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Is Canada ready for a widespread coronavirus outbreak? Yes and no, experts say

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As far as confirmed cases of the coronavirus go, Canada has kept the amount of people infected with COVID-19 in the country contained at 12.

But in a shifting tone from previous messages, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told reporters Tuesday “it’s likely that this virus will cause a pandemic.”

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when,” Tam said.

“For now, the risk in Canada is low, but the risk is evolving. Concerning developments in recent days tell us the window of opportunity may be closing, but there is still much that Canada can do to delay spread and become more prepared.”

With the exception of Antarctica, the illness has confirmed cases in every continent across the globe, but with the world bracing itself for widespread outbreak, is Canada prepared?

Well, yes and no.

Experts say that Canada has all of the necessities for widespread disease outbreak — negative-pressure isolation chambers, supplies, medical procedures and assessment protocol — but hospital overcrowding remains a concern.

According to Barb Collins, CEO and president of the Humber River Hospital, Canada is “certainly much more prepared than we were pre-SARS.”

By the height of the SARS epidemic in Sept. 2003, the Canadian government said it had 438 confirmed cases of the disease. Of that, 44 people died.

Dr. Alan Drummond, co-chair of public affairs for the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and emergency physician at the Perth hospital, urged against fear-mongering and said Canada learned a lot of “hard-earned lessons” from the SARS outbreak in 2003.

His concerns, he said, were with whether Canada would have the space available to take care of its infected.

Drummond said the safe occupancy rate for any hospital is deemed to be at around 85 per cent, which provides “wiggle room” or a surge capacity in case of a sudden outbreak or increased demand for health care services.

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