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Stopping all Canada-China flights won’t stop spread of coronavirus — Here’s why – Global News



With so much still unknown about a new virus multiplying in China, many countries are closing the curtains on Chinese travellers. But experts are raising doubts about whether that will actually help.

“People will find a way around. You can say, ‘Stop all direct flights,’ but that doesn’t stop all travel,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist based out of Toronto General Hospital, told Global News.

“If someone wants to get from Point A to Point B, they will find a way to do that. If there’s not a direct route, there will be alternative routes. This is just human nature.”

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This week, Air Canada extended a suspension of its flights between Canada and the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai until March 27. The airline first halted flights to the cities after the federal government issued a travel advisory in late January, urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to mainland China because of the viral COVID-19 outbreak. The same recommendations have been in place for weeks.

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Dozens of other nations have implemented travel-related measures since the outbreak began in late December, including outright bans.

Canada, at this point, has not taken that route. The advisory currently in place is not a ban.

“The decision to travel is your choice, and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad,” it reads.

So while Air Canada has chosen to suspend its service to China, it’s not a requirement. It’s left airlines that offer service between Canada and China with a choice — to fly or to not fly.

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Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says cases with no China travel history could be the ‘spark that becomes a bigger fire’

As of Feb. 14, a number of international airlines are still operating between Canada and China throughout February, March and April. Hainan Airlines offered non-stop flights between Toronto and Beijing. China Eastern offered some non-stop trips between Toronto or Vancouver and Shanghai. And Air China had some non-stop flights between Vancouver and Beijing available.

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Travel bans and quarantines are an age-old answer to stop the spread of the disease, but it’s exactly what the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against since the outbreak began. The agency’s general-director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the bans unnecessary and said they fan fear and stigma “with little public health benefit.”

“This is still and foremost an emergency for China,” he said.

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Of the more than 64,000 cases, 99 per cent are in China. Of the 1,384 deaths, all but two are inside China.

Banning travel from an affected country is an oversimplified response to a complex situation, said Bogoch, and it “can do more harm than good.”

Bogoch pointed to the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, which became a pandemic. Many countries banned travel from North America, its believed country of origin, despite the WHO saying there was “no rationale” for it.

Novel coronavirus outbreak: Travel restrictions rise with death outside China

Novel coronavirus outbreak: Travel restrictions rise with death outside China

“At best, it slowed down the spread of infection by two to four weeks. It certainly did not prevent this from turning into an epidemic,” Bogoch said.

The measures also come with huge economic consequences.

One study found that the travel restrictions related to H1N1 contributed to a 40 per cent decline in air travel to and from Mexico but did relatively little to stave off the disease.

While simply stopping flights may, by definition, have the ability to reduce new cases to certain regions, it’s not foolproof, said Jason Kindrachuk, a professor of emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.

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“While there is sustained human-to-human transmission in China, we have not seen this outside of the region. What this suggests is that self-monitoring by passengers coming from these regions has worked quite well,” he said.

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“But [travel bans] can also increase the isolation of regions that drastically need help.”

During the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, travel bans actually made stopping the outbreak more difficult. The closed borders pinched a country already ill-equipped to cope with a rapidly spreading disease by “compromising connectivity to the region, mobilization of resources to the affected area and sustained response operations,” according to one study.

“The long-term ramifications of travel bans on both relations and economic tolls may outweigh any potential benefit from a travel ban,” Kindrachuk said. “Now, it’s also a question of how extensive a ban would be needed to even capture all potential cases, considering that there are increasing numbers across Asia at this point.”

Is it safe to travel during the coronavirus outbreak?

Is it safe to travel during the coronavirus outbreak?

With no Canadian travel ban in place and other airlines offering non-stop flights, why would Air Canada opt to keep China-bound flights grounded until March?

Optics play a huge role, Bogoch believes.

“Obviously, to the general public, the optics are favourable when we say we’re not having any more travel to that particular area,” he said.

“People say, ‘Well, this epidemic is existing on the other side of the world. If we simply stop air travel to that part of the world, we won’t import cases.’ It’s just not that simple.”

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U.S. airlines extend China flight cancellations into late April over COVID-19

But the decision by Air Canada — or any of the dozens of international airlines that have chosen to suspend or reduce service to Beijing, Shanghai and, in some cases, Hong Kong — isn’t an overreaction to Ross Aimer, a former pilot and CEO of Aero Consulting Experts. Aimer said passenger demand to visit the countries should be considered, as it’s likely reduced dramatically.

“There are considerations for their own crew’s safety as well,” he said. “That’s become a big issue.”

Ultimately, the efforts to stop the spread lie at the heart of the outbreak, Bogoch said.

“And that’s what happening right now,” he said. “There are significant resources being poured into China and being utilized by China to essentially prevent further transmission of this virus.”

— With files from Reuters

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Confusion, anger aboard quarantined cruise ship as coronavirus spreads – CTV News



Canadians quarantined on a cruise ship with a growing manifest of passengers infected by a deadly coronavirus expressed frustration with Ottawa’s response Monday.

Despite the fast-approaching end of the 14-day isolation period on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Canadian citizens on board aren’t sure what’s happening next. Some expressed anger to CTV National News over apparently conflicting information provided by their own government.

On Monday, the ship confirmed 99 new cases of COVID-19 as Canadian passengers learned in a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne that a plane was headed to Tokyo with Canadians expected to board Tuesday. Champagne’s tweet was deleted minutes later.

“The plane is now wheels up to Tokyo,” the since-removed tweet read. “We expect Canadians to board on Tuesday for their journey back home. Passengers will be screened there before boarding.”

On Monday night, CTV National News learned that the plane was indeed on its way to Tokyo, but was delayed on a tarmac in Portugal. Thirty-two Canadians on the ship are known to have coronavirus, according to the government.

For some Canadians on board, the deleted tweet was the first they’d heard of the plane’s status.

“It’s frustrating and confusing. We wish that we would just be told, specifically, when we are going and when we are to be ready,” passenger Kate Bedding told CTV News. “It’s just important — clear communication in a crisis.”

It’s unclear how many Canadians will board the flight. In a news conference Monday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there were about 100 Canadians of more than 250 on board that had yet to confirm their intentions with the government. If leaving the ship for the charter jet, Canadian personnel will run medical tests as they leave. Anyone exhibiting symptoms will not be allowed to board the plane.

Once the passengers return home, they will have to undergo a second 14-day quarantine as hundreds of Americans have already started doing after landing in California and Texas Air Force bases. Some Canadians are reportedly considering not boarding the flight to avoid another quarantine. Ottawa is advising against that decision. In emails to those passengers, the government warned they may be prohibited from boarding a commercial flight or entering other countries.

Adding to the frustration and fear, the ship saw its biggest one-day surge in coronavirus infections, with 99 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on board. At least 1,800 people have died worldwide among more than 72,000 official cases. The Diamond Princess houses the largest cluster of coronavirus patients outside China.

Some Canadians on board have questioned whether the cruise ship quarantine is even working.

“All these experts are saying ‘They should have never been confined to a ship in the first place,’” said Edmonton’s Mark Rodrigue. “Well maybe the experts should have told us that 13 days ago and we could have been back in Canada with our 14-day period half over.”

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Canadians on coronavirus-hit cruise ship await repatriation



Canadian passengers of a cruise ship that has been quarantined in Japan due to a coronavirus outbreak on board are still waiting to be repatriated as their American counterparts touched down in the U.S. on Monday.

On Saturday, the Canadian government said it had chartered a plane to bring home many of the 255 Canadians aboard Diamond Princess, off Yokohama, Japan, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for 10 days amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. So far, more than 450 people have been infected, including 32 from Canada.

Late Monday, Global Affairs responded to an email from a Canadian couple on board and told them the plane is expected to arrive in Japan on Feb. 19. The aircraft will pick up Canadian passengers who are not showing symptoms.

The email reply said the departure date will be confirmed once final arrangements have been made with the Japanese government and the cruise ship company.

Those who are transported back to Canada will be placed under quarantine for 14 days. There are also 330 Hong Kong residents and 35 Italians, including crew members, on board the ship or undergoing treatment in Japanese hospitals.

Passenger Trudy Clement, of Port Dover, Ont., told CBC News Monday that she and her husband are still waiting for results from a throat swab they had taken two days ago to determine if they’ve contracted the virus.

“It’s bad enough having to be here for two weeks but not knowing anything, it’s extremely stressful,” she said.

Watch: Trudy Clement describes the wait for news aboard the Diamond Princess:

The Canadian government says it’s chartered a plane to bring home many of the 255 Canadians aboard the cruise ship that has been quarantined for 10 days amid a coronavirus outbreak. 6:16

The quarantine in Canada will be good for the peace of mind of friends, family and the community, Clement said. She said all the passengers she’s been able to talk to agree that Canadian aid did not come quickly enough.

“If this had of been started earlier, it would have ended earlier,” she said.

If she does test positive for the virus, she’ll be removed from the ship and taken to hospital in Japan.

If not, the passengers will be tested for any symptoms when they disembark, then again when they arrive in Trenton, Ont. Then they’ll face another two-week quarantine in Cornwall, Ont.



Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, appeared to offer assurance on Monday that Cornwall has no worries about transmission.

Tam said Canadian health officials are “taking every precaution” to keep the city of about 46,000 “safe and healthy,” as those quarantined stay in an isolated section of the Nav Centre, a hotel and conference training facility in Cornwall.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the government is working to bring home a number of Canadians onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in quarantine off Japan. 0:24

Americans back home

Also on Monday, more than 300 American passengers, including 14 who tested positive for coronavirus, were being quarantined at military bases in California and Texas from Japan on charter flights overnight.

One plane carrying cruise passengers touched down at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California just before midnight Sunday, while another arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas early Monday. The passengers will remain at the bases for two weeks.

Japan’s Defence Minister Taro Kono tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.


U.S. passengers repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan disembark from a Kalitta Air flight at Kelly Field early Monday in San Antonio, Texas. (William Luther /The San Antonio Express-News/The Associated Press)


The U.S. said it arranged for the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the new virus that’s been spreading in Asia. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.

The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmation they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they had no symptoms. They were being kept isolated from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.


Paul Molesky, right, and Cheryl Molesky, who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess, film a selfie video aboard a Kalitta Air plane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo. (Cheryl and Paul Molesky/The Associated Press)


It’s unclear which base the 14 who tested positive for the virus went to.

Officials said the evacuees who arrived at Travis Air Force Base will be housed at a different location from the more than 200 other Americans who were already being quarantined on the base, in a hotel. Those people have been at the base since early February, when they arrived on flights from China.

No Travis officials will have contact with the passengers, officials said.

Now that they’re in the U.S., the cruise ship passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for nearly four weeks.

New cases

The latest updates follow the release in China’s official media of a recent speech by President Xi Jinping in which he indicated for the first time that he had led the response to the outbreak from early in the crisis. While the reports were an apparent attempt to demonstrate the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the start, it also opened Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.

In his speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on Jan. 7 and ordered the shutdown of the most-affected cities. The disclosure of his speech indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity at least two weeks before such dangers were made known to the public.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 1,868 as of the end of Monday, up by 98 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday. Across mainland China, there were 1,886 new confirmed infections on Monday, bringing the total so far to 72,436.


A medical worker in protective suit takes a break at an isolated ward of Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China, on Sunday. (China Daily via Reuters)


With fears of the virus spreading further, Chinese and residents of nearby countries and territories have begun hoarding supplies of everything from masks and other personal protective gear to instant noodles, cooking oil and toilet paper.

In Hong Kong, local media reported that police had arrested two men and were seeking three others who allegedly stole a load of 60 packs of toilet paper at knifepoint early Monday morning. Supplies of the commodity have become extremely scarce, with often only low-quality imports still available. Police were expected to discuss the matter later.

Another 1,200 doctors and nurses from China’s military began arriving in Wuhan on Monday morning, the latest contingent sent to help shore up the city’s overwhelmed health-care system.

The city has rapidly built two prefabricated hospitals and converted gymnasiums and other spaces into wards for those showing milder symptoms, but residents still say they are being wait-listed for beds and even ambulance rides.

Wuhan has accounted for the vast majority of mainland China’s 70,548 cases. Some 60 million people in that area and other parts of China are under lockdown in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.

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Canadian protection standards for COVID-19 to be reviewed, health agency says – Global News



The Public Health Agency of Canada says it will review its protocols for health-care workers after nurses’ unions denounced the national guidelines set out for dealing with the novel coronavirus earlier this month

The agency says feedback from the nurses’ unions and other associations will be considered by a national advisory committee on infection prevention and control as it looks to update the guidance.

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients if they encounter a potential case of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, including the kind of protective equipment they should use.

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The Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions wrote to Health Minister Patty Hajdu last week to tell her the guidelines are unacceptable since they assume the virus cannot spread easily through the air, only through larger droplets from coughing or sneezing.

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In a statement Monday, the federal public-health agency says the guidelines were approved by a special advisory committee of federal and provincial representatives.

“Protecting health care workers and patients from exposure to the novel coronavirus is our priority,” an agency spokesperson wrote Monday. “We will continue to engage with stakeholders and apply evidence and expert advice in updating guidance.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario couple ‘would like to go home’ after quarantine on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario couple ‘would like to go home’ after quarantine on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Though Canada’s current federal guidelines are in line with World Health Organization recommendations, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and its European counterpart call for added precautions to protect against the possibility the disease is airborne.

Provinces can also set their own standards and protocols to protect workers from possible exposure to the virus. Ontario has already called for its workers to wear respirators when dealing with potential cases of COVID-19, rather than surgical masks as the federal agency suggests.

So far, only eight cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Canada, but public health authorities agree they must be prepared for that to change.

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The health agency says it’s trying to chase down some people who left a cruise ship in Cambodia, the MS Westerdam, before one of their fellow passengers tested positive for the illness.

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“Canadian passengers from the MS Westerdam were identified so that they would be screened upon arrival at a port of entry into Canada,” it said in a written statement Monday.

They’ll be given information about COVID-19 and asked to isolate themselves for two weeks, the agency said, and to fill out a form so their local public-health authorities can contact them.

Coronavirus outbreak: Hajdu stresses shutting down borders over illness ‘not effective at all’

Coronavirus outbreak: Hajdu stresses shutting down borders over illness ‘not effective at all’

But those screens went up too late for some of the hundreds of Canadians who were aboard the Holland America ship.

“Some travellers returned before these measures were put in place. The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency are working together to identify those individuals who will be contacted by PHAC officials,” the agency’s statement said.

Canada is also preparing for another wave of evacuees with possible exposure to the virus, though health authorities say their risk of infection is low.

COVID-19: Ontario couple on quarantined Diamond Princess say days are ‘long and boring’

Hundreds of Canadians who have spent almost two weeks in isolation on a second cruise ship, the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan, will be flown home to Canada to spend another two weeks of quarantine in Cornwall, Ont.

The Diamond Princess has had more than 450 cases confirmed on board so far.

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During their repatriation the Diamond Princess passengers will follow the same rules as the Canadians and their families who recently returned from Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak.

Coronavirus outbreak: A look inside Wuhan hospital for those with symptoms

Coronavirus outbreak: A look inside Wuhan hospital for those with symptoms

Some in Cornwall, including the town’s mayor Bernadette Clement, have expressed reservations about hosting a large population of people who may have been exposed to the virus. They will be housed in an isolated section of the Nav Centre, a training centre with attached hotel and conference facility.

Health officials have assured people in the area the risk of those repatriated Canadians having the illness when they arrive in Canada is low, and they are taking precautions.

“We are satisfied that the infection control precautions and quarantine procedures will meet the needs of the quarantined individuals while also keeping the public safe,” the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, said in a statement Monday.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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