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Paramedics who transported likely coronavirus patient learned about it in the news

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By Chris Herhalt

The union that represents two Toronto paramedics who transported Canada’s first presumptive case of the coronavirus to hospital on Saturday say they’re upset they had to hear about the man’s likely diagnosis from the news, but officials say that is standard procedure.

Shortly after public health officials announced they had all but confirmed Canada’s first case of the coronavirus, in a man in his 50s currently recovering at Sunnybrook Hospital, TCEU Paramedic Services said the two paramedics that transported him had to find out about the severity of the situation by watching the news.

“Unfortunately, the Paramedics who transported this patient just found this out from the media and your tweet,” they wrote, referring to the official release about the discovery by Toronto Public Health. They also claimed the paramedics weren’t wearing proper protective equipment when they transported the man to hospital on Thursday.

They later backtracked, saying that they did wear protective gear and that the public health unit told Paramedic leadership about the probable coronavirus diagnosis, but not the two paramedics who transported the patient.

“It remains unacceptable that they were not informed of the change in condition prior to the media release.”

But health officials say they followed standard procedure, and did not move to specifically notify the two paramedics that they likely transported someone suffering from coronavirus to hospital, because they were wearing full protective gear and were not at risk of contracting the illness themselves.

“When Toronto Public Health is notified that paramedics have used full personal protective equipment and there is no potential exposure of concern, we do not follow up with these individuals and we do not notify them of the patient’s test lab results,” Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Rita Shahin told CP24. “In this situation, the paramedics used full personal protective equipment and no follow up was therefore necessary.”

The patient at Sunnybrook is being treated in a negative pressure room by health care workers wearing full protective gear.

As of Saturday morning, he remains Canada’s only presumptive positive case of the virus.

Across the globe, 1,975 people have been diagnosed, with 56 deaths, almost all of them within China.

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B.C. identifies seventh case of coronavirus – The Globe and Mail

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Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, seen here on Feb. 24, 2020, said the latest patient is a man in his 40s who is a close contact of B.C.’s sixth case, a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

British Columbia has identified its seventh case of COVID-19.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on Monday said the latest patient is a man in his 40s who is a close contact of B.C.’s sixth case, a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran.

“He had onset of symptoms prior to Case Six’s diagnosis, so we have been working very diligently over the weekend with Fraser Health [Authority] to identify anybody that he came in contact with prior to going into isolation last week,” Dr. Henry said.

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The health authority has since connected with “a number” of the man’s close contacts, who are now also self-isolating as a precaution.

Last Friday, Dr. Henry noted that the woman’s diagnosis was a sentinel case – that is, an indicator that something broader may be happening in Iran. At the time, Iran had just started reporting on the coronavirus, with five cases and two deaths. As of Monday, it had at least 43 cases and eight deaths.

“That certainly has been borne out and is very concerning,” Dr. Henry said Monday. “I think it’s really important to recognize that the global situation is evolving very rapidly.”

B.C.’s first case of COVID-19, announced on Jan. 28, has since been resolved. The remaining four patients are all doing well and will be tested this week to determine if they are recovered, Dr. Henry said. A person is deemed fully recovered with the resolution of symptoms and two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.

The BC Centre for Disease Control was recently authorized for COVID-19 testing by Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, meaning positive tests at the B.C. lab no longer need to be sent to Winnipeg for official confirmation.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the local test, and the low threshold for testing, has allowed health officials to test 991 people in British Columbia to date. In comparison, neighbouring Washington State has tested just 35.

Meanwhile, Ontario identified its fourth presumptive positive case on Sunday after a woman arrived in Canada from China and presented at North York General Hospital with a mild and intermittent cough. She had been advised to go to the hospital by Telehealth Ontario, a medical consultation service done over the phone.

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Toronto Public Health said the woman followed all protocols, wore a mask throughout her travels and had very limited exposure to others since landing.

“Given the individual’s clinical assessment and history, there is a low risk that she was infectious,” the Toronto health unit said in a statement.

Dr. Henry said the risk of the virus spreading within British Columbia remains low.

The most important measures to prevent respiratory illness, including COVID-19, are regular hand-washing, avoiding touching the face, coughing or sneezing into the elbow rather than hands, and staying away from others if sick.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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Europe ramps up spending to contain coronavirus epidemic – Chinadaily USA

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A police officer with a metal detector screens a Carnival reveler in Venice on Sunday. Italian authorities have since shut down the city’s famed Carnival to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of infected people in the country rose sharply over the weekend. LUIGI COSTANTINI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The European Union is spending 232 million euros ($251 million) on efforts to stop the spread of the respiratory disease COVID-19.

Monday morning’s announcement followed a difficult weekend in Europe, during which authorities restricted travel in some areas in the face of a dramatic hastening of the spread of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.

As it announced the extra funding, the European Commission said it was working “around the clock” to support EU member states in their fight to stop the outbreak becoming a pandemic.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the money will boost global preparedness, prevention, and containment of the virus.

“As cases continue to rise, public health is the number one priority,” she said. “Whether it be boosting preparedness in Europe, in China, or elsewhere, the international community must work together. Europe is here to play a leading role.”

The announcement of the new money followed Austria suspending train services on Sunday that link the nation with Italy. The move followed suspicions that two passengers who had traveled to the country by train from Italy had contracted the virus. They were later found to be virus-free and train services were resumed following a four-hour hiatus.

“We can give the all-clear,” the Reuters news agency quoted Karl Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister, as saying. But he added that Austria’s coronavirus task force was considering border controls along the frontier with Italy following a spike in cases on the other side of the border, where only three were confirmed on Friday and more than 220 were infected by Monday. The infections in Italy had led to seven deaths, as of Monday afternoon.

As a result of the outbreak, the Italian government locked down several small towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. In addition, many businesses and schools in the wider region closed their doors, as did some professional soccer teams, all in attempts to avoid people congregating in crowds. Museums and cinemas in the region have also been shuttered, along with cultural events, such as activities at nearby Milan’s famous La Scala opera house.

Italy’s leading news agency, Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata, said the deteriorating situation there put the country in the company of South Korea, Japan, and Iran as locations outside China where the virus may have gained a foothold.

The situation prompted China’s embassy in Italy to issue a warning on Sunday, advising visiting Chinese people to enhance their awareness of epidemic prevention and control, and to abide by the health regulations issued by the Italian Ministry of Health and by other relevant regional governments.

The BBC reported on Monday that the outbreak had grown globally to such an extent that it was close to being declared a pandemic. The World Health Organization has previously declared outbreaks as pandemics when a virus has started spreading easily from person to person in multiple parts of the world.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,200 cases of the virus had been confirmed in around 30 countries and territories outside the Chinese mainland and there had been at least 23 deaths.

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC the growth in the number of cases outside China was “extremely concerning”.

“The tipping point, after which (we lose) our ability to prevent a global pandemic, seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours,” he said on Monday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, also said on Monday that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”.

The Financial Times noted the acceleration of the spread of the virus had hit global stock markets.

Italian stocks led declines in Europe, with the country’s FTSE Mib index dropping 4.5 percent on Monday. The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 tumbled 3.5 percent, and the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 also slid, by almost 4 percent.

Marketwatch reported United States stocks tumbled in early trading on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 997 points at its session low.

“Markets (are) likely to show extreme caution in the face of global spread of the coronavirus,” said Robert Carnell, chief Asia-Pacific economist at ING. “This is no longer solely an Asia issue.”

In addition to the sudden accelerated spread of the virus in Italy, other nations outside the Chinese mainland have joined the ranks of countries that now have the virus. Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Kuwait all reported their first novel coronavirus cases on Monday. All said the virus appears to have entered their populations via someone with links to Iran, which has become a virus hotspot. They join a growing list of countries and territories that are dealing with outbreaks, including South Korea, which reported 231 cases on Monday, taking its total to more than 830, which is the largest number of confirmed cases outside China. Eight people with the disease have died in South Korea. Many people testing positive for the virus there had been members of a religious group that was located near the southeastern city of Daegu. Many others have links to Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo.

Iran, meanwhile, said on Sunday it had 61 confirmed cases, of which 12 resulted in fatalities, making it the nation with the most fatalities outside China.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan have all now imposed travel and immigration restrictions on Iran.

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Washington pledges $1 billion for coronavirus vaccine as pandemic risks grow – The Journal Pioneer

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By Hyonhee Shin and Ryan Woo

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) – South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases, as countries stepped up efforts to stop a pandemic of the virus that emerged in China and is now spreading in Europe and the Middle East.

More than 80,000 people have been infected in China since the outbreak began, apparently in an illegal wildlife market in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

China’s death toll was 2,663 by the end of Monday, up 71 from the previous day. But the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the epidemic in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been declining since.

However, fast-spreading outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea, and first cases in several Middle East countries, have fed worries of a pandemic, or worldwide spread of the virus.

“We are close to a pandemic, but there is still hope the epidemics in Iran, Italy, South Korea, etc. can be controlled,” said Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

South Korea has the most virus cases outside China and reported its tenth death and 144 new cases, for a total of 977. President Moon Jae-in said the situation was “very grave”.

In Europe, Italy has become a new front line, with 220 cases reported on Monday, up from just three on Friday. The death toll in Italy is seven.

Global stock markets stabilized on Tuesday after a wave of early selling petered out and Wall Street futures managed a solid bounce after a sharp selloff the previous day on fears about the spreading coronavirus.

“If travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions spread, the impact on global growth could be more widespread and longer lasting,” said Jonas Goltermann, senior economist at research consultancy Capital Economics in London.

(Live blog: Online site for coronavirus news – https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484)

PUBLIC ANXIETY

About 68% of South Korea’s cases are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where the outbreak is believed to have begun with a 61-year-old woman. It is not known how she became infected.

The church said it would provide authorities the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people. The government would test them all as soon as possible, the prime minister’s office said.

“It is essential to test all of the church members,” it said in a statement. Authorities said they were testing up to 13,000 people a day.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries have said they may cut back joint training due to the virus, in one of the first concrete signs of its fallout on global U.S. military activities.

The disclosure came during a visit to the Pentagon on Monday by South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who said 13 South Korean troops had the virus. (Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html)

The U.S. military said a woman who tested positive for the virus had visited one of its bases in the hard-hit city of Daegu. It was the first infection connected to U.S. Forces Korea, which has about 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.

The U.S. military urged troops to “use extreme caution” off base, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should avoid non-essential travel to South Korea.

IRAN ISOLATION

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to about 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of about three dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman reported their first new coronavirus cases, all in people who had been to Iran where the toll was 14 dead, media said, and 61 infected.

The outbreak threatens to isolate Iran further. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 virus cases, suspended all flights with Iran for at least a week, state media said.

Iraq extended an entry ban on travelers from China and Iran to those from five other countries over virus fears, its health ministry said. (Reuters graphics on the new coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-GRAPHICS/0100B5CD3DP/index.html)

In Japan, which has reported four deaths and 850 cases mostly linked to a cruise ship, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said it was too early to talk about cancelling the Tokyo Olympics due to start on July 24.

The United States pledged $2.5 billion to fight the disease, with more than $1 billion going toward developing a vaccine, with other funds earmarked for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.

China reported a rise in new cases in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. But excluding those, China had just nine new infections on Monday, its fewest since Jan. 20.

With the pace of new infections slowing, Beijing said restrictions on travel and movement that have paralyzed economic activity should begin to be lifted.

“Low-risk areas … are to restore order in production and life, cancel transport restrictions and help enterprises,” state planner official Ou Xiaoli told a briefing.

[Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html]

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing; Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul; Jeff Mason and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel; Editing by Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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