COLUMN: Coping with the emerging COVID-19 health risk

VIRUS has been declared as a public health emergency

Although the House of Commons is not sitting this week, the Prime Minister announced that he is assembling a COVID-19 cabinet committee to help co-ordinate the response of the federal government to this emerging health threat.

If you are unaware, COVID 19 is the official name that the World Health Organization has used to define the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has also been declared as a public health emergency.

Here in Canada, there have been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 20 in Ontario, 12 in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

South of the border, in Washington State, there have been 28 confirmed cases and nine deaths reported as a result of the COVID-19 virus, at the time of writing my weekly report.

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New cases are also being reported in states like California as well as New York.

To date the virus has infected close to 90,000 people in 60 countries and killed more than 3,000 people, the majority in China.

Our Canadian Chief Public Health Officer has acknowledged that Canada may not be able to contain and limit the virus if it continues to spread around the world.

There is also a government general information line at 1-833-784-4397, for Canadians who have any immediate questions about COVID-19.

In response to the economic impact from the virus outbreak, the Bank of Canada announced it is cutting the key interest rate by half a percentage point, lowering it to 1.25 per cent.

Last week federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu warned people should consider stockpiling enough food and medicine in case of a potential outbreak of the COVID-19.

Many criticized this warning, suggesting it was unnecessary given the low chance of infection here in Canada.

The public health officer has also stated that governments, businesses and individuals should prepare for an outbreak or pandemic.

As a result, provincial health officials are actively monitoring for COVID-19 cases in communities across Canada.

Our public health officer has also asked that travellers arriving from Iran to self-isolate for two weeks to help prevent potential infections.

In turn, Global Affairs Canada is currently advising citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Iran, northern Italy, and to exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to Japan.

Locally, the Interior Health Authority has confirmed one case of COVID-19 has occurred somewhere within the Interior Health region but refuses to reveal the area where that case has been confirmed.

On this point, I have heard some concerns expressed from the public that it should be possible to reveal the location of the community in question without releasing the name of the patient.

My question this week: Do you feel that you have the right to know if a COVID-19 infection has been confirmed within your community?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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