Coronavirus: Canadians 'stuck' in Iran due to cancelled flights
VANCOUVER -- The rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran has left some Canadians who are visiting that country without a way to get home.
Iran is experiencing the deadliest outbreak outside of China, with the country reporting at least 92 deaths and 2,922 confirmed cases as of March 4. As a result, some world airlines are suspending flights, leaving travellers from Canada in limbo.
Speaking to CTV News Vancouver from Powell River, Kei Esmaeilpour of the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians described the current situation as “kind of chaos."
“Every day, we see something on the social network that somebody says, ‘I am stuck over here, what can I do?’” he said.
There are currently 720 Canadians in Iran who have registered with the Canadian government’s voluntary registration service. However, because registration is voluntary, Global Affairs Canada admits that number may not be a complete picture of how many Canadians are actually there.
Esmaeilpour said some of those visiting Iran are now hoping for help from the Canadian government to come home. Canada has already helped repatriate more than 500 residents and their families from other affected parts of the world.
In an emailed statement, Global Affairs acknowledged that COVID-19 has made it "increasingly difficult" to leave Iran.
"If your presence in Iran isn’t essential, you should consider leaving by commercial means while these are still available,” the agency said, adding "there are no plans to repatriate a significant group of people from other countries."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says people who have made it back to B.C. from Iran are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We are contacting them to ensure that they have the resources and are able to do that,” Henry said.
Esmaeilpour said a volunteer group has also formed to help those in home quarantine by delivering groceries or other supplies.
Meanwhile, some local events planned by the Iranian community in Metro Vancouver have been voluntarily cancelled as a precaution, including some Persian new year celebrations.
“Many concerts have been cancelled due to this issue, too,” he said. “Our community is caring about all society’s safety and health.”
Global Affairs said Canadians who need consular assistance in Iran can contact the Canadian embassy in Ankara, Turkey, at +90 312 409 2700. There is also a 24-hour Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, which can be reached at +1 613-996-8885, or by email at email@example.com.