February 8, 2020 / 11:55 AM / 15 days ago

A mother's fight for toddler stranded in China's coronavirus epicenter

PARIS (Reuters) - Amelia Pan is at home in Canada while her 2-year-old daughter Cerena is stranded far away in China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, being cared for by a distant relative after the girl’s father and grand-parents fell ill.

Wei Ye and his 2-year-old daughter Cerena who is stranded in China's Hubei province are seen in this undated handout photo. Courtesy of Amelia Pan/Handout via REUTERS

“I am just hanging in there,” Pan, a Canadian citizen originally from China, said in a Skype interview. “I need to stay strong so I can fight for my family.”

For days now, Pan has been scrambling to get her daughter onto an evacuation flight back to Canada, but it has been complicated.

Cerena’s father has contracted the virus so he cannot accompany her home on the flight, and Cerena herself ran a fever so she needed to undergo checks to make sure she was not infected herself, according to Pan.

In the meantime, Cerena is in a Chinese hospital, separated from her father and being looked after by a cousin of his who agreed to be in hospital with the child.

“My daughter is less than 3, and still is wearing diapers, she cannot take care of herself, she needs a lot of help from adults,” said Pan.

Cerena’s paternal grandfather caught the virus and died, and her grandmother is also infected.

The family drama began on Jan. 17 when Pan’s husband, Wei Ye, received a call from his sister back home in the Chinese city of Yingshan, near Wuhan. The sister said Ye’s father was close to death because of complications from cancer.

At the time, the family had heard of the coronavirus, but did not understand the danger it posed. The next day, Ye flew to China to be with his father, taking his daughter with him. Pan stayed behind in Canada.

By Jan. 26, Pan received word that her father-in-law was infected with the coronavirus. The next morning, she was told that Ye, and his mother, had a fever. Soon after, it was confirmed Pan’s husband and mother-in-law had coronavirus and they were hospitalized.

Cerena was left in the care of a neighbor. But because she was deemed an infection risk, she was put in hospital. Fortunately, test results came back negative on Saturday. If her temperature stays normal, she should be discharged from the hospital over the weekend, her mother said.

Pan said she is in touch with the Canadian authorities to get Cerena, a Canadian citizen, onto an evacuation flight, and is seeking someone willing to accompany her on a plane that is supposed to leave on Monday.

If this plan works out, Pan will be flying to Trenton, Ontario, to stay in quarantine with her little girl.

Before the outbreak hit, Pan said she had even enjoyed being alone in Canada and briefly free of the burden of parenting.

“But look at the price I paid for the freedom that I enjoyed the first week.”

Writing by Caroline Pailliez and Christian Lowe; Editing by Frances Kerry

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