TORONTO – The federal health minister and her Ontario counterpart are urging people not to give in to misinformation and stigma surrounding the novel coronavirus, adding that Canada continues to do its part to combat the global health emergency by containing cases of the illness to this country.
Patty Hajdu and Christine Elliott met Tuesday in Toronto’s Chinatown, along with Mayor John Tory, to address the discrimination and loss of business they say some in the Chinese-Canadian community have felt.
The two health ministers also toured Sunnybrook Hospital, which treated Canada’s first patient with the virus, and Hajdu praised the response from health-care providers, who she says have learned valuable lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003.
“The collaboration that we have at the local, provincial and federal levels is really paying off in our ability to work together and ensure people are supported so that we can do our global part to prevent the spread of disease around the world,” she said.
The virus has killed 1,016 people among 42,638 confirmed cases in mainland China, and infected more than 43,000 people globally. In Canada, there have been seven confirmed cases of the illness.
The federal government has agreed to provide $2 million to the World Health Organization to help vulnerable countries prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak beyond China.
Hajdu said in addition to that effort, Canada must continue to be vigilant when it comes to monitoring for cases of the illness as part of the effort to contain its spread.
“This is our global contribution to reducing the risk of a pandemic,” she said. “If Canada can take care of its own country in terms of reducing our rate of infection, in fact, we’re supporting the entire global population’s health.”
Elliott said the province’s health-care system is working and the risk from the virus remains low. She stressed that the virus is an international situation and is not related to any one group of people.
“There’s still a lot of discrimination out there,” she said.
“We want to make sure that people know it’s safe to go out. It’s safe to come to your favourite restaurants … it’s safe to go shopping.”
Tory praised the collaborative work of all three levels of government during the response, and asked people across the province to support people in the Chinese-Canadian community who have been impacted by some of the stigma and misinformation surrounding the virus.
“What we must not do is allow ourselves in anyway to stigmatize or to stop patronizing the businesses of or otherwise treat differently any group of people,” he said. “I think, in particular, of our Chinese-Canadian population … which is so positive a contributor to the well-being of Toronto and to Canada.”