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COVID-19 warning issued to travellers aboard four flights to Vancouver

Last Updated Jul 2, 2020 at 3:00 pm PDT

FILE - Economy class seating in the new WestJet 787 Dreamliner airplane is shown in Calgary on February 14, 2019. In the wake of an onboard incident where flight attendants and bystanders acted swiftly to deal with alleged sexual harassment, Canada's two biggest airlines say its crews are trained to handle passengers who pose a threat -- though one expert warns that airline policy and behaviour are two different matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Summary

B.C. Centre for Disease Control is asking anyone on the listed trips to self-isolate for two weeks

MP Don Davies demands Transport Canada immediately impose mandatory physical distancing rules on all passenger flights

The airlines have indicated they're not going to follow the voluntary guidelines, MP says

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Another warning has been issued for passengers on four flights arriving at Vancouver International Airport last month of possible exposure to COVID-19.

The warning comes as federal NDP health critic and Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies demands Transport Canada immediately impose mandatory physical distancing rules on all passenger flights.

“It’s been voluntary up until now. The airlines have indicated they’re not going to follow the voluntary guidelines. When you’re seeing policy by government violate what our public health officers are saying, that’s a pretty good indication that the federal government is wrong and we’ve got to get on this right away and change it before people get sick,” he said.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is asking anyone on the following trips to self-isolate for two weeks and watch for symptoms:

  • Delta flight 3898 from Seattle on June 3;
  • Air Canada flight 217 from Saskatoon on June 16;
  • Air Canada flight 557 from Los Angeles on June 18;
  • And Flair Airlines flight 8102 from Toronto on June 21.

Earlier this week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that airlines need to ensure flying remains safe after they relaxed seating restrictions.

“I think this is important to remember, including in the discussion, whether you are traveling on an airplane from Toronto or anywhere else, that physical distancing remains essential and important to our efforts. And it will be our expectation, as we are doing in B.C., as we are doing in provincial jurisdiction, that the federal government will do the same in terms of ensuring that people are safe and employing physical distancing as required, especially in places where they’re together for a long time, such as airplanes,” he said.

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As of March 25, it is mandatory under the Quarantine Act that anyone arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days upon their arrival and complete a self-isolation plan.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is also concerned after major airlines decided to no longer leave middle seats on planes empty.

“We are concerned that it is an environment that we know people spend a lot of time in close contact with each other,” she said.

“There are measures in place on the airlines, including the way that the circulation of air happens. Certainly, it is incredibly important to be wearing a mask, but we also feel that physical distancing is an important part of that, as well,” Henry added.

“I know that Transport Canada will be working with the airlines to make sure that everybody is safe, but I think the other really, really important thing that we need to remember is you should not be traveling if you are ill, and we need to have screening processes in place that identify people before they get on board an aircraft, and that’s what keeps other people safe.”

Canada’s top public health officer has also expressed reservations about the practice, though it is permitted under federal transportation rules.

“We really feel it is important to avoid the close physical contact as much as possible,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Monday. “And if not, wear the medical mask.”

Transport Canada said previously it issued guidance to the aviation industry, including recommendations for passenger spacing aboard planes, but it is not mandatory.

The airlines pointed to health recommendations from the International Air Transport Association.

The trade group called for an end to in-flight physical distancing rules last month, proposing a range of other measures instead.