Government to unveil plan to assist Canadians trapped in coronavirus-affected region of China

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will provide details later today of the government’s plan to help Canadians trapped in the coronavirus-affected region of China due to commercial travel restrictions.

Champagne will hold a news conference in Ottawa at 4 p.m. ET and will carry it live.

The minister said the government is working with Chinese authorities and assessing the number of Canadians in need of assistance. He would not say if the government plans to dispatch aircraft to bring those Canadians home.

“Every nation is responding to this crisis in a coordinated fashion,” he said. “As you would appreciate, it is very dynamic. The number of people requesting assistance will drive, obviously, the consular assistance we’re going to be providing.”

Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne says government is assessing the number of Canadians in China who require assistance, including how many will require help leaving. 0:33

So far, three cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in Canada. A Toronto man in his 50s and his wife were infected during a trip to Wuhan, China, and a third presumed case in British Columbia was reported today.

Risk remains low

Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam have said more cases are likely but the risk to Canadians remains low.

Hajdu said today that Champagne is working on ways to help Canadians who want to get home, while protecting the health and safety of all Canadians.

Tomorrow, the House of Commons health committee will begin hearings on the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Conservative health critic Matt Jeneroux said Canadians have many unanswered questions about the virus, and he hopes they can be answered by federal health, transport and foreign affairs officials.

“There are questions about how public safety is being taken care of, how the screening at airports is being taken care of, how hospitals are being taken care of. I think all of those are legitimate questions that are being asked, and having detailed responses back to those questions I think is appropriate,” Jeneroux told CBC.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to light up a partisan fire on this. We want to make sure that Canadians are assured that their government is working diligently to protect all Canadians.”