British Columbia

No additional screening at B.C.-Washington border after 9 deaths from COVID-19 in state: CBSA

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is monitoring the spread of the coronavirus in Washington state after the deaths of nine people there, but added there is no evidence of widespread transmission of the virus.

People who recently visited state should only contact health officials if they feel sick: Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is confident there is no evidence of widespread transmission of the coronavirus in Washington state after six stateside deaths from COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is monitoring the spread of the coronavirus in Washington state after the deaths of nine people there, but added there is no evidence of widespread transmission of the virus.

Henry said the deaths south of the border are connected to just two counties in the Seattle area, leading her to believe an uncontrolled spread is not underway.

"There is not widespread community transmission in Washington state and certainly there is not here in B.C., and we're confident of that,'' Henry said Monday.

"My colleagues in Washington state are working very hard to try to track down everybody who's been in contact with people who've been affected in the United States.''

Washington state reported additional deaths from the illness on Tuesday, bringing its total from six to nine.

Henry said Canadians who have recently travelled to Washington do not need to contact public health officials unless they feel sick. However, she advised Canadians to postpone any travel if they have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and muscle aches.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said there are no additional screening measures in place at land borders between Washington state and B.C. in the wake of the Seattle-area deaths.

The agency said in a statement Tuesday standard screening procedures for infectious diseases "still apply." 

Concerns over COVID-19 have sparked a run on face masks that are needed by health professionals. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Travellers arriving in Canada are required to tell a CBSA border services officer if they are sick or if they may have been exposed to an illness.

Any traveller who shows symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are "normally isolated from other travellers to minimize potential exposure to the general public and to the CBSA employees," the statement read.

After isolating the potential patient, the border services officer would contact health officials.

Travellers returning from Iran, China asked to self-isolate

The province said travellers returning to B.C. from international trips can expect extra screening from CBSA officials, who will be asking about their health. Those returning from certain countries with high concentrations of the virus are now asked to stay home for two weeks.

"Given the intensity of the outbreak globally, we ask all travellers returning from Iran and China to self-isolate for 14 day upon their arrival in Canada," read the statement from the B.C. Ministry of Health on Monday.

People returning to B.C. from Iran, in particular, will now face increased questions at customs and immigration points at airports about their health. Iran has had the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China, where the virus originated.

B.C. currently has nine confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The latest was announced by health officials on Tuesday.

Four people have recovered from the illness in B.C. and the others are in isolation at home.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spoke by phone Monday about the coronavirus, each pledging support for the neighbouring jurisdictions.

With files from CBC News

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