A Calgarian currently living at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China said a plan by the federal government to evacuate Canadians from China is “a good thing to do.”
Carter Perrier works in project management consulting and has been in Wuhan on-and-off for eight months for work. He has been in the city since Jan. 3 in this latest rotation.
He had been slated to return to Canada last Friday but was unable to due to a travel ban imposed on cities in Central China.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced it had secured a plane to bring Canadians back home, though few details have been released about the logistics.
“I think it’s great,” Perrier said.
“It might be a bit late compared to some of the other countries but overall probably a great thing to do about some of the expats here who are more concerned about things that they’ve been seeing on the news.”
He said he has not yet received any details from the embassy about evacuation plans.
Perrier, who is currently staying two kilometres from the market where the virus is believed to have originated, describes Wuhan as “peaceful” right now.
“There’s really no sense of panic at all. The streets are just a little quieter than they normally would be,” he said, adding many people returned to their hometowns for Chinese New Year celebrations.
The 30-year-old said the travel ban means that cars and taxis are not operating as normal, but people are being allowed to walk and go anywhere within walking distance.
“Really, the only difference is all of the – I’m calling it fun stuff – malls, the bars, the restaurants, those are all closed. There’s not a lot to do. But in terms of surviving, everything here is fine,” Perrier said.
He is also not worried about catching the coronavirus.
“The procedures in place at the hotel and a lot of places that are open around town — it’s temperature scans in and out. People are wearing masks,” he said.
“I’d be no more concerned about catching the virus than I would be the common cold at this point.”
Provincial role in evacuation
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there are no probable or confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Alberta as of Thursday.
She said the number of people calling 811 has remained steady since news of the virus ramped up last week.
Hinshaw said the province is waiting for details from the federal government about its evacuation plan to determine what the next steps may be for travellers who are from Alberta.
“We’re not sure if that group of people will be taken to one location or if they’ll be simply returned and then go back to their home province,” she said.
“We don’t know if they’re going to be treated as any other returning traveller.
“Then, the plan would be to provide them with information about what they need to watch for and who they need to contact should they have symptoms. But again, it’s not clear yet whether or not the federal government is going to be requesting anything extra for these people and that’s what we’re waiting to hear.”
There are now three confirmed cases in Canada, two in Ontario and one in B.C.
Hinshaw said the decision for those overseas to stay in Wuhan or return to Canada will be a personal one.
“Returning to Canada, they would be in a location where there’s no active circulation of the novel virus, whereas currently, in Wuhan, there seems to be ongoing active circulation. That’s probably the critical point as they’re considering, but each individual will have their own situation, their own resources that are available to them either here or Wuhan.”
More deaths reported
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus an international public health emergency on Thursday.
The virus causes a fever, cough and, in some cases, difficulty breathing.
It can be transmitted from person to person, although it is not clear how easily that happens. Most cases so far are in people who have been in Wuhan, family members of those infected or medical workers.
Transmission is most likely through close contact with an infected person via particles in the air from coughing or sneezing, or by someone touching an infected person or object with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
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As of Thursday morning, China had reported 170 deaths and at least 7,800 infections were confirmed worldwide from the virus that emerged last month in the central city of Wuhan.
Sports, transport and cultural events have been cancelled across the country and over 50 million people are under a government lockdown in central China.
— With files from Hina Alam, The Canadian Press, and The Associated Press