Nova Scotia

Lost passport prevented N.S. student from visiting Wuhan just before coronavirus outbreak

Ziwa Yu was supposed to join her family in Wuhan, China, for Chinese New Year, but then Canada Post lost her passport. The loss has now created some complications for her.

Canada Post lost Ziwa Yu's passport days before travel ban was imposed in her hometown of Wuhan, China

Ziwa Yu's parents are under quarantine in her hometown of Wuhan, China. She'd be there with them if her passport wasn't lost in the mail. (Robyn Simon/CBC)

A lost passport has turned into a blessing in disguise for a former Dalhousie University student from Wuhan, China.

Ziwa Yu started her master's degree in nursing about two years ago in Halifax. She wanted to stay and work in the province after graduating last summer, so she applied for a work visa.

As part of that process, she had to mail her passport to the visa office in Ottawa last November, but she hasn't seen her passport since then, which meant Yu had to cancel her flight home for Chinese New Year.

Without a passport, Yu has been trapped in Canada.

"At first, I was really upset and my family was upset too, but I think just days after I broke this news to them, there was a travel ban in effect almost overnight in Wuhan. And I think no one was prepared for that," said Yu.

Yu says it's strange to see photos of the empty streets in her hometown of over 11 million people. (Stringer/Getty Images)

Luckily, none of her family members are sick with COVID-19, which claimed its first Canadian victim this week.

Yu said her parents are now in quarantine because there have been cases of coronavirus in their building.

The streets of her hometown of over 11 million people are mostly empty. All public transportation has been shut down and people can't drive without special permits.

Yu's mom sent her some photos.

"It's not the place I know anymore. It just looks almost like a movie scene," she said. 

What happened to her passport?

According to Canada Post's tracking data, Yu's passport received a visa sticker in Ottawa, but was held at a post office in Halifax.

Yu said she was told the return address was incomplete and the passport had to be returned to Ottawa.

After it was sent back on Dec. 18, Yu didn't receive any updates. She contacted Canada Post, which was unable to locate the passport.

Canada Post declined to be interviewed. In a statement, a spokesperson said it regrets "this important piece of mail was not delivered to this customer."

This aerial photo taken on March 10, 2020, shows an empty street in Wuhan. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

"After our review, it appears there were some addressing issues. Our teams across the delivery network searched exhaustively to locate the envelope in our facilities, and our customer service [team] kept in contact with the customer. Unfortunately, we could not confirm the envelope's whereabouts," the statement read.

Yu said she's grateful to be safe from the outbreak in her hometown, but getting a new passport is a huge inconvenience.

Canada Post said it will reimburse her for the shipping fee of her original package, and cover up to $100 in damages.

Trip to Ottawa needed to get replacement passport

But Yu said in order to get a new passport, she needs to travel to Ottawa because there's no Chinese embassy in Nova Scotia.

"There is no other service available in the Maritimes … and naturally I have to go on a weekday, which means I need to take time off from work and that adds to the expenses too," she said.

Yu hopes the travel ban to Wuhan will be lifted by the summer so she can visit her family.