Canada cuts consular staff in China amid coronavirus outbreak

Canada is reducing its consular staff in China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Global Affairs Canada announced the reduced staffing at its diplomatic missions in China on Twitter and on the Beijing embassy’s website Wednesday. Canadians who need emergency consular assistance are being told to contact the emergency watch and response centre in Ottawa.

There have now been more than 6,000 cases of the novel coronavirus reported globally — the vast majority of them in China — and 132 related deaths.

All visa application centres in mainland China are temporarily closed, and consular office will be providing only basic services such as passport renewals and emergency services such as medical assistance, emergency benefits and missing persons.

Global Affairs Canada’s emergency response centre can be reached by phone at 613-996-8885 or by email [email protected].

The government has launched a website dedicated to the coronavirus and set up an information hotline.

This afternoon, the House of Commons health committee will begin hearings on the government’s response to the outbreak. Scheduled to appear today are Stephen Lucas, the deputy health minister, Public Health Agency of Canada president Tina Namiesniowski and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam is scheduled to appear at the House of Commons health committee Wednesday afternoon. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Several countries have started repatriating their citizens from the affected region in China.

A Japanese flight carrying 206 evacuees home included four people with coughs and fevers. The three men and one woman were taken to a Tokyo hospital on separate ambulances for treatment and further medical checks.

Help for Canadians in affected region

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the government will provide consular services to all Canadians trapped in the coronavirus-affected region of China due to commercial travel restrictions.

He said the government would provide a “tailored response” based on the needs of the Canadians in the area — but did not say if an aircraft would be dispatched to repatriate people from the Wuhan area.

“We’re looking at all options to assist them,” he said.

Champagne said that 250 Canadians in the affected area have now registered with Global Affairs, and 126 have requested consular assistance to get home.

“We are in contact with them. We’re trying to contact everyone, assess their specific need for assisted repatriation,” he said.

“We’re at the same time consulting with our allies and looking at the different options that people are considering, also in contact with the Chinese authorities.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has stressed that the risk to Canadians remains low, but said any consular assistance to Canadians in China will be provided in a way that protects the health and safety of Canadians abroad and at home.


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