Nova Scotia

Halifax businessman working to get medical supplies to Wuhan

Bill Bu, a graduate of Wuhan University who now lives in Halifax, says his family in China is in the quarantine zone. He's working to get medical supplies to health-care providers to help protect them against the coronavirus.

Bill Bu has family living in the coronavirus epicentre

Bill Bu, a Halifax businessman, said his goal is to support health-care workers. (Submitted by Bill Bu)

A Halifax businessman is working to get medical supplies to doctors and nurses in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus.

Bill Bu organized a Chinese New Year gala dinner three weeks ago. In his opening speech, he told CBC's As It Happens he became emotional talking about his wife's parents, who are in Wuhan. 

"I wanted to do something to help them, so I started calling on the participants to support. But my goal was actually to support the health-care workers and I wanted to help them save more people," Bu said.

Bu, who attended Wuhan University, said his wife's parents are in their mid-80s and living in the quarantine zone. He became concerned when he found out his family couldn't get supplies.

They keep in touch on a daily basis through messaging apps, but it's been difficult.

"We just want to make sure, No. 1, they're safe, and No. 2, they stay home ... and of course it's just the human emotion, our normal reaction to this," Bu said.

At the start of the city being quarantined, Bu said his family couldn't get face masks, but he managed to find volunteers who could bring them food.

As of Thursday, the death toll from the respiratory illness reached 1,367. China now has 59,805 laboratory and clinically confirmed cases.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, workers produce face masks in the workshop of a textile company in the Jimo District of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (The Associated Press)

Bu said the numbers are alarming. He said he pays attention to what's happening in China every day and said a lot is being done to contain the virus.

Bu sourced masks from the U.S., but said he wasn't able to send them directly to China. The items were instead sent to Halifax.

"My wife had to open each individual box, which contained 20 respirators, just to make sure they were in good shape and not damaged and repack them properly," he said.

"She spent quite a few hours packing and repacking, she has done a lot of the work."

With files from CBC's As It Happens