Wuhan virus: More Canadians ask for help to flee China

Officials say that 196 Canadians in Wuhan - the epicentre of the epidemic - have requested help getting back home. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - The number of Canadians looking to flee China because of the coronavirus epidemic rose to nearly 200 on Thursday (Jan 30) while a third suspected case in Canada was confirmed.

The last direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai, before Air Canada suspended flights to China, meanwhile, landed in Montreal and Toronto.

Officials told a parliamentary committee that 196 Canadians in Wuhan - the epicentre of the epidemic - have requested help getting back home, an increase from Wednesday when the government announced an airlift for 160.

It was also reported that the families of Canadian diplomats in China who were "vulnerable" to infections were being repatriated as well, in part "due to a lack of English speaking medical services" in China.

They include people with existing medical conditions, over the age of 65 or under five.

Canada has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

"We are working out the process right now to determine who is coming, what the state of their health is and what (measures) we need to take in order to ensure their health when they return," health minister Patty Hajdu said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international emergency after China's National Health Commission said nearly 8,000 people had been infected, and about 100 cases were reported outside China.

Canadian public health officials confirmed three infections in Canada, including a husband and wife who recently returned to Toronto from Wuhan, and a man in British Columbia who was initially counted as a presumed case.

"Having this public health emergency with international concern doesn't really change what we do," chief public health officer Theresa Tam told a briefing when asked about the WHO declaration.

"We have already measures at our airports (to detect cases)," she said.

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reassured "that the risk to Canadians in Canada continues to be low".

"Wash your hands regularly, make sure you get your flu shot, make sure you cough into your elbow. These are things that keep us safe from the flu. They can also keep us safe from the spread of other viruses," he urged.

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