Coronavirus concerns lead to cancelled flights, increased cleaning at YVR
RICHMOND, B.C. -- Air Canada has suspended daily flights between Vancouver International Airport and two major Chinese cities after the federal government upgraded its travel advisory for China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Global Affairs is now urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and to avoid travel to Hubei province, near the virus epicentre in Wuhan, altogether.
Air Canada's daily service to Shanghai and Beijing from Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto will be suspended until the end of February, according to the airline.
The airline says passengers will notified and offered other options for travel, including flying on other carriers or a full refund.
However, both Air China and China Eastern airlines had flights between YVR and Beijing and Shanghai arriving and departing on Thursday.
Several U.S. and European airlines have also announced plans to suspend or reduce service to some Chinese cities.
YVR increases precautions
YVR has been working closely with Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada since the outbreak began.
The airport released a video on Twitter Wednesday, outlining some additional measures passengers may notice at the airport.
That includes additional signage near and inside the arrival hall telling passengers with flu-like symptoms they must declare themselves to officers when they go through customs.
As announced earlier this month, passengers using the electronic primary inspection kiosks when they arrive at YVR must also declare if they have been to Wuhan, China in the last two weeks.
Anyone that has declared that they have visited Wuhan in the last two weeks will automatically be referred to a CBSA border officer, who can then decide if they will be sent to a PHAC quarantine officer for a further health assessment.
PHAC has assigned more officers to YVR's arrival hall
The airport is also increasing cleaning in several areas, including washrooms. Staff will be regularly disinfecting the electronic touch-screen border kiosks used by passengers as well as hand-rails on jet-bridges and other areas where arriving passengers may be.
Additional hand sanitizer stations have been placed around the terminal.
The airport says the new measures will not impact airport operations.
Masks remained a common sight at YVR on Thursday for many passengers and some airline staff concerned about the spread of the virus.
Himanshu Samrai was at YVR Thursday morning for his flight on China Southern heading to Guangzhou, China where he has a 90-minute layover on his way to India.
"I spent like half my day searching how things are going in China," Samrai said. "If it gets really bad then they should just cancel the flights and just give us the refunds back."
Samrai said he felt "OK" about heading to China, but said he was a little bit uneasy because he couldn’t buy a mask due to many stores being sold out. He says he packed hand sanitizer with him in an effort to protect himself on his flight.
"It doesn't matter if you’re in China or not, because it's spreading now, you’re not safe anywhere," Samrai said.
Local case of coronavirus now confirmed in Metro Vancouver
On Wednesday, provincial health officials announced B.C.'s first presumptive case of novel coronavirus is now confirmed.
Provincial health officials announced Tuesday that a test done locally came back positive, but more testing was needed to confirm the case officially.
Those tests was done at a national lab in Winnipeg, and on Wednesday health officials said the case is now a confirmed positive.
The patient, who is a man in his 40s who had recently been in Wuhan city, lives somewhere in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which includes Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore.
The patient remains in isolation at his home and is in regular contact with health officials. The province said the man wasn't believed to be contagious on his flight back to YVR from China last week and was only exposed to a small number of close contacts.
Health officials have not given any additional updates on the other British Columbians being tested for the virus. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry would only say on Tuesday that a "couple handfuls" of people were undergoing testing in the province.
She also said officials expected there would likely be more cases in B.C.