Alberta activates Level 2 protocols as precaution over coronavirus emergency
'The risk remains low, but we are prepared'
Alberta has boosted its emergency response protocols to a higher level of preparedness as concerns about a deadly new coronavirus mount around the globe.
"The risk remains low, but we are prepared," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health.
Hinshaw said there are no probable or confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Alberta.
The province posted new numbers Friday afternoon showing that 18 Albertans have been tested for coronavirus, with zero positive results.
There have been four confirmed cases in Canada and more than 9,000 worldwide. More than 200 people in China have died.
Case numbers are increasing in China, but there's been no widespread transmission outside that country.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, which is working alongside the provinces and territories to monitor the novel coronavirus, says the risk to Canadians is low.
- Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto, explains what's happening with the virus and what Canadians should be aware of in the video below.
The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency on Thursday.
After that, Alberta's provincial operations centre moved to a Level 2 of four levels, with Level 4 being the highest. Level 2 is used when there is a potential significant disruption to a community.
Moving to Level 2 is "a behind the scenes move" that's meant to ease communication between agencies and ensure quick responses when needed, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in an email to CBC News.
During a Level 3 situation, by contrast, the provincial health minister gets involved to provide strategic direction. The Slave Lake fires and the 2013 southern Alberta floods were Level 4 disasters.
"Today we are still focusing on containment, and the level of alert that's been raised is simply to flag that we need to concentrate our efforts, work closely internationally and to consider being ready if the situation were to change," Hinshaw said.
People should call Health Link (811) or their doctor if they're feeling sick and have recently travelled where the coronavirus is known to be circulating.
The United States announced its first case of person-to person transmission on Thursday — the first non-travel related case in North America.
The province isn't saying how many Albertans have been tested so far.
When the new coronavirus is suspected, people are kept in isolation — either in hospital or at home — while the provincial lab conducts tests.
And the Canadian government is advising against nonessential travel to China.
The global outbreak is having ripple effects in Alberta.
Tour companies and hotels in destinations popular with Chinese tourists are starting to see cancellations.
The cancellations include group tours to Jasper and Banff in the Rocky Mountains, Travel Alberta says.
And similarly, trips to China are being cancelled or postponed.
For example, the University of Calgary is temporarily suspending all university-related travel to China.
The Calgary Board of Education said it's taking direction from Alberta Health Services regarding precautions.
There are no student trips to China in the works, and one staff member who was planning a trip has been advised to postpone it, the CBE said.
Some Alberta communities also cancelled or scaled down their Chinese New Year's celebrations.
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