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As coronavirus spreads, Toronto father battles to bring young daughter home from Wuhan, China

Toronto father trying to bring home toddler from Wuhan
WATCH: While a father is battling to get his daughter out of the epicentre of the coronavirus, another Canadian family is willing to stay. Kamil Karamali reports.

Richard Fabic, 45, is in midst of a desperate battle to bring his 15-month-old daughter, Chloe, home from Wuhan, China ⁠— the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I feel helpless,” said Fabic. “I think any father would want to protect their child.

“[I feel] a lot of concern and a lot of worry for her when she’s in the middle of a quarantine zone, as I see the numbers continually rising on the number of infections and deaths.”

READ MORE: Ottawa secures plane to evacuate Canadians from China, warns against all travel to country

Along with his wife, Yunfei Li, Fabic dropped off his daughter — nicknamed Coco — with her grandparents in Wuhan in December.

Li then flew to Victoria, B.C. to start a new job and Fabic spent time in Toronto, packing up their belongings for the family’s permanent move from the GTA to Vancouver Island.

The pair left their daughter in the central Chinese metropolis so she could get to know her grandparents better and Fabic could have his hands free with the move.

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“The plan was from December to March, we would do the move,” said Fabic. “So that way, at the end of this mini-journey, Chloe would arrive to a home all ready for her.”

But in early January, word emerged of the coronavirus spreading from Wuhan.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Defining common terms used to explain the illness

“Things started to accelerate and we started to get more worried,” said Fabic.

Coronavirus outbreak: Champagne says Canada at ‘forefront’ of response to illness
Coronavirus outbreak: Champagne says Canada at ‘forefront’ of response to illness

By the time Fabic started working towards getting his daughter out of Wuhan, the region had already gone into lockdown and residents had been quarantined due to the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 7,700 people and killed 170 by Wednesday night.

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“There’s a feeling of helplessness that I can’t board a plane to come rescue her,” said Fabic.

“I’m feeling a lot of frustration as I see our government moving a lot slower than other governments.”

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The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it’s putting together a plan to evacuate Canadian citizens in China, with an aircraft lined up to accommodate the passengers who want to fly out of the Asian country.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan and 126 of them have asked for help to get home.

Canadian teacher Wayne Duplessis, who lives in Wuhan with his wife and teenage son, said he will not be coming home because he doesn’t want to risk infection by spending hours on a plane with people who could be sick.

READ MORE: Why naming the new coronavirus isn’t as easy as it may seem

Instead, he said they’re finding ways to keep busy at home during the lockdown.

“A little bit of shock, a little bit of cabin fever now and just a new reality to deal with,” said Duplessis of the situation.

“It’s been a week. It feels longer, honestly.”

He and his wife have been thinking about a long-term life plan, should they get infected by the virus.

“One of the discussions I had with Emily, my wife, was about sharing passwords to our bank accounts and PayPal and that sort of thing with our daughter in Indonesia, if worst came to worst.”

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Ottawa secures plane to fly Canadians out of China
Ottawa secures plane to fly Canadians out of China

Patterson Wu, who was visiting Wuhan from Vancouver, said the usually bustling city now looks like a ghost town.

“I live near a very popular area and it’s been really quiet ⁠— like there’s no cars, just no sound, just nothing,” said Wu.

“It’s been super quiet outside.”

Wu claims he was unsuccessful in his multiple attempts to reach a consular official, while watching citizens of other countries leave China before him.

“We’re supposed to be one of the most modern countries in the world and it’s kind of sad to see, like, you know, Koreans and Japanese, they all mobilize so fast ⁠— but we’re so slow.”

Meanwhile, Fabic is encouraged to hear that the Canadian government now said it has a plan in motion to bring Canadians home.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak: How quarantines work in Canada

He and his wife had reached out Global Affairs Canada and were only recently able to get a consular official and a case number.

Now he’s waiting eagerly to hear details and hopes there isn’t a lag in determining an evacuation date.

“I miss her greatly,” he said. “It’s more so now that I don’t know what the time frame is when I can actually see her again.”

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