A charter plane carrying Canadian citizens home from the centre of the global novel coronavirus outbreak has begun its journey home.
“The plane is wheels up,” Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a tweet Thursday afternoon after the evacuation flight organized by the federal government departed from Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak originated.
The flight is slated to stop to refuel in Vancouver before heading to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario where it is expected to land early Friday.
Update on Canadian flight from #Wuhan:
The plane is wheels up. More information to follow. pic.twitter.com/rbQLz6uFph
— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) February 6, 2020
All evacuees from Wuhan will then spend 14 days under quarantine on the military base.
Canadian officials have documented five cases of coronavirus in the country so far.
The plane was originally due to take off on Wednesday, but was delayed due to bad weather.
About 50 more Canadians are expected to leave China on board a United States government flight scheduled to depart later today.
The federal government has also chartered a second flight to bring more Canadians home next week.
The government had secured space for 211 passengers on the first flight, but Champagne said a number of them did not go to the airport.
“As expected, we had a small number of no-shows at the airport, mostly related to individuals who changed their minds at the last minute,” he said.
Champagne said anyone who decided to stay behind would continue to receive consular assistance.
More than 300 people have asked for Ottawa’s help getting out of the Wuhan.
Kate Schellenberg said she received a text message from her twin brother Michael as he was waiting to board. He is set to leave China with his wife Summer Wu and their one-year-old son Felix.
He told her that he could see people wearing yellow hazmat suits.
Global Affairs Canada had advised passengers to expect delays, noting that Chinese authorities would be performing health screening and immigration controls before people were allowed to board.
The new coronavirus has sickened more than 28,000 and killed 563 in China since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization in December.
The Canadian Press