Alberta expands COVID-19 testing protocol to 6 more countries
A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant against the coronavirus in front of the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. South Korea on Friday declared a "special management zone" around a southeastern city where a surging viral outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region's health system. (Lim Hwa-young/Yonhap via AP)
EDMONTON -- Alberta has expanded its coronavirus testing protocol to travellers returning from a number of countries aside from China as confirmed cases spike across the world.
The province is asking Albertans returning from Hong Kong, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy to watch their symptoms, such as fever and cough, for 14 days.
"I want to be clear: Travellers from these areas are not required to self-isolate at this time, unless they have returned from China's Hubei province," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
"The fact is the global situation is changing rapidly. Although China continues to have the highest number of cases, the spread of this virus to new countries is concerning."
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are just over 80,000 cases across the world. The overwhelming majority are in China, with the countries Alberta expanded its protocol too behind.
There are 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, but none in Alberta.
"The risk of exposure in Alberta is still considered low," Hinshaw said. "There are no probable or confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the province."
Hinshaw says the province continues to be in touch with partners across Canada to ensure it's ready if the virus does make its way to Alberta.
"We do not what direction the outbreak will take next, but we do know that we need to be prepared for a scenario where COVID-19 continues to spread in countries around the world," Alberta's top doctor said.
The province is urging Albertans to stay home when they're sick, cover cough and sneeze, wash their hands, and stay at least one metre away from people coughing and sneezing.
"It is important to remember that most people that get COVID-19 have a mild illness. That is both a good thing and a challenge with this virus," Hinshaw said. "The challenge is that because most of us don’t let a mild illness stop us from going about our daily business, the virus has more opportunity to spread."
Those who come back from the countries with a high amount of COVID-19 cases are encouraged to call Health Link at 811 if they are showing symptoms.
Albertans who come back from Hubei are still asked to self-isolate for two weeks.