Public health officials in Ontario say they’re awaiting test results for 27 possible coronavirus infections, one day after a second case was confirmed in Toronto.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer in Ontario, said Thursday that the province has conducted a total of 67 tests for the virus. Thirty-eight were negative, she told reporters at a news conference at Queen’s Park.
Most of the 27 people awaiting results are at home, not in hospital, Yaffe said, adding that the risk of coming into close contact with an infected person in the province remains low.
“Right now, we don’t have any evidence of this infection spreading in Toronto or in Ontario,” she continued.
Canada currently has a total of three confirmed cases — two in Toronto and a third in British Columbia.
The two Ontario cases are a husband and wife who recently travelled to Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak. The couple, both in their 50s, returned to Toronto on a China Southern Airlines flight on Jan 22.
The man is being treated at Sunnybrook Hospital, and he remains in “stable condition,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer.
The woman is at home in self-isolation and “doing well,” showing no symptoms of the infection, he said. Health officials are staying in frequent contact with her.
Toronto Public Health says it has made contact with most of the people who flew in close proximity to the couple. A hotline has also been set up for anyone on the same flight who has questions or concerns about their condition.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said the virus has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,700 in that country, with an additional 12,000 suspected cases being looked at. The majority have been in Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is located.
Williams said he expects the number of people infected in China to increase rapidly as the Chinese government continues to build the necessary infrastructure for an increased number of coronavirus tests. Health authorities there are now able to do hundreds of tests per day, rather than a few dozen.
“That is encouraging because it will give us better data,” Williams said.
Dozens of cases have also been reported in at least 18 other countries around the world, almost all of them travel-related, according to WHO. There are 7,818 confirmed cases globally.
Early evidence suggests that many infected young people who are otherwise healthy are able to “fend it off pretty quickly,” Williams said.
“Young people have a short-lived, mild infection,” he added.
There is currently no compelling evidence that the virus can be transmitted by an infected person who is asymptomatic, according to Yaffe.
This week, foreign governments began flying their citizens out of Wuhan, which remains under quarantine.
Global Affairs Canada said there are 196 Canadians currently seeking consular help to leave China, and Canada has secured a charter aircraft to bring home Canadians stranded in the coronavirus-affected region.
People with symptoms not permitted to board
On Thursday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott addressed concerns about Canadians returning home from the area of the outbreak.
“In the case of the returning Canadians from Wuhan, we understand that the Chinese health officials are doing their own investigation before people can even get on the plane,” Elliott told reporters while on her way to a cabinet meeting.
“So, if people are showing any signs or symptoms of the novel coronavirus, they will not be able to board the plane. That’s why we can’t indicate at this moment how many people will be on the plane.”
Elliott said that at the federal level, they continue to rely on the advice of the various chief medical officers of health, adding that “they are the ones who understand medically what we have to do in order to return Canadians to the country, but also to make sure that public health remains safe for all Canadians.”
Meanwhile, Air Canada has suspended all flights to Beijing and Shanghai as demand for air travel to China plummets. American Airlines and British Airways have taken similar steps.