Canada’s chief public health officer is warning that the global risk of COVID-19 may be entering a new phase, as Canada reported its second case of novel coronavirus disease linked to Iran.
The case, which involves a woman in her 60s, was reported in Toronto on Wednesday morning. She has a travel history to Iran and is now in self-quarantine as she did not require hospital care.
This is Canada’s 12th case of COVID-19, and the second not linked to China, the original source of the disease.
The first COVID-19 case linked to Iran was reported Feb. 20 in a B.C. woman who had also travelled on an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Vancouver.
Tuesday evening, Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, noted on Twitter that the risk is evolving and the situation is changing rapidly.
“The COVID-19 global risk situation is changing, with several countries now reporting sustained community spread,” she wrote.
“For now, the risk in Canada is low, but the risk is evolving. Concerning developments in recent days tell us the window of opportunity may be closing, but there is still much that Canada can do to delay spread and become more prepared.”
She recommends that people stay home if sick, wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze as ways to help mitigate the spread of illness. Travellers who get sick upon their return are urged to contact their health care provider and call ahead to inform them of their travel histories.
Tam’s comments echo the wording used by officials at the World Health Organization. WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that the “window of opportunity” to limit the outbreak was narrowing, in response to reports of cases in Iran.
A recent study from a group of Toronto researchers estimated that there were far more COVID-19 cases in Iran than reported by officials: around 18,000, as opposed to 139, the number officially reported so far.
Brazil also reported its first case Wednesday, meaning that COVID-19 has now been confirmed on every continent except Antarctica. The case was in a 61-year-old man who had travelled to Italy, which is also experiencing a significant outbreak.
On Tuesday, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned that it wasn’t a matter of “if” the novel coronavirus would spread in the U.S., but “when.”