B.C.'s health minister not happy feds allowed Canadian airlines to relax physical distancing - InfoNews

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B.C.'s health minister not happy feds allowed Canadian airlines to relax physical distancing

Health Minister Adrian Dix provides an update on COVID-19 on June 25, 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
June 29, 2020 - 4:11 PM

Air travel is becoming a rising cause of concern, B.C.’s health minister said today, noting that he wants to know why Canadian airlines were allowed to relax physical distancing measures.

“It is the responsibility Transport Canada and the federal government to ensure that rules are followed and rules are applied,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said today, June 29.

“What I'd like to hear from Transport Canada, what I like to hear from Health Canada, is do they agree with this because it is absolutely within their jurisdiction to deal with it?”

Air Canada and WestJet announced on Friday they would begin selling tickets for adjacent seats as of July 1, after blocking access to those seats for the past few months to allow passengers to maintain a safe distance from each other.

Dix said if the federal government thinks it’s acceptable to reduce physical distancing, then they need to be “explicit and they need to explain why it is.”

The economic concerns of the airlines, while important, he added, isn’t the only issue at play.

“If people are sick and COVID-19 is transmitted, it affects people in B.C. and that’s a concern for me,” he said.

He hopes that it will allay fears, but in the meantime, British Columbians just have to continue with what they’ve been doing so far in terms of hand washing and physical distancing efforts, because that’s what’s helped keep case numbers under control.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is also concerned, adding that in the past week there have been cases of people who have arrived in B.C. via airline with symptoms and they tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is an environment where we know people spend a lot of time in close contact with each other,” Dr. Henry said.

Air circulation and mask-wearing should help prevent the spread, but Dr. Henry said that physical distancing is an important part of the equation.

“I know that Transport Canada will be working in 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 on aircraft,” she said.

“That's what keeps other people safe as well… we need people to be honest when they're answering the symptom questions and we need to make sure that we can screen people out from arriving in Canada in BC and other parts of this country with COVID-19.”

From Friday to Monday morning, 26 British Columbians tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of cases in the province to 2,904.

Among them, is a new case within the Interior Health region, which is now at 200 positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

There have been 979 people in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 1,529 in the Fraser Health region, 131 people in Vancouver Island Health region and 65 people in Northern Health.

There are 153 active cases in British Columbia, of whom 18 are in hospital with five in critical care. There have been no new deaths since Friday. So far 2,577 people have fully recovered.

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