Nova Scotia recorded its first three presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as it announced additional measures aimed at reducing the virus’s spread.
The news means every province in Canada is now has patients with the virus. Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said all three cases in his province were related to travel.
The patients include a 61-year-old woman from Kings County who had been travelling in Australia, a 50-year-old man from the Halifax area who had been travelling in the United States, and a man in his 30s from Halifax who had been travelling throughout Europe.
“None of the three cases are connected to each other,” Strang said on Sunday. “Extensive public health follow-up on all of the cases and their close contacts began last night as soon as we were notified of the cases.”
Strang told a news conference in Halifax that all three were self-isolating for 14 days at home.
Health officials said the woman had returned to Nova Scotia on March 8, while the man in his 30s returned March 10 and the 50-year-old man returned on Friday.
“We are the last province to identify cases and Atlantic Canada has not seen the level of spread we’re seeing in Ontario, Quebec and farther west,” said Strang. “We have a chance to get out front of this. It will be the combined impact of everybody adhering to the personal protective measures.”
Premier Stephen McNeil said in light of the new cases the province was taking further public health measures including immediately closing all long term care homes to visitors, and closing public schools for two weeks following the March break week, which begins Monday.
McNeil said regulated child care centres would also close Tuesday until April 3 and then would be reassessed, while casinos in Halifax and Sydney, N.S., would be closed as of Monday, and bar owners would no longer be allowed to operate video lottery terminals.
He said anyone who has travelled outside of Canada must now isolate themselves for 14 days upon their return, and screening procedures would be beefed up at the airports in Halifax and Sydney.
McNeil urged the public to take its lead from public health officials and asked organizations such as health and education unions to exercise responsibility in speaking out.
“Everyone competing for airtime is not helpful,” McNeil said. “We need to rely on public health. The decisions that we are making today are not based on something I dreamt up overnight ... these (measures) are working with public health looking at best practices across communities.”
Earlier Sunday, the provincial justice department announced it had moved to restrict access to provincial jails including closing them to volunteer organizations until further notice and restricting visits by family and friends to noncontact.
The province also recommended on Friday that organizations limit social gatherings to no more than 150 people.
Other provinces in Atlantic Canada also announced updates on the spread of COVID-19 on Sunday.
New Brunswick announced four additional presumptive cases, bringing the number of presumptive or positive cases in the province to six.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, he province’s chief medical officer of health, said the patients were from central New Brunswick and were mildly symptomatic, including a man between 50 and 60 years of age, a woman between 50 and 60 years of age, and two men between 20 and 30 years-old.
“All of these cases are connected to the first travel-related case,” said Russell. The province’s first confirmed case is a woman between the ages of 50 and 60 who had recently travelled from France.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the announcement was not unexpected and should be kept in perspective.
“We need to walk the line between preparing for this and overreacting,” said Higgs. “This has not spread through the community and that is significant in terms of risk to the public.”
New Brunswick had previously announced the closure of all public schools for two weeks beginning Monday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In Prince Edward Island, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced the discontinuation of visits to the Island’s long-term care facilities after the province’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported Saturday – a woman in her 50s from the Queens County area who recently returned from travelling on a cruise ship.
Morrison also said all public schools would be closed until April 6 and all licensed child-care centres would be closed until further notice, effective immediately.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported no new cases after confirming the province’s first presumptive case on Saturday.
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