The Canadian government is preparing to send a second plane to help evacuate citizens stranded in Chinas Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, as officials wait for final approval from Chinese authorities to enter the airspace.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that the government is hoping to bring citizens home very soon.
Right now, there is a larger number of Canadians asking for evacuation than there is space on the planewe’ll make a decision based on how full the plane is when we come back, whether or not we exercise the option of the second plane, Mr. Trudeau said.
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Government sources say the second plane has been secured but the officials, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said it may not be needed.
Canadian officials are uncertain about how many Canadians will actually show up at the Wuhan airport for transportation home to Canada.
The hold-up in getting Canadians out is due to Chinese security, one official said. Chinese security needs the names of everyone who will be travelling and they have to go through at least five security checks en route to the airport. Their names need to be on all the lists if they are to go through the security checks, the official said.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Monday that the government secured a chartered plane, which would be going to Hanoi until Chinese authorities give Canada approval to enter the closed airspace.
Mr. Trudeau said that China is being fully co-operative with Canada, adding that there are a lot of processes to ensure Canadians can get through the local quarantines on their way to the airport, that paperwork is filled out, and that identities are verified.
China allowing Canada to repatriate unaccompanied minors with the accompaniment of a permanent resident who is Chinese and not Canadian is an example of that co-operation, Mr. Trudeau said.
Family members both in China and in Canada have been anxiously waiting for news of when the plane will depart, and particularly about children who may be travelling with someone who is not a Canadian citizen.
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Mr. Champagne said the Canadian government has received assurance that China will allow primary caregivers to fly with Canadian children.
We have asked the Chinese authority to allow the primary caregivers, whether theyre Canadian citizens, permanent resident or Chinese national to be able to fly with that child in Canada. We received assurance that China will follow suit on that, he said.