Some ambassadors not volunteering at Kelowna Airport amid COVID-19 pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Some ambassadors not volunteering at Kelowna Airport amid COVID-19 pandemic

March 13, 2020 - 3:20 PM

With the growing fears about coronavirus and, especially, its greater impact on the elderly, about a dozen of the volunteer ambassadors helping out at Kelowna Airport are staying home.

“A large component of them are retired and some of them have various health conditions already, so, I’ve heard from some ambassadors who have taken advice from their doctors and others, as a straight precaution, who won’t be completing or doing any of their volunteer shifts until this pandemic is over,” airport director Sam Samaddar told, March 12.

There are 70 to 80 people who volunteer as ambassadors and work shifts that cover almost all hours when the airport is open, 365 days a year.

The ambassador program was started in 1999 with retirees who “perform a range of services from assisting people with disabilities to providing information on the community,” the airport website states.

At least one relative of an ambassador isn’t satisfied with airport management leaving it up to the volunteers whether they work or not, noting they are in contact with people who could have come from any part of the world and the death rate for people over 80 years old is about 15 per cent, far above rates for other age groups.

“They should stop volunteers until this is gone and hire younger people,” the relative, who wanted to remain anonymous, told “Keep the elderly people home – they’re not getting paid for anything and they have a really high chance of death from this.”

Samaddar said they have increased the number of hand sanitizing stations, instructed staff to wash their hands more and to stay home if they’re sick. They’ve also hired more janitors to clean surfaces more frequently and are following advice from Canadian and world health authorities on any other actions they need to take.

COVID-19 hasn’t yet had a dramatic impact on air travel at the Kelowna airport, although it’s hard to compare to 2019. That year started off strong but the number of passengers dropped in April after the 737 Max was taken out of service.

January 2020 travel was down 3.8 per cent but Samaddar said it’s hard to tell if that’s because of the coronavirus or things like the loss of the 737 Max, bad relations between Canada and China and a drop in business travel that started in late 2019.

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