An ambulance worker adjusts her protective mask as she wheels a stretcher into a nursing facility where more than 50 people are sick and being tested for the COVID-19 virus, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Kirkland, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

‘Very concerning’: Travellers from Iran asked to self-isolate as COVID-19 cases increase

Nearly 3,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus

Canadians are being warned against non-essential travel to Iran as several recent cases of COVID-19 in Canada are being linked to the country.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Canada remains at 27, after seven new cases were identified over the past 48 hours in Ontario. Of the 27 cases, eight are in B.C., one is in Quebec and 18 are in Ontario.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the new cases were linked to travel to China, Iran, Egypt or contact with people with the virus.

“The rapid increase in cases in Iran, and the number of recent Canadian cases linked to travellers from Iran is very concerning,” Tam told reporters Monday.

All 27 cases in Canada have been “relatively mild.”

Canada has increased the risk level of travelling to Iran to Level 3, which asks to avoid all non-essential travel. China and northern Italy are at the same risk level but Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea are all under some level of travel advisory.

Tam said travellers from Iran are being asked to identify themselves to border agents, contact local public health officials within 24 hours, monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

In regards to the Iranian New Year, which takes place on March 19 this year, Tam said anyone organizing or looking to attend public celebrations should contact local health authorities for information. Canadians are being asked not to travel to Iran for celebrations, as per the travel advisory.

“Anyone who is sick: do not show up [to public gatherings]. Stay home and call local public health,” she said.

Regarding the six COVID-19 deaths in Washington State, Tam said precautions are being taken at land borders.

The message to self-isolate and contact public health authorities is for all travellers, including those crossing from Washington State to B.C.

“Crossing that border means you’ve come from the United States so they will be advising all travellers in the same manner,” Tam said.

For travellers who are already sick, the border agents will follow the already-existing Quarantine Act.

Tam said nearly 2,900 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Canada. Of those, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said 1,012 were in the province.

“We are preparing the health system and society to respond to the possibility of widespread illness,” she said.

Canadians need to be prepared for the potential “suspension of large-scale gatherings, closure of schools and workplace” if the risk of COVID-19 transmission grows.

Tam said frequent handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and staying home when sick remain the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or any other infectious diseases.

Tam said a full-scale travel ban to anywhere is not on the table at the moment.

“That’s not the current policy. Viruses know no borders,” she said.

– With files from the Associated Press

READ MORE: Canada’s number of COVID-19 cases grows to 27 as Ontario announces three new ones

READ MORE: Over 88,000 infected globally, 3,000 dead as COVID-19 outbreak continues


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