Carleton student's twin still trapped by Chinese coronavirus lockdown

A Carleton University student says her twin brother and his family are trapped in China during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Brother worried whether his family can access Canadian flight

Kate Schellenberg, right, attends Carleton University. Her brother Michael, left, planned to be back in Canada by December. (Kate Schellenberg )

A Carleton University student says her twin brother and his family are trapped in China during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Kate Schellenberg, 32, said she's in disbelief that her brother is caught in one of the world's biggest stories, despite living in a different part of China.

"I just thought, 'What are the chances that Michael travelled back to this province?'" she said Thursday.

    She said her brother Michael Schellenberg intended to come home to Fredericton for Christmas after eight years of living and teaching in China. 

    He was forced to reschedule instead because of complications with his one-year-old son's visa. 

    Following the delay, the brother and his family travelled to his wife's home province of Hubei to spend the Chinese New Year with family.

    While the family was there, the city of Wuhan was placed in virtual lockdown, with roads entering the city blocked and planes grounded because of the spread of the infectious respiratory illness that doesn't yet have a vaccine.

    Many cities within the province are now in quarantine.

    Staying with in-laws

    Since then, Michael, his wife and their baby have been hunkering at his in-laws' home, about 45 kilometres from Wuhan.

    "He's frustrated," Kate said about her brother. "He had planned to leave. This virus thing just messed it up. He's afraid because he has a little kid." 

    Michael Schellenberg and his wife, Summer, hope they'll be able to board the chartered flight Canada is preparing to bring its citizens home from Wuhan, China. The family lived together in Zhuhai. (Michael Schellenberg)

    "Right now [my son Felix] is fine," Michael said over WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, Thursday night. 

    "We're not even worried about this virus, but babies do get sick. We worry that if he does catch a cold or something like that, that we won't be able to take him to a hospital." 

    Michael said the initial response from Canada was slow but he has been more impressed in recent days. 

    He said the Canadian government is attempting to find a way to allow his wife, who isn't a Canadian citizen, to come with him. His son, who is currently breastfeeding, is a Canadian citizen. 

    The federal government announced Wednesday it's preparing a charter aircraft to bring trapped Canadians home. It's estimated nearly 200 Canadians are trapped in the lockdown.

    "We're not in Wuhan, but we just got an email saying that we have to somehow make it to Wuhan to make it on that flight," Michael said late Thursday night.

    "That's something we won't be able to do without some help."

    When asked Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is no timeline for when that flight is scheduled to leave.

    Taking precautions 

    So far, three cases of the coronavirus have been reported inside Canada, including a Toronto man in his 50s, his wife, and a B.C. man in his 40s. 

    While one person in Ottawa was tested for the virus, Ottawa Public Health has confirmed the results were negative. 

    According to China's National Health Commission, the country's total number of deaths from the coronavirus has climbed to 213, with the number of those infected rising to 9,692.

    That's up nearly 2,000 cases and 43 deaths from the previous day.

    The virus — declared a public health emergency by a World Health Organization panel Thursday afternoon — has spread to at least 18 other countries. 

    Still, Kate said she's not too concerned about her brother, who she says is taking precautions to ensure his family stays safe.

    "We're not going outside," Michael said. "We're not taking any chances." 

    And the Schellenbergs are anxious to meet Michael's wife and newborn baby for the first time. 

    "Felix is so cute," Kate said. "I think my parents are just desperate to meet him."