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Nurses' unions warn federal standards for coronavirus protection too low

OTTAWA — The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is warning that the federal public health agency’s guidelines to protect front-line health-care workers from outbreaks of diseases like the novel coronavirus don’t go far enough, and might be putting them and patients at risk.

The standards, which the Public Health Agency of Canada updated last week, lay out the precautions health-care workers should take when assessing and treating a patient with a possible case of the coronavirus, including what protective equipment should be used.

Linda Silas, president of the federation, says the safety protocols are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and some other countries, and don’t recommend the right level of precaution, considering how little is known about the illness.

The Ontario government released its own guidelines calling for constant use of disposable respirators when interacting with a potential coronavirus patient, while the federal guidelines require only a surgical mask.

The federal guidelines are in line with the World Health Organization, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and its European counterpart have also recommended higher standards and a greater degree of precaution.

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press