London, Ont., restaurants face uncertain future amid COVID-19

Like so many others across the country, London, Ont., restaurant owners are facing an uncertain future as the novel coronavirus pandemic forces businesses to close their doors for an indeterminate amount of time.

A survey from not-for-profit Restaurants Canada estimates 800,000 jobs have been lost in the sector across Canada, with 300,000 of those in Ontario.

Nicole Istifan, owner of The Singing Chef at Fanshawe Park and Hyde Park roads, said it’s been difficult not just from a business perspective, but personally as well.

“It’s hard, because these people that work for us, they’re amazing people, this is their full-time income. This is what’s paying the bills for their families,” she said.

“We have so many regular customers that come in that we wonder how they’re doing. We have a lot of elderly customers that do come in and see us for their daily breakfast, their daily lunch and we miss seeing them.”

The restaurant tried offering delivery and pickup services, but Nicole says it just wasn’t feasible.

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“We’re so thankful to those customers that did give us a call and place a pickup order, however, there just wasn’t enough of it to keep that going so we made a tough decision about three days later to close the doors and just take this time with the family, be home, self-isolate, and just do our part.”

Mike Smith owns a handful of bars and restaurants in London and acknowledges it’s “tough all over.”

Smith says since the buildings are closed to the public, they’re also offering some work painting and cleaning.

While Smith acknowledges that the future is uncertain, he stressed there have been many examples of kindness and thoughtfulness from customers.

He highlighted the actions of one man in particular.

“Those sales aren’t enough, but it’s that kind of spirit. She had a tear in her eye because it made her feel good, made me feel good to see people like that.”

Smith says that same man visited another restaurant in the city and offered to buy $1,000 in gift certificates for when local restaurants do reopen.

“I said why don’t we wait ’til we’re close to that point in case we never reopen. I don’t want you being out the money.”

–With a file from The Canadian Press.

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Coronavirus: Premier Doug Ford says Ontario will release COVID-19 projection numbers on Friday

Premier Doug Ford says he has instructed Ontario health officials to release their projection numbers on where the province is headed amid the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

Ford made the announcement alongside Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo at Queen’s Park Thursday afternoon.

“They’re going to tell the public exactly what they’re telling me and it’s going to be very clear where we were, where we are now and where we could be if we don’t follow the chief medical officer’s protocol,” Ford said.

The Premier said they are releasing the numbers on Friday rather than earlier because they now have a “better sense” of numbers now that people have returned from travelling, among other things.

“We have to be fully transparent with the people of Ontario, no matter how hard it will be,” he said, adding he hopes the people that “packed” the beaches and parks last weekend won’t be doing so again once they hear the projections.

“That will be a real wake up call to folks.”

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Ford said Ontario is the first government who will be releasing such numbers. The Premier said he is doing this because he wants to be as honest and upfront with Ontarians as much as possible.

The Premier said he couldn’t “comprehend” why people weren’t listening to social distancing protocol.

“They make think ‘it’s not going to happen to me.’ Well, it can happen to anyone, anyone in the world,” Ford said. “Not only doing that is unsafe — you can say selfish — because God forbid they get COVID-19 and all of a sudden they’re touching items that people go by and touch and then it spreads rapidly.”

“It’s disappointing to say the least.”

When asked if he was “breaking rank” due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refusing to release such numbers to the country, Ford said he is not.

“In no way would I break rank with any other Premiers or the Prime Minister,” he said, adding he’s responsible for the people of Ontario.

As of Thursday afternoon, Ontario has 2,973 cases of coronavirus cases and 53 deaths.

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Coronavirus: Trump says Canadians aboard Florida cruise ships will be repatriated

Canadian passengers on board a cruise ship where four people have died from the novel coronavirus will be removed from that ship and a second vessel carrying healthier passengers and repatriated back to Canada, U.S. President Donald Trump said.

Trump told reporters during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday that both the Canadian and British governments are “coming to take the people that are on the ship back to their homeland” once the MS Zaandam docks in Florida Thursday.

“Canada is coming, the U.K. is coming, and we have Americans,” he said. “We have some people that are quite sick, and we’re taking care of that.

“We’re going to take the Canadians off and giving them to Canadian authorities, they’re going to bring them back home. … We have to help the people, they’re in big trouble, no matter where they’re from.”

Global News has reached out to Global Affairs Canada to confirm Trump’s comments.

About 250 Canadians are among the passengers aboard Holland America’s Zaandam, which was denied entry by several countries before Trump gave it clearance to dock in Fort Lauderdale.

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None of the passengers who died were Canadians, Global Affairs Canada has confirmed. It’s not yet clear as of Wednesday if any Canadians are among the dozens who have fallen ill.

Roughly 1,200 passengers and 586 crew members were on board the ship when it set out March 7 for Buenos Aires, bound for San Antonio, Chile.

Guests were placed under lockdown in their staterooms on March 22 after a number of guests and crew members came down with flu-like symptoms.

Healthy guests were transferred to a second ship, the MS Rotterdam, which is now also headed for Fort Lauderdale. But some of those passengers have now also gotten sick.

As of April 1, Holland America says 83 Zaandam passengers and 14 on the Rotterdam have presented with influenza-like symptoms, along with 136 Zaandam crew members.

“We have seen a significant decline in the presentation of new cases on Zaandam, with only one new case reporting in the past 24 hours,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

Carnival Corporation — the parent company of Holland America — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Saturday that federal officials were working to bring Canadians home from the Zaandam, which at that time was anchored off the coast of Panama as it awaited a country that would accept its entry.

Despite protests from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Trump said he would do “the right thing” for humanity and allow the ships to dock there.

He said Wednesday that “we don’t have a choice” but to take the ships in, and said he was in touch with both officials.

“I don’t want to do that, but we have to,” he said. “People are dying.”

With files from the Associated Press and Canadian Press

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World News

Manitoba’s non-essential businesses shuttered as province battles COVID-19

You won’t be able to pick out any new threads at the mall while the Manitoba public health order that mandates the closure of non-essential businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19 remains in effect — but you can get your lawn cut.

The list of businesses or services that are considered essential and can remain open in Manitoba as of April 1 — 74 in total — includes the health care, banking and telecommunications sectors, the food service industry, public utilities and grocery stores.

But some of the services on the list might surprise you, like office supply stores, dry cleaning businesses and lawn care services.

Read the health order and full list here. 

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Meanwhile, other retailers and wholesalers can remain open if selling sanitation and cleaning products or personal protective equipment.

Showcase — a nationwide store known more for selling as-seen-on-TV gadgets than cleaning supplies — had several Winnipeg stores open Wednesday.

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World News

$26K a month in rent with $0 coming in: London, Ont. business owner outlines impact of coronavirus

London Fine Furniture on Wharncliffe Road South is closed, its staff laid off, and heat and hydro are shut off, but the company is still on the hook for about $26,500 in monthly rent, including HST, according to owner Harold Duesbury.

“With zero dollars coming in and still having bills to pay, it makes it very tight,” he said.

Duesbury believes he’ll be OK — he is “trying to work something out” with his landlords, who he says have been good to him over the years — but many of his friends who are restaurant owners or other small business owners are wondering if their businesses will survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of them are telling me if this goes on for a couple of months that they’re probably going to go out of business.”

It’s a concern shared by many small businesses in Canada, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) conducted before announcements from the Ontario and Quebec governments ordering non-essential businesses to close.

A quarter of the businesses surveyed said they didn’t think they could survive a month if their sales were cut in half, while 39 per cent said they could survive one to three months.

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“The stores beside me — I’ve got The Brick on one side and Bad Boy on the other and Leon’s across the road — those stores are still open because they sell appliances. The only issue I’ve got with that setup is: every sofa they sell, every dining room set they sell, every piece of artwork they sell is a sale that I had zero chance to get. That makes it that much tougher.”

— with files from Global News’ Laura Hensley.

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Coronavirus: 2 more residents at Bobcaygeon, Ont., nursing home die, 15 dead in total

TORONTO — Two more residents of a central Ontario nursing home dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak have died.

Fourteen residents and the spouse of a resident of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon have now died amid what the local health unit is calling the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the province.

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14 new coronavirus cases in London-Middlesex; Lambton sees 5th death, Elgin 2nd

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in London and Middlesex rose by 14 on Wednesday while health officials in Lambton and Elgin counties confirmed additional cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Details about the 14 new cases, including age, gender, transmission source and current status, were not immediately available from the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU). The increase is being attributed to the clearing of a backlog of lab tests.

The new cases bring the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in London and Middlesex to 66. The tally includes eight resolved cases and three deaths. Two deaths were reported on Tuesday and one over the weekend.

The deceased include a woman in her 80s who tested positive on March 25 after becoming infected through close contact with another case, and a woman in her 90s who tested positive on Monday but whose transmission source remains unclear.

The area’s first death involved a man in his 70s who tested positive March 19 and who became infected during travel to Portugal.

On Tuesday, officials with London’s Grand Wood Park reported that two people confirmed positive on Monday by the MLHU were residents of the retirement home. No further details were provided, but Grand Wood said the two were in self-isolation.

The spread of the novel coronavirus within long-term care and retirement homes has been of particular concern, as the elderly are at increased risk of serious complications from the virus.

Provincially, Ontario reported 426 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including four new deaths. It represents a nearly 22 per cent increase and brings the provincial total to 2,392. That includes 37 deaths and 689 cases that have been resolved.

The number of pending test results in Ontario has dropped by 1,145 in the past 24 hours to 3,135.

Nationally, just over 9,000 confirmed cases had been reported across Canada as of late Wednesday morning, including just over 1,200 cases that have been resolved and 105 deaths.

Sarnia and Lambton

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Health officials in Lambton County say another patient who tested positive for COVID-19 has died and eight more people have tested positive.

It brings the number of deaths in the county to five and the number of confirmed cases to 47.

Details were not immediately available about the fifth deceased patient or the newly confirmed cases.

Like in Middlesex, the increase in cases is being attributed to the clearing of testing backlogs.

The county’s first four COVID-19-related deaths, reported on Sunday and Monday, involved patients over the age of 70 who had been hospitalized at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, Ont., and who died on March 26, 27 and 29, according to Lambton Public Health (LPH).

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Queen’s Plate, Canadian Open near decisions for 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic

TORONTO – While Toronto’s ban on city-led events through June 30 does not prohibit professional sporting contests during the COVID-19 pandemic, two major annual events say they are close to making announcements on their status for this year.

Woodbine Racetrack says it is discussing the “potential postponement” of the Queen’s Plate on June 27. Golf Canada and RBC say they will have further announcements on the RBC Canadian Open June 11-14 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in the coming week.

The Queen’s Plate, the first jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown of horse racing, has been run annually since 1860.

“Due to the postponement of the start of the 2020 thoroughbred season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have already been discussing and evaluating the potential postponement of the Queen’s Plate, the oldest continuously run horse race in North America,” Woodbine said in a statement.

“Those discussions will be accelerated in light of this news and we will provide an update in the coming days.”

The Canadian Open, first played in 1904 and only not held during the two world wars, is the third oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA Tour. It has been played at several courses across the country.

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This year’s edition is slated to be the 111th playing of the event.

“Together with the PGA Tour, we are assessing this recent development (of the Toronto event ban) along with other challenges posed by COVID-19 to determine the best course of action for the Canadian Open,” RBC and Golf Canada said in a statement.

Because the Toronto event ban announced Tuesday does not include pro sports, the Maple Leafs and Raptors still could hypothetically play games at Scotiabank Arena, the Blue Jays could play at the Rogers Centre and Toronto FC and the Argonauts could play at BMO Field.

However, almost all major sports leagues and events around the world have been suspended, cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Also, Ontario extended its state of emergency through April 14 on Monday. It prohibits events or gatherings of more than five people.

There also is an international travel ban in place, prohibiting anyone deemed non-essential from entering Canada. Almost all major sports events in Toronto include athletes from outside Canada.

When asked about BMO Field, a city-owned, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment-operated facility that is home to Toronto FC of Major League Soccer and the CFL’s Argonauts, and Lamport Stadium, home to rugby league’s Wolfpack, a city spokesman said the mass gathering prohibition still applies.

Major League Soccer has suspended its season, with a targeted _ although not cast in stone – return date of May 10.

Major League Rugby has already cancelled its season, shelving the Toronto Arrows until next year. The Arrows play some home games at Lamport Stadium.

The Wolfpack are currently based in England, where rugby league play has been suspended. The home portion of their schedule at Lamport Stadium wasn’t to start until April 18.

The transatlantic rugby league club says it is looking at two options: Rescheduling all Toronto home games later in the year once the season resumes, or looking at alternative venues as needed in the United Kingdom.

The NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball have all suspended their seasons and the CFL has postponed training camps.

In its release, the city encourages event organizers to follow physical distancing guidelines.

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Leeds, Grenville, Lanark region dealing with coronavirus outbreak at 2nd long-term care facility

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit says there is now a coronavirus outbreak at a second long-term care facility in its catchment area.

On Monday, the rural public health unit announced that three residents and one staff member at Almonte Country Haven, in Almonte, Ont., have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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Tuesday, the public health unit said one resident and one staff member have now contracted COVID-19 at Carolina Retirement Residence in Perth, Ont.

“Staff who have been in contact with the resident have been instructed to wear personal protective equipment at all times and to self-monitor for symptoms,” the public health unit said in a news release sent out Tuesday.

The affected staff member is currently at home in self-isolation.

Numbers are growing rapidly in the rural region. The first case of COVID-19 was identified last Thursday, and by Tuesday, the total number of cases had jumped to 29. Three health-care workers in the region have the disease, and one person is currently hospitalized.

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Coronavirus: Quebec tenants mobilize to demand cancellation of rent, mortgage payments

With rent due on Wednesday across the province, Quebec tenants are banding together to demand the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Grassroots movement have launched petitions urging both the federal and provinical government’s to take immediate action.

“We mean cancel, we don’t mean push back,” said Montreal tenant Sunny Doyle.

“We mean no rent, no mortgage so that people won’t be accruing debt.”

Doyle is also taking part in the “white sheet campaign”, a Montreal-based online initiative where people hang white sheets outside their balconies and doors to show their support for a rent strike or the cancellation of payments.

“It symbolizes truce, it symbolizes peace and care,” she said. “It’s a way to show solidarity with our communities in this time of crisis.”

The situation is dire for many renters who now find themselves without a source of income and having to chose between paying rent or saving money for groceries and other basic necessities.

“We’re anxious, a lot of people are worried about being evicted, about how they are going to make ends meet,” said Doyle.

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“The strike started because people were saying, ‘we can’t pay,’ so in many cases it’s not a voluntary strike, it’s an obliged one.”

Doyle said the group isn’t in a fight against landlords, saying it understands many are also finding themselves in a precarious financial situation.

“It’s the case of my landlord who is a retiree and needs this money to live, ” she said, adding that’s why the group is also asking for a cancellation of mortgage payments as well.

It wants the government to compensate owners who depend on rent as income.

“People who own buildings cannot be paying if they are out of work or if their tenants are unable to pay,” she said.

Some of those smaller property owners agree.

“If they’re (government) doing things for small businesses, in a sense, a duplex or a triplex in a sense is a small business as well,” said Ingrid Heins, a Montreal-area landlord. ”

Heins told Global News that small property owners and tenants need to talk, and landlords should help out when they can but pointed out their fates are intertwined.

“If the tenant can’t pay, the landlord isn’t going to be able to pay the bank, so we need to have deep discussions about our situations, she said. “But after that, the landlord needs to be supported in order to be able to pay for that building as well.”

Jim Benzieri, a tenants rights lawyer, agreed with Heins about the need for honest discussions.

“You have to have conversation with landlords because only then will you know if something is available and only then will they know that you’re not in a position to pay rent,” he said.

Benzieri said renters do have some have some breathing room if they can’t pay rent on April 1.

He explained that landlords have to wait 21 days before being allowed to file with the régie du logment, Quebec’s rental board, to cancel a lease for unpaid rent. He also noted that the rental board is temporarily closed due to the health crisis.

Furthermore, additional help will soon become available in the form of the federal government’s emergency response benefit.

“I ask owners to be comprehensive.  Everybody will receive a cheque of $2,000 from the federal government,” Premier François Legault said in his daily briefing on Monday.

“So I’m asking them to wait a couple of days, a couple of weeks until they receive the cheque. The régie du logment will not accept that some people will be thrown out.”

— With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter

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