Xiaobo Yang has called Calgary home for the past 15 years but he still travels back to China to visit his family.
His latest trip was to celebrate Chinese New Year with his parents, who are in their mid-80s.
Novel coronavirus changed their celebration plans — instead of going out they ended up staying home as a precaution and Yang also cut his trip short and flew back to Calgary a week early. He arrived back in Canada on Feb. 3.
He had no signs or symptoms of the virus and wasn’t staying near the epicentre of the outbreak, but Yang didn’t want to take any chances.
He decided to voluntarily quarantine himself.
“[I did it] to be responsible. I’m a mechanical engineer. Public safety is our duty.”
Yang is in voluntary isolation for two weeks but self-quarantine cannot be done alone, so the Calgary-Chinese community has stepped up to help anyone deciding to self-quarantine.
It reports upwards of 200 Calgarians returning from China have made that call.
“We saw the demand,” volunteer Christine Xiao said. “Because people are choosing to voluntarily quarantine themselves in order to have an effective self-isolation, help is needed the minute they step out of the airport.”
The group of about 300 volunteers helps with everything from assisted airport transfers to grocery shopping to providing kits including masks, hand sanitizer, sterilizing wipes and gloves.
They are offering all these services for free.
“It was amazing to see so many people wanted to help,” said Crystal Shi, who was one of the founders of the group.
While the Chinese-Calgary community has raised money to purchase supplies so far volunteers say they have also reached out to the province for help.
The group is asking for assistance finding places for people who want to go into isolation but don’t have a place to do so and also funding for more supplies, Xiao said.
“We are doing this as a precaution. That doesn’t mean anyone is sick.”
Health officials say the risk of contracting coronavirus in Alberta is extremely low and that there are no confirmed cases in our province.
There is a big concern for some of the people who have decided to self-quarantine — a fear of losing their job for taking additional time off.
“We really hope that employers would understand that and support that in some form, even if it’s unpaid leave,” Xiao said.