After 14 long days locked in isolation over coronavirus fears, there was only one thing on Christopher Lan’s mind when he got out — good food.
“On my way here I saw a fast-food restaurant, a McDonald’s,” he said. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to have a normal meal very soon.'”
Lan is among 213 Canadians and accompanying family members who were flown out of Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the outbreak — by the Canadian and American governments on Feb. 7.
For the past two weeks, they’ve called CFB Trenton in southern Ontario home. The evacuees, who range from couples to newlyweds and families with young children, each had to complete two weeks in quarantine to be cleared of the virus, COVID-19, before they could be released on Friday.
At no point during their stay did any of the evacuees at the base show any symptoms, government officials said.
The government offered the evacuees help with their travel from Trenton, but all were ultimately expected to make their own ways home.
Lan and his wife decided to rent a car at a dealership in Trenton in order to get back to their home in Orleans, Ont.
He said they travelled to China for Chinese New Year. His son is newly married, he said, and together they went to visit family in a town about 300 kilometres away from Wuhan.
Initially, the outbreak didn’t seem like a very big deal to Lan, but he said the situation developed quickly.
Lan, his wife and son were able to secure a spot on the Canadian flight out of Wuhan, but Lan’s son’s wife — a Chinese citizen — had to stay behind.
He said the journey from Wuhan was “kind of scary” but he felt relaxed seeing how organized things were.
Ultimately, he’s very happy to be back in Canada.
“It’s a great relief,” he said. “The feeling is amazing.”
The repatriated Canadians were housed at the Yukon Lodge, a facility on the military base typically used for personnel and their family members. It resembles a hotel, with 290 rooms and basic amenities.
Prior to their arrival, members of the Canadian Red Cross filled the rooms with hygiene kits and extra blankets — items to make their stay a little homier.
Lan said the workers, volunteers and military personnel running the quarantine were kind and organized.
The food, he said, they “got used to.”
“We really appreciate all the work the government and the Red Cross and the volunteers did to help us, because they really took a personal risk to help us,” he said.
“They didn’t want us to feel alienated or anything like that. They wore minimal protection.”
Meanwhile, as one quarantine comes to an end, another is just beginning.
A flight carrying 129 Canadians, this time from Japan, arrived in Trenton, Ont. on the same day. The evacuees spent nearly two weeks on a cruise ship in Yokohama, which became a hotbed for the flu-like virus in early February.
At least 634 of the Diamond Princess’s passengers have since tested positive for the virus, making it the largest outbreak location outside of China.
Of the 2,500 passengers, roughly 255 were Canadian. Forty-seven of those Canadians were determined to be infected with the virus and forced to stay in Japan for treatment.
Those repatriated from the ship were screened for the virus again in Trenton on Friday morning before being bussed to Cornwall, Ont. where they will spend two weeks in quarantine at the Nav Centre.
— With files from Global News’ Morganne Campbell, Sean Boynton and The Canadian Press