Situation for Canadian trapped in Wuhan growing dire, says daughter

The daughter of an Ottawa woman stuck in Wuhan, China, says the sooner Canada flies its citizens home, the better.

As coronavirus spreads, Ottawa family still waiting for word when Canada’s charter plane will help them leave

Emily Chen uses messaging apps like WeChat to call her mother every day. Chen has asked not to be photographed, fearing backlash against her family. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

The daughter of an Ottawa woman stuck in Wuhan, China, says the sooner Canada flies its citizens home, the better.

"The longer these Canadians stay there, the more dangerous it is," said Emily Chen, a University of Ottawa student. 

Chen's mother, a Canadian citizen, travelled to China in late September. She was visiting Hubei province, but got stuck in Wuhan when the Chinese government placed the city under lockdown to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In China, the number of confirmed cases with the illness rose above 14,000 on Sunday, with the death toll at 304. There have been four confirmed cases of the virus in Canada — three in Ontario and one in British Columbia

Canada's federal government announced Wednesday it's preparing a charter aircraft to bring Canadians home from China. Ottawa estimates nearly 200 Canadians are trapped and need passage home. 

In need of food, medicine

Chen said her mother has health issues, unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak, that require regular treatment.

Her mother is hunkering down in a friend's apartment and not travelling outside for fear she may contract the illness. 

"She probably will have to if the plane doesn't come soon," the 20-year-old said. "She needs food and she needs medication. So we're trying to convince her not to go outside because it's so risky."

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

Chen said her family was distraught the first few days her mother was trapped because of the Canadian government's apparent lack of a plan.

And she believes the longer Canadians like her mother stay in Hubei, the more likely they'll contract the virus — which increases the risk of them bringing it back home.

Willing to enter quarantine 

"I just think it's better if they can just figure out everything quickly and bring them back as soon as possible," she said. 

Chen said her mother would be willing to enter quarantine, as long as it's on Canadian soil. 

Family in Ottawa calls the 50-year-old every day, said Chen. Her mother is trying to stay strong.

"There's nothing much we can really do because we're not there," she said.


Joseph Tunney is a reporter for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at