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Doctor: "Way too early" to talk about ending China outbreak – GuelphToday



BEIJING — The number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials said Wednesday in a possible glimmer of hope amid the outbreak that has infected over 45,000 people worldwide and killed more than 1,100.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said it is “way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the crisis in China. But he said: “The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China.”

China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The country’s National Health Commission said 2,015 new cases were counted on Tuesday, the second straight daily decline and down from nearly 3,900 a week ago. Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim but “we have seen some positive changes.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the numbers “must be interpreted with extreme caution,” adding: “This outbreak could still go in any direction.” At the same time, he noted that the number of other countries reporting cases — about two dozen — has not changed since Feb. 4.

All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99% of all reported infections in the world.

“In principle at the moment, there’s no evidence out there that this virus is out there causing efficient community transmission in other countries,” Ryan said. “We have a window of opportunity to shut this virus down.”

At the end of a two-day meeting aimed at speeding the development of new tests, drugs and vaccines for the new virus, WHO said scientists had agreed upon a set of global research priorities but warned it could still take considerable time before any licensed products might be available.

In other developments:


Chinese President Xi Jinping promised tax cuts and other aid to industry as the ruling Communist Party tries to limit the mounting damage to the economy.

The country is struggling to restart its economy after the annual Lunar New Year holiday was extended to try to keep people home and contain the virus. Traffic remained light in Beijing, and many people were still working at home.

Companies are facing increasing losses because of the closing of factories, offices, shops and other businesses in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed.

A large cluster of cases in Tianjin, a port city southeast of Beijing, has been traced to a department store, Chinese state media said. One-third of Tianjin’s 104 confirmed cases are in Baodi district, where the store is situated, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

A salesperson in the store’s home appliance section was the first diagnosed on Jan. 31, Xinhua said, and a series of cases followed. None of those infected had visited Wuhan recently, and with the exception of one married couple, they worked in different sections of the store and did not know one another.

Meanwhile, organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair — the annual Mobile World Congress show, set for Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain — cancelled the event because of worries about the viral outbreak.

The decision came after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, including Nokia, Vodafone, Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The extravaganza had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China.

Elsewhere around the world, DBS bank in Singapore cleared its office, telling 300 employees to work from home after it learned that an employee had been infected. The city-state has 50 confirmed cases. And a Formula One race in Shanghai in April was added to the list of cancelled events.


A citizen journalist reporting on the epidemic in Wuhan has disappeared, activists said, becoming the second to vanish in recent days amid tightening controls on information in China.

Fang Bin, a seller of traditional Chinese clothing, stopped posting videos or responding to calls and messages on Sunday, activists Gao Fei and Hua Yong said, citing Fang’s friends. His phone was turned off Wednesday.

Fang had posted videos of Wuhan’s overcrowded hospitals, including bodies in a van waiting to be taken to a crematorium. The last video he posted was of a piece of paper reading, “All citizens resist, hand power back to the people.”

Another citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, vanished on Friday. Non-sanctioned reporting on the outbreak by actitivists is challenging the Communist Party’s tightly policed monopoly on information on an unprecedented scale.


Passengers aboard a cruise ship that has been barred from docking by four governments may finally set foot on land again.

Holland America Line said the MS Westerdam will arrive Thursday morning in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The ship has been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand, though its operator said no cases of the disease have been confirmed among the more than 2,200 passengers and crew.

And in Japan, 39 new cases were confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, bringing the total to 174 aboard the Diamond Princess.


Two Russian women who were kept in isolation for possible inflection by the virus say they escaped from Russian hospitals because of unco-operative doctors, poor conditions and fear they would become infected.

Both women were hospitalized after returning from Hainan, a tropical island in China popular with Russian tourists. One said she jumped out of a hospital window to escape her quarantine, while the other broke out by disabling an electronic lock.

Two cases of the virus have been reported in Russia.


In a study published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, Chinese scientists reported there is no evidence so far to suggest the virus can be passed from mother to child in the womb.

The study looked at nine women who all had the COVID-19 virus and gave birth via cesarean section in a hospital in Wuhan. Scientists examined samples from the newborns, including the amniotic fluid, cord blood and throat swabs, and they all tested negative for the virus. But the researched acknowledged the study was small.

To date, two cases of the virus have been confirmed in babies, including a newborn diagnosed just 36 hours after birth. It is unknown how the child was infected.


Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Elaine Kurtenbach in Singapore, James Heintz in Moscow, Grant Peck in Bangkok, Kelvin Chan and Maria Cheng in London and Joe McDonald, Dake Kang, Yanan Wang and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.


Read all the AP stories about the coronavirus outbreak at

Ken Moritsugu, The Associated Press

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Testing for COVID-19: Your questions answered –



We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. 

We’ve received more than 1,500 questions about COVID-19 testing from Canadians, and many readers are confused about the process and the results.

We took your most common questions to the experts. Here’s what you wanted to know about testing.

How soon after exposure and infection can you reliably expect a positive nasal swab test?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a set number of days. 

And you can only really count on a positive test if you have symptoms, according Dr. Matthew Cheng, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre.

If you have symptoms, there is a 70 per cent the disease will be detected with a positive result, said Cheng, who recently wrote a scientific article summarizing research so far on COVID-19 testing. On average, symptoms develop five to six days after exposure, but it can take two to 14 days.

The COVID-19 assessment centre run by the Sudbury hospital offers drive-thru virus testing for patients with less serious pre-existing health conditions. (Erik White/CBC)

If I’m asymptomatic, will I still test positive?

If the person is asymptomatic, the chance that they will test positive drops significantly, Cheng said, but researchers don’t know by how much.

According to the World Health Organization, presymptomatic people can test positive one to three days before symptoms start.

How accurate are COVID-19 tests?

There are a few ways to look at this. 

As mentioned before, in people with symptoms, the nasal swab tests will detect the disease with an accurate result about 70 per cent of the time. However, Cheng said the accuracy is much higher in hospital patients with breathing tubes, who are swabbed in their trachea or lungs.

According to Dr. Kelly MacDonald, head of the infectious disease program at the University of Manitoba, the nasal swab test is accurate 99 per cent of the time in a laboratory setting, but in a clinical setting, errors can happen when the sample is taken. For example, the swabbing may not be done properly.

That said, if you get a positive test, you almost certainly have COVID-19 — the false positive rate is very low — less than one per cent of tests overall, estimates Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

On the other hand, MacDonald said you can’t have the same confidence about a negative test, as it may simply mean you have been tested too early, before viral levels are high enough to be reliably measured. That’s why people with symptoms who get a negative test result are told to self-isolate anyway.

People line up at a COVID-19 testing centre near Toronto Western Hospital on May 11, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

How long am I contagious?

Recent evidence suggests that people are only contagious during the first eight days of symptoms.

However, there is now good evidence that even those who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic can pass on the disease. So how long are they contagious?

“That’s a great question,” Cheng said. “If you are tested and you are found to be negative and you have no symptoms it is not likely that you’re contagious.”

If you have a positive test, how long you’re contagious depends on the individual, he added. But if you subsequently test negative, you are no longer considered contagious.

Otherwise, you should definitely not be contagious after two weeks — the amount of time officials recommend you self-isolate if you have COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Why do both nasal swab and mouth or throat swab tests exist? Which is more reliable?

Cheng said both types effectively swab the same part of your body — the pharynx — from different openings. “I think you’ll get a very similar result,” he said, although he suggested nose swabbing may be “more comfortable.”

A snapshot of one of the two forms you’re given when you arrive at the testing centre. (Farrah Merali/CBC News)

Isn’t it risky to line up at an assessment centre with people who might have COVID-19?

Cheng doesn’t think so. Health-care workers at assessment and testing centres are well trained and wear appropriate personal protective equipment to protect the patient and themselves, Cheng said. “These are experienced professionals.”

He noted that there are no reports of outbreaks at testing centres.

For a better idea of what procedures are in place to protect those getting tested, you can read a first-hand account by CBC reporter Farrah Merali.

Do I have to self-isolate while I wait for my results?

Generally, most provinces recommend that you do. 

Most provinces still mainly test people with symptoms or people who had a probable exposure to the virus.

Cheng said the only case in which you might not need to self-isolate while waiting for results is if you had no exposure and no symptoms — “in which case you probably wouldn’t normally get a test.”

Muhammad Junayed gets tested for COVID-19 by a health-care worker at a pop-up testing centre at the Islamic Institute of Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on May 29. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Will a COVID-19 test tell me if I have had the disease and have since recovered?

A nasal swab test will not tell you that, Cheng said. The swab tests provide evidence that the virus is replicating, so it shows you’re currently infected.

However, a different kind of test — a blood antibody test — can detect a previous infection and some level of immunity. In people with symptoms, antibodies start to appear after about a week and peak a week or two later. Less is known about people who never show symptoms.

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Nova Scotia researchers to evaluate treatments for moderate, severe COVID-19 –



A Nova Scotia study will look into the effectiveness of treatments for hospital patients suffering from moderate to severe COVID-19. 

The study, called CO-VIC for COVID victory, will involve about 600 patients from Nova Scotia Health Authority sites across the province, an NSHA news release said Monday. 

The study, which the authority is doing in conjunction with Dalhousie University, will test out potential therapies and their impact on COVID-19 symptoms. 

“When additional cutting-edge therapies become available, they will also be assessed,” the release said. “Personalized measurements of immune response will help develop future therapies and predict when and how severe COVID-19 happens.”

The work, which is being led by infectious disease clinician and researcher Dr. Lisa Barrett, aims to advance our understanding of how the immune system responds to COVID and help develop future treatments and second-wave vaccines.

 “We need the best knowledge of treatments and immunity, to save lives now and in the future as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

– CO-VIC study leader Dr. Lisa Barrett

CO-VIC is partially funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition.

 “As COVID-19 related deaths increase in the older population, in the young who didn’t ever expect to be ill, and in health care workers, our research community feels the overwhelming urgency to protect Nova Scotians with research that tests treatments, predicts disease, and promotes understanding of immunity,” Barrett said in the release.

 “We need the best knowledge of treatments and immunity, to save lives now and in the future as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

The NSHA called the treatment study an integral part of Nova Scotia’s pandemic response. Compared with other provinces, Nova Scotia’s population includes a high proportion of vulnerable people who are older, have underlying respiratory conditions or are immunosuppressed.

“These are all people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease and this work may aid in protecting our population.”

Most Nova Scotians will be eligible to take part at hospitals outside traditional research facilities to ensure fair access to research and potential therapies, the release said. 

“While data will be gathered from Nova Scotians, for Nova Scotians, the study is designed to mirror larger international trials to promote the comparison of global data. This will allow the research team to leverage international information so it can be applied here in Nova Scotia.”

For more information, visit the study website


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No new coronavirus deaths reported in Ottawa on Monday, public health unit says –



Physical distancing continues to be effective in Ottawa, according to the local public health unit’s latest dashboard metrics tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus in the nation’s capital.

Ottawa Public Health said it identified 11 lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in its latest daily report — and 27 new cases in total over the weekend — bringing the number of positive tests in the city up to 1,962 as of 2 p.m. on Sunday.

There were no new deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, reported in Ottawa on Monday, keeping the city’s pandemic death toll at 244.

No ‘mask police’ when face coverings become mandatory on Ottawa transit, officials say

There are currently 38 people in hospital with COVID-19 locally, while 82 per cent of all cases are now considered resolved.

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There are 18 ongoing outbreaks in institutions around Ottawa.

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OPH’s COVID-19 dashboard, which tracks local testing and hospital capacity as well as other key metrics to monitor the spread of the virus in Ottawa, indicates a positive trend in the public health unit’s contact tracing efforts.

OPH is currently able to follow up with and investigate 100 per cent of contacts for every new case in the 24 hours following a positive test.

Coronavirus: How fast is too fast for reopening?

Coronavirus: How fast is too fast for reopening?

The number of average contacts per new case is also down to 3.1, pointing to the success of Ottawa’s physical distancing measures.

Public health officials have noted that as Ontario’s economy reopens and residents increase their social activities, there is a risk of infection rates rising and effectively losing ground against the virus.

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According to the OPH dashboard, Ottawa remains in “orange” territory, which indicates “some” control over the virus.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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