Toronto Pearson International Airport unusually empty amid COVID-19 outbreak
TORONTO -- On one of the busiest travel days of the year, Toronto Pearson International Airport is unusually quiet today due to concerns over COVID-19.
“March Break, the travel period is usually quite busy for us, historically, for us, this year, that period started yesterday and it will run until March 22,” Greater Toronto Airports Authority spokesperson Ryan White told CP24. “Given of course the global situation in regards to COVID-19, what we are seeing is that there is an impact to passenger numbers.”
On Friday, 19 more cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Ontario, bringing the provincial total to 79, including five recoveries.
Despite that, a few passengers are taking their chances and were seen checking into their flights at Pearson’s terminal 1.
“If I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it,” Shahab Gafur told CP24 on Friday. Gafur said his trip to the Dominican Republic was booked months ago and would be “kind of expensive” to cancel.
“I’m still pretty healthy, so I’m not worried. I’m only worried bringing it home and passing it on to my parents who are elderly,” Gafur said.
Carly McKelvie is headed to Orlando, Fla. and said that while there was concern over the spread of Coronavirus they plan to limit their exposure to the walls of their resort.
“We thought about it and we sat in the hotel last night and thought about what we were going to do and we decided we were going to take our chances,” McKelvie said. “We have no plans to go anywhere with big crowds. We’re just going to go to our resort and hang out by the pool and relax.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic as both the House of Commons and Senate have been suspended for five weeks.
In light of the pandemic, Toronto Pearson has posted a comprehensive list for passengers who decide to follow through with their travel plans, including best practices when moving through the airport.
“All international travellers will see additional signage in French and English, asking them to alert a border services officer should they have any flu-like symptoms,” Pearson says on their website.
“Travellers will need to respond to a screening question that has been added to electronic kiosks for all international travellers. This question is available in 15 different languages and asks travellers to identify if they are travelling from Hubei, China or Iran.”
“Travellers from Hubei, China or Iran who do not show signs or symptoms of illness upon entry into Canada will be required to provide contact information and will receive a handout advising them to limit contact with others for 14 days, and contact their public health authority within 24 hours of arriving in Canada. These travellers will also receive a surgical mask with instructions on use, should they begin to experience symptoms while travelling.”
As always, travellers are advised to wash their hands, avoid contact with people who are sick as well as practicing proper “cough and sneeze etiquette”. Ryan White said that Pearson is also ramping up their own cleaning efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’re working closely with the public health agency of Canada—and again this is a dynamic situation, so we’re constantly reassessing our measures and largely what we’re concentrating on is supporting those hygiene measures that the public health agency recommends,” White said.
“So that’s extra staff on-hand for cleaning, certainly increased frequency of cleaning bathrooms, insuring that the bathrooms are stocked up. We’re also disinfecting and cleaning high-contact areas that’s handrails, handles of baggage carts, hard surfaces, kiosks of course and it’s basically just an upscale effort in terms of the cleaning that we’re doing.”
White went on to say that it is important to note that the public health agency of Canada’s recommendation with regards to travel varies depending on the destination. “If you’re travelling, check your destination, check the travel advisory for the destination at travel.gc.ca”
Hamilton International Airport is also taking measures to keep travellers safe. In a statement to CTV News Toronto, the airport said they are increasing the “frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high traffic areas throughout the terminal.”
“Hamilton International has also installed informational posters throughout the building, reminding travellers of the precautionary measures they can take to prevent the spread of germs.”