Buses carrying Israeli passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Passengers tested negative for COVID-19 started disembarking since Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton

A planeload of Canadian evacuees who have spent weeks confined to cabins aboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan were expected to begin two weeks of isolation in Cornwall, Ont., Friday, unless Canada’s top health official deems them healthy enough to be released.

And Canadian authorities are looking closely at their experience on the Diamond Princess cruise ship as the country prepares for an upcoming tourist season with concerns about the novel coronavirus, called COVID-19, still very much in the air.

Initially the government said the evacuees from Japan would have to spend 14 days in isolation because that is considered the typical incubation period for the virus.

But because all the passengers have been tested for the virus by Japanese authorities, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Thursday there is a chance that they will be released early from quarantine if they show no symptoms upon their return to Canada, under the discretion of Canada’s top public-health doctor.

ALSO READ: Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton before they are placed in isolation at the Nav Centre in eastern Ontario.

Each passenger was given a government-issued facemask and coloured wristband before they were ushered off the ship in Yokohama to nearby Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, according to a letter from government officials to the evacuees on board the ship.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public-health officer, has already released flight crew and medical personnel who escorted Canadians home from Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 was first detected, but so far all the evacuees themselves have had to serve the full quarantine period.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship has seen the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, with 634 passengers having tested positive at last count.

Hajdu said Canada will be keeping its eye on Japan’s examination of how the virus was handled aboard the ship, especially as it relates to Canada’s own upcoming tourist season. Measures aboard the ship seemed to do little to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

Canada has numerous cruise terminals, from relatively big cities such as Vancouver and Montreal to smaller ports such as Prince Rupert and Baie Comeau, Que.

“There has been obviously concern about the practices on board the ship that have potentially led to the increased spread of the coronavirus on the ship,” Hajdu said, adding that she also has empathy for Japanese officials who had to handle the quarantine of more than 3,000 people docked off a major city.

The evacuation came just after Japanese officials broke the news that two passengers from the ship died after contracting the virus.

The two people who died, a man and a woman in their 80s who are both Japanese, were believed to have been infected before the quarantine began on the ship, Japanese health ministry official Masami Sakoi said Thursday.

The 47 Canadian passengers who have already tested positive for COVID-19 remain in Japan for treatment.

Other Canadians who did not wish to return to Canada on the chartered flight will be expected to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine when they eventually return to the country on a commercial flight. Those Canadians are to be flagged upon their return to the country, and live out their isolation periods at home or in a designated facility, Hajdu said.

Anyone who returns commercially who doesn’t abide by the quarantine order would face penalties, she said.

As for the first 213 Canadian evacuees and their families who have served out their two week quarantine at CFB Trenton, they are scheduled to be released Friday. So far, none have developed symptoms after their arrival from Wuhan, China, the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The second wave of Wuhan evacuees are expected to be released next week.

The government is now working to help facilitate their return to their homes.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quesnel businesses can apply for 2020 façade improvement grants

In 2019, the City helped five businesses through the Northern Development Initiative Trust program

Ranch Musings: Our mental health and well-being in these times

Columnist David Zirnhelt writes about ranching during the COVID-19 pandemic

CN suspending service between Williams Lake and Squamish, effective April 3

Rail traffic north of Williams Lake will be routed to Vancouver through Prince George and Kamloops

COVID-19: United Way of Northern B.C. establishes relief fund to get resources to the most vulnerable

There has already been ‘a huge outcry’ for food supports, funding and personal protective equipment

COVID-19: Quesnel’s Billy Barker Days Festival will happen but may be delayed and look different

‘It will be something different than it has been in other years,’ say organizers

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Sinclar Group curtailing all sawmill operations temporarily

Nechako Lumber, Apollo Forest Products and Lakeland Mills to be curtailed for three weeks starting April 5.

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Most Read