The number of presumptive COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador has risen from one to three, the provincial government confirmed Tuesday.
The two women and one man believed to be infected are all located in the Labrador-Grenfell provincial health district, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, and all are in self-isolation.
“These new cases are contacts to the previous case and are not unexpected,” she told reporters at an afternoon press conference.
“We are in a pandemic and everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Provincial health officials are currently in the process of contact-tracing for each of the impacted individuals and testing those in close proximity.
To date, the province has tested 494 of its residents for the novel coronavirus, 491 of whom have tested negative. Nearly 200 people are in self-isolation.
To respond to the crisis, the government has ordered more testing kits and added 14 registered nurses to the roster of responders on the 811 phone line. More than 700 people are waiting for their calls to be returned on that service, said Fitzgerald, and the wait-time currently stands at approximately five minutes.
The province’s first presumptive case surfaced on Saturday as did Prince Edward Island’s. All 10 Canadian provinces are now grappling with either presumptive or confirmed cases of the virus.
To date, COVID-19 is either confirmed or presumptive in more than 440 Canadians. Four people have died, all of whom were in British Columbia.
Fitzgerald issued new marching orders to businesses and the public on Tuesday, asking restaurants to reduce their capacity by 50 per cent, eliminate buffets and encourage take-out over dine-in options.
Now that schools have been suspended indefinitely, parents are also asked not to host sleepovers or schedule playdates for their children.
“There is an element of fear and there is an element of panic and I think it’s helpful to insulate (children) from some of that,” said Health Minister John Haggie.
Members of the public concerned about their health or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms have now been instructed not to visit hospitals or family physicians unless it’s an emergency; health officials can perform a test at private homes, if need be.
Several measures have already been taken by public institutions to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
On Monday, its largest integrated health authority, Eastern Health, announced that all urgent appointments at outpatient clinics will continue as planned, while non-emergency appointments may be rescheduled.
Mental health and addictions staff will also continue to offer their services, the authority confirmed via Twitter, advising patients to contact their local DoorWays clinic location to discuss one-on-one counselling options.
Elective surgeries have been rebooked at the province’s regional health authority facilities, which have also suspended hospital volunteerism and restricted visitation rights to one guest per patient in most circumstances.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Court has suspended all trials and appearances except in cases where the accused is currently in custody, while the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal has barred the general public from attending proceedings until Thursday.