British Columbia

'I'm not leaving without my wife and my son': Families trapped in Wuhan could be split during evacuations

Federal officials say plans are in motion to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, the coronavirus-affected region of China that’s in lockdown. But, for many trapped in the epicentre of the virus, it's not clear who will be able to secure a seat on that flight. 

Canada says plans are underway to send a charter flight to the region

Lauren and Tom Williams hold their son, James. The family is trapped in Wuhan, China by a quarantine after an outbreak of coronavirus. (Facebook)

Federal officials say plans are in motion to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, the coronavirus-affected region of China that's in lockdown but, for many trapped in the epicentre of the virus, it's not clear who will be able to secure a seat on that flight. 

Lauren Williams, a Canadian, and her British husband Tom are ready at a moment's notice to pack their bags and flee Wuhan, where they have lived and worked for four and a half years.

Lauren Williams, 29, is 35 weeks pregnant and due in late February. 

"We've actually heard nothing yet," said Lauren Williams.

"It's just because people have messaged me links to different news articles that we even knew Canada was planning to send a plane."

Canada announced on Wednesday that the country has secured a charter aircraft to bring home stranded Canadians — but people who are already infected will not be allowed to board.

About 160 Canadians have requested consular services to date, according to the foreign affairs minister.

Many countries have started evacuating their citizens from the area, including the U.S. and Japan.

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

Lauren Williams is originally from Langley, B.C., and her husband is from the U.K. — presenting problems for the family, who want to get on a flight together. They also have a two-year-old son. 

"The coordination and communication between the two countries has left us in a bit of a limbo," said Tom Williams. 

"They'll commit obviously to taking their own citizen but then they won't necessarily commit to taking the other."

He says they've registered as a family but were told they might not be able to secure an escape together. 

"I said, 'Well, I'm not leaving without my wife and my son,'" said Tom Williams. 

"There's still a lot of up in the air."

For Lauren Williams, worried about the health of her toddler and unborn child, she hopes to get the family on the first flight out. 

"There's just a lot of waiting right now," she said. 

Wayne Tremblay in Wuhan, China on Jan. 29, 2020. He doesn't know if his wife, a permanent resident of Canada but not a citizen, will be allowed on the same flight as him. (Wayne Tremblay)

Citizens or residents?

It's a similar story for Wayne Tremblay, a Canadian from Nanaimo, B.C., who is trapped in Wuhan with his wife. 

"I don't really have any details [when] my wife will be able to get on that flight due to the fact that she's a permanent resident but not a Canadian citizen," he said. 

He said he's been in contact with officials, who told him they won't have answers until Thursday. 

Wayne Tremblay describes his predicament to CBC's Heather Hiscox:

Canadian man stuck in Wuhan may have to head home without his wife

3 years ago
Duration 8:33
A Canadian man trapped in Wuhan due to the coronavirus outbreak says he may have to travel home alone should a flight be provided for Canadian citizens. His wife would not be able to leave China because the country does not recognize her dual citizenship.

Coquitlam-based Monte Gisborne has similar questions. His wife and nine-year-old daughter are stuck in Wuhan. The two are permanent residents of Canada and hold Chinese passports. 

"I'm just not certain at this time that my wife and daughter will be on that flight but I'm holding out all the hope that they will," he said. 

Monte Gisborne's daughter and wife have been trapped in Wuhan since the city was quarantined. They are permanent residents of Canada, but not citizens. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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