Airports in major Canadians cities will be ramping up screening processes for arrivals amid fears that a coronavirus that has killed at least a dozen people in China could spread farther internationally.
In a statement to Global News, the Canadian Border Services Agency said it is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada in efforts to stop the illness from potentially coming to Canada.
It noted that in the coming days, all international travellers arriving in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports will be asked additional screening questions to determine if they have visited the city of Wuhan in China, where the outbreak was first reported.
“The aim of the question is to help identify travellers from Wuhan for closer screening upon their arrival in Canada,” CBSA’s email statement said.
“Travellers who have visited Wuhan will be subject to additional screening to help prevent the possible spread of this infectious disease into Canada.”
None of the Canadian airports operate direct flights to Wuhan, but the CBSA said there is a “high likelihood that travellers on connecting flights from Wuhan will be arriving in Canada.”
Those experiencing flu-like symptoms will be referred to the public health agency’s quarantine officer, the statement added.
There are also awareness campaigns planned for the airports, including signage that is expected to be posted by next week.
The agencies are also awaiting direction from the World Health Organization, which has convened a group of experts to advise whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency as the virus appears in other countries.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the risk for Canadians contracting the novel coronavirus remains low.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the country is in a much better position to respond to the outbreak compared to 17 years ago when severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, killed more than 900 people globally, including 44 in Canada.
Williams said researchers have already identified the new virus, and a method to test for it is already being used, which wasn’t the case for the initial stages of the SARS outbreak.