Politics

No immediate plan to change Canada's travel, isolation rules as global number of coronavirus cases climbs

Canada has no immediate plans to impose stronger border controls or isolation protocols, but the rules could change at any time based on the evolution of the coronavirus, says Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Chief public health officer says risk remains low; 7 cases reported in Ontario and British Columbia

Doctors scan a patient's lungs at Huoshenshan temporary hospital built for patients diagnosed with coronavirus in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. Mainland China has reported another rise in cases of the new virus after a sharp decline the previous day, while the number of deaths grow over 900. (Gao Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

Canada has no immediate plan to impose stronger border controls or isolation protocols in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but the rules could change at any time based on the evolution of the disease, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said today.

Asked by reporters during a teleconference if Canada would follow the U.S. and some European nations in barring entry to people coming from China, Tam said current measures and guidelines now in place are sufficient because the risk to Canada remains low.

Global Affairs Canada has warned against all travel to the Hubei province of China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. The department has warned against non-essential travel to China and is suggesting that Canadians now in China leave if their presence there isn't critical.

Public health officials also have asked people returning from Hubei to self-isolate for 14 days, or — if they're returning from elsewhere in China — to stay home if they experience any symptoms.

"Of course we will be evaluating all these measures on an ongoing basis, but right now we believe that is the right balance in protecting the health of Canadians," said Tam, noting that Canada's approach is in line with the World Health Organization's guidelines related to "inappropriate restrictions to travel and trade."

A second Canadian charter plane has departed Wuhan, China, to bring home more people stuck in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The plane left China with 185 passengers on board, according to a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

When a government-chartered jet left Wuhan last week to bring Canadians home from the outbreak zone, fewer people departed than were on the passenger manifest. Officials said at the time that some may have changed their minds at the last minute, or may have been denied permission to board because they were showing signs of illness.

The aircraft seats about 250 people, including crew and medical officials, and will travel to Vancouver before going on to Trenton, Ont.

The first Canadian charter flight to Wuhan carried out 174 Canadians and their family members, who are now undergoing a two-week quarantine at a military base in Trenton, Ont.

Another 39 Canadians left on an American charter and are now under quarantine at the base. Those departing Wuhan today will also be housed at the base for two weeks.

Tam said the new wave of evacuees will also be housed at the base.

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam says the coronavirus risk remains low to Canada. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Once the quarantines lift, the evacuees will be allowed to return home. Tam could not provide details on whether they would get government assistance in travelling to their final destination, but noted that some people may not have a residence in Canada if they have been in Wuhan for an extended time.

There have been more than 40,000 cases of the novel coronavirus reported worldwide, and more than 900 deaths.

In Canada, there have been seven cases of the virus: four in British Columbia and three in Ontario. Tam said today that all have either recovered or are recovering.

The U.K. already has elevated its risk level assessment from low to moderate; today, the country's health secretary announced strengthened legal powers to impose restrictions on anyone thought to pose a risk of spreading the virus.

The regulations will apply to anyone trying to leave before the 14-day quarantine is complete, and will also allow authorities to detain anyone who may be infected.

With files from the CBC's Philip Ling

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