British Columbia

At 35 weeks pregnant, B.C. woman desperate to get out of Wuhan

A pregnant teacher and her British husband are trying to escape the city of Wuhan to have their second child, but are trapped by a quarantine.

'I am feeling guilt and dread about the possibility of still being here when the baby is born,' says mother

Tom and Lauren Williams are expecting their second child at the end of February. (Tom Williams)

A 29-year-old pregnant Canadian and her British husband are trying to escape the city of Wuhan before the birth of their second child, but say they are trapped by a quarantine put in place after a new virus began spreading.

Lauren and Tom Williams call Wuhan home, having lived and worked there for four and a half years.

They say Wuhan felt safe despite news of the virus in December. But then the number of new coronavirus infections sparked travel shutdowns on Jan. 22 after the virus killed dozens and had been detected in other countries. 

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada said Monday that there are 167 Canadians registered in the region who are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

There are now 15 Chinese cities — affecting some 57 million people — placed under some form of lockdown.

Lauren and Tom Williams hold their son, James. (Facebook)

"The stress is escalating every day at the moment. I am definitely feeling guilt and dread about the possibility of still being here when the baby is born," said Lauren Williams, who is originally from Langley, B.C.

She is now 35 weeks pregnant, due in late February.

Local roads are closed, and she's concerned about being able to travel to the hospital to give birth.

She says her two-year-old son James, born in White Rock, B.C., is also affected by the stress.

"He's picking up on our anxiety. He's a little more emotional and clingy. We are not going out very often. And when we do go out, it's face masks and mittens and hats on and trying to prevent him from touching anything," she said.

The Williams family has reached out to officials in London and Ottawa. They say flights are being organized for the 200 Americans living in the city. There are also hundreds of British citizens in Wuhan.

Lauren Williams is hoping to get on a plane with U.S. or British citizens.

Tom Williams said he is eager to get his wife somewhere safer. 

"We are safe, and have enough food. Local shops are still open and are well stocked. But we are requesting that either the Canadian or British Government looks to help evacuate us," he wrote to CBC.

"Without diplomatic help it would be almost impossible to leave," said Tom Williams, who is a principal at an international school, adding he'd be happy to remain in quarantine in Canada or the U.K.

Consular assistance officials in Ottawa and London urged the Williams family to leave, but did not give any advice as to how, given the current travel bans. Lauren Williams said at least one Canadian citizen has been able to fly out on an American-organized plane.

Over the weekend, the Press Secretary for the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Austen wrote to CBC: "We understand the concerns of Canadians in the region and those of their families and loved ones. We are in contact with and providing assistance to Canadians currently on the ground."

But Canada has no consular presence in Wuhan, which adds to the challenges.

For now, the Williams say local stores are well-stocked with food, even if the streets are quiet.

"I was not sure what I'd find when I went to the supermarket on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised," said Lauren Williams, who says the family has avoided fresh markets for the past week and generally avoids going outside. 

For now, the family is home together, as the government extended the holiday, meaning the international school where the Williamses work is closed. 

"It's nice having everybody together — but [my husband] is obviously quite worried. His full-on papa bear instincts are coming out — and he's needing to protect his family."

Lauren Williams of Langley, B.C., is seen here with her husband Tom Williams and their son James. (Lauren Williams)


Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist.


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