The federal government has taken to steps to smooth out the application process for Employment Insurance for workers who are quarantined because of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
“The Employment Insurance program is there to help those who have been unable to work because of SARS,” said Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada. “We have made the application process as smooth as possible.”
There is a provision that allows for up to 15 weeks of special benefits in the EI legislation when an eligible claimant is unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine.
Claimants will not have to provide a medical certificate immediately and the normal two-week waiting period will be waived for claimants who have received paid sick leave for this situation from their employer.
HRDC recommends that people finding themselves in this situation use the Internet to apply at www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca or call (800) 206-7218 (English) or (800) 808-6352 (French) to have an EI application mailed to them or for more information. In the Toronto area the number is (800) 263-8364 or (416) 952-4473.
The death toll in Canada stands at seven as of April 3.
As of April 2, a total of 160 probable or suspect cases of SARS have been reported in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, according to Health Canada.
•Ontario is reporting 60 probable and 69 suspect cases. All cases have occurred in persons who have travelled to Asia or had contact with SARS cases in the household or in a health-care setting.
•British Columbia is reporting two probable and 16 suspect cases.
•New Brunswick is reporting one suspect case.
•Saskatchewan is reporting one suspect case.
•Alberta is reporting seven suspect cases.
•Prince Edward Island is reporting four suspect cases.
Cases were initially reported in travellers and their close contacts. Following this, cases were reported in individuals in a hospital setting where some of the first cases were treated. Recently, SARS has been reported in a few of the household contacts of these hospital-associated cases, but there has been no evidence of transmission to the general community, according to Health Canada.
Who should be quarantined?
The following information is taken from a fact sheet published by the Toronto Board of Health.
Anyone who has come into close contact with a person with SARS and did not wear a protective mask should be quarantined.
These individuals should stay home for 10 days in a row even if they are experiencing no symptoms. Staying at home and limiting exposure to others is the best way to control the spread of SARS to family, friends and co-workers.
What about travellers?
Anyone who traveled to China (Guangdong Province), Hong Kong, Singapore or Vietnam (Hanoi) should monitor for symptoms for 10 days after returning. If the person experiences symptoms within this time period, they should call their local health authority for assessment.
Only a person who has had unprotected exposure (not wearing a mask) to an individual with SARS or who has traveled to the affected regions and is experiencing symptoms within 10 days should be quarantined. Other family members can continue with their normal routines. The incubation period for SARS is 10 days. If no symptoms appear within 10 days from the last exposure to a person or location with SARS, the quarantine can be ended.
What to do while in quarantine
•Remain at home in isolation for 10 days after your last exposure. Do not leave the house and do not accept visitors. Family members do not have to be quarantined, unless a member of the household is diagnosed with SARS.
•Wear a mask when you are in the same room with another member of your household. Change your mask twice a day. Family members do not have to wear a mask.
•Do not share personal items, such as towels, drinking cups or cutlery.
•Wash your hands frequently.
•Sleep in separate rooms.
•Measure your temperature with your own thermometer twice a day over the 10-day period.
•If anyone in the household develops fever (over 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing), headache or is feeling unwell, call your local health authority.
What is SARS?
SARS is a severe form of pneumonia, accompanied by a fever. It is not to be confused with the common cold. It is not yet known what organism is causing the infection. Individuals who have had direct contact with a SARS patient or have traveled to the locations listed above should watch for the following symptoms:
•sudden onset of fever (greater than 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit); and
•respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.