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As the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continues to rise, Air Canada has decided to suspend flights between Canada and the Chinese mainland, according to CBC News.
On Tuesday, Canada’s largest airline made the announcement that the company will be cancelling the Shanghai and Beijing flights until April 10. Their original plan was to ground flights throughout February after non-essential travel to China was advised against by the federal government.
A statement from the airline states, “Air Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Global Affairs and will adjust its schedule as appropriate.”
Direct flights are usually directed to Shanghai and Beijing from Montreal, Vancouver and the company’s largest hub in Toronto.
Daily flights from Toronto to Hong Kong have also been suspended by Air Canada until April 30 because of low demand. They said that they will make space on their Vancouver to Hong Kong non-stop flights for customers who have already booked flights.
On Tuesday, at the House of Commons, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu noted that “strict” measures are being taken by Canada. She added that there are now at least 35 countries with the deadly virus.
“Those measures are less effective and it’s time to turn our attention and our resources to making sure we’re prepared on the domestic stage,” said Hajdu.
She added that though Canada does not have many cases of the virus at the moment but that doesn’t mean that the country is in the clear.
Hajdu said that consular support will be given to the Canadians who are still in Iran but it is unlikely that they will be evacuated at this point.
“We should be clear that repatriation efforts are limited at this point. It’s difficult at this point to commit to an ongoing repatriation process. You have to remember that it takes a lot of resources and the resources have to be focused in terms of our domestic response,” said Hajdu.
“It’s important for Canadians to realize this may cause disruptions in their lives.”
On Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said that officials are making preparations for a possible pandemic. The epidemic has been declared a global health emergency by The World Health Organization (WHO).
The South Korea travel advisory has been increased by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) after close to 1,000 reported cases. GAC is asking travellers to use a “high degree of caution” when travelling there.
Italy has now reported 320 cases of the virus and the global count has reached approximately 80,000.
GAC also released a travel advisory for Italy on Tuesday telling travellers to “practice special precautions.”
The advisory says, “COVID-19 can spread from person to person, and in Italy cases have been confirmed in multiple regions in the north of the country. Sustained community spread of the virus is being reported. This means it is unknown how or where some people became infected, and the spread is ongoing.”
A statement was issued today by Tam noting that the risk in Canada is still low. She added that the 195 passengers of the evacuation flight out of China who were held under quarantine in Trenton have now been released.
The flight arrived in Canada two weeks ago from Wuhan, China and none of the passengers showed symptoms of the virus.
“As a result, they pose no risk to others and can return to their usual activities,” said Tam’s statement.
“I would like to thank the repatriated Canadians and their families for their patience, cooperation and contribution to public health. They have been through a stressful experience and I urge everyone to treat them with respect and compassion.”