Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to update the committee on the coronavirus. We were here last week, and a few things have transpired since then.
I understand that on Monday this committee also had an opportunity to receive updates from various departments involved in the government's response.
I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution of all departments and agencies taking part in the response effort to confront the coronavirus and their close cooperation with our agency.
As you're aware, things continue to evolve globally in terms of the spread of the illness and the overall global response. We continue to monitor the situation in China and other countries very closely to inform our own overall risk assessment.
As I'm sure you're aware, there are increasing numbers of cases in China. At this point, approximately 24,000 have been confirmed globally, with the vast majority in mainland China. Of those, the majority are within Hubei province. At this point, there are 27 other countries and regions that are reporting cases, including Canada.
The increase in numbers that we are seeing reported in China is not unexpected. Chinese authorities have undertaken considerable effort to contain the spread of the virus. They've expanded production of medical products. They've been sending additional health workers to support efforts in Hubei province. They've issued technical guidelines regarding the use of personal protective equipment, and they're increasing other venues for receiving and treating patients with mild symptoms or for medical observation of close contacts.
As I said last week, Canada's public health system is well equipped to contain cases coming from abroad and their potential for spreading within Canada. There's a high level of vigilance and coordination by all levels of government, and we have protocols in place to monitor for illnesses and ensure the quick identification and isolation of suspected cases. The system is working as it should to protect Canadians against this novel coronavirus, and the overall risk to Canadians in Canada remains low.
As part of Canada's overall response, on January 28 the federal government and provinces and territories agreed to establish a special advisory committee on novel coronavirus. This is part of our federal-provincial-territorial governance. It allows for a focused, time-limited mechanism for public health collaboration and information-sharing between jurisdictions, related to the overall response to the coronavirus. It continues to meet regularly. As required, it provides advice in terms of the overall government response and how that response should or should not be adjusted relative to what we're observing.
The international response has also evolved in the past week. On January 30, the World Health Organization's director general declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus to be “a public health emergency of international concern”. Canada's response is aligned with the World Health Organization's recommendations.
Last week, I also talked about the different measures that the federal government has put in place in terms of helping to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease within Canada, so I won't repeat what I said. I will just note that in terms of border measures, when I was here last week I made reference to the fact that we have three airports where we have focused efforts—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—and I made reference to the fact that in those airports, through the electronic kiosks, we have a question that specifically asks travellers whether or not they've been in Hubei province. That question now exists in seven other airports.
In total, we have 10 Canadian airports that have a questionnaire as part of the electronic kiosk process, whereby travellers are asked to identify whether they've been in Hubei province. As of February 4, 2020, from the point in time when we started collecting that information by way of the kiosks, 855 travellers have identified as having returned from Hubei province, with 43 individuals referred for further assessment by a quarantine officer. Of those, 40 were released with an education handout and three were issued an order for further medical examination.
We also have our National Microbiology Laboratory, which performs confirmatory testing for any positive novel coronavirus laboratory result produced by a provincial or territorial public health laboratory. As of February 4, 2020, our lab has undertaken testing for 149 persons under investigation in Canada.
As you're aware, four have tested positive and 145 have tested negative. To date, there are four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada and one presumptive confirmed, which was announced yesterday by British Columbia.
I will now say a few words about bringing the Canadians home. As our colleagues said, we are working closely with our federal colleagues and counterparts. A number of departments are involved in planning the return flight.
We are very much a part of that process, as mentioned, and we're working very closely with all of our federal partners. We are on the ground, as we speak, in terms of finalizing the plans that will enable the efficient processing of the return of individuals on the flight that has been announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
As mentioned, there will be efforts on the flight as well as in pre-flight departure to ensure that we have information on the health status of every individual who is getting on that plane. That will enable us to be ready when people arrive in Canada, so that we're able to respond in an appropriate way.
As I think the committee is aware, we now have an emergency order in place that was made pursuant to the Quarantine Act. That enables us to have the authority to keep all passengers at CFB Trenton for 14 days after the arrival of the flight. This will allow us to undertake full health assessment and the follow-up observation that will be required during that period of time.
We also recognize that individuals who are returning to Canada clearly have undergone a fairly stressful situation. In addition to the type of medical assessment that will deal with their physical health, we are also very much focused on ensuring that we have the right kind of social supports in place to enable all of those individuals to get mental health supports as necessary. In that context, we are working closely with our colleagues in the Government of Ontario, but with other partners as well, such as the Canadian Red Cross.
I will end my comments there. We are ready to answer your questions.