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Coronavirus (COVID-19) SARS-CoV-2

Public Health Agency of Canada

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to SARS. Viruses of this family also cause a number of animal diseases.

Pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On December 31, 2019 the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The outbreak began in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China. Like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, the newly detected coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) has a zoonotic source, however, human to human transmission has been confirmed. On March 11, 2020 the WHO declared COVID-19 viral disease a pandemic.

Epidemiology of COVID-19

As of November 26, 2020 total of 60,776,978 confirmed cases caused by the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and 1,428,228 deaths were reported. At this time 191 countries are reporting cases of the novel Coronavirus. For a full listing of affected countries refer to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Cases (Johns Hopkins University)

Source: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Cases (Johns Hopkins University).

Other Global COVID-19 Case Trackers

Canadian Cases COVID-19

As of November 25, 2020, a total of 347,466 confirmed cases caused by the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and 11,710 deaths were reported in Canada. An Epidemiological Summary of COVID-19 Cases in Canada is available.

For real time information refer to the:

PHAC Coronavirus Map of Canada

Provided by: Public Health Agency of Canada

Areas in Canada with cases of COVID-19 as of November 25, 2020
Location Total cases Active cases Recovered Deaths Tested
Count Rate* Count Rate* Count Count Rate* Count Rate
Canada 347,466 924 58,524 156 277,232 11,710 31 11,090,768 295,051
Newfoundland and Labrador 324 62 25 5 295 4 1 60,199 115,425
Prince Edward Island 70 45 2 1 68 0 0 56,101 357,452
Nova Scotia 1,243 128 102 11 1,076 65 7 132,635 136,541
New Brunswick 453 58 94 12 352 7 1 95,884 123,430
Quebec 135,430 1,596 10,964 129 117,551*** 6,915 82 2,136,210 251,764
Ontario 107,883 741 12,779 88 91,550 3,554 24 5,823,970 399,818
Manitoba 14,907 1,089 8,758 640 5,893 256 19 332,903 243,090
Saskatchewan 7,047 600 3,012 256 3,998 37 3 249,993 212,857
Alberta 50,801 1,162 13,719 314 36,582 500 11 1,426,119 326,245
British Columbia 29,086 574 8,901 176 19,814 371 7 761,442 150,146
Yukon 39 95 15 37 23 1 2 4,987 122,069
Northwest Territories 15 33 0 0 15 0 0 6,217 138,692
Nunavut 155 400 153 395 2 0 0 4,032 103,971

Source: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Government of Canada

About COVID-19

The first human infections in China must have occurred in November 2019 or earlier. The first 59 suspected cases at the end of December 2019 and early January 2020 were admitted to Jinyintan Hospital, which was specially designated to isolate them.

On January 23, 2020, Chinese authorities closed off the city, canceling planes and trains leaving Wuhan and suspending buses, subways and ferry services.  A second city in China, Huanggang was also placed in lockdown. On January 24, 2020 travel was restricted to a total of 10 cities, affecting 50 million people. Public bus, railway and airline operations were also suspended in these cities. On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the novel coronavirus is considered a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee announcement this decision due to concern for further global spread after person-to-person spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in 4 countries (Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States) outside of China. As for February 5, 2020, forty major airlines around the world have canceled or reduced their flights to China until as late as March amid the coronavirus outbreak. On February 19 and 21, 2020; cases were reported in Iran and Italy respectively with no known direct link to Mainland China. On March 9, 2020 Italy expanded the quarantine from the Lombardy region to the entire country, as Italy’s case count surged. People throughout the country of 60 million were ordered not to travel other than for work or emergencies. South Korea and Iran have also imposed travel restrictions. On March 11, 2020 the WHO declared COVID-19 viral disease a pandemic. As of May 13, 2020 the virus had spread to 188 countries with travel bans and restrictions implemented in many countries combined with various social distancing measures (ie. school, public space closures) in an effort to slow COVID-19 spread and flatten the epidemiological curve.

Preliminary calculations for the average number of infections that each infected person may go on to cause, known as R0. This is estimated to be 2.0 to 3.0 people per infected person. In comparison to seasonal flu, which usually has an R0 of around 1.3.  

The World Health Organization announced that the fatality rate in Wuhan, China, considered the epicenter of the outbreak, is between 2% and 4%. Outside of Wuhan, it is thought to be closer to 0.7%. In a recent JAMA paper The overall case-fatality rate was 2.3%. No deaths occurred in those aged 9 years and younger, in those aged 70 to 79 years had an 8% fatality rate and those aged 80 years and older had a fatality rate of 14.8%. Children made up a 2.4% of the cases and almost none was severely ill. The fatality rate was 49% among critical cases, and elevated among those with preexisting conditions: 10.5% for people with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for diabetes, 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease, 6% for hypertension, and 5.6% for cancer.

A conjoint review done by WHO and Chinese scientists has found that 80% of infected people had mild to moderate disease, 13.8% had severe symptoms, and 6.1% had life-threatening episodes of respiratory failure, septic shock, or organ failure. No deaths were reported among mild and severe cases. For the mild and moderate cases, it took 2 weeks on average to recover.

Surveillance for COVID-19 Infection

Provincial/Territorial public health authorities should report confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 nationally to the Public Health Agency of Canada within 24 hours of their own notification.

PHAC Interim national case definition: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Suspect case

A person with symptoms that include two or more of:

  • Fever (signs of fever)
  • Cough (new or exacerbated chronic)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache


Probable Case

A person (who has had a laboratory test):

  • with fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) or new onset of (or exacerbation of chronic) cough


  • who meets the COVID-19 exposure criteria and in whom a laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19 is inconclusive.


A person (who has not had a laboratory test):

  • With fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) or new onset of (or exacerbation of chronic) cough,


  • Close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19


  • Lived in or worked in a closed facility known to be experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 (e.g., long-term care facility, prison)

Exposure criteria

In the 14 days before onset of illness, a person who:


  • Had close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who traveled to an affected area (including inside Canada) within 14 days prior to their onset of illness


  • Participated in a mass gathering identified as a source of exposure (e.g., conference)


  • Had laboratory exposure to biological material (e.g. primary clinical specimens, virus culture isolates) known to contain COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Illnesses associated with the new coronavirus, named COVID-19, are similar to several respiratory illnesses and include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. Less frequent symptoms included coughing sputum or blood, headache and diarrhea. Most cases are considered mild to moderate with a subset experiencing more severe illness with shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

Reported signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Pneumonia in both lungs
  • Fatigue
  • Sputum production
  • Sudden loss of taste or smell
  • Anorexia
  • Myalgia
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Treatment and Vaccine for COVID-19

Currently, remdesivir (brand name Veklury) is currently the only drug authorized with conditions to treat COVID-19 in those who are hospitalized with severe symptoms.

On Nov. 18, Pfizer released updated results of its Phase 3 clinical trials, suggesting the vaccine is 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, a little over a week after releasing interim results showing the vaccine may be 90 per cent effective. Moderna announced on Nov. 16 that preliminary data from its ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial shows the vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19. On Nov 23, Astra Zeneca announced their vaccine appeared to be 70 per cent effective against the novel coronavirus.

For more information about treatment and vaccines for COVID-19, click here. Also refer to NACI Preliminary guidance on key populations for early COVID-19 immunization for public health program level vaccination guidance to plan for the efficient, effective, and equitable allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine once one is authorized and available.

Infection Prevention and Control

Prior to any patient interaction, all healthcare workers (HCWs) have a responsibility to assess the infectious risk posed to themselves and to other patients, visitors, and HCWs. This risk assessment is based on professional judgment about the clinical situation and up-to-date information on how the specific healthcare organization has designed and implemented engineering and administrative controls, along with the availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Recommendations for infection prevention and control measures for patients presenting with suspected or confirmed infection or co-infection with COVID-19 in acute care settings include:

1. Routine Practices: For all patients, at all times, in all healthcare settings including when performing a point-of-care risk assessment, and adherence to respiratory hygiene and hand hygiene.

2. Contact and Droplet Precautions (should be implemented empirically):

  • Wear gloves and a long-sleeved gown upon entering the patient's room, cubicle or designated bedspace.
  • Wear facial protection (surgical or procedure mask and eye protection, or face shield, or mask with visor attachment) when within two metres of a patient suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection.

3. Airborne Precautions: When performing aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMPs). A respirator and face/eye protection should be used by all HCWs present in a room where an AGMP is being performed on a patient suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection. Whenever possible, AGMPs should be performed in an airborne infection isolation room.

As information becomes available, these recommendations will be re-evaluated and updated as needed.