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Queen’s University hosts expert panel on novel coronavirus: ‘We are well ahead of this’

Queen’s University hosts an expert panel on the Wuhan coronavirus
WATCH: Four health care experts gathered on campus to discuss the coronavirus and what lessons were learned from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak of 2003.

Queen’s University held a public panel discussion Thursday evening, with a focus on the Wuhan coronavirus.

Four health care experts gathered on campus to discuss the coronavirus and what lessons were learned from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak of 2003.

“We are here to review the lessons we learnt from SARS — the policies, procedures and legislation that followed,” said Dr. David Walker, addressing a large group of people at Robert Sutherland Hall on the Queen’s campus.

Walker is a professor of emergency and family medicine and policy studies at Queen’s University.

He was also the chair of the Ontario Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control in 2003.

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“It was very clear we were not prepared for SARS,” says Walker. “There were a lot of reasons for that.

“Our public health capacity had been degraded. We weren’t ready. We weren’t sharing information. We didn’t have information. We didn’t know what it was.”

Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus
Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus

Thursday’s symposium was to send the clear message that the current World Health Organization global alert on the coronavirus is a good move, but there are precautions, infrastructure and screening policies in place today to prevent a possible outbreak.

“We are well ahead of this,” Walker said. “We know what we are dealing with.

“Front line workers know what to expect. The public is being informed clearly. [We are] screening and we have the capacity to deal with it.”
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The number of confirmed cases has exploded to over 8,000, mostly in China, with over 200 confirmed deaths in that country, according to data compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

That said, Walker says, the risk remains very low in Kingston and areas.

“I think it’s very unlikely if we manage this as we should,” says Walker, referring to the chance of an outbreak in Kingston.

“It’s possible, but to put this in perspective, we are looking at a disease which is frightening people.

“But during the same period thousands of people will die around the world from influenza this year.”