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Window to flatten the COVID-19 curve is narrow: Canada's chief public health officer

FILE - Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks as Minister of Health Patty Hajdu listens, during an update on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Canada’s chief public health officer says COVID-19 poses a serious health risk to all Canadians and the window to “flatten the curve” is narrow.

To slow the spread of the virus, health professionals stress the need for social distancing. If Metro Vancouver goes the same way as New York, it could mean bars, cafes, and restaurants will close down. Social distancing is a series of measures to stop people from gathering in large groups in order to slow the spread of the virus and ease the pressure on health care professionals.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Sunday that all Canadians have a responsibility to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“With cases rapidly increasing in Canada–particularly in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta–our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow. We all need to act now,” she said.

“Let me be very clear. Today I am asking everyone to take strong action to help us delay the spread of COVID-19 and protect as many people as possible.”

Tam said almost 25,000 people have been tested across the country so far.

There are 374 recorded cases in Canada, spanning all ten provinces as of Monday.

On Sunday, Ontario saw the largest single-day increase so far, including positive tests for four people quarantined at CFB Trenton after being repatriated from the Grand Princess cruise ship.

She implored everyone in the country to avoid all travel outside of Canada, to self-isolate for 14 days if returning from a trip abroad, to avoid large gatherings, and to practice social distancing. She also said employers should look into contingency plans to allow staff to work from home.

Tam called the virus a “serious public health threat” and said although seniors and people with serious health issues are at high risk, people of all ages should take the risk seriously.

“I can not stress enough, if you are at high risk of severe illness, practice social distancing and separate yourself whenever and wherever you can,” she said.

“Everyone else needs to make sure to take all precautions to protect those at high risk while assuring that they are fully supported and not isolated. This is our chance, right here, right now. We need to act now and act together.”

Meantime, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians should resist the urge to start panic buying amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases across the country.

Long store lineups and empty shelves have been an increasingly common sight across the country.

With files from Kurtis Doering, Bethlehem Mariam, and The Canadian Press.