Just like that, more than 1,000 people on three flights from China walked into Canada without medical screening.
If the coronavirus happens to be incubating in any one of those passengers who arrived at Pearson International Airport’s Terminal 3 on Monday, they are now mingling with Canadian residents.
“I was asked when we got to the Canada Custom’s inspection point if I had been in Wuhan in the past 14 days or if I had a fever,” said Jerry, who with his wife, travelled from Shanghai. “I said no.”
That one-word answer got him through.
First stop before heading home to Oakville was a place to eat. After 14 hours in the air without a bite, they were famished.
“I didn’t eat for the whole flight,” said Jerry’s wife, Te. “I kept my mask on the whole time.”
Many passengers said they didn’t want to take a chance of exposing their mouths to the virus.
Passengers talked of hearing about sick people in China who perished at the hands of the coronavirus but were oblivious to reports that up to 19 in Ontario may have been exposed.
The big question: Was anybody on these flights a carrier?
All nice people. Many visiting. Many residents.
But Canada is taking a big gamble. Those coming from China reported they did not see doctors, nurses or undergo any medical screening upon their arrival at Pearson.
Their entry is, in essence, based on a wing and a prayer.
“It is scary,” said Maggie Tu, who came to Toronto for the first time to visit a friend.
Tu wore her mask the whole time but with a virus incubation period of up to 10 days, she said it is something on one’s mind.
“I was nowhere near Wuhan but I guess you never know. That virus can spread,” she said.
All passengers said they had their temperature taken upon boarding in China. The people who serve airline passengers were also taking precautions.
On these flights, even the pilots and the flight attendants were donning masks.
Coronavirus control at airports is pretty much a leap of faith.
There’s no lie detector test or questioning designed to ensure people are telling the truth.
Thousands have been given entry based on the honour system.
Airport porter understands job risks
As a porter at Pearson International Airport, Uthi Ponnuthurai understands the risks he’s facing as the coronavirus spreads.
But he’s not going to stop serving customers.
“We know there’s danger but we have a job to do,” he said.
Since this issue broke, Uthi says he has been wearing a medical mask and sometimes gloves.
“I bought a mask before they were all gone,” he added. “We have to wear it because we really don’t know where the passengers have been.”
He described his supervisors as “very supportive.”
Airport workers deserve a pat on the back for their dedication.
Anybody who works at the airport — from information people, currency exchange, security to check-in personnel — were generally wearing masks. Canada Customs and Immigration staff chose full-face masks since they are the first contact for incoming China flights.
Fast food and restaurant workers at Pearson were also expressing concern since they to have constant interaction with passengers.
“We can’t exactly wear a mask in the hospitality industry so we run the risk of becoming exposed,” said one waiter. “We know it’s a difficult situation but the authorities are tougher on people trying park out front than they are on people coming in from where the coronavirus originates.”
This content was originally published here.