A Calgary family stuck in Wuhan is worried not only for their health, but the about the possibility of being separated in an effort to get the children out of the city in lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Bin Zhang and his wife are permanent residents, but their children are Canadian citizens, born in Calgary. The 33-year-old moved to Alberta in 2005 as an international student to study at SAIT.
Zhang said he and his wife submitted their Canadian citizenship applications in October but they travelled to China on their Chinese passports.
“I have been calling Global Affairs Canada pretty much every day trying to update them with our status,” he said.
“It’s unique for our family. We are somewhat concerned about whether they will be able to take my wife and I on the plane. Because we’re definitely not going to let our two children to board the plane by themselves. My hope is that they will also allow my wife and I to board the plane with my children.”
Zhang is in China with his wife, three-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son. They have been in Wuhan — where the new coronavirus outbreak started — since Dec. 13 when they left Calgary to visit his parents.
They were scheduled to fly home on Feb. 1, but their flights have been cancelled and they cannot leave Wuhan.
“The restriction prevents people from travelling and going in and out of the city is forbidden, except for special circumstance,” Zhang said. “But I also believe that it is necessary because the outbreak grew so fast, so it’s probably a crucial step to take to contain the outbreak.”
Zhang, who was born and raised in Wuhan, said people in the city are being advised to stay indoors. His family has been staying inside his parents’ home for the past two weeks keeping the kids busy by playing board games and watching TV.
While he’s trying to remain optimistic about the situation, he does worry about the health of his young children.
“I am trying to keep it positive and I’m trying to shield my family from all these concerns, but deep down I am definitely worried about my family, especially my two young children who have undeveloped immune systems,” Zhang said.
“I definitely fear for their health but, overall, we are taking a lot of precautionary measures just to prevent them from being exposed to the virus.”
Speaking in Montreal on Friday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the issue of getting Canadians in China home.
“We are engaged with Chinese authorities around repatriating Canadians who are in China and concerned for their safety. It is a deliberate process which we are engaged responsibly and we will have more to say on that in the coming days,” Trudeau said.
Zhang is thankful his family seems to be healthy and is appreciative of the work of the Canadian and Chinese governments.
“I think we are pretty lucky that none of my family members have shown any illness or symptoms of the virus. We have been isolating ourselves for the past at least 12 to 14 days so I’m quite confident that none of us have the virus,” Zhang said.
“It seems like the government is doing a great job of containing the spread of the virus and we are pretty grateful of all the measures they are taking. That being said, I hope this is over sooner rather than later.”
In an emailed statement on Friday evening, Global Affairs Canada said it was informed “only Canadian Citizens who have entered China with a Canadian passport will be allowed to board the plane” set to take Canadians out of China.
“We try to keep families together whenever possible, and we have raised this with the Government of China,” the statement read. “We are providing consular advice and assistance to permanent residents to the extent possible in the local context.”
Zhang works in sales and services at GS Hitech Controls in Calgary. He said the company has been understanding of his situation and has also made a donation of medical masks this week, in support of the Chinese community’s fundraising and charity events in Calgary.
By Carolyn Kury de Castillo - Global News