British Columbia

B.C. woman stuck in China wants Canadian government to get her out of 'apocalyptic' city

Cindee Abersek is a teacher in the city of Wenzhou and is under quarantine measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Teacher Cindee Abersek is under quarantine in the city of Wenzhou

Cindee Abersek, seen here in a shopping mall Wenzhou, says she is buying groceries at a high end store in the city because it is the only one she can find with food still on the shelves. (Tom O'Brien)

Cindee Abersek only leaves the home she shares with her partner in Wenzhou, China, once a week for food and basic supplies, but says she would prefer to leave the country altogether.

Abersek is from Coquitlam, B.C., and teaches at a grade school in Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province of eastern China where there are more than a thousand confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The city is under quarantine measures and Abersek, who describes her surroundings as 'apocalyptic', wants the Canadian government to fly her out.

The more than nine million people living in Wenzhou must follow strict quarantine rules. Only one person per household is allowed to leave their home at a time and when they do, they are subject to a number of tests to confirm they have not picked up the virus.

"All public transit has been shut down. You barely see a car on the road. Trains have been shut down as well," said Abersek in an interview on The Early Edition Wednesday. "It feels like we are the only ones here."

No response to SOS email

Abersek, who is a Canadian citizen, said she has sent the Canadian embassy what she called an S.O.S email and has not had any response. 

The Canadian government has brought two charter planes of Canadians back from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus was first reported.

When residents of Wenzhou leave their homes, they are subject to a number of tests to confirm they have not picked up the virus. In this image, a man in the Lucheng District of the city of Wenzhou has his temperature checked to determine whether he could be infected. (Roman Meisenberg)

The Early Edition reached out to Global Affairs Canada Tuesday to find out if they are planning to evacuate Canadians from Wenzhou and other cities and the department said it doesn't have an answer yet.

In the meantime, Abersek is recording lessons for her students and submitting them online so they can continue their studies while under quarantine, which she said was just extended another 10 days.

Abersek said schools should reopen March 1, but  with the number of cases in the city, it's hard to see that happening.

As of Sunday, Wenzhou had 291 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the most of any city aside from those in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.

To hear the complete interview with Cindee Abersek on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly credited the lead image to Roman Meisenberg. It was in fact taken by Tom O'Brien.
    Feb 14, 2020 1:49 PM PT

With files from The Early Edition and Joel Dryden


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