Support networks form for Ottawa's self-isolated returnees from China

Hundreds of volunteers are coming to the aid of people who chose to to quarantine themselves after time in China to try to stop the spread of coronavirus to Ottawa.

'The virus is spreading very far, we want the love to spread faster'

'They kept talking with me so I wouldn't feel lonely,' said Yuxin 'Stella' Zhang of the volunteers who keep her company by video chat as she avoided contact with the general public out of an abundance of caution. (Submitted by Yuxin 'Stella' Zhang)

On Feb. 9,  Yuxin "Stella" Zhang, 24 landed in Ottawa to start the next chapter in her life.

Instead of heading to her new federal government job, the Chinese research scientist went straight into 14 days of self-imposed quarantine.  

Although she showed no symptoms, Zhang had started her trip in Shanghai and didn't want to take any chances that she may had come into contact with someone infected by COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

"I feel it was my duty," said Zhang. "I felt a responsibility to the community."

During a stop in London, Zhang had messaged an Ottawa-based group on WeChat to ask for advice about self-isolation.

What she received was a ready-made support group ready to help.

'The best welcome'

A team of volunteers dropped off food and necessities to her residence and checked in throughout the day by video. 

One of the volunteers who learned that Zhang had a fondness for animals made sure his dog took part in the online chats.

"It was comforting," said Zhang. "They were so considerate and kind and thought of all my needs."

Ottawa Public Health said it's helping more than 200 volunteers from Ottawa's Chinese community pass along health information to support travellers returning from China.

"They protected their family, they protected their neighbours, their colleagues and their community." said Kanata's Wei Wang of those who chose to stay isolated.

Wang says the Chinese community in Ottawa is delivering groceries, providing chauffeur service, mental support, and even clearing snow off cars.

"The virus is spreading very far, we wanted the love to spread faster than that," said Wang.

Wei Wang is part of a Kanata-based volunteer support group. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Zhang is now out of quarantine and at work. She's also become a volunteer, extending the same sort of life line to those in isolation that helped her through her first lonely weeks in Ottawa. 

"[The volunteers] said to me they were sorry they couldn't give me a warm hug to welcome me," said Zhang.

"But I think they did give me the best welcome for my arrival in Canada."