Canadian SARS Update -- Canada only nation outside Asia suffering SARS deaths

Toronto Star

April 14, 2003

Canada remains the only country outside Asia recording SARS deaths.
Travellers from Asia introduce SARS to two new countries.
Cases in Ontario:
Thursday 206
Friday 217
Saturday 223
Cases in Canada 275
Number of people in voluntary isolation - nearly 5,000
Number quarantined under court order - 12
Number under police guard - 1 -

Three more deaths
Three more SARS deaths in Toronto area The SARS virus has claimed three more lives in Ontario, bringing the number of Canadian deaths to 13, health officials announced Saturday. An 80-year-old woman died on Friday night, while an 86-year-old woman and a 73-year-old woman died Saturday morning, said Ontario Health Ministry spokesman John Letherby. 'They had been people who were probable cases and could have been anywhere from being stable at one point, to going to critical condition and now, the end result,' Mr. Letherby said. [There are still 2 critically ill SARS patients] ... Probable cases are people showing symptoms who have recently travelled to Asia or have been in close contact with other SARS patients. Suspect cases show symptoms, but have no travel or contact history. All three patients had a direct connection with the original cluster that began in March and all three had previous underlying medical conditions. ... The three deaths occurred at Scarborough Grace and Mount Sinai hospitals in Toronto and the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont. ... Recent increases in the numbers of SARS cases were expected as the containment team became aware of a few incidents where people who came down with the virus exposed others. Globe and Mail, Saturday April 12, 2003 (updated 5:35 PM EST)

"Public health officers call the homes of people in quarantine twice daily to ensure compliance. ... On Wednesday, public health officers in York Region, north of Toronto, learned that an individual who was supposed to be in quarantine was actually going to work. ... Public health officers who had previously phoned the individual's home were assured the person was in quarantine. The individual, now considered a probable case of SARS, continued to work while becoming sick. ... As a result, 197 people who worked with the individual from March 29 to April 1 have been told they must go into quarantine. Young, who would not name the company [can you believe the obstructive secrecy? We now know it's Hewlett-Packard in Markham] said it was too early to say whether legal penalties would be imposed against the individual." (Canadian Press, April 9, 2003) Got that? Enlist the family as accessories to your deadly little scam and there's no clear reason to charge (let alone identify) you. Under the circumstances, it's hard to imagine the gang at work throwing much of a welcome-back party - assuming everyone survives - but with Canadians you never know. On Friday a H-P spokesman noted that while a second employee now appeared to be infected, H-P was not contemplating disciplinary action against the villain of the piece. Thanks to this anonymous idiot, the unnamed funeral-goer and similarly unidentified high school exam-writer, thousands of the less rabidly ambitious face ten days of worrisome purgatory and lost wages - and hey - that's best case scenario. But guess what? Here in doormat central, the "quarantined man who may have exposed 197 of his workers to SARS, has been placed in hospital, under 24-hour police guard." (CBC, April 11, 2003) Implying what? That a deranged lynch mob is about to descend on that hell-on-earth Ground Zero with tar and feathers? Or do "the authorities" suppose that, even in critical condition, he will attempt to hobble off in the general direction of the H-P punch-clock, hitching his hospital nightie closed behind him?

Other hot zones are far less indulgent of the pathologically selfish. Singapore, for instance, has turned to the kind of First World high tech solutions once associated with places like Canada: "Because several people have flouted orders to stay home, monitoring cameras will be installed in their homes and checked at random, the [Health] ministry said. 'If they break quarantine they will be given a warning and an electronic wrist tag.'" (Associated Press, April 10, 2003) Malaysia has said that arrivals who misrepresent or fail to mention exposure to SARS face 2-year prison terms. On April 3, the government of Australia advised against travel to SARS hot spots. If travel was unavoidable, nationals were strongly urged to wear masks at every airport in: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, and humiliatingly, Canada. Toronto is turning up frequently on corporate and national no-go lists. "At least one country is demanding Ontarians who want to visit need doctors' letters ensuring they don't have SARS, according to [Ontario's commissioner of public security, Dr. James] Young. He didn't name the country." (Toronto Sun, April 12, 2003) Why is this a secret?

On Thursday Chretien supped at Toronto's Luen Fat BBQ & Seafood Restaurant to deliver a "message of tolerance" between bites of sweet 'n' sour chicken balls. It would have taken real cojones to thank some of the nurses now nearing a month of unrelenting pressure, or drop flowers off for Mount Sinai's director of infection control, Dr. Alison McGeer, now battling the disease herself. But hey, go for the free eats and easy photo op. It would have shown real heart if he'd assured those in quarantine that the feds would reimburse them for lost wages. Who can tell? "When there are disasters, there is a system that exists that is based on so much, and the province start, and when that goes above a certain level we take the rest, so it has to follow the natural process." Er, check. The little cheapskate from Shawinigan didn't even pay for his meal - that was a gift from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. There is however one bright spot: "Luen Fat BBQ received only a conditional pass from Toronto Public Health officials earlier this year." (Toronto Sun, April 11, 2003)

A bad hit, right in Asia's money belt
"The economic consequences are worrying governments in the region. It is not just tourism that has slowed dramatically but many locals have also stopped visiting shopping malls and restaurants. Singapore's deputy prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said on Tuesday that the island state's economy has been 'significantly disrupted'. Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's chief executive, said urgent measures were being considered to help firms that have suffered in the tourism, retailing, food and entertainment industries." (The Economist, April 10, 2003) When that happens in Canada we call it racism. Although the UK has barely been touched by the disease, "Eddie Chan, director of the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, a medical centre in Chinatown, said ... there is an atmosphere of suspicion within London's Chinatown, as recent arrivals from Hong Kong and China are shunned by local residents. ... As people leave places like Hong Kong to get away from the virus, London's long-term Chinese community are worried about coming into contact with recent arrivals. 'Some people are worried if they see a face that they don't recognise,' said Mr Chan. ... Chinese community centres across the UK were asking people who had recently returned from the Far East to practice a self-imposed quarantine and stay away." (BBC, April 7, 2003) Is there no way to blame Canadians for this?

Would now be a good time to forgive Europeans for importing diseases 400 years ago? No, we thought not. It's not very nice of us to notice, but almost from the moment SARS turned up, our betters reverted to strict default mode, belittling frightened people as racists. Can't we get it through our thick skulls that Asian businesses and Asian people are suffering? (And if Asians are shunning other Asians, all the more reason for you to eat dim sum). Unnoticed in this tonic of Canadian-bashing, everybody's business was slowly flatlining - and it was flatlining without a trace of racial preference. Meanwhile, the rest of the world focused, not on Chinatown's feelings, but on the fearful disease that was killing people in Toronto. Ironically, the same cast of characters is now playing belated catch-up - feeding the world curiously familar lines: "More education on the SARS outbreak is needed both domestically and internationally to allay fears that Canada or Toronto are somehow dangerous, the federal and Ontario governments said Friday. With foreign countries issuing travel advisories and companies warning employees about the hazards posed by Toronto, they said it's critical to dispel the ignorance about the disease before the economic damage gets worse. 'There is no reason for anybody outside of Canada to tell their citizens, their employees not to come to Toronto,' said federal Transportation Minister David Collenette. 'We shouldn't fan the flames where they don't deserve to exist.' ... 'What we've got to be careful of is that there's no lasting stigma,' he said. 'So we all have a duty, not just as Torontonians but as Canadians, to tell people around the world that we're fine.''' (Canadian Press, April 11, 2003)

But we're not fine, are we? At least, that's what some Liberal blowhard is always telling us. And we won't be fine any time soon either - not unless we do something about those capacity flights from other hot zones: according to "Airline analyst Joseph D'Cruz ... where Canadian flights to Asia were down about 50% last week ... planes heading to Canada from places like Hong Kong were overbooked." (Toronto Sun, April 12, 2003) The hole in Ontario's SARS containment web remains the airport, the province's commissioner of public security said. 'We expect travel will remain a problem in the long term,' Dr. James Young said. 'The chances of getting containment within either China or in the immediate future in Hong Kong appear to be difficult.'" (Toronto Sun, April 12, 2003)

"The deadly SARS virus reached the shores of two more Asian countries yesterday. ... Indonesia and the Philippines reported their first cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, both of them foreigners who had travelled to Hong Kong or Singapore." (Associated Press, April 12, 2003)

BC lab sequences probable SARS virus -

On a mercifully saner note, "A Canadian laboratory has become the first to sequence the coronavirus believed to be responsible for SARS. The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, part of the BC Cancer Agency, completed the first publicly available draft sequence of the new virus in the early hours Saturday, after several days of round-the-clock efforts. A spokesman for the World Health Organization called the achievement 'an extraordinary step.' 'I knew that it could happen quickly,' Dick Thompson said in an interview from Geneva. 'And frankly, I thought that the CDC,' - the U.S. Centers for Disease Control - 'would get it done first.' Dr. Marco Marra, director of the laboratory, said the sequencing data would be posted on the Internet so that researchers around the world could use it to further science's understanding of the new coronavirus. Having the virus's genetic sequence should help scientists figure out whether this coronavirus is the causative agent behind SARS and why a member of a normally mild family of viruses - in humans - has become so virulent and killed nearly 120 people to date worldwide." (Toronto Star, April 12, posted 7:18PM EST)