Vancouver International Airport to take steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading

Signage to be added, and health-screening question to be added to electronic border kiosks, but no temperature-screening yet

Fears that a pneumonia-like coronavirus that has so far killed at least six people in China may spread to Vancouver heightened Jan. 21 with news that a man in Washington State has been diagnosed with the virus.

The Washington Post reported Jan. 21 that a man in his 30s is in stable condition at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. The man, who is not seriously ill, is said to have arrived last week from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the outbreak. 

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The virus so far has infected close to 300 individuals, mostly in China, and it is said to be contagious as it spreads from person to person.

The Vancouver Airport Authority told Business in Vancouver in an email that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is directing the response to the crisis because it is the government agency responsible for decisions about health-related screening of passengers at Canada’s airports.

PHAC’s plans for Vancouver International Airport (YVR) include enhanced “messaging on arrivals screens and an additional health screening question to be added to electronic border kiosks,” the Vancouver Airport Authority said in its email. “They have indicated these measures will be implemented in the coming week.”

No one from PHAC immediately responded to a request from BIV to elaborate on planned measures and on whether there could be temperature screening.

Other airports are stepping up precautions.

At Changi Airport in Singapore, all inbound travellers arriving on flights from China will undergo temperature screening starting on Jan. 22 (today in that Southeast Asian island nation), according to that country’s Ministry of Health.

That precaution is necessary, it said, because the number of infected people is on the rise, the risk of the disease spreading is rising and the volume of passengers is expected to spike given upcoming Lunar New Year visiting.

Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam said yesterday that no coronavirus cases have yet been discovered in Canada, although several people have been investigated.

Flights between China and YVR have been surging in recent years. While the airport has significantly more non-stop off-continent flights than does the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), SEA has been catching up and is increasingly the largest competitor with YVR for new airlines and routes.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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