Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam participates in a press conference following the announcement by the Government of Ontario of the first presumptive confirmed case of a novel coronavirus in Canada, in Ottawa, on January 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada’s chief public health officer says no vaccine for coronavirus for a year

More than 7,700 people in China have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus

Canada’s chief public health officer says it will likely take at least a year before a vaccine is developed to protect people against the new coronavirus that is spreading around the globe.

In the meantime, Dr. Theresa Tam says government and public health authorities should plan on having to manage the outbreak for some time to come.

More than 7,700 people in China have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus and 170 of them have died.

There are three confirmed cases in Canada.

Ontario public health officials reported Wednesday that a presumptive case of the new deadly strain of coronavirus reported earlier this week has been confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, bringing the number of confirmed cases in that province to two.

A presumed case in B.C. was also confirmed by the national lab on Wednesday. Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said officials are in regular contact with the individual who is in isolation at home.

All three of the Canadian cases are linked to recent travel in China.

Tam, who updated members of the House of Commons health committee on the outbreak, said the risk of catching the virus in Canada remains low.

And she said Canada and the world are much better prepared to deal with a potential pandemic than they were during the outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus that killed more than 700 people worldwide from 2002-04.

Among other things, she said international health regulations have been strengthened and Canada now has a public health agency that didn’t exist during the SARS outbreak, as well as improved laboratory and diagnostic capacity and better co-ordination among federal, provincial and territorial health authorities.

The speed with which the three cases in Canada have been identified, diagnosed and managed “is a testament to how the system has improved over time,” Tam told the committee.

That system will be tested as the virus spreads.

For now, the only treatment available for those who catch the virus is “supportive care,” Tam said. But she said countries around the world are collaborating to see if any existing anti-viral remedies are useful in this case.

A number of vaccines have previously been developed for other coronaviruses and she said countries around the globe are pulling together to see if they can accelerate development of a new vaccine that would protect against this particular strain.

“But what I can say is that even with the most rapid acceleration, I don’t believe we are going to see a vaccine that is ready probably for a year,” Tam said. “So at least we have to plan for the fact that we’re going to be managing this particular virus with no specific vaccine.”

Tina Namiesniowski, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, told the committee it is to be expected that there will be travel-related cases in Canada and that the number of confirmed cases will rise.

At the three airports that receive direct fights from China — Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — information screens in the customs areas have been set up, advising people to self-report to customs officials if they are experiencing any symptoms of the novel coronavirus. At electronic kiosks, a question has been added, requiring travellers to specify if they’ve been in the Chinese province at the heart of the outbreak.

By the end of the week, Namiesniowski said more public health officials will be in customs areas at the three airports to help border officials.

The federal government, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it has chartered a plane to evacuate 160 Canadians who’ve been trapped in China due to strict quarantine measures imposed by the Chinese government in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Details are still being worked out about how and when the evacuation will take place and whether those returned to Canada will have to be quarantined once they arrive.

Not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave, Tam warned.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the committee.

Some airlines have halted all flights to China as a result of the outbreak, including British Airways and several Asian carriers, while Air Canada is only cancelling select flights to China.

The Canadian government is advising against all travel to China.

READ MORE: Lab confirms B.C. case of new coronavirus, bringing total to 3 in Canada

READ MORE: More airlines, including Air Canada, drop flights to China as virus spreads

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

EKRH operating rooms re-open after dust causes temporary closure

A breach in ventilation during pre-construction work caused the re-scheduling of 24 elective surgeries

Helen Barron appointed to lead Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce

A familiar face is stepping up to lead the Cranbrook Chamber of… Continue reading

City issues reminder on prohibited areas for dogs

The city is asking residents to keep dogs off sports fields, playgrounds… Continue reading

Local archery athletes place in 2020 BC Winter Games

Cranbrook and Sparwood archers bring home bronze, silver medals.

Cranbrook cull comes to an end: Eight deer the result

Cranbrook’s latest deer cull operations have come to an end, with the… Continue reading

RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

BREAKING: Kelowna RCMP to further investigate 12 sexual assault cases, create sexual assault unit

Recommendations come five months after it was revealed 40% of sexual assaults were deemed ‘unfounded’

Explicit Greta sticker linked to Alberta company draws outrage

The sticker includes the logo of Red Deer-based X-Site Energy Services

Share Now, formerly Car2Go, leaves Canada with valuable data in changing market: expert

Vancouver was its largest market in North America, with more than 300,000 customers

Off-duty RCMP officer helps catch Cache Creek car thief

‘This is just one example of how we are always ready to respond to emergencies’

What’s happening: Coronavirus forges on, as world hunts solutions

Japan closes all elementary, middle and high schools until spring holidays in late March

Most Read