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At least 325 Canadians in Hubei waiting to be chartered out of China
TORONTO -- The Canadian Armed Forces will be assisting in receiving Canadians who will be taking a federally chartered plane out of Wuhan, China, according to a statement from Chief of the Defence Staff General J.H. Vance.
CAF medical teams are also being tasked with going with government officials and helping Canadians once they are repatriated at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont.
Vance assured Trenton, Ont. residents that “while we host our fellow citizens, as they are undergoing medical observation and evaluation, there is no risk to you and your families.”
The plane was chartered after Global Affairs Canada received 325 requests from Canadians who wish to leave the Chinese province Hubei, which at the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The plane will arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam first before it’s deployed to Wuhan, according to Global Affairs Canada on Sunday.
Airspace to the locked-down city Wuhan is currently closed, but the plane will land once the government of China gives authorization. Global Affairs gave no indication on the status of that flight.
Both government officials and military personnel are en route to Hanoi, Global Affairs Canada said. And the group is in the process of obtaining visas from the Chinese government to enter Wuhan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also convened the Incident Response Group to determine next steps in assisting the group being repatriated. The group discussed actions that would be taken, including health screenings and a period of observation at the base.
The department said it consulting with the U.S. and Britain for co-operation in the endeavour, as it said it was exploring all avenues to help Canadians leave Wuhan and that it would be providing updates to those affected.
“We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our ‘Travel Advice’ to enable Canadians to make well-informed decisions regarding their travel abroad,” Global Affairs spokesperson Sylvain Leclerc said, adding the department “was monitoring the situation.”
“It is important to note that individuals should not present themselves to the airport unannounced as they will not be permitted to board the aircraft,” Leclerc said.
The death toll in China climbed to 361 on Sunday, and the number of cases worldwide surged past 17,205, according to China's National Health Commission and other nations.
Canada has four known cases -- three in Ontario and one in British Columbia. The Canadian government has not said whether Canadians arriving from China would be quarantined.
Health officials in Canada said that despite widespread fear of the virus, the chances of contracting it in Canada is exceptionally low. But people should take normal cold- and flu-season precautions
On Jan. 29, Global Affairs Canada increased its risk level to avoid non-essential travel to China due to the coronavirus outbreak. The next day, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the new virus from China a global health emergency.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the main reason for the declaration is because of how the virus could affect other countries. "Our greatest concern is the potential for this virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” he said.
The spread of the coronavirus has grounded scores of Canadian families in the region who’ve been affected by flight cancellations in and out of the country. But the issue is compounded for families with Chinese relatives.
The Chinese government has told Canada only those who have entered China with a Canadian passport would be allowed to board the chartered plane, so Canadian families -- with relatives who are Chinese nationals -- are being forced to decide whether to leave or stay put.
Leclerc urged Canadian citizens elsewhere in China “that wish to leave should do so while commercial means continue to be available and provided it is safe to do so.” But warned citizens they “must carefully check entry and exit requirements for the countries they may be transiting through.”
OTHER COUNTRIES CHARTER FLIGHTS OUT OF CHINA
On Sunday, a second French-chartered plane carrying 300 citizens from China touched down at a military base in Bouches-du-Rhone, in southern France. The first plane landed in France on Friday.
Close to 200 Americans were previously evacuated from Wuhan and will be quarantined for two weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said is the first time a federal quarantine has been implemented in the U.S. since the 1960s At the time, health officials were worried about the potential spread of smallpox.
South Korea is following the lead of the U.S. and is also quarantining its evacuees who arrived on Friday. Facilities have been set up in Asan and Jincheon, where residents have protested evacuees being put in their neighbourhoods.
Residents there threw objects, including eggs at government officials.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has been defending its plan to send its evacuees to Christmas Island. Facilities there house banished asylum seekers and convicted criminals.
The Canadian Press reported some Australians said they preferred to stay in China.
With files from CTV News' Parliamentary Bureau Reporter Annie Bergeron-Oliver, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press