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Chinese consul general addresses virus concerns at Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary

Chinese consul general addresses virus concerns at Calgary Lunar New Year celebrations
WATCH: Hundreds of people attended Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary on Saturday. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, Chinese representatives reassured Calgarians their government is doing everything possible to contain the virus that is spreading through China.

Over 1,000 people came to watch the colourful lion dance as it bought in the Year of Rat at Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary’s Chinatown on Saturday.

But on the minds of many at the big party are those in China whose festivities will be far different this year.

READ MORE: China bans cars in Wuhan, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

“It’s a bit crazy,” said Wesley Kan, who has family in Hong Kong.

“I think there [are] 11 million people in Wuhan so it’s almost [like] shutting down a third of Canada. I think most other countries would appreciate it,” Kan said about travel restrictions in place in China now.

READ MORE: Canada’s 1st ‘presumptive’ case of new coronavirus discovered in Toronto

On Saturday, Hong Kong declared the outbreak of a new virus an emergency and will close schools until mid-February. Trains and flights from the city of Wuhan will now be blocked.

“For a city like Hong Kong, it’s a megacity so I understand they want to take precautions just because it’s a city of that size. Anything that comes through there is going to spread like wildfire,” said Norman Mah, who was performing in the lion dance in Calgary.

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Calgarians celebrated the Chinese New Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.
Calgarians celebrated the Chinese New Year on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

The outbreak started in Wuhan in central China and has spread to the rest of the country with concern building as people travel for the holiday.

“A lot of people go through Hong Kong. Any area where you have a lot of tourists going back and forth, they have to do something. It’s better to do something than nothing because you don’t want to go through a situation like with SARS where it becomes a global problem,” said Len Chan, who was at the Calgary celebration on Saturday.

READ MORE: Here’s how SARS spread and the lessons learned for the new coronavirus outbreak

Some Calgarians with family in China are in favour of the mass quarantine that is now in place in Wuhan. The government has expanded the lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of 50 million people.

“It’s a bit terrifying what’s happening with the health scare. I think it’s probably a good idea. It’s better taking proactive measures like that rather than risking the health of others,” Kan said.

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READ MORE: Worldwide Lunar New Year celebrations scaled back as new coronavirus spreads

Chinese representatives in Calgary said their government is doing everything possible to contain the virus.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to tell the symptoms. Sometimes it’s an ordinary cold or flu but sometimes it is the case. But we are on alert and we will take a responsible attitude toward such kind of [a] case and we will do our best to stop it spreading all over the world,” said Lu Xu, the consul general of the People’s Republic of China in Calgary on Saturday.
Hundreds, including Stampede Royalty and council members, attended Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.
Hundreds, including Stampede Royalty and council members, attended Lunar New Year celebrations in Calgary on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Amidst all the celebrations in Calgary during this uncertain time in China, the message from Chinese officials is one of gratitude and hope.

“People here are very supportive and they show confidence that it is not the end of the world. And as far as we can work together, we can overcome this disease and conquer it,” said Xu.