British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 12, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating after his wife experienced flu symptoms following a trip to the U.K. It comes the day after the novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and seven new cases were identified in B.C.

Prime minister self-isolates after wife experiences symptoms following U.K. trip

Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess was the first cruise ship of the season to arrive at Canada Place in Vancouver last March. The company announced Thursday it was halting operations for 60 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

THE LATEST IN B.C.:

  • British Columbians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
  • Gatherings of more than 250 people recommended to be cancelled. 
  • Seven new cases of COVID-19 in confirmed B.C. on Thursday; 53 total across B.C.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

Provincial health authorities in B.C. are recommending against all non-essential travel outside of Canada, including across the border to the United States, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Anyone who does choose to travel or who is currently abroad and returning in the days ahead should self-isolate for 14 days, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday. She is also calling for the cancellation of gatherings of more than 250 people.

The new stringent measures came with the announcement of seven new cases of of COVID-19 in B.C., bringing the total to 53 confirmed cases across the province including a second outbreak at a care centre on Vancouver's North Shore.  

Hollyburn House, in West Vancouver, has confirmed two cases of COVID-19: a resident and an employee. Both are isolated and being treated. A statement from the home said the employee's case was detected through the centre's screening process, which had been in effect since the weekend.

Health officials have now taken the "extraordinary" measure of calling recently retired doctors in the province, asking if they'd be willing and available to come back to work if the current health-care system becomes overwhelmed by COVID-19.

Two more people who tested postive with COVID-19 have now recovered and are no longer believed to be infectious. 

Public gatherings and events

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is warning people who were at the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver on March 6 that one of the attendees has tested positive for COVID-19. More than 14,000 people attended the conference.

VCH said the risk to other participants is extremely low and the infected patient is now recovering at home.

Several major events across the Lower Mainland have been cancelled or postponed, including the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey which typically draws 500,000 people and the Vancouver Sun Run. 

Dr. Henry is asking British Columbians to practise social distancing by not getting closer to others than what's necessary. Meanwhile, B.C. faith leaders have been told to keep their services and group gatherings limited. 

Prime minister self-isolates

Nationally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife are in self-isolation over COVID-19 concerns, the prime minister's office announced Thursday morning. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau began showing flu-like symptoms after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom.

The prime minister is not experiencing symptoms, but has decided to self-isolate and work from home out of an abundance of caution while his wife's test results are processed.

The coronavirus outbreak is now being called a pandemic as of Wednesday, the WHO said, as the number of people infected rose to more than 118,000 in 114 countries, with 4,291 deaths. In the United States, President Donald Trump announced a European travel ban, along with financial relief for affected workers.

The pandemic showed signs of hurting the entertainment industry, as actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson revealed they have tested positive for COVID-19 while shooting a movie in Australia. This weekend's Juno Awards show in Saskatoon has been cancelled, while, in Vancouver, production of the TV show Riverdale was suspended after someone on the set came into contact with a coronavirus patient.

And the NBA announced it is postponing all games after a Utah Jazz player was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Important reminders:

B.C.'s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the risk of contracting coronavirus in B.C. communities remains low.

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

In Canada, public health officials have reported a total of more than 140 cases. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which has been assessing risk as the global outbreak progresses, has said the risk is low in Canada.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said on Twitter that outbreak control measures are meant to slow the spread of the disease, reduce the impact on the health-care system and give hospitals time to prepare. That means that everyone needs to practise good hygiene and protect older people and those with weakened immune systems from exposure.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What about testing?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says testing is currently available for people who have a history of travel to regions affected by COVID-19 and symptoms typical of an infection.

Affected areas include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

To find out if you can be tested, contact your health-care provider or call HealthLink BC at 811 to talk to a nurse and get advice. Stay away from others and do not visit a health-care provider without calling ahead. 

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Unless you're already infected, masks won't help you.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

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