OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Two-hundred-eleven Canadians stuck in Wuhan, China, are now on their way back to Canada.
The repatriation efforts are the first for Canada out of the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak since it began in December of 2019.
The flight, which will make a brief refuelling stop in Vancouver, is expected to arrive at CFB Trenton in the early hours of Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said.
“As expected, we had a small number of no-shows at the airport, mostly related to individuals who changed their minds at the last minute,” he said.
And they're off… First plane evacuating Canadians out of #Wuhan is in the air. It will make a stop at #YVR for gas before landing tomorrow morning in Trenton, Ontario, where evacuees will be taken to a military base for 14 day quarantine. #coronavirus @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/M6sRobQNx3
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) February 6, 2020
A number of seats have also been secured on an American flight to get more Canadians out of Wuhan. Champagne said that plane is also currently on the ground and is expected to depart shortly after the aircraft the Canadian government secured leaves.
“And is also expected to land in Trenton in the early hours of the 7th of February,” he said.
With these two flights, the government said about two-thirds of the Canadians looking to get out of the region, which is the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, would have left for Canada.
This means, however, that the federal government will need to charter a second plane to get remaining Canadians out. Champagne said that plane is scheduled to leave Wuhan on Feb. 10, arriving in Canada the next day.
As of Thursday, the government said close to 350 Canadians have asked for assistance in leaving Wuhan, China.
Meanwhile, all Canadians are asked to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and all travel to the Hubei province.
“We are also advising Canadians whose presence in China is not essential to consider leaving via commercial means,” Champagne added.
First flight will arrive at CFB Trenton early hours tomorrow. Health Minister @PattyHajdu now recapping the screening procedures. Canadian military screening before flight, officials observing on flight, screening upon arrival. #cdnpoli
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) February 6, 2020
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said efforts to minimize the risks to Canadians in Canada as well as those returning are ongoing.
Anyone who is ill will not be allowed to board any of the repatriation flights, and Hajdu said passengers will also be assessed by Department of National Defence.
“On board the flight, DND medical staff will perform health assessments of each person and travellers will complete a health declaration and receive and sign a Passenger Information and Acknowledgement form,” she explained.
Once passengers have landed and are processed, Hajdu said they will be handed an information package and a room. Families will be grouped together, she added.
In addition to daily health assessments, people under quarantine will also be provided with general help.
“That includes clothing, diapers, food, formula, and games,” Hajdu said.
Mental health supports are also being made available to the Canadians who will be in quarantine for 14 days after arrival.