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Airlines suspend flights, extraction efforts in the works as novel coronavirus infects thousands

Last Updated Feb 10, 2020 at 5:10 pm PDT

FILE - Passengers wear protective face masks arrive at the high speed train station in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Hong Kong's leader has announced that all rail links to mainland China will be cut starting Friday as fears grow about the spread of a new virus. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Novel coronavirus has infected around 6,000 people in a dozen countries; it's left 132 people dead in China

China has cut off all access to Wuhan, as well as a dozen other countries, in an effort to contain the outbreak

Air Canada, several other airlines have cancelled some flights to China over the coming weeks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The death toll from the novel coronavirus has now hit triple digits as more and more cases pop up in over a dozen countries.

Just this week, the first presumptive case of the virus was confirmed in B.C., after two others were confirmed in Ontario days earlier.

Watch: Presumptive case of coronavirus in Vancouver

Around 6,000 people have been infected in mainland China and a number of other countries thus far, surpassing the number of people infected by the SARS outbreak in the country back in the early 2000s. At least 132 people have reportedly died.

In an effort to contain the outbreak, China has cut off all access to Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak — as well as dozen other cities.

This comes as some airlines have moved to cancel select flights to the region. Air Canada announced on Wednesday that it was suspending all flights to Beijing and Shanghai as of Jan. 30, due to a travel advisory from the Canadian government. Several other airlines also said they were reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel to the area drops because of the outbreak.

British Airways announced it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

Back in Canada, images have been circulating online, showing people at Vancouver International Airport with large water bottles worn on their heads and faces, some suggesting to protect against coronavirus.

While YVR hasn’t confirmed this was actually happening, it did say in a tweet, “Obviously not an effective measure.”

As airlines and travellers adjust their schedules because of the outbreak, the federal government is mulling over just how to get Canadians who want to come home out of China.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says that every Canadian who has reached out for consular assistance will receive it, adding about 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan. The federal government says 126 of them have asked for help to get home.

Canada is “looking at all options,” Champagne says. Meanwhile, Canada’s health minister says she doesn’t yet know whether any of the Canadians in quarantine in China are sick or would be quarantined if they do come home.

She adds the government is reaching out to its allies about their evacuation efforts.

The spread of the new form of coronavirus has even impacted some international sporting events. A number of them have been postponed in China and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere as a precaution.

The World Health Organization has announced it is reconvening an emergency committee to determine whether the situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern

-With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press