No "additional risk" from curling event, NH says

Hosting the 2020 Women's World Curling Tournament poses little health risk to the city, according to Northern Health.

Northern Health medical health officer Dr. Rakel Kling said the health authority has been monitoring the global outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the corona virus, and currently the risk to Canadians and British Columbians remains low.

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"We know that the situation with COVID-19 is changing rapidly," Kling said. "(But) we don't feel there is any additional risk from hosting this event."

While there will be people coming internationally to attend the event, people are arriving in B.C. every day from all over the world through the Vancouver Airport, she said.

Northern Health is in communication with provincial and federal public health authorities, Kling added, and they've been advised there is no reason to cancel planned public events at this time.

The best defense against COVID-19 is good basic hygiene and using the same measures, which are effective against colds and flu, she said.

"The most important thing is washing hands regularly... (And) especially staying home if you're sick," Kling said.

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said Northern Health routinely works with event organizers to assess potential public health risks. That assessment process builds on work that was done ahead of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, she said.

"We look at things like are they going to be group housing people and mass-feeding them... the venue, is it indoors or outdoors? It looks at all of those things," Collins said. "The focus is very much about having a safe, healthy event."

Curling Canada event manager Terry Morris said the organizers are taking the issue of COVID-19 seriously and is working actively with Northern Health to ensure the event is as safe as possible.

"I discuss corona virus with Curling Canada every other day. It's not something they are taking lightly," Morris said. "The athletes that are taking part in this event are all sanctioned to travel."

The majority of teams are already in Canada, he added. The Italian team is training in Calgary, Japan and South Korea are both training in Vancouver and team China is also in Canada. The Chinese team has been training in Europe since October-November of last year.

The organizers will be distributing Northern Health's information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 to all the teams, volunteers, sponsors and staff, he said.

Each of the teams is made up of five athletes, plus three to five additional support staff, he said. However, the teams may be bringing a number of followers who have purchased tickets as individuals.

"We don't know all the followers who will be coming," Morris said. "Scotland is bringing some followers. The U.S. is bringing some."

However, he said, any people coming to attend the event from outside Canada will have to be screened at the airport in their own country and may be screened upon arrival in Canada as well.

"We know that potentially they are not going to get out of their own country with the virus," Morris said.

 CN Centre general manager Glen Mikkelsen said CN Centre and the Kin centres will have additional hand sanitizer stations and signage developed by the World Health Organization. City staff will be cleaning the facilities regularly, to reduce the risk of disease spreading.

Mikkelsen said he's confident the event can be held successfully and safely.

"I was in communication with the general manager of the Brier out in Kingston (Ontario)," he said. "Their event was tremendously successful with full houses for at least the last five draws."

Currently almost 400 volunteers are preparing to host the World Curling Tournament, he added.

"We've only had a couple folks say they're not able to assist because of pre-existing health issues," Mikkelsen said "We're really encouraged by the enthusiasm."

Coun. Kyle Sampson said city council has been hearing from members of the public with the safety of hosting the event, and hearing directly from health officials that there is no additional risk will hopefully allow members of the public to "rest assured this is safe event for Prince George to undertake."

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