B.C. health officials confirm first possible community transmission of coronavirus in province

B.C. health officials confirm first possible community transmission of coronavirus in province

B.C. health officials have confirmed a new case of coronavirus infection in the province that has no known link to travel to a country where a virus outbreak has been taking place, or connection to a known patient.

The apparent community case, which would be a first for the province and Canada, is a woman in her 50s in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. She was found to have COVID-19 due to additional testing of people being tested for influenza.

“It’s different for us,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “It’s not unexpected.”

“We’re now in the process of doing the detailed investigation to determine where she was exposed to the virus.”

Henry said the woman has not travelled and has not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

“There’s likely at least one other person out there who has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them,” Henry told reporters at a press conference with Health Minister Adrian Dix on Thursday.

Eight new cases were announced on Thursday. One of the new cases announced is a woman, who is in her 50s, who travelled from Seattle to the Fraser Valley for a family visit.

“We are working with our colleagues in Washington state to investigate this,” Henry said.

Four others were already in self-isolation, as they were close contacts to a man in his 60s who was announced as having COVID-19 last week. He had recently travelled to Iran.

They are in the Fraser Valley Health region. Those four close contacts who have COVID-19 are a man in his 20s, a man in his 30s, a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 60s.

Two of the new cases are a couple in their 50s and 60s in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. They had recently returned from Iran.

Henry confirmed one of the cases is linked to University Canada West in Vancouver. The private university, closed its campus Wednesday for three days of disinfection after the school was informed of a presumptive case of COVID-19 a day earlier.

The Visual College of Art and Design, which shares the building, is also closed.

Henry confirmed one of the new cases is linked to

The total number of cases in the province is now up to 21. Yesterday, Henry said one of the cases is a woman in her 80s who is in critical condition at the Vancouver General Hospital.

The rest of the cases were or are in self-isolation. Four people have recovered.

Canada has a total of 46 COVID-19 cases: 23 in Ontario, 21 in B.C. ,one in Quebec and a new one announced in Alberta.

Three of the 23 cases in Ontario were announced Thursday.

Peel Public Health says one of the cases the man in his 60s from Mississauga, Ont., was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship and returned to Canada on Feb. 28.

He is now considered the 23rd case of COVID-19 in Ontario.

The other two cases are a woman who returned to Kitchener, Ont., from Italy and a man who returned to Toronto from Iran.

B.C. has asked everyone returning from China and Iran to self-isolate. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is also recommending people do not travel internationally for spring break.

“We are seeing that things are moving very quickly and things can open up very suddenly,” Henry said. “This is one of those years where I would shift my thinking to staying at home.”

Henry said anyone who has travelled to any country and has COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and call their healthcare provider or Health Link BC in 811.

Dix and Premier John Horgan are expected to hold a news conference tomorrow in Vancouver to layout the province-wide approach to dealing with COVID-19.

“The intent really is just to inform, in detail, about what we’re doing and what our priorities are,” Dix said.

Washington state deaths

In Washington state, 11 people who previously tested positive for coronavirus have died. Ten people died in King County and one person died in Snohomish County.

Another 59 people have tested positive for coronavirus. Fifty one people have tested positive in King County, 18 in Snohomish County and one in Grant County.

Henry said that implementing screening at the land border with Washington state would be of “limited effectiveness,” but officials are closely monitoring the outbreak there, which has led to 10 deaths so far.

Canada’s largest airlines waiving fees to change flights because of coronavirus

Canada’s largest airlines are waiving change fees in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus.

Air Canada says a one-time change is permitted for tickets purchased from the airline between March 4 and March 31 for travel within 12 months.

It also applies to Aeroplan flight reward bookings and Air Canada Vacations has implemented flexible booking policies.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says the one-time change fee waiver applies to new bookings made between March 5 and March 31.

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Air Transat has two policies, including one that applies to Venice, a hot spot for the virus called COVID-19. All customers who booked flights on or before March 2 for travel until June 30 can change their date or destination for a trip until Oct. 31.

Other passengers travelling outside the eco budget fare class can change their travel dates, destination or hotel at no charge for bookings made between March 4 and March 31 for travel through Oct. 31.

“Although almost all of our destinations are very safe and the government of Canada’s advisories currently affect only one of our destinations located in northern Italy, we are aware that the outbreak and progression of the coronavirus may raise questions and even concerns among some travellers,” Transat said in a news release.

“The situation is evolving rapidly, and in order to reassure travellers and enable our clients to carry out their travel plans, we are offering them peace of mind by deploying a highly advantageous flexibility policy.”

Most airlines will waive the fee for changes made at least 14 days before travel. However, Transat passengers can change their booking up to 24 hours before departure.

All airlines require passengers to pay any fare difference between the original and new flights.

Sunwing says its destinations have not been impacted to date but its waiver applies to all new bookings made March 4-19 for flights until June 24.

Sunwing passengers can purchase insurance starting at $50 per person that provides full cancellation coverage up until three hours before departure for any reason.

Read more about novel coronavirus on the BC Centre for Disease Control.

B.C. officials are reminding anyone who feels unwell to stay home from work or school and to call 811 or their health practitioner if they have symptoms of coronavirus such as a fever or cough.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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