Car rental agencies are being criticized for their slow response to the Zika virus, which has swept through North America and has claimed thousands of lives.
In Manitoba, some people are still unable to find a rental car for the first time since it was declared officially over in May.CBC News asked three agencies to explain their slow pace of rental applications.
The first two didn’t respond to a request for comment.
One agency, which declined to give its name, said it can’t answer questions about Zika and has no comment on any individual case.
The second said it was still working to make sure the virus is contained, but said it would not discuss specific cases.
“Our focus is on the safety and well-being of our clients,” the agency said in a statement.
“We can only offer a limited amount of time to assess each individual case and respond to each case, based on the information we have at this time.
Our goal is to ensure the clients receive the services they need to return to their normal lives.”
Another agency, the third that didn’t return our calls, said that it had no comment.
A spokesman for the Manitoba Public Health Agency said the department has been working closely with agencies and other partners in the province to identify and respond effectively to the pandemic.
“The Manitoba Public health agency is working to identify, evaluate and respond appropriately to the virus,” he said in an email.
“All the agencies that responded to our inquiry are required to submit a completed, risk-assessment plan and follow-up information to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable health and safety requirements.
The Manitoba Publichealth agency does not comment on individual cases.”
The Manitoba Health Agency has said that the response to Zika in Manitoba has been excellent.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has said it has been monitoring and responding to all cases and has set up a crisis centre at the hospital to provide resources.
“If anyone is in a vulnerable situation, we will assist them,” the authority said in its statement.
But for many, getting a rental vehicle can be difficult, and even when they do get a rental, it can take months.
For people like Mark Sacco, it took more than two months for his rental car to arrive.
His daughter, who was born in August, has had to spend up to six months on the road before finding a place to stay.
“I’m lucky to have this apartment in Winnipeg,” he says.
“It’s pretty much my house, but we’re moving into a house a little farther away.”
It took nearly two months, and his daughter is still in Winnipeg, and he’s still waiting for a rental to arrive that would let her move in.
The city’s mayor has called for more public awareness of Zika, which was first identified in a remote region in Brazil in late March.
In Toronto, where the number of confirmed Zika cases in the city rose to more than 5,000, the number is up more than 50 per cent from last month.
“There’s a lot of people living in areas that have Zika and they’re having problems getting access to services,” says Councillor Michael Thompson.
“It’s been frustrating.
It’s been a challenge.”
Some people are finding their way back to their hometowns, or finding new homes.
For others, they’re stuck with expensive, out-of-date rental vehicles.
In Calgary, the city’s new chief medical officer has called on the province and city to provide more public information about Zika to people who can’t afford a rental.
“When it comes to Zika, we have to be able to answer questions, we must be able do research and we have a role to play in public health,” Dr. Doug Saunders said at a news conference Wednesday.
“But I can’t make people do this because we can’t do it on our own.”
What we can do is have a conversation with all our residents and say we’re going to work with the community to ensure that they are informed of the facts, and that we’re there to support them in that journey.
“Toronto is home to about 200,000 people who are living in emergency housing, according to the city.