Three new cases of the novel coronavirus have been found in Alberta, bringing the total number to seven.
“All cases of COVID-19 in Alberta are now confirmed,” Deena Hinshaw, the province’s Chief Medical Officer, said Monday.
All of the new cases are travel-related.
Two were found in people in close contact with previously discovered cases of the illness contracted on an earlier voyage of the Grand Princess cruise ship that has been docked off the California coast since last week. The third case involves a woman who was recently on a cruise ship holiday on the MS Braemar of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Premier Jason Kenney sought to reassure Albertans on Monday that his government is prepared to handle such a public-health challenge. Its experience with crises such as floods and fires in recent years has fostered good co-operation with other agencies and orders of government, he said.
“The government has a detailed pandemic and influenza plan which has been subject to successful exercise as recently as last year as part of ongoing emergency preparedness activities.”
Mr. Kenney added his office is being briefed regularly by health officials and his government has set up a new cabinet emergency management committee, which was to meet for the first time Monday.
“We will ensure that our public-health professionals have the resources that they need to contain and, if necessary, mitigate the impact of the coronavirus,” Mr. Kenney said.
“We are working closely with the federal government and other provinces in sharing information and accessing supplies, in part to ensure that our medical professionals have the personal protection gear that they need.”
Mr. Kenney said the cabinet committee would also be discussing “the emergence of what appears to be a global coronavirus-linked recession.”
A man in his 40s from the Edmonton area became Alberta’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Sunday.
All those diagnosed with the virus are self-isolating and are expected to make a full recovery.
Dr. Hinshaw said the risk of infection for Albertans remains low, but warned that could change and recommended people alter their behaviour.
“It is time to start greeting each other with elbow bumps and waves instead of handshakes,” she said.
She advised frequent hand-washing and staying home from work for those feeling unwell.
“I want to particularly underline that if you are sick, do not visit loved ones in hospitals or long-term care facilities. All returning travellers from anywhere outside of Canada need to be vigilant for illness.”
Dr. Hinshaw said the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg has approved how the Alberta labs are conducting tests. Alberta will no longer have to wait for diagnoses to be confirmed in Manitoba.
Dr. Hinshaw said a mammoth laboratory effort over the weekend saw more than 1,000 tests completed.
“Going from a handful of tests each day to being able to test a thousand people in two days is remarkable,” she said.
The effort starts with public-health officials taking swabs from patients and includes extra staff and equipment to conduct tests, she said.
“For those few cases that are positive, there’s a huge amount of work that’s done by our public health contact-tracing teams to contact those cases, find out who might have come in contact with them, follow up with all of those people, give them instructions and arranging tests for those people ..."
Dr. Hinshaw said the effort has received adequate funding and support.
There are more than 70 confirmed cases in Canada spread out between Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.
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