Coronavirus: Some ‘vulnerable’ Canadian diplomatic staff, dependants evacuated from China

Canada has evacuated some “vulnerable” diplomatic staff and their families from China in the wake of the coronavirus that has claimed 213 lives.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed that it authorized a “limited departure” of employees and dependants on Jan. 29, as was first reported by the Globe and Mail.

They were evacuated due to the lack of medical services for English speakers as well as school closures, the agency said.

Those who were eligible to leave included children, the elderly and people who are vulnerable due to existing medical conditions or mental health concerns.

“The health, safety and security of our diplomats serving abroad and their families is a priority,” Global Affairs said in a statement to Global News.

Global Affairs has not said how many were permitted to leave China amid the health crisis, or where they were stationed.

Canada does not have an embassy or consulate in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started, or Hubei, the province in which the city is located.

Despite the departures, full consular services remain available to Canadians in China, and officials are on standby to provide assistance 24 hours a day, Global Affairs said.

News of the evacuation of some government employees and their families comes as other Canadians in China await details on the federal government’s plan to fly them home.

Government officials said 160 Canadian citizens have requested some form of consular assistance in China.

Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, told reporters Thursday that carving out those plans is very complex and remains a work in progress.

She would not say whether those returning from China would be placed under quarantine, only adding that the government’s objective is to ensure the safety of Canadians.

China has counted 9,692 confirmed cases of the virus with a death toll of 213, including 43 new fatalities. The vast majority of the cases have been in Wuhan and the province of Hubei.

More than 50 million people are under lockdown in China to control the spread of the illness.

In Canada, three people are being treated for the virus but are in stable condition. The patients are isolated within health care facilities or at home, Dr. Tam said.

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