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There are more than 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Photo: CDC

Patient is man in his 40s who contracted virus in Austria

The Ontario Ministry of Health confirmed Ottawa’s first case of the novel coronavirus  — also known as COVID-19 — on Wednesday, a man in his 40s who contracted the virus while travelling in Austria.

The man is in self-isolation after being tested at the Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus, according to Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health says the man was not symptomatic during his flight home from Austria and is not considered a risk to other passengers. However, the city’s health agency said it is following up with a small number of close contacts of the individual and the investigation is ongoing.

Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that the man is experiencing mild symptoms.

“The individual has been conscientious about his self-isolation, and he’s been accepting guidance from Ottawa Public Health,” said Etches. 

The city says community assessment centres will be opened soon. According to the CBC, the centres can field questions from people about COVID-19 and also test patients showing symptoms, instead of having them go to hospital emergency rooms. 

There are more than 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, with five cases labelled as resolved. Across the province, 3,394 people have been tested for the virus, while 2,888 of those cases have been negative, according to the province’s health ministry. 

Now labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has infected more than 120,000 people and killed over 4,000 globally as of Wednesday. 

The University of Ottawa has suspended operations in China and in Iran due to the spread of the virus and launched a travel registry for students, staff, and faculty abroad. 

The administration has also struck a working group of senior administrators, led by president Jacques Frémont and provost and vice-president (academic affairs) Jill Scott, to coordinate the university’s response across campuses and to “refine academic and administrative contingency plans.”

“Since public health authorities continue to say that the risk to the Ottawa community remains low, we have not made any changes to scheduled classes, exams or campus events at present,” the university said in an update on Wednesday evening. “However, contingency plans are being prepared should this fluid situation change.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that five U of O professors are receiving more than $2 million in funding from the federal government to support research projects aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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