While B.C. health officials say no cases of a new Chinese coronavirus have been confirmed in B.C., residents are still stocking up on supplies to keep themselves safe.
The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer both said Wednesday they can only speak to confirmed cases of the deadly respiratory infection, and that none have been reported.
The agencies added they could not provide information about potential cases that may have been flagged by others, but added officials remain on high alert.
The uncertainty appears to have people scrambling to buy up anything they can use to protect themselves from the virus, which has claimed 17 lives so far in China, where the virus originated.
That includes face masks, which several Metro Vancouver pharmacies contacted by Global News say are flying off the shelves.
“The demand for face masks is humongous,” said Jeff, a pharmacist at a London Drugs in Burnaby who did not feel comfortable giving his last name.
He said his location sold out within hours of opening Wednesday morning.
“We had a brand-new shipment of masks, several boxes, cases of it, and it was sold out within the first hour it came in,” he said.
A pharmacist at a New Westminster Safeway, who did not want their name used at all, told Global News the demand is so high, manufacturers aren’t able to fill orders.
Chinese state television reported Wednesday that there have been 571 cases of the virus in Hubei province since the outbreak first emerged in its capital city of Wuhan. Citing provincial authorities, the report said that the number of deaths had risen to 17.
The first case confirmed in the U.S., a man in his 30s who arrived in Seattle on Jan. 15, is said to be recovering in quarantine. Health officials said Wednesday they are monitoring at least 16 people who had contact with the man since his arrival in the U.S.
No cases have been confirmed in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada announced Monday that enhanced screening measures would be implemented in three Canadian airports with direct flights to China, including Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) told Global News Wednesday that screening will now be ramped up even further, and that all international travellers arriving in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will be asked additional screening questions to determine if they have visited Wuhan.
“The aim of the question is to help identify travellers from Wuhan for closer screening upon their arrival in Canada,” CBSA’s email statement said.
None of the Canadian airports operate direct flights to Wuhan, but the CBSA said there is a “high likelihood that travellers on connecting flights from Wuhan will be arriving in Canada.”
Those experiencing flu-like symptoms will be referred to the public health agency’s quarantine officer, the statement added.
— With files from Maham Abedi and the Associated Press