Toronto marks third anniversary of first COVID-19 case

Toronto officials reflect on three years since officials confirmed Canada’s first COVID-19 case. (Photo courtesy: Instagram/@ToPublicHealth)

Wednesday marks three years since Canada’s first case of COVID-19, which was detected in Toronto. 

On the three-year anniversary, officials are reflecting on the city’s pandemic response.

The first case involved a man in his 50s, who had travelled to the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan, China in 2019. 

City officials said he was in stable condition, and received treatment at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. 

With little knowledge of the virus at the time, city officials held a press conference saying risks of transmission remained low. 

But, what quickly followed was a frenzy of lockdowns and isolation for Ontarians.

Ontario’s first lockdown was in March 2020, with residents urged to keep inside small social bubbles and social distance.

The lockdown came after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. 

Meanwhile, experts worldwide were working on a vaccine to decrease the risks of severe illness and death linked to the coronavirus.

In Dec. 2020, Health Canada authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country, with the first shot in Ontario administered shortly after. 

However, three years later Ontario’s health-care system is still feeling the strains of the pandemic. 

There have been a total of 1.56 million cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, with 15,786 confirmed deaths according to data. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa is urging residents to continue to protect themselves with vaccinations.

“Acknowledging the three-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 comes with mixed feelings – encouragement, grief and deep gratitude for the work we have done together as a city,” de Villa said in a statement on Jan. 25. “COVID-19 is still in our midst, and we have the tools to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our families.”

It was a year after the first case, on Jan. 18, 2021, that Toronto Public Health launched its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic to immunize residents. 

More than 7.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots have been administered to eligible residents aged five and up , as of Jan. 19. More than 90 per cent of people age 12 and older have received two doses of vaccine.

“Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccination program is ongoing, with targeted outreach to protect seniors, children, homebound individuals, people experiencing homelessness, persons with a disability and those most likely to experience poor outcomes associated with COVID-19,” the city said in a release. 

The city published Toronto’s COVID-19 response timeline:
  • January 25, 2020: First confirmed case of COVID-19 detected in Toronto
  • March 11, 2020: World Health Organization (WHO) declares pandemic
  • March 17, 2020: Government of Ontario declares a State of Emergency
  • March 23, 2020: City of Toronto declares a State of Emergency
  • September 12, 2020: TPH opens Canada’s first COVID-19 voluntary isolation site
  • January 18, 2021: City of Toronto launches first proof-of-concept immunization clinic
  • March 17, 2021: City of Toronto opens first three mass immunization clinics
  • April 21, 2021: Team Toronto sprint strategy for 13 neighbourhoods announced
  • June 27, 2021: Record-breaking 26,771 doses administered at Scotiabank Arena
  • November 6, 2021: TPH offers appointments for third (booster) doses
  • April 6, 2022: TPH announces eligibility and vaccine availability for fourth doses
  • May 9, 2022: City of Toronto’s COVID-19 emergency declaration terminates
  • September 26, 2022: TPH begins administering bivalent COVID-19 booster doses to those 18 years of age and older

The city is urging residents to keep up to date with their vaccinations.

“Although three years have passed since Toronto’s first confirmed case, COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community,” reads the release. “Scientific data shows that individuals who have kept up to date with their vaccinations are better protected against serious consequences linked to the virus and its variants compared to those who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.”

Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content