As the country’s first coronavirus quarantine ends, the hundreds of Canadians who have been isolated at Canadian Forces Base Trenton over the past 14 days prepared to return to their everyday lives.
“Emotionally, we’re still neither here nor there," said Wayne Duplessis, an expat teacher who was evacuated from China along with his wife and two sons.
Despite receiving what they describe as excellent care during their time in quarantine, their experience has taken a toll and they’re ready to leave it behind. “This ends after we have our final health check and we get our paper saying we’re clean,” Mr. Duplessis said.
Four hundred and thirteen people have been quarantined at the military base following evacuation from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. They’ve been monitored every day for two weeks by the Canadian Red Cross to ensure they don’t develop symptoms of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
The first group of evacuees, who arrived Feb. 7, are to be released Friday. A second group that touched down later will finish their quarantine period Tuesday. There have been eight cases of the coronavirus in Canada since the outbreak began, and none of the travellers held at CFB Trenton exhibited symptoms of the virus during their stay.
Despite the uncertainty, quarantine residents pulled together to find some entertainment, creating a digital community on the Chinese social media app WeChat, through which people prayed in video groups, shared exercise videos that could be done indoors, and held karaoke competitions.
As a thank you for their care, they raised more than $35,000 in donations among themselves for the Canadian Red Cross, said evacuee Li Xin Cheng, who led the fundraising effort along with two others in quarantine.
After arranging their own travel back to their respective provinces, most of those being released from quarantine say they’re excited to resume a normal life and are looking forward to the simple things, such as home-cooked meals, hugging friends and relatives, and sleeping in their own beds.
Christopher Lan, an engineering professor at the University of Ottawa, described the two weeks in isolation as “relaxing.” Stuck in a room with his wife and adult son for 14 days, he said the family bonded over shared meals and hours of chatting.
After time spent in China for the Lunar New Year and then two weeks at CFB Trenton, most evacuees have been gone for around a month, leaving family and jobs in limbo.
Monte Gisborne, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident whose wife, Danni Luo (Daniela), and eight-year-old daughter Qinlin Li (Dominica) are in quarantine, just wants to see their faces in person. Evacuating them from Wuhan, and then getting them home, has been one of the most stressful situations of his life, he said.
“There’s no manual that comes with this kind of a problem. I felt a lot of despair,” Mr. Gisborne said. “It’s a bit of an eye-opening experience, sitting back here helpless.”
And while some residents have been able to work remotely to minimize the impact on their jobs back home, others, like Mr. Cheng, have a lot of work to recuperate upon their return. He said his translation business in Vancouver is taking a hit because there’s been no one around to pay the bills.
Thursday night, a new group of Canadian evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, flew out of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. After a medical screening at CFB Trenton, the group will undergo two weeks of quarantine at the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont.
Forty-seven infected Canadians from the cruise ship will remain in Japan for treatment instead of being brought home, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said.