Canadians feel uneasy as coronavirus threat still looms

Published On February 13, 2020 | By Brandon Arantes | News
An alert placed at the front of Etobicoke General Hospital concerning Coronavirus. (Brandon Arantes)
Brandon Arantes

Canadians are on high-alert as Ottawa evacuated stranded Canadian residents from Wuhan, China, last week.

The Canadian government made the decision to airlift 186 Canadians and 399 people in total out of Wuhan back to Canada.

A second plane is being sent to China to pick up more stranded Canadians in the Wuhan epicentre, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said while addressing the media. 

“People are rightfully nervous about the unknown, and certainly earlier on no one really knew how sick this could make people and what the spectrum of illness was and how it was diagnosed,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at University Health Network in Toronto.

The plane landed on Friday, Feb. 7, in Trenton, Ont., where the passengers will be quarantined for 14 days. 

Canadian Armed Forces loading baggage onto a coach bus as they disembark from another aircraft at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton in Trenton, Ontario, Canada February 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Those being held in the quarantine zone in the Canadian Forces Base Trenton are expected to be released after the 14 days if no symptoms are displayed. 

This decision divided Canadians who voiced their outrage and support for the decision on social media.

However, Bogoch feels social media is causing unreasonable panic when it comes to bringing people back from Wuhan.

“We know what the infection is, we know how it’s transmitted, we know what the incubation period is, we know how to manage cases and we know how to prevent spread in the community. So it’s totally reasonable to bring those people back,” he said.

Opinion seems to be shifting towards this not being as severe as initially thought, Bogoch said.

Worldwide there are more than 1,000 deaths, with majority of fatalities occurring in China, and more than 40,000 people infected, according to Worldometer’s Coronavirus live tracker.

Bogoch said he believes Canada is better prepared to deal with novel coronavirus due to extensive knowledge sharing among the worldwide medical community.

“There was a lot of soul searching after severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), we had outbreaks that were triggered by patients that were sick and there was transmission happened within the hospital,” Bogoch said. “We have what’s called infection prevention and control (IPAC) initiatives that have been extremely effective.”

Some Canadians are still not convinced of the efforts by government officials to curtail the viral outbreak despite the medical community’s assurances.

“The Canadian government reacted too slowly,” Joseph Zlicar said, a Gate Gourmet employee at Toronto Pearson International Airport. “I saw flights from China coming into Canada for days after the news of the virus broke with hundreds of people on each flight.”

The death toll for novel coronavirus has already exceeded that of the SARS outbreak, which resulted in 774 deaths between July 2002 and July 2003.

Canada currently has seven confirmed cases of novel coronavirus with no deaths reported.

“I work at the airport and I’ve had cancer, my body can’t fight off viruses easily, so seeing those flights from China come through it made me feel uneasy,” Zlicar said.

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