Virus case at PDAC 2020 sparks race to limit spread

PDAC 2020 (Credit: PDAC)

The race is on to limit the spread of the coronavirus after news of an infection at an international mining conference in Toronto attended by more than 23,100 people, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The man, in his 50s, tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the March 1 to 4 gathering at a massive convention center at the edge of Toronto’s financial district. The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference bills itself as the world’s biggest convention of miners, taking in visitors from around the world.

PDAC organizers forged ahead with the conference just as others around the world began to pull the plug on big gatherings

“Our focus is on breaking the chain of transmission to limit the spread of infection and as a precautionary measure, we are asking those who attended PDAC 2020 to monitor for symptoms for 14 days,” according to a statement from Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health at the local health authority in Sudbury.

The northern Ontario city, home to the country’s nickel-mining industry, is where the unidentified man went to hospital on March 7 after attending PDAC March 2 and 3.

Trudeau, unveiling C$1.1 billion ($800 million) in aid to buffer the Canadian economy from the virus, said he hasn’t been tested but is following public health guidelines for those who’ve attended large events. That can include monitoring health for symptoms.

Until this week, cases of the virus in Canada had been relatively low, but the first death from an outbreak, at a long-term care home, and a jump in infections has health officials escalating action plans.

A total of 93 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Canada as of Wednesday, and the first instances of community transmission have been identified, with the cases at the care home in British Columbia, and now potentially the PDAC attendee.

Forging ahead

“Following testing, the patient was discharged home where he remains in self-isolation,” Public Health Sudbury & Districts said in the statement. “The patient has experienced cough and shortness of breath (difficulty breathing).”

Other mining executives and government officials who attended PDAC included Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Chilean Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica, Rick Rule, chief executive officer of Sprott U.S. Holdings, top mining officials from Brazil, and the heads of mining groups of the capital market divisions of several Canadian banks.

Public Health Sudbury & Districts said it is actively engaged in follow up and is collaborating with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Toronto Public Health.

PDAC organizers forged ahead with the conference just as others around the world began to pull the plug on big gatherings, such as the giant CERAWeek energy conference that had been slated to run in Houston. Most exhibitors from China were forced to pull out of PDAC because of international travel restrictions.

The conference stepped up disinfection, with workers wiping down escalator handrails, posted big signs “reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations” and made hand sanitizer widely available.

Given the health concerns, there wasn’t much hand-shaking going on at PDAC. Awkward elbow bumps were in fashion — for those who bothered to show up — and an air of trepidation permeated the conference floors.

(By Jacqueline Thorpe and Aoyon Ashraf)

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