Ottawa

'We were really anxious and nervous': Mother and son return to Canada from Wuhan

For one Ottawa resident, it’s good to be back on Canadian soil. Kai Huang and his 78-year-old mother Yi Huang have been stuck in Wuhan, China, ever since the city was placed in lockdown in late January.

Huang and his mother weren't on the Canadian charter out of Wuhan, but got seats on a later U.S. flight

Kai Huang, centre, is pleased to be back on Canadian soil with his mother, Yi Huang. (Supplied by Bingli Liu)

For one Ottawa resident, it's good to be back on Canadian soil.

Kai Huang and his 78-year-old mother Yi Huang had been stuck in Wuhan, China, ever since the city was placed in lockdown in late January.

The 50-year-old wasn't able to board the chartered flight Ottawa sent, but was told by Canada's embassy in China that he and his mother had seats on a U.S. flight. 

Both planes touched down in Trenton Friday. 

"It's really exciting," Huang told Power & Politics Friday from CFB Trenton.

"We were really anxious and nervous [about] if we were going back to Canada."

The first plane, carrying 174 Canadians, landed at the military base early Friday. The plane Huang was on, carrying 39 Canadian passengers who hitched a ride on a U.S. government-chartered flight, landed Friday afternoon. 

No signs of coronavirus in repatriated Canadians

Ottawa is planning to send another chartered flight to Wuhan to repatriate more Canadians looking to leave Hubei province.

"The repatriated Canadians and their family members were met at Canadian Forces Base Trenton by Canada Border Services Agency officers, and were thoroughly assessed by quarantine officers from the Public Health Agency of Canada," a joint press release from Public Health and Foreign Affairs reads.

According to the release issued Saturday, none of the repatriated Canadians show symptoms of coronavirus. 

Huang has been concerned about whether his mother would make it back to Canada on either flight. 

Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents accompanying Canadian children were allowed to board Ottawa's first flight out of the coronavirus epicentre – a decision made by Chinese officials. 

Worried mother would be left behind

Huang, a Canadian citizen, had made the difficult decision to leave his mother behind because he wanted to be with his one-year-old daughter back in Ottawa. But he's an only child and felt troubled leaving his mother in the coronavirus epicentre. 

"If she gets the infection, [it will] probably be life-threatening," he said. "Because if she goes to the hospital – around the hospital is very dangerous right now." 

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      But the Ottawa man soon learned that neither he nor his mother, who is a permanent resident of Canada, were on the list of evacuees allowed on Canada's chartered flight home. 

      Then, without much warning, the Embassy of Canada in Beijing sent Huang a letter saying both he and his mother could leave on the U.S.-chartered flight. That letter allowed Huang to bypass checkpoints on the way to the airport.  

      "Before we go to the airport, we don't know exactly [if she's allowed] to board or not," Huang said. 

      "We don't know. We just go to the airport. Eventually, we find her name and my name on the list. We can go."

      Now the mother and son will be spending a lot of time together as they're quarantined together for two weeks at the military base.

      Comfortable conditions

      Huang said the room where he and his mother are staying in is clean, has WiFi, a telephone and is stocked with a refrigerator, microwave oven, furniture and a television to help pass the time. He describes the living conditions as "comfortable."  

      Huang said the guests aren't supposed to mingle but are allowed outside. 

      Following the flight, he said his mother is exhausted, but likewise happy to be back in Canada.

      "She [lived] here for more than 13 years."

      With files from Power & Politics