Canadians celebrate Lunar New Year despite concerns over coronavirus

VANCOUVER — Lunar New Year celebrations lit up Vancouver's Chinatown with firecrackers and colourful lion dancers on Sunday, though at least one other event in the Lower Mainland was cancelled over fears of the new coronavirus.

The Live in Langley Chinese Association cancelled its gala, which was also sponsored by the Township of Langley, as fears rose after authorities detected Canada's first case of coronavirus on Saturday in a patient who had travelled to Toronto from Wuhan, China.

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Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday that the risk of infection is low and Canadians should not worry about contracting the virus in a casual setting, urging people to take normal precautions but otherwise continue their lives.

Vancouver resident Jason Ng attended the Lunar New Year celebrations with his wife, father and three-year-old son to watch his other five-year-old son dance in the parade.

"It was something kind of in the back of our heads," Ng said of the virus. "It wasn't a huge concern."

Another spectator, Ethan Donnelly, said he works at the University of British Columbia and a coworker who is from China skipped this year's celebrations for fear of the virus.

"We want to celebrate, but better safe than sorry," he said, gesturing to the mask he wore during the parade.

Though some donned the surgical masks at the event, experts advise against them, saying the ones widely available at drug stores aren't particularly effective and noting that repeatedly adjusting them with unwashed hands can actually exacerbate risk of infection.

Ella Lewis-Vass, who also works and studies at the university, said she believed those who were most concerned about contracting the virus likely stayed home.

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China, but it remains to be seen whether it's as dangerous as the common flu, which kills 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2019.

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