Mother and baby from Canada caught in China lockdown amid coronavirus outbreak

Xi Huang and husband Bill So hold their 10-month-old son Ian in a family photo.“The thing is we cannot go out because you don’t know when you are going to get infected. Because of the incubation period, you might not have any symptoms,” she said.

A Toronto woman is trapped with her 10-month-old son in the government quarantine in Wuhan, China and says she is terrified that they will become infected by the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 2,000 people worldwide and led to 56 deaths.

“Everyone wants to leave. If it was you, you would want to leave as well,” Xi Huang told the Star by telephone Sunday. “The morning (when the lockdown was issued), my dad came in to my room and he saw me and cried, and I cried too.”

Huang, a permanent resident of Canada who is completing her masters in international business at Ryerson University, lives in North York with her husband Bill So, where they welcomed the birth of their 10-month-old son, Ian. Now on maternity leave, Huang is visiting family in the Wuchang District in the city of Wuhan. The district is located across the Yangtze River from the seafood market where the coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated.

“I was going to stay here until April and Bill was going to visit us in early March,” Huang said, but the outbreak changed everything.

Shortly after learning of severity of the virus, Huang decided to leave early and booked a flight home for Jan. 24, the same day the entire city went into lockdown. All public transportation and airports were shut down and the local government advised people to stay in their homes, Huang said.

“Currently we all feel OK at home. The thing is we cannot go out because you don’t know when you are going to get infected. Because of the incubation period, you might not have any symptoms,” she said.

Huang and her family haven’t left their home for over a week and stay in separate rooms to prevent any transfer of the virus.

“We live in different rooms just in case, because I have to be 100 per cent sure (my son is safe). If one of us is infected we cannot infect others because we need to take care of the baby.”

If Huang’s son contracts coronavirus, she worries that he won’t get appropriate medial attention because he doesn’t have Chinese government ID.

So, who hasn’t seen his son since October, says he misses him very much but feels helpless to do anything on the other side of the world.

“I am mentally drained out. I don’t know how fast it is spreading. I fear for their safety. I want them to find a window of opportunity to leave,” So said.

Their family has informed Global Affairs Canada about their situation and wants to be evacuated. They received a response stating that the Canadian government does not pay for medical evacuations or interfere in medical care, So said.

The government email also said that Canadians abroad are subject to local laws and the government cannot override the decisions of Chinese authorities.

While 80 people have died of the virus in China, the World Health Organization has not declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.

The first “presumptive” case of coronavirus in Canada was identified in Toronto on Saturday. The patient, a 50-year-old man who returned from Wuhan on Wednesday, is being treated at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital.

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Health officials say the virus’s symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and pneumonia. If the infection travels to your lungs, a person can have difficulty breathing.

Experts suspect the virus was first transmitted from wild animals, and that it may be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier and/or more contagious.

Osobe Waberi

Osobe Waberi is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @OsobeWaberi

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