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Plane carrying Canadians from Wuhan touches safely down in Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- A plane chartered to evacuate more than 200 Canadians stranded in Wuhan, China, landed safely at Vancouver International Airport Thursday night for refuelling on its way to Ontario, where passengers will be placed in quarantine for two weeks at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
Prior to the plane's arrival in Vancouver, officials had said that anyone showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city would disembark in B.C. for treatment.
However, B.C.'s Ministry of Health confirmed with CTV News that no passengers were taken off the plane at YVR. The plane has since landed safely in Trenton.
"We want to reassure people that the risk of spread of this virus within British Columbia remains low at this time. We are watching the evolution of the outbreak in China very closely and will notify the public if the measures we need to take in B.C. change," the health ministry said in a statement.
"Now is the time for tolerance. We call on all British Columbians to come together as a community to help one another. In this time of uncertainty, this is not only the right response, but the necessary one. Fear obstructs the important work of our public health officials to protect the health and safety of British Columbians."
After undergoing multiple screenings for symptoms of the new coronavirus, 211 passengers were expected to board the plane in Wuhan, but the federal government said only 176 showed up.
That was expected, however, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said some people "changed their minds at the last minute."
Myriam Larouche, a Canadian student who was studying in Wuhan, said she was relieved to be back home after a long process that felt longer in a different country.
"I think I'm going to sleep for 20 hours straight," Larouche told The Canadian Press after the plane touched down in Vancouver, adding that the last few days have been stressful.
Chinese authorities are not allowing anyone who is already symptomatic to leave the country, so all the returning passengers had to appear healthy when they boarded.
The plane, which departed from Vietnam Thursday morning, was originally set to take off Wednesday but was delayed due to weather.
"There is a narrow window given by the Chinese for flights into Wuhan, and the weather conditions were such that the plane couldn't take off," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.
Another 50 Canadians left Wuhan on an American flight, which also touched down briefly at YVR to drop them off. All passengers were transferred to another flight, which is also taking them to Trenton for quarantine.
A second chartered flight is expected to evacuate all remaining Canadians still in Wuhan seeking to return home next week.
So far in B.C., 210 people have been tested for coronavirus, but only four are either confirmed or presumed to be infected. The B.C. government has asked anyone who believes they may have been infected to call a doctor and self-isolate for two weeks.
With files from The Canadian Press