Calgary Chinatown restaurants, travel agencies seeing reservation cancellations amid coronavirus concerns

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Restaurants in Calgary’s Chinatown seeing reservation cancellations amid coronavirus concerns
WATCH: Travel agencies and Calgary Chinatown businesses are seeing some unintended consequences associated with the coronavirus outbreak. But as Christa Dao reports, health officials say the risk is still considered low and are urging pause on the panic button – Jan 29, 2020

Several businesses in Calgary are seeing some unintended consequences of coronavirus.

Although there are no confirmed cases in Alberta, in Chinatown, officials said restaurants are seeing more dinner reservations being cancelled.

Terry Wong with the Chinatown District Business Improvement Area said businesses in Chinatown are being impacted because of rumours and misinformation.

“There are rumours and speculation that are out there, and as a result, people are making decisions as to bookings and that. We are saying to them, ‘The risk is not here.’ And therefore not to avoid coming to Chinatown and avoid their reservations,” Wong said.

Wong said Chinatown, like other neighbourhoods, is still open for business and it is still safe.

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“It’s an unintended consequence — not a consequence that should be in place. People need to understand we’re very safe here right now,” he said.

In addition to Chinatown restaurants, travel agencies are also being impacted as a result of coronavirus.

Shawn Zhou with Top Canada Tours said travel agents have been inundated with requests from people wanting to abandon their travel plans to China.

“People are asking to change their ticket… We get many phone calls,” Zhou said.

Zhou said the company stopped counting after receiving more than 100 cancellations for both flights and tours — and he expects that number to climb.

The heightened concern to China also prompted Travel Alberta to hit pause on its marketing efforts.

In a statement, Travel Alberta said it will continue to monitor the situation and potential impacts on its work in China’s market.

“We are asking industry partners to accept tour cancellation requests and offer full refunds to Chinese visitors to assist them during a difficult time. This is an exceptional circumstance that goes beyond tourism,” the statement read.

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The Webber Academy recently cancelled its Senior School Mandarin excursion to China. The March trip, which was planned for 36 students and four teacher chaperones, was officially cancelled last week.

The government of Canada is recommending people avoid all non-essential travel to China due to an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Alberta Health said it has tested several cases in the province for coronavirus and will continue to test more in the coming days.

“At this stage, we are acting out of an excess of caution even when the likelihood of exposure, based on history, is small or improbable,” read a statement from the Health Ministry.

“While we understand that some Albertans may be anxious by the news in B.C., we want to assure them that the risk to Albertans is still considered to be low.”

University of Calgary infectious disease researcher Craig Jenne called coronavirus a “significant infection.” He said it should be something Calgarians watch, but considering there are no confirmed cases in Alberta, the risk remains low.

“This is something we shouldn’t panic about but something we have to be aware of and concerned for screening and stopping from establishing itself in our communities,” he said.

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“This is also a virus that’s somewhat difficult to catch. You’re not going to catch it by walking into the same room as somebody.

“It has to have close physical contact… So this is not like the measles where somebody walks into the store and all of a sudden you have 300 potential exposures.”

The disease itself seems to be less severe than previous coronaviruses, Jenne said, adding that the novel coronavirus appears to have fewer fatalities than SARS did.

“On a per-number basis, this new infection is really causing about the same amount of fatality as seasonal flu, for example, and most Canadians don’t panic about the flu every year,” Jenne said.

When asked about specific restaurants in the city, Jenne said there is no science behind the concerns.

“Currently, there are no people in the city that have the virus, so no place for you to actually catch it, let alone the requirement for close physical contact… You’re simply not going to pick it up by going to a restaurant or going to the mall or going to certain parts of town within ethnic communities,” he said.

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