Chinese Canadians concerned about potential coronavirus spread have launched mutual help groups to encourage those who have travelled to China to go through self-imposed quarantine.
Canadian health officials have urged anyone returning from Hubei — the Chinese province at the centre of the outbreak — to voluntarily quarantine themselves for 14 days. But many have chosen self-imposed quarantine even if they haven’t been to Hubei, organizers of the groups told CBC News.
“We built a WeChat group consisting of volunteers and people who were recently in China,” Naijun Wang told CBC News in Mississauga on Saturday.
“We have hundreds of people across Ontario and other provinces. We’re working together as a team trying to help [in this] hard time.”
Wang and other volunteers are using the WeChat social media and messaging platform to provide support — such as shopping services and deliveries — to those in quarantine.
Wang has been making deliveries over the past two weeks. So far, he has delivered supplies to seven families.
The most common items being requested by people in quarantine are hand sanitizer, face masks and groceries, he said.
There’s no face-to-face contact between the volunteers and those in quarantine. After requests are made via WeChat, the closest available volunteer buys the items and delivers them to the family’s doorstep. The volunteer then sends a picture to alert the person who made the request that the items have been delivered.
“You still have people coming, especially students, so we try to encourage more people to join the group,” Wang said.
“When everybody works together, it will be easy for us. It’s team work. When there is a need for help, I’ll be there. I’ll be there to help people.”
Volunteer Bing Cui, who lives in Aurora, Ont., said it was an easy decision for him to support people who need help, especially after they took the step to be self-quarantined.
“Maybe the whole family, they don’t have any other friends or people to support [them] to buy something for them, so I just do the voluntary thing to support them,” Cui told CBC News.
“These people self-quarantined, take responsibility for the whole community or the whole society. That’s their activity just to reduce the risk of the whole community, so as a member of the community I just want to contribute something.
“Also, I want to set an example for my son to volunteer to contribute to the society,” Cui added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the new coronavirus that has infected more than 37,000 people and killed 811 people in mainland China — surpassing the number of deaths globally during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic. Coronavirus cases have also been confirmed in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. As of Saturday, there were seven confirmed cases in Canada.
So far only two deaths have been reported outside mainland China, in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both of those victims were Chinese nationals.
“When facing these problems, worry or discrimination or some complaint doesn’t help,” Cui said.
“What we need is love, or to work hard together to help each other, to support each other and then I think finally we will win the battle with the virus.”
CBC News spoke to a man in self-imposed quarantine who said he is grateful to the other members of his community who have volunteered to do pick-up and delivery.
The man, from Toronto, did not want to be identified because of the stigma associated with coronavirus.
“The volunteers deliver food to the door of my house twice and now I have plenty of supplies,” he told CBC Toronto. “Also, two of my friends who returned to Toronto also voluntarily started self-quarantine and the volunteers delivered food and supplies to their apartment.”
“I see so many Chinese people start their self-quarantine considering safety to the public and I’m really surprised that so many Chinese strangers help people like me in the community without even charging a penny, especially [now] when the weather is not really good and windy and they have their own work,” he said.
“The Chinese community really shows helpfulness and consideration to everyone. It’s really perfect.”
The volunteers say there are hundreds across Ontario ready to help complete strangers with anything from grocery shopping and running errands to delivering vehicles at the airport.
They say they’ll continue making deliveries as long as needed, adding that if people continue to take extra precautions to keep other people safe, they’ll keep helping them to make that possible.
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