OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada aims to evacuate some 300 of its citizens on Thursday from the quarantined Chinese city at the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak, a government source said, though the planned flight was still awaiting final Chinese approval.
Canadians in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, have received an email from the foreign ministry saying a plane was expected to leave with evacuees early on Feb. 6, according to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC).
However, a Canadian government source said the Chinese government had yet to give final consent for the flight. Residents of Wuhan and Hubei have been under quarantine for a few weeks as China attempts to contain the spread of the virus.
According to a portion of the letter the CBC posted online, not everyone who is eligible for a seat will get one.
“Right now, there is a larger number of Canadians asking for evacuation than is space on the plane,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his way to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “That’s why we have already got an option on the second plane.”
Trudeau said the aim was to get people home soon, specifying the time frame only as “in coming days.”
On Monday, Canada’s foreign minister said some 300 people had asked to be evacuated. They will be flown first to Vancouver, where the plane will refuel, and then on to a military base in southern Ontario.
Those evacuated will be placed in quarantine for 14 days once they arrive at Trenton Air Force base, some 180 km (110 miles) northeast of Toronto.
Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death on Tuesday, the second outside mainland China after the Philippines, from a fast-spreading outbreak that has killed 427 people and threatened the global economy.
Total infections in mainland China rose to 20,438, and there have been nearly 200 cases elsewhere across 24 countries and China’s special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
Canada has had four confirmed cases.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bernadette Baum)