Politics

Canada ready to help China contain coronavirus if it asks: PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is standing by to assist China if it asks for more help to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak which originated there.

Government already responded to China's request for medical protective gear

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to help China contain the novel coronavirus at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is standing by to assist China if it asks for more help to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak which originated there.

Trudeau said Sunday that Canada already had responded to China's request for medical equipment, including face masks and other protective gear.

Speaking at a news conference near the end of his three-day visit to Ethiopia on Sunday, Trudeau said the virus poses a low threat to health in Canada.

"The measures we have taken on as recommended by the World Health Organization and our own chief medical officer are effective until now," Trudeau said.

"We continue to monitor the situation internationally, work with our partners, particularly the WHO, to make sure that everything we're doing is consistent with what needs to happen to keep Canadians safe."

Seven cases confirmed in Canada

Seven cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Canada. An update from the Public Health Agency of Canada says four cases are in British Columbia and three are in Ontario.

Most cases of the new coronavirus are mild, but it's a respiratory illness that can be deadly in some people. More than 37,000 have been sickened worldwide and more than 800 have died, with the death toll now higher than the number of people who died of SARS in 2003.

Two deaths thus far occurred in patients outside of China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Passengers step off a plane carrying Canadians back from Wuhan in China after arrival at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Trenton, Ont., on Friday, Feb. 7. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

The virus originated in Wuhan, China's fifth biggest city, and more than 70 per cent of the confirmed cases worldwide were diagnosed in patients in China.

China took extraordinary measures to try to keep the virus from spreading, including quarantining entire cities such as Wuhan. Trudeau said Sunday that Canada was ready to help China in the crisis.

"We are going to continue to work with them to ensure that they have the resources to contain this virus," he said. "We recognize it is a difficult and uncertain time for them and for everyone around the world but as an international community we do have to continue to work together and we're there to help."

Second plane on its way

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who is with Trudeau in Africa, said Sunday a second plane left Trenton, Ont., very early Sunday morning to bring home more Canadians who have asked to return from China.

The flight is headed first to Hong Kong where it will have to wait before going into Wuhan. Chinese authorities are giving foreign nations small time co-ordinates in which to land and fly out with their citizens.

"The plane would be leaving [China] on the 10th of February, bringing back the last group of Canadians who want to be repatriated on the 11th," Champagne said.

There are now 236 Canadians waiting to board the plane from Wuhan, a city that has been under quarantine for weeks as Chinese authorities try to contain the spread of a new coronavirus, Canadian officials said Sunday.

A first planeload of Canadians arrived at a military base in Trenton, Ont., last Friday, carrying 176 people, including two members of the rapid deployment team, said Champagne. A second group that travelled to Canada on a U.S. flight brought the total of repatriated Canadians to 213, he said.

Those evacuees are being kept at CFB Trenton for 14 days to make sure they don't get sick and start spreading the virus within Canada.

In a statement on Sunday, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam said Canadian Armed Forces medical staff who accompanied those returning from Wuhan "do not pose a risk of significant harm to public health, and consequently their continued quarantine is not required."

The government is also monitoring the well-being of Canadians quarantined on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan.  

There are seven Canadians with confirmed cases of the coronavirus contracted aboard that ship, which is docked in the port city of Yokohama, just outside Tokyo. Those patients have been taken to Japanese hospitals for treatment and monitoring.

Champagne said he'd spoken to the head of the cruise line earlier in the day.

"I wanted to make sure that we're all linked up," he said. "I wanted to make sure we're all there for the families, for the people who are there."

Passengers on a second cruise ship that was quarantined off Hong Kong began disembarking Sunday after authorities said all crew members had been cleared in tests for the novel coronavirus.

WATCH | What we actually know about the coronavirus:

Megan Millward was on the plane carrying Canadians who left China amid the coronavirus outbreak, she describes her experience. 6:08

With files from CBC News

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