More than 25,000 Canadians have been tested for COVID-19, the country’s top doctor said, as 313 cases of the virus have been diagnosed.
In a Sunday afternoon update, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said all travellers are being asked to self-isolate when they enter Canada.
“I am asking everyone to take strong action to help us delay the spread of COVID-19,” Tam said.
“This is our chance right here right now. We need to act now and act together.”
When asked about travellers reporting that they’re not being told to self-isolate as they enter Canada, Tam said that messaging is rolling out.
“”Right now, you may not be seeing that message” to self-isolate, Tam acknowledged. “That is rapidly being implemented” at airports and border crossings.
Reports of int’l. passengers arriving at @yvrairport not being informed of 14-day #COVID19 self-isolation by @CanBorder personnel or anybody else. One person I spoke with also saw no staff reading the temps of arriving pax. @MarcGarneau @CDNMinHealth @GovCanHealth #covid19Canada
— Trevor Kramer Ⓥ (@tkhereandthere) March 15, 2020
However, the self-isolation is still voluntary, Tam said, stressing that asking health officials to keep tabs on all travellers is “impossible.”
All travel that is not “absolutely essential” should be cancelled or postponed, Tam said.
However, a full-scale travel ban is not in the works, she said.
“We have to maintain essential movement of people and goods and services,” she said.
Tam said that a travel ban is not an evidence-backed way to stop the spread of COVID-19, cities countries with stringent travel bans but also serious outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Most of the cases in Canada are in Ontario, where 39 new cases were confirmed on Sunday, but Tam said B.C. and Alberta are seeing rapid increases in cases as well.
Tam echoed calls from provincial health officials in B.C. and other provinces, discouraging people from attending any large gatherings and asking them to practice social distancing. In B.C., health officials have asked organizers to cancel all gatherings of more than 250 people.
More to come.