Nfld. & Labrador

'Still in containment mode': How N.L. is preparing amid global COVID-19 outbreak

There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Newfoundland and Labrador but the province's chief medical officer of health says preparatory measures are being taken.

‘We have to prepare for the potential of more increased spread,' says chief medical officer of health

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, says the province has the ability to respond to a coronavirus outbreak. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Newfoundland and Labrador but the province's chief medical officer of health says preparatory measures are being taken.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the province has the resources to address an outbreak if it does occur.

"With the events that have happened, over the past week or so especially, we have to prepare for the potential of more increased spread, certainly, worldwide," said Fitzgerald.

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that originated in China and has now been reported in 44 countries, with 12 confirmed cases in Canada. 

Fitzgerald said measures are in place for potential cases in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have responded, and been able to respond, to those types of public health emergencies.- Dr. Janice Fitzgerald

"Right now, all the regional health authorities are looking at their plans for how they're going to handle any cases should they come in, and they're going through exercises," she said. "We're still in containment mode here in Canada."

What to do if you're symptomatic

All patients presenting respiratory problems at hospitals are being asked about their travel history, and patients are being asked to call clinics before their appointment if they believe they are symptomatic or if they have recently traveled to high-risk areas.

A list of those areas is available on the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.

She said family physicians and nurse practitioners have been advised on proper procedures for COVID-19. In some cases, nurses can come to a patient's home if they believe they are at risk.

"If they need testing, we can have a nurse go into their home to do testing so they don't even have to go to a clinic or to a hospital if their symptoms are not severe."

Travelling to affected areas

The province recommends self-quarantine for travellers from the Chinese province of Hubei, even if they don't have symptoms, said Fitzgerald.

"That is still where we're seeing the majority of cases," she said.

Fitzgerald said the province is also asking that anyone travelling to N.L. from an area with confirmed cases, other than Hubei, to call the provincial health line, 811, if they develop any symptoms.

The Canadian Border Services Agency has a system in place for people coming into the airport from high-risk areas, she said.

"That system will be activated if they have symptoms when they return to the country."

If returning from a country identified as high risk by the Public Health Agency of Canada, travellers will receive information at the airport and will be asked to contact the health line if they develop symptoms.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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