WUHAN, China (NEWS 1130) – Two weeks after Wuhan, China went under lockdown because of the novel coronavirus, a few hundred Canadians wanting to come home are finally leaving the city.
More than 300 Canadians have asked for help getting out of the epicentre of the outbreak, but only 211 have a seat on the chartered plane, which was organized by the federal government. An American plane is expected to carry a “few dozen” more Canadians, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. A second plane has also been secured, just in case.
“We’ll look at the manifest and if there are still Canadians who want to be evacuated, obviously we have the other option to sending a second Canadian plane,” Champagne said on Wednesday.
First plane lands in Wuhan
The first plane, which has spend the last few days in Hanoi, Vietnam, has landed in Wuhan and boarding is slowly underway.
Evacuees are being screened before, during, and after the flight, which is expected to take-off Thursday evening local time — around 9:00 a.m. PST. It was initially supposed to leave Thursday morning but was delayed by 21 hours because of weather conditions.
“The military contribution to this part of the operation consists of a medical team, comprised of six Canadian Forces Health Services medical professionals,” said Major General T-J Cadieu of the Department of National Defence.
“They’re tasked to conduct health screening of returnees as part of the aircraft on boarding procedures in Wuhan and to monitor the health of returnees during the return flight to Canada.”
The flight is expected to make a stop in Vancouver before landing in Trenton, Ontario, where a military base will house all on board, including the flight crew, for a 14-day quarantine.
Meanwhile, two Canadians on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan are among roughly 20 people on board who have tested positive for virus. The Diamond Princess, carrying a total of 3,700 people, including about 250 Canadians, is being quarantined for two weeks after several people first fell ill earlier this week.
The two Canadians didn’t test positive at first, when 10 people were escorted off and the ship was put on lockdown.
All those infected have since been taken to shore and are being treated in hospital.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday Canada has engaged with the Japanese government to see what support can be provided to those on the cruise ship.
The novel coronavirus, which has spread to a number of countries, including Canada, has infected more than 28,000 people in China, where more than 560 have died.
-With files from The Canadian Press