VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the new strain of coronavirus continues to spread — now infecting almost 10,000 people around the world and killing 213 — we’re starting to hear tourism is taking a hit.
Canadian tourism companies say they’re seeing cancellations of trips by Chinese tourists to hotspots like Banff and Yellowknife, and if it continues, it could mean a significant hit to bottom lines.
It’s unclear what the exact impact to British Columbia’s industry is, but China is the province’s number two market when it comes to tourism, with travellers from that country helping B.C. set new tourism records in recent years. The latest numbers show more than 750,000 people from China visit Canada in 2018.
Cancelled flights aren’t helping, either. The last two from Beijing and Shanghai, for now, to Vancouver International Airport arrived on Thursday after Air Canada suspended all flights to the destinations temporarily following a new travel advisory from the federal government telling citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China for the next several weeks.
WATCH: Last flights from Beijing & Shanghai
Meanwhile, four cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in Canada — one in Metro Vancouver and two in the Toronto area. The federal government says all four people are doing well so far, as officials continue to monitor the situation.
An update on the only novel coronavirus patient hospitalized in Canada… he has just been discharged from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. His wife has been in self-isolation at home, as has the only other confirmed Canadian case in Metro Vancouver. https://t.co/Q1IUaS1DAn
— Mike Lloyd (@llikemoyd) January 31, 2020
With thousands more cases reported over the last few days and China reporting a record number of deaths in a 24-hour period, the spike prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global health emergency at a committee meeting on Thursday.
“To the people of China and all of those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak, we want you to know that the world stands with you,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “We are working diligently with national and international public health partners to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible.”
In Canada, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the country was already taking steps to control the spread of the virus, and that there was no need to change any processes despite the declaration of a global emergency. The federal government, in the meantime, was working on plans to repatriate dozens of Canadians still stuck in the epicentre of the outbreak in the Hubei province.
“We are working out, right now, a plan to protect Canadians’ health here in Canada, and ensure that Canadians can be repatriated from the region of Hubei who are in, in some cases, very difficult situations because of the quarantine that China has placed,” she said. “We will work closely with China to make sure that we do so in a way that’s safe for everyone concerned.”
B.C.’s health minister and provincial health officer will be giving an update on the coronavirus at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
-With files from Ash Kelly and The Canadian Press