Advertisement

‘Fresh Canadian air’: Canadians evacuated from Wuhan arrive in Ontario

200+ Canadians begin two-week quarantine at CFB Trenton
WATCH: 200+ Canadians begin two-week quarantine at CFB Trenton

A plane carrying 174 Canadians who had requested to be repatriated from Wuhan, China due to the novel coronavirus landed in Ontario early Friday morning after a brief stop in British Columbia.

Flight HFM322 arrived at Vancouver International Airport just after midnight eastern time on Friday. It landed at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., at around 6:30 a.m. ET.

CFB Trenton repatriates 213 Canadian evacuees from China
CFB Trenton repatriates 213 Canadian evacuees from China

Wearing masks and carrying their belongings, the passengers eventually deplaned and got on waiting buses. They are expected to stay at the military base under quarantine for the next 14 days.

A plane carrying 174 Canadian citizens from the centre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China lands at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
A plane carrying 174 Canadian citizens from the centre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China lands at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Along with Canadian citizens, officials said 13 permanent residents and six Chinese nationals with Canadian visas were allowed to escort the 34 Canadian minors returning home.

Story continues below advertisement
Plane carrying Canadians evacuating China’s coronavirus outbreak lands at CFB Trenton
Plane carrying Canadians evacuating China’s coronavirus outbreak lands at CFB Trenton

The plane, chartered by the Canadian government, refuelled in B.C. for roughly two hours before departing for its final stop at CFB Trenton.

Timeline of Canadian evacuation flights from China
Timeline of Canadian evacuation flights from China

No one got on or off the plane while it was stopped in Vancouver.

Global News reporters at Vancouver International Airport said paramedic supervisors and ambulances were waiting near the remote stand where the aircraft landed. They said the stand is about 200 metres west, away from the international terminal.

READ MORE: Two-thirds of Canadians in Wuhan en route home, 2nd plane coming for others: Champagne

A United States government flight carrying 39 other Canadians departed shortly after the first Canadian plane. It arrived in Vancouver early Friday morning and landed in Trenton shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

“So, by that count, we have 213 Canadians which have now been repatriated,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Friday. “Now, the number of Canadians who want to come back, obviously, is fluctuating.”

More than 370 Canadians in Wuhan have asked to be evacuated in recent weeks. Champagne said the rest are scheduled to be brought home next week on a second chartered Canadian flight.

Story continues below advertisement

The second flight is scheduled to leave Wuhan on Feb. 10 and get to the military base on Feb. 11, he said.

Champagne said the days between the two Canadian flights will help officials get in touch again with those left in Wuhan and account for those who want to come back.

“Some people have decided to come with us. Some changed their minds,” he said. “So the good thing is that with the second Canadian flight, we will be able to bring back home everyone who wants to come back.”

Officials wear protective gear in the Wuhan airport as medical screenings take place ahead of two evacuation flights on Feb. 6, 2020.
Officials wear protective gear in the Wuhan airport as medical screenings take place ahead of two evacuation flights on Feb. 6, 2020. Shared with Global News by Megan Millward

Of the Canadian and American flights, Champagne said: “About two-thirds of Canadians seeking to leave Wuhan will have left for Canada.”

All of the Canadians under quarantine will spend the next 14 days at Yukon Lodge, a facility on the base that is often used for military personnel and their family members.

Story continues below advertisement

It resembles a hotel, with 290 rooms with basic amenities. Hygiene kits and extra blankets from the Canadian Red Cross await each evacuee in their own rooms.

Megan Millward said she was so relieved to arrive back in Canada that she immediately put on her snow pants and laid down in the snow.

“I was extremely relieved,” she told Global News. “I smelled the fresh Canadian air. I just wanted to enjoy the snow falling.”

Millward, of Montreal, was visiting her in-laws in a small village in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, with her husband and two children when the outbreak developed into a global health emergency.

Story continues below advertisement

She said the flight was long, especially with young children, but that the experience at CFB Trenton has been “very comfortable” so far.

“We have everything we need,” she said.

“We were concerned that we might be stuck in a room for the 14 days, but in fact, we have the run of the building. We’re also allowed outside. There’s a perimeter marked by an orange fence, so we can actually let the kids run off some energy and get some fresh air.”

Canadian Forces members work outside the Yukon Lodge, which will temporarily house passengers from a charter flight that took 174 Canadian citizens from the centre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
Canadian Forces members work outside the Yukon Lodge, which will temporarily house passengers from a charter flight that took 174 Canadian citizens from the centre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Bin Zhang, his wife and children felt the same sense of relief.

“The process was physically exhausting, mentally exhausting,” Zhang said.

“But as soon as we got in that room, it felt right at home.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Calgary family was greeted with water, food and kindness from health care and military personnel organizing the quarantine.

“They prioritized us,” he said. “They had a lot of stuff right there waiting — diapers, clothes, gloves, tubes, jackets, you name it. And a lot of people to give you a hand.”

CFB Trenton 8 Wing commander Col. Ryan Deming said the risk the novel coronavirus presents to Canadians remains low, but precautions will be taken.

CFB Trenton officials say all efforts are being made to ensure ‘care, dignity, and respect’ of Canadians returning from China
CFB Trenton officials say all efforts are being made to ensure ‘care, dignity, and respect’ of Canadians returning from China

“Every effort is being made to ensure the care, dignity and respect of the repatriated Canadians as well as the safety and security of all personnel dedicated to this government approach,” Deming said during a news conference on Thursday.

READ MORE: 2 Canadians test positive for coronavirus on cruise ship quarantined in Japan

Since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization in December, the new coronavirus has sickened more than 30,000 and killed at least 638 in China.

Canadian health authorities have documented seven cases of the disease in Canada so far and said the quarantine is necessary to ensure the virus doesn’t spread further.

Plane carrying 176 Canadians from Wuhan lands in British Columbia
Plane carrying 176 Canadians from Wuhan lands in British Columbia

— With files from Global’s Sean Boynton, Kieron O’Dea and the Canadian Press

Story continues below advertisement