaths as of Saturday afternoon.

The latest tallies brought Toronto’s total number of cases to 3,346 cases, including 3,013 that were confirmed and 333 classified as probable cases. Of these cases, 274 patients are hospitalized, 98 in intensive care units. To date, 162 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto.

Despite the pandemic’s deadly numbers, Toronto city staff received 440 new complaints on Friday about residents using banned outdoor amenities or breaching physical distancing rules in parks. Bylaw and police officers issued an additional 19 tickets for a total of 338 handed out over the last two weeks, the city said in a news release.

7:05 p.m.: New Yorkers will be able to get marriage licenses online and wed via video during the crisis.

Many marriage bureaus have been closed because of the health emergency, leaving couples unable to get licences because the state requires the betrothed to complete their application in person.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to order that provision waived to let couples apply remotely, his office said Saturday. The state will also enable town and city clerks to conduct weddings by video.

“There is now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse. You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no,” the governor said with a chuckle.

11:25 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to non-essential travel for another 30 days.

Trudeau says it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic. U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open. Nearly 200,000 people normally cross the border daily.



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