Under quarantine: what life will be like at CFB Trenton for evacuees from Wuhan

OTTAWA — The evacuees from Wuhan expected to arrive in Canada Friday face two weeks of isolation, as they are confined to their assigned motel rooms on a Canadian Forces base in southern Ontario, where they will be monitored for signs of the novel coronavirus.

Public health officials and members of the armed forces have said they hope to keep the Canadian evacuees as safe and comfortable as they can throughout 14 days of mandatory isolation at Canadian Forces Base Trenton to protect against the possible spread of infection disease.

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That follows having already endured an unprecedented quarantine in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China at the centre of the outbreak.

"It will be very stressful for them," federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu warned Thursday.

There will be social and mental health support available as they are placed in even further isolation on the base, even from each other.

"This is part of the stress of being in a quarantine situation," Hajdu said.

"Individuals will have to find ways to occupy themselves with very little movement on the base."

Canada has not called for a public health emergency in the wake of the coronavirus, but has the authority as part of an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act to keep those returning from Wuhan from leaving the base.

So far, there's no indication any of the 176 Canadians ion board the first government-chartered flight from Wuhan show signs of the illness.

They will take a short bus ride to the Yukon Lodge, a 290-room motel on the base typically reserved for military personnel and their families. There, they will be confined to their rooms throughout the quarantine period and be delivered meals prepared by the military.

Families will remain together.

Hajdu said staff, including those from the Red Cross, will visit the rooms to check on their health and well-being.

People under quarantine will be given clothes, diapers, baby formula, games and other things they need.

The rooms are usually set up with single or queen-sized beds, but the military has been busy rearranging rooms to accommodate families so they can stay together. They each feature their own full bathroom, high-speed internet, a TV with a DVD player, as well as a fridge and microwave.

Military officials have assured the people in the area of CFB Trenton that the risk of transmission is low.

"These returnees are healthy Canadians," Maj.-Gen. Andrew Downes, surgeon general of the Canadian Armed Forces, told the Commons health committee Wednesday. "There is a risk of course that one or more of them might have been exposed to this virus, but I think that the risk is low."

Earlier this week, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, cautioned that passengers will need to be monitored for more than just possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

"We're looking at the facilities there," Williams said Monday in Toronto.

"Is it adequate, is it nice lodging, and proper food? All those day-to-day needs are going to be met because these people coming will need to be handled in that way."

After two weeks, when the threat of the virus manifesting itself has finally passed, the evacuees will be taken to the Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto airports for the final leg of the journey home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2020.

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