Half of Canadians known to be in Hubei, China seek feds' help to return home amid coronavirus outbreak
OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne confirmed that 126 Canadians are seeking the government's help to leave China as the coronavirus spreads through the country.
That's half of the 250 Canadians who have registered to the government that they are currently in China's Hubei province. Canadians are still registering as being in the region on the Global Affairs Canada website, meaning those numbers could increase.
"Of the 250 Canadians who have registered, 126 have signified their wish for assisted repatriation," Champagne told reporters outside the House of Commons on Tuesday.
He said the government is still exploring options for what that repatriating will look like, and all options are currently on the table – including seeking the assistance of other countries or chartering flights to China.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said her "utmost priority" is protecting the health of Canadians, whether they're abroad or at home.
"We're working right now with our officials to develop a plan, and that's why we'll come back to you as soon as we have that plan to give you the details," Hajdu told the reporters.
"I'm not going to, at this point, speculate about what kinds of measures might be in place because we still need to assess the needs of people that are in China and also what capacity we have at a national level."
As the government grapples with helping the Canadians who are in China, cases are being discovered here at home. Two cases have been confirmed in Ontario, while a presumptive case has also been recorded in British Columbia.
A small number of Canadians are also being monitored for the virus after reporting symptoms.
The outbreak was first flagged on New Year's Eve, when a cluster of cases believed to be pneumonia were discovered in Wuhan, the capital city of China's Hubei province.
Shortly afterwards, officials realized the patients did not have pneumonia, but instead were ill with a new virus that had never before been found in humans: the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.
Coronaviruses are a "large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases," according to Health Canada.
More than 4,500 people have been infected so far, and over 100 have died.