Richard Fabic is voluntarily entering the quarantine zone at a Canadian Forces base to reunite with his 15-month-old daughter, Chloe, who was among hundreds of Canadians evacuated from Wuhan, China amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
“Once I go in, there’s no do-overs,” Fabic told CTV News on Friday before heading into quarantine. “At the same time, can I get there any faster, and can I see her any sooner?”
More than 200 Canadians and their families arrived Friday on two chartered flights from China, the epicentre of the outbreak that has killed 722 and infected another 31,774. They will spend the next two weeks being closely monitored at the Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario.
Fabic, a Canadian citizen from Mississauga, Ont., has been anxiously awaiting his daughter’s return. Chloe had been visiting family in China with her grandparents. He jumped at the opportunity to be with his daughter, even if it meant putting himself under quarantine as well.
Montrealers Megan Millward, Lie Zhang and their children were worried Zhang would not be able to return with them to Canada because he is a permanent resident and not a Canadian citizen. But he was given permission to board with them just moments before takeoff.
“I think definitely the worst is behind us. It won’t be a breeze finding things to do with them, but they gave us colouring books, toys, and we have electronic devices,” Millward said. “We’ll definitely make it. We’re not worried.”
So far, there have been five confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada with two more presumptive cases identified in British Columbia. Seven Canadians on a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan are also among 41 passengers who have also tested positive for the virus.
ARRIVAL IN CANADA
The first plane landed at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Quinte West, approximately 170 kilometres east of Toronto, just before 7 a.m. local time on Friday. The Canadian government-chartered flight brought 174 people, including 13 permanent residents and six Chinese nationals who escorted 34 Canadian minors, back home from China.
The second plane, chartered by the U.S. government, landed at the military base early Friday afternoon in the middle of a snowstorm. That flight carried 39 Canadians from Wuhan.
Both planes made refuelling stops in Vancouver before they landed in Ontario. The first flight was initially scheduled to leave on Wednesday, but it was delayed due to bad weather. The second U.S. flight departed Wuhan a few hours after the first.
While there was room on the Canadian flight for 211 passengers, only 176 boarded the plane because Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said there were some no-shows, as they expected.
Two-thirds of Canadians who requested to leave Wuhan have already been evacuated, according to Champagne.
With more than 100 Canadians still trying to leave the region, another flight is scheduled to depart on Feb. 10.
Upon arrival at the air force base, the passengers underwent a medical assessment before they were transported to accommodations on the base where they will be monitored for two weeks to ensure they haven’t contracted the virus.
Anyone who exhibits symptoms will be transported to a local hospital for further treatment.
During the isolation period, the evacuees will be individually isolated in a 290-room motel-like accommodation that is regularly used to house military families and other visitors to the base.
The Red Cross is on site during the quarantine to provide support from registration, providing supplies, wellness checks and referrals to any other support they may need.
RELIEF AND STRESS
Families, many of whom were already in extended self-isolation before leaving China, will be housed together during the 14-day quarantine at the base.
“Initially, I think there’s going to be a great sense of relief to be finally home,” said Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist with the University of British Columbia.
“I expect in the first few days, things are going to be pretty good for them. But later on, they’ll be facing challenges with feelings of boredom and confinement. And that’s going to be a big challenge for people to deal with. Some people are going to find that quite stressful.”
When Millward and her husband arrived at CFB Trenton, Millward told CTV News Channel they spoke with officials from the Red Cross who asked them if they needed any supplies for the isolation period, such as diapers and wipes.
Millward said the room where they will be staying in for the next two weeks resembles a “fully equipped hotel room.”
“It has the most important things, which are Wi-Fi and television,” she said with a laugh.
Millward said they will be allowed to go outside in a specially marked area for fresh air and they’re allowed to chat with the other families in the building who are also under quarantine.
Another one of the passengers on the first flight, Myriam Larouche, a 25-year-old woman from L’Ascension, Que. who is studying tourism management at the Central China Normal University in Wuhan, said she was excited to be back on Canadian soil.
“I’m so happy, so relieved. So happy to be back home,” she told CTV News Channel early Friday morning.
Larouche said the passengers erupted into applause as soon as the pilot finished his announcement over the speaker system when they landed in Vancouver.
“Everybody was just so happy to be back and be safe,” she said.
While the flight was “really long,” Larouche said Canadian officials were so helpful throughout the journey that it made it go by quicker.
Larouche said she’s not worried about the next two weeks in isolation at the military base. She said once she gets the all-clear from health officials and her university in China re-opens, she plans to return to her studies in Wuhan.
“I met lots of people from around the world. It’s a beautiful city,” she said. “It’s really sad what’s happening there. It could have happened anywhere in the world.”
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press