Abbotsford trade expos still on as officials monitor coronavirus spread

Tourism officials also watching effect of oil price war on Alberta economy

As the spread of COVID-19 prompts more discussion about whether mass gathering of people should proceed as originally planned, the operators of Abbotsford’s Tradex exhibition centre is monitoring the global health situation while continuing to plan for upcoming trade shows.

On Monday, the province announced the first death linked to the novel coronavirus. More than two dozen other people in British Columbia have tested positive for the illness.

The virus has flu-like symptoms and poses an elevated danger of death to seniors and those with other health conditions.

Although Canada has only had one recorded death, 22 people have died in the United States, including 19 in Washington State. Most of those were residents of a single nursing home in the Seattle area. Officials in the U.S. believe the virus may have spread for weeks undetected.

Major sporting events have been cancelled in the United States, Ireland announced Monday that it wouldn’t be holding St. Patrick’s Day festivities this year, and all of Italy is under quarantine. School has also been cancelled in some countries, including Japan.

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Such steps haven’t been taken yet in B.C. But officials have spoken about a range of options should the virus spread here. Even if the virus can’t be completely halted, the aim would be to slow its spread to allow for health facilities and supports to better cope.

Tradex hosted the BC Sportsmen’s Show over the weekend, and more events are scheduled for the coming weeks

Craig Nichols, the executive director of Tourism Abbotsford, which operates Tradex, said staff have intensified their cleaning efforts in January, and have increased the availability of sanitizer and cleaning stations. More housekeeping staff will also be present during event days to keep frequently touched areas as clean as possible.

“We’re doing what we can operationally,” he said.

Nichols said officials have been taking their cues from the federal and provincial governments.

On Monday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix issued a joint statement that warned event organizers to consider the risk of bringing a large number of people together.

“Event organizers should ask all participants to stay away if they are sick, returning from affected areas or have underlying health conditions that may be impacted by respiratory illness,” the statements said. “Organizers should also complete a risk assessment considering what is happening in the local community and who may attend the event.”

Over the next month, Tradex will host the Health and Wellness Show, the Creativ Festival and a manurfacturing and design expo.

Tourism figures were up in Abbotsford over the first two months of the year, but the new coronavirus could have a significant impact on the travel plans of people around the globe. Travellers have been asked to reconsider or avoid cruises and travel to those countries that have seen significant outbreaks.

They have also been advised to consider their ability to tolerate a quarantine if they find themselves in a foreign country that becomes subject to COVID-19-related restrictions.

Nichols said that if more British Columbians decide to spend their vacations in-province instead of travelling to other countries, that has the potential to benefit communities like Abbotsford that get most of their tourists from BC., Alberta or Washington.

But uncertainty reigns. The decision by Saudi Arabia to dramatically increase oil production has the potential to significantly impact the Alberta economy – and the finances of many people there.

The fallout from that, Nichols said, has the potential to be greater than anything from COVID-19.

“That almost creates a bigger concern moving forward for the rest of the summer,” he said. “It really speaks to consumer confidence.”

Parm Sidhu, the general manager of Abbotsford International Airport, said YXX officials are also bearing down on cleaning while keeping an eye on the situation. At the present, though, the situation is business as usual.

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