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Coronavirus epidemic: Nearly 300 returning Canadians will be quarantined at Trenton. Here's how that will work

Technicians on the ramp of a CC-177 Globemaster III plane await the arrival of their cargo   Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont. Nearly 300 Canadians evacuated from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days at the base camp.
Technicians on the ramp of a CC-177 Globemaster III plane await the arrival of their cargo Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont. Nearly 300 Canadians evacuated from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days at the base camp.

Nearly 300 Canadians will be evacuated out of Wuhan and quarantined for 14 days in Trenton, Ontario, government and public health officials said Monday.

In a news conference, officials announced they have chartered a plane to bring back 280 Canadians who have requested to be removed from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic .

Ottawa hasn’t confirmed when the Canadian evacuees will arrive in Canada, with officials stating they are waiting on approval from Chinese authorities to enter their air space. However, all passengers that eventually arrive from Wuhan will be quarantined at a Canadian Air Forces military camp in Trenton for a mandatory period of 14 days as a “precautionary measure,” officials confirmed.

“Fourteen days is the longest incubation period during which someone might become sick,” Patty Hajdu, Canada’s health minister, explained on the call, stressing the need for extra precaution because Wuhan has the “most intense transmission of the virus.”

The base camp was chosen “due to its ability to house large amounts of people in a short time,” explained Defence Minister Harijit Sajjan. Given the high risk of infection that comes with travelling from the virus epicentre, officials will not allow passengers to quarantine at home.

During the quarantine period, passengers will be kept in individual isolation and will be subjected to a full health assessment, follow-up observations and support services as needed, explained Hajdu. Additional testing will be considered if deemed necessary, she added.

Prior to arriving at the site, evacuees will be subjected to three forms of medical screening, Hajdu said. Passengers arriving at the airport in China will be screened for the virus by Chinese authorities, and will be kept back if they show symptoms of the disease. Canadian forces medical personnel will also screen passengers one more time before they board the plane.

Onboard, evacuees will also be made to fill out a health questionnaire. If anyone falls sick mid-flight, they will be shifted to a segregated area of the plane. “The plane will stop in B.C. for fuelling. If a passenger is sick, they will need immediate assistance in B.C. and will be transported and isolated in a facility there,” said Hajdu.

On arriving in Trenton, passengers will “be processed automatically by Canadian Border Services Agency to secondary screening”, which will include a visual temperature check to track whether anyone is visibly sick.

Social services and mental health support will also be available to mediate the “stressful experience they have gone through”, she added.

It’s unclear what security protocols have been put in place to ensure evacuees remain at the Trenton base camp for the entire quarantine period. On Sunday night, Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance released a statement on Twitter, assuring Canadians that protocols have been put into place to ensure the safety of all Canadian Air Force members and returning Canadians.

“Those engaged in direct support to them, including medical and social services, are experts in their field and the safety protocols that they have set in place are, and will be, rigorously applied and constantly reviews,” the statement reads.

According to CNN , nearly 200 Americans evacuated from Wuhan were asked by health officials to stay for at least three days at a Southern California military base. One American tried to leave the base without undergoing a full medical evaluation, CNN reported, and has now been ordered to stay at the quarantine facility for the “entire incubation period or until otherwise cleared,” according to Riverside County Public Health.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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