VICTORIA — Officials in British Columbia are asking travellers from China and Iran to isolate themselves for 14 days when they return home to Canada after confirming a ninth case of COVID-19.
The request is part of a list of recommendations and advice released Tuesday by the B.C. government to help prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said the latest case involves a man in his 50s who began to feel ill after he returned home from Iran last week to the Fraser Health region, which is near Vancouver. He is in isolation at home and Henry said his family and close contacts are being monitored.
“It’s not just our usual influenza season. We know that things are changing,” she told a news conference.
“We know that we all have to be aware of mild respiratory symptoms and so I’m asking all British Columbians if you are sick, stay home, stay away from others.”
With March break around the corner, Henry asked people to be aware of potential issues when they travel, such as getting access to health care and what they would do if they were caught in a quarantine while travelling during this “challenging time around the world.”
Those who have trips planned should monitor the federal government’s travel advisories, she said.
In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said employers should increase the availability of supplies used for cleaning and hand hygiene and think about how they would manage absenteeism by allowing employees to work remotely or attend virtual meetings.
“Schools should be increasing cleaning and hand hygiene, educating students on respiratory etiquette, in addition to putting mechanisms in place to support students who may be away for extended periods,” the statement said.
It also said event organizers should ask anyone who is sick, returning from an affected area or has underlying health conditions that may be affected by respiratory illness to stay away.
“Gathering large numbers of people together can increase the risk of transmission,” the statement said.
Henry said people also need to have a plan ready “for the potential that we might have more transmission of this disease.”
While she advised against stockpiling supplies, she said everybody should be ready to look after themselves and people in the community.
“Do we have the medications that we need, do we have contacts with friends and others who can assist us if we need to stay home, and can we do that for others?”
The risk of the spread of COVID-19 remains low in B.C., Henry said.
More than 1,000 tests have been done and all novel coronavirus cases in B.C. have been successfully managed at home, she said, adding that no one has been severely ill.
The best precaution people can take is washing their hands and face, she said.
“Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapenos and need to change your contacts,” Henry said.
Ontario reported two more cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Canada to 30.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press