Stricter measures needed after several flights with COVID-19 cases onboard: Henry
Published Wednesday, July 15, 2020 8:07AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, July 15, 2020 11:08AM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Dr. Bonnie Henry is putting pressure on airlines to improve screening, cancellation policies, and information sharing after several flights that landed at Vancouver International Airport last week were identified as having COVID-19 cases on board.
The flights came from Dallas and San Francisco, as well as Kelowna and Montreal. It's recommended everyone on board those flights self-isolate for two weeks, but everyone should be monitoring their symptoms closely.
When asked about concerns around the virus and air travel on Tuesday, Henry outlined several areas that could be improved.
“All the airlines need to have processes in place to screen out people,” Henry said.
She also noted cancellation policies need to be flexible, so people who may be ill don’t end up getting on board a plane filled with other people.
“If we are not feeling well, we need to have the ability to postpone or change our flights,” Henry said. “From the airline perspective, making sure we have flexible policies.”
Henry also revealed that contact tracing has been a challenge when cases have been linked to air travel.
“One of the most challenging things we do is trying to get flight manifests a couple of days later when we recognize somebody who might be ill. The type of information on those flight manifests is often not very helpful in trying to follow up with people,” Henry explained.
She says she would like airlines to provide more complete information, including identifying people within rows of someone who may be ill.
B.C. isn’t alone in having cases tied to air travel. There have been at least 26 COVID-19 cases linked to flights across the country over the past two weeks.
Passengers arriving in Canada from international locations are required to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival.
WestJet and Air Canada announced in June that as of July 1 the airlines would no longer be blocking out middle seats to allow for physical distancing between passengers and would once again be selling all seats on board.
Masks have been mandatory on flights in Canada since April, and all airline passengers are expected to be given a temperature check by airline staff before being allowed to board a flight.
While Henry pressures airlines for improvements, she says some of the onus is also on passengers.
“Making sure people are cleaning their hands, wearing a mask, and they stay home if they’re ill,” she said.