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March break travel to COVID-19 hotspots means self-isolation on return: York Region health officials

Local residents who travel to Iran or Hubei province, China must not go to school, work, or social gatherings upon return
March 11, 2020
Kim Champion

York Region public health is rolling out some stringent new measures ahead of the upcoming one-week March break that begins March 16 to help stop transmission and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

Most notably, local travellers who visit Iran or Hubei province in China must self-isolate for a 14-day period upon return and stay home from school, work, and not attend social gatherings.

Immediately on return, they should contact York Region public health by calling Health Connections at 1-800-361-5653, and monitor themselves every day for symptoms of COVID-19.

All other international travellers who have been anywhere other than Iran or Hubei province in China should also monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after returning.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to appear and range from mild to severe that includes fever, dry cough, tiredness, and new or worsening shortness of breath. Some people may experience runny nose, sore throat, and aches and pains. About 80 per cent of those infected recover without special treatment.

One out of six people who contract COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, according to the World Health Organization. Older people, and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

The virus, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 has now infected more than 113,000 people in 110 countries, including seven confirmed positive cases so far in York Region that have been linked to travel in affected areas.

There is no evidence to date of community, or person-to-person, spread of the disease locally and the risk to residents remains low, York’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, said.

Of the seven COVID-19 cases in York Region, including a Newmarket woman in her 70s, one is expected to be cleared of the disease in the coming days, and the remainder are recovering at home in self-isolation.

Nearly 400 York Region residents who have so far been tested for COVID-19 are confirmed negative.

York Region’s new precautions are based on provincial and federal guidelines and were distributed March 9 to local schools, boards of education, and child-care settings.

Public health recommends the following steps be taken by students, parents and guardians following return from international travel:

When 14-day self-isolation is required after returning from Iran or Hubei province in China, travellers must stay at home and not go to school, work or any social gatherings.

Self-monitor for symptoms after returning from international travel, anywhere other than Iran or Hubei province in China

Development of symptoms while in self-isolation or self-monitoring

For medical advice, you may also contact Telehealth Ontario, a free confidential service that provides health advice, at 1-866-797-0000. A registered nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Visit York Region public health's dedicated coronavirus page and Ontario's Health Ministry for up-to-date information on this evolving situation.