OTTAWA—A Canadian patient newly diagnosed with COVID-19 recently travelled to Las Vegas and used public transit in Toronto for several days before he was tested for the virus, according to the Toronto public health authority.
The man, who is in his 40s, was one of the two most recently confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Toronto.
“This information is being provided out of an abundance of caution. We’re talking about low-risk situations,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top public-health doctor, in a briefing Friday.
Transit riders without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to seek medical help, de Villa said, unless they get a call from her unit.
The other Toronto case, a man in his 50s, recently returned to Canada from Iran. Both men are isolating themselves in their homes.
And in Peel Region just west of Toronto, a couple who had been on the Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco was diagnosed after returning home to Mississauga.
Peel Public Health is asking passengers in rows 18 to 22 on West Jet flight 1199 on Feb. 28 to self-isolate, but says the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low.
Another 237 Canadians have been forbidden from leaving the ship after a subsequent cruise while some of the thousands of passengers aboard now are tested, according to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises.
Thus far in Ontario, all of the 26 patients known to be sick with the bug had recently travelled outside the country or were in close contact with another patient who had.
But Canada’s first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia Thursday night, when officials announced eight new cases of the illness.
They say a woman in the Vancouver area was diagnosed with COVID-19, even though she had not travelled recently and had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the virus.
Quebec has two confirmed cases and one presumptive diagnosis that still has to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Alberta reported its first presumptive case of the illness Thursday night, bringing the total of confirmed and presumptive cases of the virus in Canada to at least 51.
Health officials in Ontario, British Columbia and across Canada have said the risk posed by COVID-19 in this country remains low.
But they’ve been preparing for weeks for a possible outbreak similar to the ones seen in Iran, South Korea, Italy and China—where the virus originated.
Canada is increasing its funding for COVID-19 research by $20 million, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Friday morning, after concluding that the $7 million it had planned to spend isn’t enough.
The applications for the initial amount were “overwhelming,” Hajdu said.
Forty-seven research teams will now get backing from the federal government, for work to “inform clinical and public health responses, develop and evaluate diagnostic tools and vaccines, as well as create strategies to tackle misinformation, stigma, and fear.”
“It also allows Canada to be at the ground level of this research so that when a vaccine is developed we are partners with other countries, that we can access that vaccine or that treatment quickly,” Hajdu said Friday.
Meanwhile the 129 Canadians who were quarantined after returning to Canada from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan have finally been allowed to return home.
The Canadians were mostly confined to their rooms for two weeks aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Yokohama, Japan. The ship contained the largest outbreak outside of China at the time.
The Canadian government repatriated those without signs of the virus and put them under a further 14-day quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.
“These individuals remained asymptomatic for COVID-19 throughout the 14-day quarantine period and, as a result, they pose no risk to others and can safely return to their communities and to their usual activities,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam wrote in a statement Friday.