OTTAWA – The latest patient diagnosed with COVID-19 recently travelled to Las Vegas and used public transit in Toronto for several days before he was tested for the virus, according to the Toronto public health authority.
The man in his 40s was one of two recently confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Toronto.
“This information is being provided out of an abundance of caution. We’re talking about low-risk situations,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top public-health doctor, in a briefing Friday.
De Villa said the man arrived back to Toronto on Feb. 28 and went to Toronto Western’s Emergency Department on March 4. She said the man is now in self-isolation.
However, the man took public transit every day between March 2 and March 4 to and from work.
At around 8:50 every morning, the man would take the subway from Bathurst station westbound to Islington Station. He would then take the Missisauga 108N express bus to his work.
On his way home, de Villa said he would take the 27 Milton GO bus to Yorkdale Station at around 6:10 p.m. and from there he would take the subway to St. George Station at around 6:45 p.m.
Transit riders without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to seek medical help, de Villa said, unless they get a call from her unit.
The other Toronto case, a man in his 50s, recently returned to Canada from Iran on Feb. 27 and went to North York General Hospital March 3 and has been since been released to self-isolation. Both men are isolating themselves in their homes.
Thus far in Ontario, all of the patients known to be sick with the bug had recently travelled outside the country or were in close contact with another patient who had.
But Canada’s first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia last night, when officials announced eight new cases of the illness.
They say a woman in the Vancouver area was diagnosed with COVID-19, even though she did not travel recently and has had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the virus.
Quebec has two confirmed cases and one presumptive diagnosis that still has to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Alberta reported its first presumptive case of the illness last night.
Health officials in Ontario, British Columbia and across Canada have said the risk posed by COVID-19 in this country remains low.
But they’ve been preparing for weeks for a possible outbreak, similar to the ones seen in Iran, South Korea, Italy and China where the virus originated.
Canada increased its funding for COVID-19 research by $20 million, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Friday morning, after concluding that the $7 million it had planned to spend isn’t enough.
The applications for the initial amount were “overwhelming,” Hajdu’s announcement said.
Forty-seven research teams will now get backing from the federal government, for work to “inform clinical and public health responses, develop and evaluate diagnostic tools and vaccines, as well as create strategies to tackle misinformation, stigma, and fear.”
The money is being distributed through the research councils that ordinarily distribute federal grants, the government says.
Meanwhile the 129 Canadians who were quarantined after returning to Canada from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan have finally been allowed to return home.
The Canadians were mostly confined to their rooms for two weeks aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked near Yokohama, Japan.
The ship contained the largest outbreak outside of China at the time.
The Canadian government repatriated those without signs of the virus, and put them under a further 14-day quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.
“These individuals remained asymptomatic for COVID-19 throughout the 14-day quarantine period and, as a result, they pose no risk to others and can safely return to their communities and to their usual activities,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam wrote in a statement Friday.
This is just as 237 Canadians have been forbidden from leaving the Grand Princess cruise ship docked on the coast of California, according to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises.
A handful of the thousands of passengers aboard the ship are bring tested for COVID-19.
–With files from Global News Jessica Patton