Canada Eyes Thursday Evacuation for Citizens in Virus Zone

(Bloomberg) -- Canada plans to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan as soon as Feb. 6, with at least one plane departing from the Chinese city at the heart of a deadly viral outbreak.

The flight is expected to carry Canadians and residents of Canada out of Wuhan. The spread of coronavirus has killed more than 400 people in China, with single deaths also reported in Hong Kong and Philippines. Over 20,600 cases have now been identified, an increase from about 17,000 the previous day.

Global Affairs Canada, the government’s foreign ministry, told citizens in the region a flight is expected to leave Thursday, according to an email received by a relative of a Canadian in Wuhan. Foreign ministry officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for confirmation.

Asked about the specific date on his way into a cabinet meeting Tuesday in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied: “We’re hoping they’ll be coming back very soon.”

Canada Eyes Thursday Evacuation for Citizens in Virus Zone

More than 300 Canadians currently in the Wuhan region of China have requested consular services for assisted repatriation, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters a day earlier, adding the government will release final numbers closer to when the evacuation takes place. At a press briefing, he said the timeline is still being worked out, and a team is on the ground in Wuhan.

Once the passengers arrive back in Canada, they will be subject to a 14-day holding period at a military base in Trenton, Ontario to be monitored for any symptoms of the virus.

Canada has been slower than other countries to issue an evacuation plan, prompting the Chinese government to praise the North American country for remaining calm. The U.S. and Australia -- key trading partners to China -- are barring entry to all non-resident travelers from the mainland as the virus spreads.

Relations between the northern nation and China have been severely strained by Canada’s arrest of a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive on an American extradition request in an Iran sanctions case. But the diplomatic dispute doesn’t appear to be impeding Canada’s response to the virus. “In this case, I can say that China’s being fully cooperative,” Trudeau said Tuesday.

Last week, a third case of coronavirus was confirmed in Ontario on Jan. 31, bringing the total number to four in Canada. A woman in her 20s arrived in Wuhan from Toronto on Jan. 23 and went to London, Ontario, developing symptoms a day later. She was first tested negative, but a second test confirmed the virus.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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