'A lot of anxiety': Vancouver traveller wants airlines to reschedule flights to China without fees
VANCOUVER -- Every day, Queenie Choo monitors the escalating novel coronavirus situation as her business trip to China quickly approaches.
Since the illness was first identified as a new strain of virus on Jan. 7, officials have already confirmed nearly 1,000 cases worldwide, with the epicentre of the illness being in Wuhan, China. The virus has killed 26 people in China.
Choo is the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a Vancouver-based social service agency. She's now contemplating whether she should cancel the trip altogether, which is booked for early next month.
"It's been a very, very tough decision," she told CTV News. "It's also spreading beyond China. There's a lot of anxiety on my part."
As of Friday, a second person tested positive for the virus in the United States and Europe confirmed its first three cases.
The B.C. Centre for Disease control told reporters Friday there are no confirmed cases in the province.
"At the current time, the risk to British Columbians is very low," Dr. Sanuta Skowronski said.
She said health care professionals remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation.
"We're enhancing surveillance and asking our clinicians to be alert for possible cases with a travel history to the possible area. The point is, we are concerned that there could be importations of cases and we want to detect those cases as early as possible to prevent further spread."
The World Health Organization said Thursday it has decided not to declare the coronavirus as a public health emergency of international concern. But Choo believes people should still take precautions.
"I don't think we should take this too lightly. I'm hoping the airlines will say, 'OK, if you're postponing your trip these next few months…we certainly will not penalize the traveller,'" she said.
Air Canada does not fly directly to Wuhan but has partner airlines that do.
The airline is allowing travellers with itineraries that include flights to, from or via Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to change their plans free of charge until June 15, 2020.
"We will continue reviewing the rebooking policy and will make modifications as this dynamic situation changes," said Angela Mah in a statement emailed to CTV News.
Choo will be travelling to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing, and does not qualify for the flexible rebooking policy. She said she may cancel her trip, even if she will lose the $2,000 she paid for tickets.
Extra precautions for Lunar New Year gala in Vancouver
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is one of the organizers of the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations in Vancouver.
In light of the growing concern surrounding the coronavirus, organizers will be refunding people who have purchased tickets to the gala on Sunday.
"We're letting people know that if they have a fever, if they feel unwell and if they recently travelled from China to Canada, that they actually should not come to the banquet," Choo said.
She said even if people have not recently travelled to China and have a fever, they should still not attend the event.
As an extra precaution, there will be thermometers to check body temperatures at the venue before people step into the banquet hall.
"The goal is to protect public safety and we want to make sure there's no spread and no chance of transmitting the infection," Choo said.