A Toronto man is calling on the Canadian government to help him and his wife get their 15-month-old daughter out of Wuhan, China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Richard Fabic, 45, says he is worried about his daughter Chloe, nicknamed Coco, and frustrated that the government has not taken action.
He has tweeted to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne but has not yet received a reply from either. He has received a response from a spokesperson for his MP.
“I’m certainly scared, worried, frustrated with the lack of response that I hear. I feel helpless. There’s not much I can do,” Fabic told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.
“I missed her before, but now, I miss her more.”
Fabic, who works in cyber-security, said he has support from friends. But he added: “There’s only so much you can talk it out.”
Wuhan, a city in central China, is under quarantine because of the coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 6,000 people and killed at least 132.
Fabic said he and his wife, Yunfei Li, who is in Victoria, would like the government to follow the lead of other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, and begin airlifting Canadians, including their daughter and her grandparents, out of Wuhan.
“What I would like is a clear plan of action from the government,” Fabic said.
Li went to Wuhan with her parents and Chloe to visit relatives in early December. Li’s family is from Wuhan. She has a number of cousins with children around the same age of Chloe.
The plan was to stay for three weeks, then Li was to leave early. She was to return to Toronto, then head to Victoria, where the couple, their daughter and her grandparents are all moving because Li has accepted a new position.
Chloe was to stay in China while couple got ready for move
Li was to set up their new home and Chloe was to stay back in Wuhan with her grandparents to give Li time to get organized. The grandparents have been living in Toronto.
Li did leave early at the end of December, then the new coronavirus hit. Chloe and her grandparents are still there.
“Really, we were dividing and conquering the tasks,” Fabic said.
“Over here in Toronto, my job was to get ready for the move, pack everything up and send it over. Her job was to find a place in Victoria and then unpack and then I would meet her there. And then everything was ready, our daughter would meet us there.”
The couple is shipping everything in their condo to Victoria. According to the plan, when Chloe finally went to Victoria in March, her new life would be set up for her. Now, Fabic doesn’t know how long Chloe will be in China.
“We were planning for kind of that next chapter, that next phase of life. Then the Wuhan crisis occurred,” Fabic said.
The week before the quarantine, Li’s parents said they had heard nothing indicating the magnitude of the problem. On Tuesday, Fabic and Li realized they needed get the three of them out. Then on Wednesday, the airport and public transportation were shut down. Fabic said Chloe and her grandparents had “no way” to leave.
“We couldn’t do anything,” he said.
Fabic said he is worried about any exposure to the coronavirus as well as access to food. “She’s really young. I’m not sure her immune system can take this,” he said.
China has taken drastic measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and last week, it cut plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people. China has quarantined several other nearby cities since then, cutting off an estimated 19 million people.
Couple has obtained consular case number
According to Fabic, Li called Canadian consular officials repeatedly and was finally given a consular case number on Sunday.
Global Affairs Canada said in an email to CBC Toronto on Tuesday that it cannot comment.
“Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, we are unable to provide information on specific cases,” said Angela Savard, media relations spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada.
Champagne, the foreign minister, said on Tuesday that Ottawa is “looking at all options” to help Canadians quarantined in China during the outbreak.
Global Affairs Canada in contact with Canadians in Wuhan
Champagne said 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan and 126 of them have asked for help to get home. He said his officials are trying to contact each one of them to assess their needs.
“Every Canadian that has reached out to us for consular assistance will receive it,” he said.
He said Canada will tailor its response based on what it finds after all the Canadians asking for help have been contacted.
He noted the number of Canadians seeking help keeps changing as more and more people register via the Global Affairs Canada website — the previous day, the number of Canadians registered in the region was 167.
Champagne said help could include sending a plane to fly them home, but that Canada is also working with other countries in similar situations. Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic office in Wuhan but other countries do and are airlifting their workers. In some cases, private citizens are leaving alongside the diplomats.
Champagne said Ottawa is in contact with the Chinese government about making sure Canada can help its citizens.