Wednesday,  February 26, 2020  2:52 am

Second case of coronavirus confirmed in Toronto; Canadian airports on "high alert"


Second case of coronavirus confirmed in Toronto; Canadian airports on "high alert"
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

A second case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Toronto, ON.

Yesterday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam took to Twitter to confirm the news.

The individual who contracted the virus was returning to Toronto, Canada after travelling from Wuhan, China with her husband aboard China Southern Airlines. Those who were seated near the couple have been contacted by public health officials, the CBC reports, and the patient has been isolated and is in stable condition, and doesn't pose a major risk to those who travelled on the same flight.


"While there is one presumptive case confirmed in Canada, and it is not unexpected that there will be more cases reported in the near term, the overall risk to Canadians remains low," Tam wrote on Twitter. "As a country we have learned a lot since the SARS outbreak in 2003. All levels of government are working closely to ensure Canada is prepared to identify cases and quickly respond to protect the health of Canadians."

The Government of Canada is currently warning Canadians to exercise a high degree of caution to China, and to avoid any non-essential travel to the province of Hubei, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Cases of the highly-contagious virus have also been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Enhanced screening measures in place

China's first case of coronavirus has been linked back to to the Huanan Seafood Market (also known as Wuhan South China Seafood City and South China Seafood Wholesale Market). According to the Government of Canada, the market has been closed as of Jan. 1, 2020, for cleaning and disinfection, but the source of the virus is still unknown.

READ MORE: “I’m not giving up on China:” Canadian travel industry responds to coronavirus outbreak

Upon arrival at Toronto Pearson International Airport, extra screening measures are in place, and travellers will be asked whether or not they've travelled to China recently, specifically Wuhan province. As Canada's leading airport, hundreds of thousands of passengers trickle in and out every day, and the airport says it's taking the safety of its passengers very seriously.


"Additional steps are being taken by the GTAA to increase the level and regularity of sanitization, including extra hand sanitizer stations and more frequent cleaning of arrivals areas, including kiosks and bathrooms," Robin Smith, senior advisor, communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority told PAX. "High traffic areas will be regularly disinfected."

According to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), it's up to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to advise the CBSA of any required enhanced measures to be implemented at the Canadian border to help prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases into Canada.

"International travellers arriving at the Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto Pearson international airports are being asked an additional health screening question to help identify travellers who may have visited Wuhan, China," Ashley Lemire, manager, media relations, CBSA, told PAX. "Travellers will either be asked the question on an electronic kiosk (Primary Inspection Kiosks, Automated Border Clearance or NEXUS kiosks) or by a border services officer directly."

According to Lemire, the aim of the question is to help identify travellers from Wuhan for closer screening upon their arrival in Canada. Travellers who have visited Wuhan will be subject to additional screening to help prevent the possible spread of this infectious disease into Canada. 

While there are no direct flights from Wuhan to Canada, Lemire says that these measures "are being put in place at these airports due to the high likelihood that travellers on connecting flights from Wuhan will be arriving in Canada at one of these three airports." As a result, CBSA is working with PHAC and continues to monitor the situation to determine measures at these or other airports.

Travellers experiencing flu-like symptoms will be referred to PHAC staff who will either be on-site or available by phone. All others will be provided a handout and allowed to continue with their planned travel.

Public health officials on high alert

Canadian hospitals are also on high alert, and have a series of infection prevention and control systems in place to mitigate the spread and transmission of the coronavirus, Tam writes, and many major airports, like Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL) are taking a proactive approach.

In a statement on Jan. 25, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, said:

"Measures to mitigate the risk of introduction and spread of diseases like the new coronavirus in Canada are in place, including messaging on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver international airports reminding travellers to inform a Border Services Officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, and an additional health screening question on electronic kiosks used by international travellers."

For the latest travel updates and alerts on the coronavirus, click here.


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