Alberta health officials are ramping up their testing protocols for the coronavirus, adding six more countries to their list of places where travellers need to be mindful of virus symptoms.
While the province’s chief officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Wednesday that the risk of exposure in Alberta is still “considered low,” the province has expanded its testing protocols to also include people who have recently travelled to Hong Kong, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy.
“We are asking any travellers returning from these areas, in addition to those returning from mainland China, to monitor their symptoms for 14 days after returning,” she said at a news conference in Edmonton.
Hinshaw added that only travellers from China’s Hubei province should self-isolate at this time.
Hinshaw said that along with expanding the list of countries of concern, the province is currently working to make sure there are enough medical supplies for a worst-case scenario.
“We do not know what direction the outbreak will take next, but we do know we need to be prepared for a scenario where COVID-19 continues to spread in countries around the world,” she said.
“There have been extra masks ordered in addition to the stockpile that we always maintain.”
University of Alberta cell biology professor Tom Hobman said he will soon be working on a developing a vaccine for the coronavirus. He said he believes that even if the virus does become a pandemic, he doesn’t expect it to be extreme.
“What’s different about this virus is it seems to spread more readily, but luckily, the mortality rate is significantly lower,” Hobman said.
While there have been no cases confirmed in Alberta to date, Hinshaw said that she recommends people be prepared personally as well as maintain good infection prevention habits, like staying home when you feel sick.
“We always recommend that people should have a supply of at least three days worth of medications, basic food items, drinking water at home in case of any disruption,” Hinshaw said.
“We’re taking this seriously, we’re ready to respond.”