An Ontario father says he missed his 15-month-old daughter’s first steps because she is stuck in the Chinese city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak.
Richard Fabic is hoping to get the Canadian government’s assistance so he can be reunited soon with his daughter, Chloe, he said in a telephone interview on Thursday from his home in Mississauga.
“We are very worried,” he said. “Very concerned.”
Wuhan has been essentially sealed off from the outside world as China tries to contain the respiratory virus, which has the symptoms of a common cold, but can be deadly in severe cases
Canada announced this week that it is preparing to fly a plane to Wuhan to get Canadians out.
Canada’s top foreign-affairs official told a House of Commons committee Thursday that 156 Canadians have asked for help to leave. Marta Morgan, deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Canada is still working to get Chinese approval to send a chartered plane to collect them.
“We’re a bit frustrated but also … we’re hopeful again that we will be able to see our daughter,” Fabic said.
In December, Fabic’s wife, Yunfei Li, accepted a job in Victoria and the family decided to move to B.C. from Ontario, he said.
Fabic, Li and Chloe — all Canadian citizens — and Chloe’s grandparents, permanent Canadian residents, were to “be one big happy family” living in Victoria, he said.
The couple decided that Fabic would pack up the Ontario home, while Li would find a place in Victoria.
“But during this time period, it’s tough to take care of a 15-month-old baby as well, and so my in-laws were planning to go to China anyway,” he said.
“We figured it would be a perfect time for Chloe to connect with the family that she had in China, celebrate the Chinese New Year and arrive in Victoria to a well-settled place.”
Fabic stayed behind while the rest of the family went to China at the beginning of December. Li returned to Canada in the third week.
About a week after that, word of the new virus surfaced, he said.
“No one was concerned in the Wuhan area, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I certainly kick myself now.”
Fabic said he realized that he needed to get Chloe and her grandparents out as the city was being sealed off.
“We had organized a flight by the next day but the flights were already stopped.”
That’s when he started reaching out to the Canadian government.
He’s not the only one who wants to see his loved ones out.
British expat Tom Williams and his Canadian wife, Lauren, have been asking for help to leave with their 2 1/2-year-old Canadian son James. Lauren is 35 weeks pregnant.
They said Thursday they were at the Wuhan airport ready to fly to Britain on Friday morning.
“We’re really relieved,” Williams said. “We have to get through quite a few security and health screenings first, but the British flight is due to take off at 5 a.m. Beijing time.”
The family expect to be in quarantine in the U.K. for two weeks, but he said it could be longer.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press