coronavirus toronto

Toronto health officials say they're ready for a coronavirus outbreak

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health is confident that the deadly coronavirus will enter our province at some point, tellling reporters during a news conference on Friday that it's only "a matter of where and when."

Dr. David Williams joined Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa this morning at City Hall to brief the public on a "coronavirus preparedness plan" for Canada's largest city.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Canada to date, but Williams and de Villa both stressed that public health agencies are well-prepared to treat anyone who may become infected.

Toronto Public Health continues to "actively monitor" the situation, according to de Villa, who said the risk to local residents remains "very low."

More than 830 confirmed cases have been reported since the virus (known officially as 2019-nCoV) was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China three weeks ago. Some 1,000 more cases are suspected within the vast country, and at least 26 people have died as a result of the flu-like disease.

A total of 12 cities near Wuhan have been quarantined by Chinese authorities in an effort to contain the virus. With Wuhan also on lockdown, roughly 33 million people in China are unable to travel within or out of the region. 

Still, at least two cases of the virus have been confirmed in the United States and officials worry that the risk of spreading coronavirus could intensify this weekend as hundreds of millions of people travel for Lunar New Year celebrations.

The World Health Organization has yet to declare a public health emergency over the virus, which can cause pneumonia and other flu-like symptoms.

Still, staff at airports and hospitals are taking every precaution to ensure that cases are detected before they can be passed on.

"It is understandable when there are uncertainties that people get concerned, that people may worry," said de Villa during this morning's press conference.

"I am here today to reassure you that based on the lessons we learned from SARS now 17 years ago, and given our experiences during the flu pandemic of 2009 and more recently, with Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome or MERS, we have learned," Toronto's Medical Officer of Health continued.

"We have shared knowledge and we have built a stronger public health system that is ready to respond, as needed."

De Villa stressed that there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada at this point and promised that Toronto Public Health would let residents know "if the situation changes."

"In the meantime," urged de Villa, "I am asking you to rely on evidence-based, credible sources of information when looking for updates."

Lead photo by

Evan Russell

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