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Feds secure plane to repatriate Canadians from China amid coronavirus outbreak

Last Updated Jan 29, 2020 at 3:34 pm MDT


The government has secured a plane to bring Canadians who want to be brought back out of China

Federal health minister says the government is reaching out to allies about their evacuation efforts

Government says more work needs to be done to see how exactly repatriation will take place amid lockdowns in Wuhan

OTTAWA – The federal government has now secured a plane to help bring citizens stuck in the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak back to Canada from China.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said so far, 160 Canadians have asked for help to be brought back because of the virus, which has infected more than 6,000 people on mainland China. A number of other cases have also been confirmed around the world.

It’s unclear when exactly repatriation would happen, however, Champagne said the next step is to work with Chinese authorities to gain access to the locked down region around Wuhan.

“Then we need to work on the logistics, because as you know, the city is under lockdown,” he told reporters Wednesday.

The federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, said the government is still working on what to do when these Canadians return from China.

“The goals of the process will be to protect the health of Canadians both here in Canada and the health of Canadians returning,” she said. “Will people be allowed to come back if they’re sick? These are the conversation that we’re having with our partners, including China, to determine how, in fact, people are allowed to board and what the processes are.”

She noted that not all Canadians in China who have requested help want to be repatriated, and said some of the concerns flagged have been related to supplies, travel around the region, and family members.

The ministers would not confirm if taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the repatriation effort.

Meanwhile, Canadians are now being advised to avoid all non-essential travel to China, amid the outbreak.

The prime minister said earlier in the day that the government was doing all it could to help the Canadians stuck in the Wuhan region, but he called the situation complex.

“We will look at what we can do, there are many countries looking at different ways to help out,” Justin Trudeau said. “We are working very closely with our consular officials in China. We are listening and concerned about the Canadians who are, right now, in the affected zone.”

The number of people infected by the novel coronavirus has now surpassed the number of people infected during the SARS outbreak nearly 20 years ago. However, so far, 132 people in China have died — which is less than the SARS death toll of 348.

The World Health Organization has said many of the cases that are being reported outside of China are people who have visited the country.

“There are signs of a few cases of human-to-human transmission outside China, in three countries, which we’re monitoring very closely,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.