Coronavirus updates for March 31: City of Vancouver waives parking-meter fees; international students seek relief

The latest news on COVID-19 from Vancouver, B.C., and across Canada

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      5:50 a.m.

      The City of Vancouver is giving motorists a break during the pandemic by temporarily suspending enforcement of on-street metered parking.

      In addition, the city won't be issuing tickets for people parking in rush-hour and residential permit-parking zones. And it's not going to force people to adhere to parking-time limits.

      That's because demand for parking has dropped sharply. The city also noted on its website that essential health-care employees are working longer shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Drivers cannot park in no-parking zones or in front of fire hydrants.

      These measures will have an impact on civic finances.

      The City of Vancouver budget anticipates $65.3 million from on-street parking revenue this year.

      Another $8.3 million is expected from parks parking revenue, which is unlikely to be achieved because of COVID-19. And the budget forecasts that $971,000 will be generated in parking revenues from Vancouver civic theatres, though these facilities remain closed.

      Parking accounts for about five percent of the City of Vancouver's operating budget.

      That's not all, as far as the city budget goes. Another $65 million is predicted to come in through program fees at various civic facilities, including libraries and community centres. But those facilities have been shut down during the pandemic, so those revenue targets are unlikely to be met.

      While there won't be as much money coming in, costs are also likely to decrease as a result of staff layoffs.

      Students pay between $1,195 to $2,039 per month to live at Acadia Park on the Point Grey campus.

      5:30 a.m. International students seek moratorium on rents

      Students living in the child-friendly Acadia Park housing complex on UBC's Point Grey campus have launched an online petition seeking financial relief from the university.

      It states that the student families appreciate UBC's decision to forego a $45 per month annual rent increase, but says that's not sufficient to address financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      "Since the onset of the pandemic, many of us have lost financial security granted by the university with courses being canceled and work contracts reduced," the petition states. "Many of us have had to simultaneously try to meet our academic requirements and care for our children, often with frustrating results."

      In addition, spouses of some students have been thrown out of work.

      The petition seeks a moratorium on rent payments, summer tuition, monthly UBC daycare payments, and parking permits and tickets.

      "Given the unique geographical location and legal jurisdiction of the University Endowment Lands, we are not able to access all of the government relief that has been announced so far for people in need, such as the BC government’s $500 monthly rebate for rent," it claims. "In addition, many of us are international students who are left with little to no access to the emergency supports that have been announced by both the federal and provincial governments."

      According to its website, it costs between $1,195 and $2,039 per month to live at Acadia Park. It has 42 four-bedroom units, 35 three-bedroom units, 288 two-bedroom units, 257 one-bedroom units, and four studio apartments.

      Tenants are not allowed to live there for more than four years.

      5 a.m. COVID-19 rips through Ontario nursing home

      More deaths are expected at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, according to the medical director.

      Michelle Snarr said that COVID-19 told CBC News that nine residents have already died and three others have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, 24 staff have tested positive.

      Video: Watch this CBC News report about deaths in the Pinecrest Nursing Home.

      4 a.m. Real estate prices fall in Hong Kong

      The South China Morning Post has reported that new and used home prices have gone down this year.

      It quotes Midland IC&I chief executive Daniel Wong linking this to the U.S.-China trade war, political protests, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      One 1,841-square foot home recently sold for 31.4 percent below its purchase price from 10 years ago.

      The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver is expected to release its March sales numbers in early April.

      Case summary

      It's widely believed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases does not reflect the extent of infections in the community.

      With that in mind, here are the latest numbers from the B.C. government, as of March 30:

      * 970 confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C.

      * 19 COVID-19 deaths in B.C.

      * 472 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health region.

      * 323 cases in Fraser Health region.

      * 94 cases in Interior Health region.

      * 67 cases in Island Health region.

      * 14 cases in Northern Health region.

      * 469 people have recovered from COVID-19 in B.C.

      * 42,028 tests have been completed.

      This graph shows the COVID-19 epidemic curve in B.C. from January 1 to March 29.