Passengers are being screened for novel coronavirus symptoms at airports around the world (AFP / Attila Kisbenedek)

False novel coronavirus warnings circulating in Alberta

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Canadian Facebook posts claim the novel coronavirus has reached the western province of Alberta, with confirmed cases in Edmonton and Calgary. This is false; provincial health officials said there are no confirmed cases within their jurisdiction.

Posts from late January 2020 claim that a family infected with the new coronavirus (2019-CoV) is “currently being held in quarantine at the Foothills Hospital,” in the city of Calgary. At least two posts warn online users to avoid certain public spaces in the greater Calgary area because they were visited by the allegedly infected people.

Around the same time, social media users reported a coronavirus case in Terwillegar, a neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on February 5, 2020
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on February 5, 2020


However, these rumors are false. “There are no probable or confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta at this time,” Tom McMillan, spokesman for the provincial health ministry, told AFP by email on February 5, 2020.

McMillan added that risk for Albertans is still considered low, and that “there have been no official quarantine orders issued in Alberta.”

The province is tracking confirmed and probable cases of the virus nationwide and providing information on this web page.

Screenshot of an Alberta government web page taken on February 5, 2020

As of February 4, four Canadians are confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus strain, and one is presumed to be infected.

Three of the cases are in the central province of Ontario, and two are in British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast. 

As of February 5, the number of confirmed cases worldwide has exceeded 27,000, and more than 550 people have died from the virus. 

Graphic of coronavirus symptoms (AFP Graphics)

Despite the absence of the new coronavirus in Alberta, local news organizations report that restaurants and shops in Calgary’s Chinatown have seen business decrease as fears of potential contamination mount.

The novel coronavirus is the subject of misinformation around the world. You can consult AFP’s fact-checks on the virus in Canada here and here.