Canada has secured a charter aircraft to bring home Canadians stranded in the coronavirus-affected region of China but people who are already infected will not be allowed to board.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Chinese authorities will not allow anyone who may be infected to get on the plane.
“No cases, and no sick people, will be leaving that city,” Tam said during an appearance before the House of Commons health committee Wednesday.
Tam said China has tools to determine if someone is infected. Because the incubation period is anywhere from one to 14 days, she said there are “meticulous” measures in place to isolate individuals from other passengers if they develop any symptoms during the flight.
Asked if Canada is considering asking people on the flight to self-isolate upon their return to Canada as a precaution, Tam said it’s crucial to secure the public’s full cooperation with measures to contain the virus. That means avoiding stigmatization and any measures that go beyond scientifically sound measures to protect public safety, she said.
Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu have maintained the risk to Canadians remains low. Tam said that assessment is based on the small number of cases that have been exported from China, and the fact that the most severe illnesses or deaths resulting from the coronavirus have involved older patients or those with underlying conditions.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced today the government has chartered an aircraft to repatriate Canadians and is now working on the diplomatic front to organize the flight — work which could take several days because the affected region is in a “lockdown.”
He said 160 Canadians have requested consular services to date.
“We have to work with the Chinese authorities to deal with the logistical side of things,” he said, adding that Canada is coordinating with other countries on the process.