Health Care

Canadians returning from China to be quarantined at CFB Trenton

In a news conference, officials announced they have chartered a plane to bring back 280 Canadians who have requested to be removed from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic. They will have already been given primary screening before boarding the plane, further screening in flight by medical staff on board and once they are at CFB Trenton. But officials said they were closely watching developments in other countries, including the United States.

The Chinese government does not recognize dual citizenship, so potential Canadian passengers who are also Chinese citizens may not be allowed to leave.

According to CNN, almost 200 Americans evacuated from Wuhan were asked by health officials to stay for at least three days at a Southern California military base. Champagne said if there are more people than the plane can hold they will prioritize the most vulnerable people on the first flight.

Canada has not called for a public health emergency in the wake of the coronavirus, but has the authority as part of an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act to keep those returning from Wuhan in isolation for 14 days before they can leave the base.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Fran├žois-Phillippe Champagne said, "The Government of Canada takes the health and safety of Canadians, both at home and overseas, very seriously".

"They will be isolated to prevent spread of disease, but also to protect them and help them recover", she added.

"The government remains fully engaged on the issue, and will do all that is necessary to ensure the safety of Canadians, both at home and overseas", said a statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office after a meeting of senior cabinet members where the plan to quarantine at the Trenton military base was discussed.

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"We are working within their jurisdiction ... but I don't anticipate we will get the Chinese to concede on that point", she said.

The government's plan is to house people at Yukon Lodge, a hotel facility at the Trenton base, which has 290 rooms.

"These folks are in the city of Wuhan and that is the centre of the epidemic". Permanent residents who are not travelling with kids will not be allowed on the flight.

"To our neighbours in the Trenton area, let me assure you that while we host our fellow citizens as they are undergoing medical observation and evaluation, there is no risk to you and your families". It is not clear how numerous 280 Canadian passport holders used their Canadian passport to enter China, as some may also have passports from China or other countries.

The numbers remain fluid and Canada has secured a second flight, as well as seats on other flights, should they be needed.

While there's been no sign any of the Canadians asking for help from the government are sick, Hajdu noted they are asking to leave the Wuhan region because "life has become exceedingly hard". "I think that's a very important thing to remember".

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