Canadian families ‘plead urgently’ for third evacuation flight from Wuhan

FILE PHOTO: Canadians, who had been evacuated from China due to the outbreak of novel Coronavirus on an American charter plane, board a bus after they disembarked from another aircraft at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton in Trenton, Ontario, Canada February 7, 2020. Courtesy of Edward Wang via REUTERS.

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian citizens and permanent residents who remain in Wuhan, China, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, need to be brought home on a third evacuation plane, a group of families urged the federal government.

In a letter sent to Global Affairs Canada on Saturday, 44 families said that poor communication and misinformation meant their relatives did not board either of the previous government-chartered flights. The families represent about 100 Canadian citizens and PRs who want to leave Wuhan.

The families gave examples of language barriers, limited internet access and personal isolation as reasons why people did not board the flights, as well as general confusion about who was permitted to board the planes.

“We are pleading urgently with the government to have compassion to bring our families and loved ones home,” the letter said.

Over 500 Canadians have been evacuated due to the coronavirus since the crisis began, according to Global Affairs Canada. Two Canadian government-chartered flights have flown out of Wuhan, a government plane repatriated 129 Canadians from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked in Japan, and a number of Canadians flew home on a United States government-chartered flight from Wuhan.

China reported 77,150 cases of coronavirus on Monday, with a death count of 2,592. The majority of these are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.

“The longer this ordeal carries on, and the longer the lockdown continues for these unfortunate individuals, the more danger it will impose on the Canadians stuck there,” the letter read.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters in Ottawa the government’s attention was turning inward “as the window closes in terms of stopping global spread,” and it would have to be “very thoughtful” on how to proceed with any further repatriations.

“We really do need to focus our efforts now on our domestic preparedness,” Hajdu said.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Chang

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