MONTREAL – Two separate groups of Canadians have been quarantined in hotels in China as the country clamps down amid flu fears. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said students were quarantined at a hotel in northern China while an unknown number of Canadian tourists were stuck at a hotel in Hong Kong.
Alain Cacchione said consular officials were advised by Chinese authorities that Canadians were among the guests at the Metro Park Hotel in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong who were placed under “preventative medical surveillance” after it was confirmed that a guest tested positive for the influenza A H1N1 virus. “Consular officials have been assured by local authorities that all guests are being well cared for and have access to amenities including food and communications,” Cacchione said from Ottawa. “We have no indication at this time that any of them are showing flu-like symptoms.”
Universite de Montreal officials said 29 of their students were also placed in preventative quarantine in a hotel in the city of Changchun in northern China after arriving there from Montreal. Twenty-three students are Canadians, while the other six are visiting foreign students. David Ownby, director of the university’s East Asian studies program, suggested Monday that it was just a case of bad timing for the students. Ownby said that on Saturday morning, Beijing sent out a directive to provincial health authorities saying that H1N1 had become serious and they needed to put effective measures in place in to ensure there wasn’t a repeat of bird flu or SARS.
In Ottawa, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae grilled the government about China’s decision to quarantine Canadian citizens. “It would seem that there has been no justification, no public health reason on the part of the Chinese government,” Rae said. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he has asked consular officials to visit the quarantined Canadians to ensure they are being treated well. “Following that I’ve asked them to take steps and approach the Chinese government to clarify the situation,” he added.