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Wuhan coronavirus: Newmarket's 2nd annual Chinese New Year event cancelled

'We believe risk is very low, but need to be cautious and responsible,' event organizer says
Jan. 30, 2020
Kim Champion

Newmarket’s 108 Health Promotion Association announced the cancellation of its 2nd annual Chinese Lunar New Year celebration over concerns about the emerging Wuhan novel coronavirus.

The event, which was planned for Saturday, Feb. 8 and for the second year organized in partnership with Upper Canada Mall and held on the premises, drew about 4,000 revellers to its inaugural 2019 fest.

The 200-member local group joins others across the Greater Toronto Area that are cancelling Lunar New Year events in the wake of two confirmed cases of the Wuhan novel coronavirus in Toronto.

“I think people are sensitive about the potential of the virus spreading, they are more agitated,” 108 Health Promotion Association spokesperson Edmund Yeung said. “I believe and have full confidence in the government, the World Health Organization, and Ministry of Health, but I do think this precaution is well worth it because people are concerned, and we’re being responsible.”

There are now 23 cases of the new coronavirus under investigation as of 10:30 a.m. today, according to Ontario’s Health Ministry, which provides up-to-date information at a dedicated website.

In a Jan. 29 World Health Organization update, there are 6,065 confirmed cases worldwide, including three in Canada (two in Ontario and one in British Columbia), five confirmed cases in the United States, 5,997 confirmed cases in China, including 132 deaths, and 68 confirmed cases in 15 other countries.

There are no presumed or confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in York Region, a public health spokesperson said.

And there is no evidence of community spread in Canada, York Region officials said, adding the risk of acquiring the virus in the community remains low for York Region residents.

The local public health unit is working closely with hospitals and community health-care providers on the evolving situation to ensure reporting and management of any suspected cases, officials said on its dedicated webpage.

For Yeung and his group, and the steering committee of the 2020 Northern Toronto Lunar New Year community celebration, the decision to cancel the celebration at Newmarket’s mall was made out of an abundance of caution.

The event’s executive producer, Wendy Li, has been planning and coaching more than 200 performers for the past three months. About 100 volunteers were geared to go, and more than 20 sponsors signed on, including NewRoads Automotive Group.

“We’re still recovering from the shock of cancelling it, but it’s not unsurprising,” Yeung said. “It’s a pity, Wendy has spent three months of her life on this, and the community and political support we received from Newmarket, Aurora, and East Gwillimbury has been so positive.”

“It’s all about bringing the community together and uniting people around a Chinese cultural exchange,” Yeung said. “We’ve learned a lot from doing this. We’ve built the relationships and the template, so next time whatever festival we put on will be even bigger and better than the 4,000 who attended last year. It’s all very rewarding.”

Newmarket’s Chinese not-for-profit organization, 108 Health Promotion Association, is the largest of its kind in York Region. It began in 2015 and its mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle among seniors and integrate them into the community through recreation and social programs.

“We still believe the risk is very low, but we just need to be cautious about the whole thing and be responsible,” Yeung said. “From a participation and enthusiasm standpoint, it couldn’t be better. From the Chinese community right through to the mainstream, everybody is supporting this. This was one of the big events that unites the community, and we’ll be back next year.”