More than two months after Canada knew the ravages of COVID-19 in China, we continued to hear from Canadian officials that the risk was low here. So what drove the message home on March 12?
On Jan. 31, the front page headline of the Medicine Hat News said “Global emergency declared.”
The photo shows passengers arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, some with masks. It can be assumed some were arriving from China.
Early in February, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health for Alberta, stressed that the risk was “low” and Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief officer of health also called the risk low.
Here’s a timeline on how rapidly things changed in the country.
On Feb. 7, anyone returning from Hubei province was “asked” to self-isolate.
On March 3, Alberta advised the risk in Alberta remains “low”.
On March 5, the first-presumptive case in Alberta announced.
On March 6, Hinshaw said the risk was still “low”.
On March 7, there was the first talk of transmission from person to person.
On March 8, “While the current risk of exposure to the virus remains low in Alberta, this may change in the coming weeks,” Hinshaw warned.
On March 9, Albertans are told three of four cases are linked to a single cruise ship.
On March 10, Alberta has seven cases and B.C. announced 39 cases the next day.
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Tam still did not seem overly concerned about travellers returning to Canada and whether they were infecting Canadians.
On March 12, it was announced that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had returned from the U.K. and tested positive for COVID-19. It may be coincidence but things seemed to change in Canada after that.
Alberta announced that day “aggressive new public health measures” to limit the spread. Premier Jason Kenney has recently said he did not think Canada took timely action regarding our international borders and he has questioned Tam’s advice.
It does make you wonder how much worse things could have been if Sophie had not tested positive.