A bus leaves a port where the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship is docked Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo. The federal government says it will evacuate Canadians quarantined aboard a cruise ship docked in Japan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jae C. Hong

Government to evacuate Canadians from quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship

15 Canadians aboard the ship have tested positive

The federal government will evacuate Canadians from a quarantined cruise ship docked in Japan, Global Affairs announced late Saturday, citing the “extraordinary circumstances” on board.

Ottawa said it has chartered a plane to bring home many of the 255 Canadians on the Diamond Princess, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for 10 days amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. So far, 355 people have been infected, including 15 from Canada.

READ MORE: Princess Cruises confirms new Canadian coronavirus case aboard Diamond Princess

It’s the biggest concentration of confirmed cases outside of mainland China, the World Health Organization has said.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances facing our citizens on the Diamond Princess, we are taking action to return Canadians home from Japan, while ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a written statement.

The timing of the chartered plane had yet to be announced.

Global Affairs said the passengers would be screened before boarding the plane, and those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will be transferred to the Japanese health-care system.

Those who make it onto the plane will be brought to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in southern Ontario, the government said. From there, they’ll be assessed and taken to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., to undergo another 14-day quarantine.

The would-be evacuees had mixed reactions immediately after learning the news, with some saying the quarantine added a sour note to the otherwise sweet development.

“Well, you know, it’s not OK, but it’s better than here,” passenger Trudy Clement said. ”We’ll be home.”

She said the evacuation gives her something to look forward to after weeks aboard a ship she previously described as a “luxurious prison.”

“The only hurdle we’ve got to cross now is they’re swabbing everybody,” Clement said. ”So as long as neither one of us comes up positive, we’ll be on that plane.”

The two-week quarantine on the Diamond Princess would have been done as early as Wednesday.

But experts have questioned if the close quarters have contributed to the virus’s spread. Japanese authorities announced Thursday tentative plans to allow those who remain on the ship to disembark and finish their isolation period on land.

READ MORE: White Rock couple on coronavirus-quarantined ship urge Canada/UK governments to step up

The U.S. previously announced it would evacuate roughly 400 Americans aboard the ship, so news of Canadians following suit didn’t come as a surprise to passenger Lolita Wisener of Red Deer, Alta.

“We were just saying, if Canada does anything, we follow the U.S.,” she said shortly after returning from an hour of designated “fresh air” time with her husband.

But the couple was as yet unsure whether they’d board the plane to Canada. The idea of recirculated air and cramped quarters worried them.

“We’re all going to be breathing the same air, whereas on the ship, we’re breathing fresh air,” she said.

They also have their vacation to think about, Wisener said. They were supposed to be in Lisbon on Feb. 4 as part of a whirlwind tour around the world that was supposed to keep them out of Canada until April.

But she noted it’s unclear whether Portuguese officials would let them into the country after their ordeal aboard the Diamond Princess.

Champagne said about 250 Canadians on a separate cruise ship off the shore of Cambodia, the Westerdam, have tested negative for the coronavirus and will be returned to Canada at the expense of the cruise line, Holland America.

Meanwhile, there are about 400 Canadians under quarantine at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in southern Ontario. They were repatriated by Canada from the Chinese province of Hubei, which includes the city of Wuhan, considered as the epicentre of the outbreak.

Nicole Thompson and Hina Alam, 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

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

Seabridge Gold starts drilling along proposed tunnel route north of Stewart

Twin tunnels will connect the KSM mine to its mill and tailings site

Mother grizzly bear with two cubs spotted on Gruchy’s Beach trail near Terrace

Conservation officers also warning public to stay away from Grizzlies on lower Kitimat River

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Most Read