OTTAWA: Canada on Monday (Mar 9) reported its first death from a new coronavirus as the number of people in the nation who have contracted the disease jumped to above 70, officials said.
The dead man had been living in a nursing home, the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, British Columbia's chief health officer Bonnie Henry told a news conference.
"We unfortunately have had a death here in British Columbia," Henry said. The man was one of two residents at the long-care facility with no recent travel history. Henry said the dead man was in his eighties and had a number of underlying medical conditions.
Canada now has at least 72 presumptive and confirmed cases of the virus that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, up from 51 on Friday.
Virus outbreaks are especially problematic in nursing homes because residents live in close quarters and they tend to have weaker immune systems and underlying health conditions, so infections can spread easily.
Two other residents and two caregivers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre had also tested positive for the disease. The facility is designed to house around 200 elderly people.
"The risk to the general population within Canada is still low, but this could change rapidly," Theresa Tam, Canada's chief medical officer, said earlier on Monday.
The Quebec government confirmed two new cases Monday, including one person who was exposed to the virus during a trip to France. The person is currently in self-quarantine at home.
The novel virus that emerged in central China in December has now spread to more than 100 countries and infected more than 110,000 people worldwide with about 3,800 deaths.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government says it will help people who are forced into quarantine due to the virus. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told legislators on Monday there would also be extra support for the healthcare system.
Canada is now urging people not to take cruise ship vacations.
"Cruise ships have passengers from around the world who may be arriving from areas of known or unknown spread of the novel coronavirus," Tam told a news conference on Monday after announcing the travel advisory.
"The virus can spread quickly on board cruise ships, due to the close contact between passengers," she added.
The warning comes as Canada is poised to repatriate more than 200 citizens aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in the port of Oakland, California, on Monday after an outbreak on the vessel carrying around 3,500 passengers and crew.