3 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Toronto, bringing Ontario total to 18

Ontario reported three new cases of the coronavirus in the Toronto area on Monday, bringing the total in the province to 18.

Health officials say new travel advisories will be added for people flying from Iran

Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams says all of the province's new cases of coronavirus are travel-related and that those affected are in quarantine. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported three new cases of the coronavirus in the Toronto area on Monday, bringing the total in the province to 18.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, provided details about the new cases at a news conference at the legislature.

For now, health officials are only saying these cases are travel-related and those affected are in self-quarantine.

A spate of new cases was reported over the weekend, all of them people who had recently travelled to Iran or Egypt, or family members of those who had visited the countries.

"It sounds like there was an event in Egypt and people were there at the same time and in the same place by happenstance," said Williams. The infections do not appear to be linked to any particular flight from Egypt. 

Williams said new travel advisories will be added for people flying from Iran. 

"We've asked that people would self-isolate and fill out the [airport] questionnaire so that local public health would locate them … if they have symptoms," he said. 

The risk factor for Iran has been increased by Canada's public health agency to the same level as China's Hubei because the country was not aware of any health problems until Feb. 19 according to Williams. 

Williams has said that so far it doesn't appear the virus spreading locally.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said public health officials have been working "non-stop" to ensure they are ready for an increase. Don't panic about COVID-19, he said, but know the city is preparing.

"At times like this, we have to follow the advice of our public health experts — who continue to advise the risk to the public is low — and avoid both complacency or panic," Tory said on Twitter Sunday.

Four new cases were confirmed in Ontario Sunday — two men and one woman in York Region and one man in Toronto. The men are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, while the woman is in her 70s. Two cases were also confirmed Saturday in Durham region, and another in York Region.

Dr. Michael Gardam, chief of staff at Toronto's Humber River Hospital, said the number of cases in Ontario is still very small, but he expects it to grow. 

"The odds are the world is going to see a lot more of this virus," said Gardam on CBC's Metro Morning.

The province's first four cases were people with a travel history to China, where the outbreak originated, and three have since been completely cleared of the virus. Nobody in Canada has died. 

More than 89,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported around the world, with more than 3,000 dead.

Iran has confirmed 1,501 cases of the virus and 66 deaths, but many believe the true number is larger as its caseload surged more than 250 per cent in just 24 hours.

Egypt has only two publicly reported cases of the illness.

In China, nearly 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 2,800 have died.

Mayor John Tory says: 'During this difficult time, it's imperative that our most vulnerable residents have access to the supports they need and are still able to feel a sense of connection while physically distancing in order to protect themselves.' (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario's three new cases bring Canada's total to 27, with eight cases in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

There are now a total of 18 confirmed cases in Ontario, though the first three patients have since been cleared of the virus.

What's next for Ontario

The Ministry of Health says it has started crafting its own plan to respond to what could become a pandemic.

"We have a model and a program that lays out different aspects of  surveillance, analytics, logistics, communications and these are all manned by staff," said Williams. 

Health officials say a command centre would be set up in the event of a wider outbreak.

"It's not because there's a need right now but you always want to have things in place before there's a need,"said Williams.

Tory said he's working on the city's response with health officials and city staff, as well as other levels of government.

"I have believed from Day 1, it is important to make decisions and take action based on the advice of our excellent professionals and that is exactly what we are doing," he said.

With files from CBC News


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