Toronto, the only locale outside Asia to be put under a SARS-related travel advisory by the World Health Organization, got some relief yesterday when the WHO lifted the advisory after just one week. As a condition of lifting the advisory, Canada has agreed to check international travelers for fevers with an infrared temperature-taking device in Toronto and Vancouver before allowing them to board flights.
There are still 39 active SARS cases in Toronto, and 498 people are still being quarantined. Five victims are in critical condition, and 21 people in the area have died of the disease. No new cases have been reported in the area since April 9, or in the healthcare system, where the contagion has been concentrated, since April 20.
While this is sure to be well-received news for Toronto, the effect of SARS continues to spread around the world. The WHO has connected travelers from Toronto to SARS cases in the Philippines, Australia, and the United States. Travelers from Asia continue to be placed under quarantine in the U.S., among other places. Much of Asia remains under WHO travel advisories.
While the lifting of the travel advisory in Toronto has been greeted as a good sign by many in the hospitality industry, anxiety over future effects of SARS lingers. Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, said when announcing his company’s first-quarter results, "I remain optimistic for the back half of the year, assuming the SARS crisis dissipates." Hilton Hotels expressed concern over SARS when announcing its first-quarter results as well: "As a company with hotels primarily in the United States, it [Hilton] has seen relatively little effect on its total business as a result of the SARS situation. However, it has seen a further weakening of the Japanese business in Hawaii and in the international group market."