Some South Surrey and White Rock business owners have taken steps to protect clients and customers from the spread of COVID-19, however, it could be argued that few companies are being hit as hard as the tourism industry.
Wednesday morning, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
Nellie Snow, from White Rock Travel, told Peace Arch News later that day the virus is a “huge concern,” adding that “travel plans across the board are being cancelled, from tours, river cruises to ocean cruises.”
Earlier this week, health officials urged Canadians to avoid travelling on all cruise ships to protect against the spread of the virus.
“We’re just waiting to see what other things may be coming in the future,” Snow said. “The stock market and the chaos in travel right now. All of those things are coming together in a perfect storm.
“Businesses and tour companies and agencies will be trying to weather (that) storm.”
Snow said employees are trying to keep up-to-date with the latest information, adding that things can change twice a day.
However, Snow said, all levels of the tourism industry are working together and being proactive to protect clients from losing their money.
“They’re getting 100 per cent future cruise credits. There’s still opportunities to buy particular types of cancellation insurance, which is peace of mind. Normally, you have to do that at the beginning, but they’re allowing it now,” Snow said.
Simon Fraser University finance professor Andrey Pavlov told Black Press Media this week that although COVID-19 has had a marked effect on world markets, it won’t last long.
“The world economy was doing quite well before the virus and I expect whatever factors were playing into that will kick in again after,” Pavlov said.
Events and public facilities
Organizations in Surrey have begun cancelling events and taking additional protective measures due to the growing concern over the spread of COVID-19, however, most civic events and facilities are expected to operate as planned.
Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who operates a constituency office out of the same building as Peace Arch News on 24 Avenue, said via email that she’s requesting people contact her office over phone or email instead of visiting in person. A notice is posted on her constituency office door advising the same.
Cadieux told PAN her office is open, however employees are working remotely.
Wednesday, the Surrey Board of Trade made the “very difficult decision” to postpone the Surrey Women in Business Awards event, which was scheduled to take place March 12 and was to feature consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.
A White Rock Chamber Music concert – held monthly at Chartwell Crescent Gardens Retirement Community – scheduled to take place March 14 has been cancelled over concerns with the spreading virus.
And Star of the Sea’s Father Glenn Dion issued a letter to parishioners March 8 addressing COVID-19.
The letter suggested church goers stay home if they are feeling sick. The letter advises parishioners to bow instead of using the usual greeting, to remove holy water from fonts used by parishioners, to forgo holy communion from the chalice for parishioners, and people remain free to receive holy communion either on the tongue or in the hand.
The Surrey School District has started closing some schools. Coast Meridian Elementary (8222 168 St.) was closed Wednesday.
Supt. Jordan Tinney said Tuesday evening staff “received communication that a member of the Coast Meridian community has tested positive for COVID-19.” The district dispatched a “deep cleaning team” to the elementary school.
On March 9, Fraser Health officials confirmed one COVID-19 case is connected to Sullivan Heights Secondary.
According to the City of Surrey’s website, civic facilities are to remain open and events will continue as planned as the risk level of COVID-19 is considered low by medical professionals. However, the city website states, the Newton-King George Boulevard Plan Open House was postponed from April 2 to later in the month.
City of White Rock CAO Dan Bottrill told PAN that because health officials indicated that the threat of coronavirus remains low, the city has not closed any civic facilities or the Kent Street Activity Centre, which offers programs for people aged 55 and older.
However, Bottrill said, the city will be closely monitoring the situation and could close facilities if things turn for the worse.
“It’s a fluid situation. I think the City of White Rock would maybe take proactive measures, just depending on what the situation is,” Bottrill said.
To help stop the spread of the virus, Bottrill echoed provincial health authorities advice, which is to wish your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, and stay home if you’re sick.
According to WHO, an influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity.
The number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled, Ghrebreyesus said in a news conference. At the time of the conference, the virus has spread to 114 countries, areas or territories with 118,387 confirmed cases and 4,292 deaths.
In B.C., there are 46 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including one death at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver.
– with files from Kat Slepian