B.C.'s health officer says decrease in COVID cases 'heartening'

No new cases reported in northern B.C, count remains at 21

VICTORIA — British Columbia's medical health officer says the province seems to be holding its own against COVID-19, which is why officials are so cautious about people returning from other areas of the world.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that repatriation flights from India and others are in the works and health officials in B.C. are consulting with federal agencies to determine what will happen with those people.

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"I think it's safe to say we were, we had some concerns that the strength of the response at all of the airports and land border crossings were not strong enough yet. So, we want to look at how we can support the federal agencies in making sure that everybody is aware of the requirements when they come back."

Henry said people travelling may not be aware of the rapid changes that have taken place because of COVID-19 or that they need to be isolated for 14 days after travel.

She said some B.C. residents who were on a cruise ship that arrived in Florida on Friday have been allowed to return to the province and are self-isolating in their homes.

Three more people died of the virus since Friday for a total of 38. Henry said there were 29 new cases diagnosed in the same time period, bringing the number of cases to 1,203.

No new cases were reported in northern B.C., which had four news cases on Friday that brought the total to 21.

Just over 700 people have fully recovered from the virus.

Henry said the lower number of cases diagnosed indicates the curve may be flattening.

"But I am heartened that we are seeing that decrease in acceleration. If we had continued to see that 24, 25 per cent increase, we would have had many, many more cases and that's very concerning."

If the numbers hold, that would allow the province to deliver health care for both COVID-19 patients and other ailments that are affecting people, she said.

Henry said B.C. scientists and health experts are working with others around the world to understand the virus.

"There's some evidence that this coronavirus is behaving like other coronaviruses, which means that when we have increased UV light and warmer temperatures it tends to fade away."

That would mean it could come back in the fall like many other respiratory viruses, even with all the measures being taken, Henry said.

"The one caveat to that is when a new virus is introduced into a human population, for which we have no immunity, it may not fade away in the ways we would see once it's been circulating for a while."

It's still unclear how COVID-19 might spread in the months ahead, she said.

COVID-19 has been diagnosed in another long-term care facility in the province, bringing the total to 23 care homes affected.

Henry said in all but two of those facilities, the outbreak has been limited to one or two positive cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2020.

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