Why B.C.'s top doctor doesn't want to impose a coronavirus quarantine
VANCOUVER -- Hours after the United States announced a quarantine on coronavirus evacuees, questions are being raised about whether Canada should follow suit.
More than 150 Canadians are still waiting to be evacuated from China, and the question of quarantines is part of an ongoing discussion on how to best contain the virus – but the current position of B.C.'s provincial health officer is that imposing a quarantine would be unnecessary.
"I believe that quarantining is a very extreme measure," Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters Friday. "It is not, in my opinion, warranted."
Officials are monitoring people who recently returned from China, Henry added, and have requested that those individuals voluntarily "moderate their activities" in the short term.
"We've asked people to be conscious of not going to mass gatherings and to be very conscious of their own symptoms, if they have any," she said.
During the Toronto SARS outbreak of the early 2000s, which Henry helped fight, officials also asked people in close contact with confirmed patients to self-isolate as an alternative to quarantining.
"Close contacts of cases were asked to self-isolate and we supported them in being able to do that," Henry said. "We want to make sure that there's no opportunity for exchanging of viral particles with others as much as possible, so that is an option that I think is a reasonable approach for this."
Health care professionals are actively testing people who believe they may have picked up the coronavirus, and are applying what call a "low threshold" for those tests.
As of Friday, officials said they have tested 114 samples in B.C. and there's still only one confirmed infection in the province.
But concerns around the coronavirus are still growing, prompted in part by rumours and misinformation on social media. Some people have even questioned whether they should be cancelling plans and parties, including Super Bowl events this weekend.
Henry said that would be overkill, but she urged people who are showing cold or flu symptoms to stay away from group gatherings for the sake of everyone else going.
"These are times for celebrations," Henry said. "We should not be cancelling these things right now. That is not where the risk is in this community. But if you are somebody who's sick, don't go. That is your personal responsibility – to protect the others that are around you."
Health authorities have also repeatedly stressed the importance of regular hand-washing as a tool to prevent the spread of the disease.
There are still very few confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in Canada. Health officials in Ontario announced the province's third infection on Friday – marking four for all of Canada – and the first person to be infected was discharged from a Toronto hospital earlier in the day.
Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell.