LATEST UPDATES ON COVID-19
- COVID-19 spreads on 3 continents, global markets brace for recessions
- California monitors 8,400 for virus
- Chinese-Canadian community using social media to co-ordinate self-quarantines
- The latest from Canadian health officials
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia’s aging population could be hit hard by coronavirus if it reaches this province.
About 20 per cent of the province’s population is 65 or older, according to Statistics Canada. The severity of the disease could be greater for such an aging population, especially those with chronic conditions, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday.
“With an aging demographic, many with chronic conditions, those are the populations that’s likely to be ... at the highest risk for severe disease, which means that they are at the highest risk for needing hospital-based care,” Strang said.
“We know that every flu season our hospital systems and emergency departments are stretched. So one of the things we’re clearly looking at is how would we manage a surge of people requiring emergency room care, hospitalization, with respiratory illness, if there’s an extensive spread of this new virus.”
While COVID-19 infections are slowing down in China, the virus is spreading rapidly across the world.
Over the last week, outbreaks have sprung up in Iran, Italy and South Korea. There are now cases of the virus in every continent except for Antarctica.
As of Wednesday, 12 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Canada.
While it’s uncertain where the virus will show up next, Strang said the global surge of infections suggests that COVID-19 will spread in Canada.
“We’re pretty close to a pandemic,” he said. “Even if (the World Health Organization) officially declares a pandemic, it doesn’t change what we have been doing.”
Strang said at this point the key to controlling the spread of the disease in Canada is early identification and quarantining people who test positive for the virus.
If large numbers of travellers arriving from affected countries test positive for COVID-19, screening and quarantine will not be feasible. In case of an outbreak, infected patients will be isolated in alternative care sites or in designated areas within hospitals.
Since the virus spreads like influenza, practising preventive measures including washing hands regularly and cleaning contact surfaces are imperative to limit the disease.
Jennifer Watts, CEO of the Immigrant Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), said immigrants served by the association are anxious about the virus.
“People have family members who are back in those countries, so it’s very concerning,” she said.
ISANS has developed resources in plain language to inform immigrants about the virus. Watts said visual resources that illustrate good public health practices like handwashing are useful for beginning literacy clients. ISANS will also be translating their resources to several languages.
Significant levels of COVID-19 cases could result in closing schools or cancelling public gatherings.
While teachers haven’t raised the subject with their union, Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said he expects them to do so in the case of an outbreak.
The union is preparing for a potential outbreak by reviewing how they handled the H1N1 pandemic.
But Wozney anticipates any response to a COVID-19 outbreak will be different compared to the 2009 pandemic.
He said the dissolution of the Halifax regional school board has made communication regarding matters like a potential outbreak more complicated.
“There’s a responsibility now on the minister of education,” said Wozney. “He is now the trustee of public education in Nova Scotia.”
The government should maintain transparent communication with teachers regarding their occupational safety, Wozney said.
He also expects the minister would be proactive in working with Public Health to ensure people are well-informed about the virus and that a strategic plan is in place in case of an outbreak.
“It shouldn’t be up to teachers to figure out what they need to say in the event of an outbreak,” said Wozney.
Since viruses like the flu spread every year in schools, Strang said the provincial government is not concerned enough to have a specific emergency plan in place for schools.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has been in communication with some families and school administrations to point them toward good sources for information on the disease.
Strang said the department will contact parents again in the next couple of days ahead of March break.
- What to expect if COVID-19 evolves from scattered outbreaks into a global pandemic
- WHO says COVID-19 coronavirus 'not yet' a pandemic, while Canada diagnoses 11th case
- No confirmed coronavirus in N.S.: chief medical officer
- Truro restaurant temporarily closes as coronavirus precaution after owners return from Hong Kong