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Canadians stuck in China's coronavirus quarantine zones seek government help to return home

Canadians stuck in China's coronavirus quarantine zones seek government help to return home

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Canada’s efforts could include chartering a plane and sending it to pick up the Canadians or getting space on planes leased by other countries 

OTTAWA – At least 126 Canadians stuck in quarantined areas of China are asking for the government’s help to get home, as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne said in total 250 Canadians have registered with the government, as being in the area, with nearly half that number asking for help.

“This number may have changed since the last time I checked, because more people are registering, more people are contacting us,” he said.

Several cities across Hubei province in China have been quarantined by the Chinese government, which is aiming to reduce the spread. Hong Kong is closing rail and road links with mainland China and flights across the region.

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Champagne said the government hasn’t worked out exactly what it will do, but it is committed to providing consular services to the Canadians who need help.

“It is the middle of the night in China. We are in contact with them or trying to contact them. We want to assess their specific need for assisted repatriation,” he said on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

Canada’s efforts could include chartering a plane and sending it to pick up the Canadians or getting space on planes leased by other countries. Champagne said at this point everything is on the table.

“We are looking at all options to assist them that is our priority.”

Champagne said before any decisions could be made the government needed to reach out to the stranded Canadians.

“Before I can answer your questions, we need to talk to them. We need to figure out all the options, the best option,” he said. “We need to understand their medical condition, their specific wishes.”

Image

People wait at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital as medical staff wear protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, Jan. 24, 2020. Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

He said the government will also have to discuss the issue with the Chinese government.

Global Affairs Canada was also now recommending against any travel to the Hubei region of China.

As of Tuesday, Canada has had three reported cases of the illness, two people in Toronto and a third case in Vancouver.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said they don’t know the health status of the Canadians in China and are trying to garner information so they can start planning.

“Those are exactly the details that our departments are working on together.”

She said the evidence so far indicates that people who do not have symptoms can not spread the virus, but they will do everything possible to keep people well.

“This is the utmost priority for me, ensuring we are protecting the health and safety of Canadians whether they are here or abroad.”

She said the people in the quarantine may be perfectly healthy, but have other reasons for wanting out of the area.

“Part of the risk to travel to the area is not necessarily about contracting the coronavirus, but the strict quarantine the entire region is under,” she said. “People that are visiting to that region or travelling to that region may have a hard time accessing supplies that they need, or they may have a hard time getting around the community.”


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