VANCOUVER — Health officials in British Columbia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as they urged residents to stop hoarding groceries and stockpiling supplies.
The province's top public health doctor told reporters that five of the new cases were linked to an outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where the tally now stands at 16 — four residents and 12 staff members.
"We know there's some ongoing testing of others who are starting to show symptoms as well," Dr. Bonnie Henry said. "This is not a surprise. When we first recognized the outbreak, it had just been starting, so we know that people are in that incubation period."
The new cases bring the total in the province to 73.
Henry said another of the new cases is linked to travel from Europe, and the remaining three cases are under investigation.
Meantime, she said, everyday residents of the province should be measured in purchasing groceries and other basic necessities.
She said that while she understands people are worried and want to exact whatever control they can over the situation, this is not the way.
"I want people to be calm, and be reassured," she said. "We've been reassured by our retailers that our supply chains are strong and that they are restocking the shelves. We don't have an issue of not having enough supply and we need to be measured in our approach and get what we need and not to hoard and not to have anxiety provoked purchasing."
Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix asked people who are sick to be careful and not visit care homes, elderly parents and grandparents.
The province is also adapting its testing strategy to respond to the situation here in B.C. to ensure all who get sick can get the testing they need.
Dix said testing centres will be set up in the coming days and details on locations will be announced soon.
Henry said not every one who has been outside the country needs to be tested even if they have a mild illness.
"For most people, you do not need a test," she said. "We want to make sure testing is available for all who do need it."
Henry said the focus will be on testing health-care workers, people in hospital and in long-term care homes.
But she said that there are positive things that people can do during a time she acknoweldged was emotionally taxing.
"I encourage everyone to take the time to be with their families, spend the time with their families," Henry said. "Go outdoors and take advantage of the time and the space that we have. But do it together in small groups."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2020.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press