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Health Canada Issues First Warning Regarding “Mysterious Pneumonia”

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued its first warning about a mysterious and deadly viral illness, which had first been reported a week prior in Wuhan, China. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said, “Right now we are monitoring the situation very carefully. It is worth maintaining vigilance.” Canadian travellers to Wuhan were advised to avoid “high-risk areas” such as farms and animal markets.


Pandemics in Canada

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19. In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implement public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.


COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada

COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by a new type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that emerged in 2019. The virus caused the first cases in China and then quickly spread around the world. As of early March 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 434 million confirmed cases and 5.9 million deaths globally, including over 3.2 million cases and 36,000 deaths in Canada. It is one of the deadliest pandemics in world history and among the most disruptive and transformative on many levels, especially economically and socially.

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Canada Outpaces US in New COVID-19 Cases Amid Third Wave

For the first time in the pandemic, the rolling seven-day average number of new cases in Canada (206.84 cases per million people) surpassed that of the United States (203.81 cases per million people). The third wave was hitting hardest in Ontario, which reported a record-high 4,456 new COVID-19 cases. In more positive news, COVID-19 was proving to be less deadly than it had been a year earlier.

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Greyhound Ends Bus Service in Canada

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After shutting down its services in Western Canada in 2018 and suffering a year without revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greyhound Canada permanently ceased operations after almost 100 years in business. The company’s American affiliate said that it would continue to operate cross-border bus routes to and from the US.

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Doug Ford Apologizes for Widely Criticized Measures

Ontario premier Doug Ford apologized for measures his government had introduced a week earlier. Many of the new rules, including closing all playgrounds and empowering police to detain people out in public during a stay-at-home order, were criticized as “draconian.” On 26 April, three armed forces medical teams were sent to Toronto to assist health care workers, while hospitals worried about possibly having to start triaging patients.


Impact of COVID-19 on Remote Work at Canadian Businesses

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have worked from home. This shift to remote work has aimed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing contact between people.

To gauge the impact of the pandemic on remote work at Canadian businesses, Statistics Canada conducted a nationwide survey in 2020. The graphs below show some of its findings. The first graph shows the percentage of businesses, in each province and the three territories, that had more than half of their workforce working remotely a) before the pandemic and b) on 29 May 2020, during the pandemic. The second graph shows the percentage of businesses which expected that more than half their workforce would continue to work remotely after COVID-19.


COVID-19 Vaccines

In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated, it seemed very unlikely that a safe and effective vaccine could be developed and deployed within one to two years. A vaccine had never been developed against a new virus during a pandemic, and there was no approved vaccine yet to prevent a coronavirus infection in humans. Despite this, the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in December 2020, about a year after the first cases were reported. By July 2021, there were more than 30 COVID-19 vaccines authorized for public use by at least one national regulatory authority. This was possible because of decades of research on coronaviruses and vaccine technology — particularly in the use of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) — significant government investment, and unprecedented cooperation between governments and university research labs, pharmaceutical firms and international health organizations. Several Canadian scientists were involved in key elements of the research that led to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

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First Cases of Omicron Variant in Canada

Two people who returned to Ottawa from a trip to Nigeria became the first in Canada to test positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, two days after it was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Omicron variant was reportedly four times more infectious than the already highly contagious Delta variant that had led to a fourth wave of COVID-19 in much of the country. Early reports out of South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, were that it was highly transmissible but less severe than previous strains.


Theresa Tam

Dr. Theresa Tam, BMBS, physician, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada (born 1965 in Hong Kong). Dr. Tam is Canada’s chief public health officer, the federal government’s lead public health professional. She has expertise in immunization, infectious diseases and emergency preparedness. She has served on several World Health Organization emergency committees and has been involved in international missions to combat Ebola, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and pandemic influenza. She has also worked toward the eradication of polio. Dr. Tam became widely known to Canadians through media briefings as she led the medical response to the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.


H1N1 Flu of 2009 in Canada

From April to December 2009, Canada experienced an outbreak of influenza A (H1N1). The virus began in North America and spread to many other countries in a global pandemic. This new type of flu differed from the typical seasonal flu, and its effects were more severe. Worldwide, more than 18,000 people are confirmed to have died of H1N1, including 428 Canadians. Estimates based on statistical models have put global deaths much higher. Totals may have been in the hundreds of thousands. The H1N1 pandemic tested Canada’s improvements to its public health system after the SARS outbreak of 2003. On the whole, it revealed a more efficient, coordinated response.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.


Quarantine Act

Canada adopted quarantine legislation in 1872, five years after Confederation. It was replaced by the current Quarantine Act, which was passed by the Parliament of Canada and received royal assent in 2005. The act gives sweeping powers to the federal health minister to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. These powers can include health screenings, the creation of quarantine facilities and mandatory isolation orders. The Quarantine Act was introduced in the wake of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis of 2003. It was invoked in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.