As It Happens

Montreal family stranded in Wuhan 'very grateful' to be back in Canada and all together

Megan Millward and Lie Zhang say they have everything they need — a place to stay, room for their kids to play, access to Wi-Fi and most importantly, each other.

'Right now, we just really feel relief. And also a bit tired,' says Lie Zhang

Lie Zhang, left, his wife Megan Millward and two children were among the more than 200 passengers who were airlifted from Wuhan, China, to a Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., on Friday. (Submitted by Megan Millward)
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Megan Millward and Lie Zhang say they have everything they need — a place to stay, room for their kids to play, access to Wi-Fi and most importantly, each other.

The Montreal couple and their two children were among the more than 200 passengers who were airlifted from Wuhan, China, to a Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., on Friday. 

"Right now, we just really feel relief. And also a bit tired," Zhang told As It Happens host Carol Off, shortly after the family settled into their room. "But very excited, and know we're safe here."

All the passengers will be isolated at the base for the next two weeks as officials monitor them for signs of the coronavirus that has killed more than 600 people in China.

So far, nobody who was aboard the flight has exhibited any symptoms, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. 

A close call 

When Millward and Zhang first spoke to As It Happens on Jan. 28, they didn't know what their future held.

They had travelled to the Wuhan region to visit Zhang's family for the Lunar New Year, and became ensnared in the coronavirus lockdown.

They couldn't reach Canadian officials, and were afraid of what would happen if they or their children became sick in a country that has been struggling to keep up with the health-care demands of the rapidly spreading virus. 

Finally, they got some good news this week when Canada announced it would evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. But their relief was short-lived when they were told that Zhang, a Canadian permanent resident, would have to stay behind because he's not a citizen.

Millward, her husband and their two children seen on the plane ride home from Wuhan. (Submitted by Megan Millward)

It's only a fluke that they're together now, they said.

Zhang drove Millward to the airport, and they entered through the wrong door. While they were waiting in the screening line, they got a phone call from Global Affairs giving them the green light to board together.

"It was kind of an accident … that he was there long enough for us to receive that call. Otherwise, he would've been, you know, on his way back to the countryside and too far away probably to come back for the flight," Millward said.

Zhang added: "That was a good mistake."

'Everything we're going to need'

The couple say they feel welcomed and taken care of at CFB Trenton.

"It has everything we're going to need. I think the most important things being a bathtub, Wi-Fi and a television. And I hear the food is really good. We're looking forward to that as well," Millward said.

Their children — a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son — are doing great, she said. 

"They've been given teddy bears and colouring books and crayons, and I think it's a bit of an extended vacation for them."

Inside one of the rooms where the Canadians will be quarantied for two weeks. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

The children will even have some room inside the isolation zone to play outside with the other kids who were part of the evacuation, the parents said. 

"The hardest thing is going to be trying to keep them entertained without letting them just spend the entire time on our cellphones," Millward said.


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interviews produced by Jeanne Armstrong.