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(UPDATE: Feb. 20 @ 5:30 am): Healthy Canadians from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship will shortly be heading home, according to Canada’s foreign affairs minister.
Thousands of people have been stuck aboard the ship after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Two people – a Japanese man and woman in their 80s – have died as a result of the virus.
The ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, contained the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, with hundreds of passengers having tested positive.
Among the infected are 47 Canadians who will have to remain in Japan for treatment.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Wednesday that passengers would be screened before boarding a chartered flight Thursday evening, Japan time.
Those who are cleared to travel will be taken to Canadian Forces Base Trenton for further screening before they are placed under another two-week quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there was a chance that those that have been tested negative for the virus and show no signs of symptoms may be released from quarantine early under the discretion of Canada’s top public-health doctor.
Princess Cruises said their firm's president, Jan Swartz, personally met with the first passengers to disembark in Yokohama.
(UPDATE: Feb. 19 @ 5:40 am): Hundreds of Canadian passengers stuck aboard a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan are still uncertain when they will be flown home.
Global Affairs has said the departure date for a plane is yet to be confirmed.
Passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship were told on Tuesday a flight set to bring them home was “expected” to fly out of a Tokyo airport on Thursday.
But spokeswoman Barbara Harvey said the departure will be settled once final arrangements are made with the Japanese government and the cruise ship company.
A news release from the company operating the Diamond Princess cruise ship said the Canadian flight has been “shifted” to early Friday morning.
Thousands of passengers who’d been taking a cruise on the Diamond Princess have been stuck aboard the ship docked in Yokohama, near Tokyo, while the illness dubbed COVID-19 has sickened hundreds.
Forty-three of about 250 Canadian passengers had been struck by the bug at last count, according to Canadian authorities.
(UPDATE: Feb. 18 @ 5:10 am): Canadians stranded on a quarantined cruise ship were told that a flight set to bring them home is “expected” to depart Tokyo Haneda Airport on Thursday amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Passengers will be informed of the “exact departure time approximately 24 hours before the flight,” reads an email received by passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at a port near Tokyo.
“It is important that you remain on the ship until you are instructed to board the assisted Canadian flight, even if you are cleared to leave because you have completed the ship quarantine,” says the email received Tuesday evening local time from Global Affairs.
“Please note that if you leave the ship before you are instructed to do so, it will not be possible to board the assisted Canadian flight.”
Should passengers choose not to return on the charter flight, they will need to complete the current quarantine being administered by Japan and follow the instructions of local authorities, it says.
Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act, in line with a determination to be made by the Public Health Agency of Canada, it says.
This could include a further quarantine of 14 days, it reads.
An email sent Monday evening said it took the government time to organize this evacuation because the flight departure from Lisbon was delayed by “several hours due to overflight clearance challenges.”
As many as 255 Canadians are on the Diamond Princess, where some 3,500 passengers have been stuck for at least 10 days. So far, 355 people have been infected, including 15 from Canada.
The largest number of cases outside China is among passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Japanese Health Ministry has tested 1,723 people among the 3,700 initially on board, and 454 have tested positive.
The US evacuated 338 American passengers early Monday, with most of them placed in a 14-day quarantine at military bases in California and Texas.
Global Affairs Canada said on Saturday that the aircraft will bring passengers from Japan to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in southern Ontario.
There they will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont, to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine.
Before boarding in Japan, passengers will be screened for symptoms, it said adding those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health system to receive appropriate care.
Experts have questioned if the close quarters have contributed to the virus’ spread.
Lolita and Hans Wisener of Red Deer, Alta, who have so far not shown symptoms of the virus say they are looking forward to being on the plane.
“I feel better having gotten some news because it feels like we’ve just been sitting and waiting for two days,” Lolita Wisener said.
“Things are moving even if it’s slow but knowing helps. It looks like it’s going to be another two days.”
Another passenger, Trudy Clement, said she’s a bit worried although neither she nor her husband have shown symptoms.
“It’s the stress,” she said.
“It’s bad enough just waiting for this day to finally come but waiting for that knock on the door to finally say you’re not going because you tested positive is horrible. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.”
Her husband will be spending his birthday in quarantine on March 1, in Ontario.
“We’ll order a cake, I don’t know, Clement said.
“As long as we get out of here, it’s fine. Home is always home.”
(UPDATE: Feb. 14 @ 6 am): Foreign Affairs Minister Francois−Philippe Champagne says Canadian health workers are assisting in Japan after 12 Canadians contracted the novel coronavirus while on a cruise ship.
Champagne says three members of the Public Health Agency of Canada and two medical personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces have been sent to Yokohama, the Japanese port city where the Diamond Princess has been docked since last week.
Some 3,500 passengers on the ship are under quarantine and 218 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Champagne says the Japanese government will allow some elderly people to complete the rest of their quarantine period at another facility off the ship.
Meanwhile, Champagne says consular officials are assisting in Cambodia where another ship with 279 Canadians aboard was recently allowed to dock after being rejected from multiple other countries over fears of the new coronavirus.
There have been no reported cases of the virus, dubbed COVID−19, on the Westerdam, and Champagne says officials will help Canadians with the process of returning home.
(UPDATE: Feb. 13 @ 11 am): Japanese authorities might soon allow people quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship near Tokyo, where 12 Canadians have contracted the novel coronavirus, to disembark and finish out their isolation on land.
The 3,500 passengers on the ship have been under quarantine since last week, and so far 218 have tested positive for the disease, which the World Health Organization has dubbed COVID−19.
It’s the biggest concentration of confirmed cases outside of mainland China, according to the World Health Organization
The 12 Canadians who contracted the virus on board the ship have been moved to Japanese health facilities, and at least three require hospitalization, Champagne said.
Champagne said emergency response teams and consular officials are in Japan to make sure Canadians are receiving the help they need.
"We know that there are some people who need medications on board, they want to have contact with their families, we’re facilitating that," Champagne said at a briefing in Senegal, where he is on a diplomatic trip.
Canada has also dispatched health officials to Japan to co−ordinate with local public health authorities.
Japan plans to move passengers who wish to leave the ship in phases, with the most "medically vulnerable" guests being moved in the first phase, according to Princess Cruises, the line that owns the Diamond Princess.
That first group of people will be tested for the virus, and if they test negative will be taken to a quarantine housing facility, the cruise line said in a press release.
If they test positive they’ll be moved to a health facility.
The shore−side quarantine centre will include individual rooms with private bathrooms, and while passengers will continue to receive their medical prescriptions they will not have access to specialized or western meals. They will be served Japanese bento boxes for the duration of the quarantine, according to the release.
Everyone who wishes to stay on the ship will be allowed to do so.
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.
As for Canadians still in the centre of the viral outbreak, Champagne said all the 400 or so Canadians who wished to leave Hubei, the Chinese province that includes the city of Wuhan, have been repatriated and are quarantined in southern Ontario, at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
There are still permanent Canadian residents in Hubei, he said. Though Chinese authorities initially stipulated that only Canadian passport holders would be able to leave the quarantined region, they seem to have relaxed that rule, Champagne said, but he did not elaborate on whether Canada would make arrangements to fly more of them out.
The last flight chartered by the Canadian government to evacuate people from the city of Wuhan, which landed at CFB Trenton on Tuesday, was the last the government plans to send to the region. Those Canadians who chose to stay behind in Hubei have been provided with consular services, Champagne said.
(UPDATE: Feb. 10 @ 5: 20 am): Princess Cruises says a Canadian is among an additional 66 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, just outside Tokyo.
The company says in a release issued early Monday morning that the positive test results were confirmed by the Japanese Ministry of Health and that it is following the ministry’s “disembarkation protocols to provide medical care for these new cases.”
This latest case raises to eight the number of Canadians aboard the Diamond Princess who have contracted the new virus. The patient will join the seven other Canadians who were earlier taken to Japanese hospitals for treatment and monitoring.
Seven cases of the virus have also been diagnosed in Canada, four of them in British Columbia and three in Ontario.
The cruise line also said that, due to the "extraordinary circumstances" aboard the ship, guests will have their full fare refunded.
They will also be repaid any money spent on air travel, hotels, ground transport, tips and anything they bought while on the ship.
"Princess Cruises will also provide guests with a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage which ended on February 4," the company added.
The federal government said Sunday that it was monitoring the well-being of 285 Canadians quarantined on the Diamond Princess and another cruise ship anchored off Hong Kong, however, health officials have given the Hong Kong ship the all clear, allowing passengers and crew to disembark.
Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a statement Sunday that none of the 213 evacuees from Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the outbreak — who are quarantined at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., have exhibited any symptoms of the virus.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is travelling with Prime Minister Trudeau in Africa, said a second plane left Trenton, Ont., early Sunday morning to bring home more Canadians who have asked to return from China.
“The plane would be leaving (China) on the 10th of February, bringing back the last group of Canadians who want to be repatriated on the 11th,” Champagne said.
There are 236 Canadians waiting to board the plane from a city that has been under quarantine for weeks as Chinese authorities try to contain the virus’s spread, Canadian officials said Sunday.
Most cases of the new coronavirus are mild, but the respiratory illness can be deadly in some people.
China reported a rise in new virus cases Monday, possibly denting optimism that disease control measures, including isolating major cities, might be working.
The mainland death toll rose by 97 to 908 in the 24 hours through midnight Sunday and 3,062 new cases were reported. That was up 15 per cent from Saturday and broke a string of daily declines.
The fatality toll from the new virus has passed the 774 people believed to have died in the 2002-03 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome, another viral outbreak that originated in China. And the current total of 40,171 cases on the mainland of the new virus vastly exceeds the 8,098 sickened by SARS.
More than 440 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
(UPDATE: Feb. 7 @ 5:20 am): Five more Canadians have tested positive for coronavirus aboard a quarantined cruise ship off Japan.
The total number of Canadians affected is now seven.
On Thursday, the Japanese Ministry of Health completed its final round of examinations on board the Diamond Princess, which is carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members.
There were 41 people identified in the final tests, adding to 20 people previously found to have the virus.
“This is the last batch to be tested and the quarantine end date will be Feb. 19, unless there are any other unforeseen developments,” a statement from the cruise line explained.
The cruise line, Princess Cruises, said the nationalities of the new cases, in addition to the Canadians, were one from Argentina, five from Australia, 21 from Japan, one from the United Kingdom and eight from the United States.
Princess Cruises said local public health authorities will immediately disembark those guests for transport to local hospitals. It said staff are doing their best to make the quarantined passengers comfortable.
“Guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone service to stay in contact with their family and loved ones,” it said.
“In addition, we have added additional live TV channels and a large selection of in-room movies available in multiple languages. The cruise activities staff is packaging games, puzzles and trivia and delivering them to guest staterooms.
“The health and safety of our guests and crew remains our top priority. We continue to work closely with the Japan Ministry of Health on all protocols and procedures.”
The ship was first quarantined in Yokohama on Tuesday following a confirmed outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says the Canadian mission in Tokyo has been in touch with the Canadian passengers on the ship to offer them consular assistance and the government will look to the cruise line to repatriate them when the quarantine is finished.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that Japan will deny entry of foreign passengers on another cruise ship heading to Japan — Holland America’s cruise ship Westerdam, on its way to Okinawa from Hong Kong — because of suspected virus patients found on the ship.
A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 31,400 people globally.
The latest figures report 636 deaths and 31,161 confirmed cases on mainland China. In addition, Hong Kong has had 22 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases.
Most of the deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December.
(UPDATE: Feb. 6 @ 5:30 am): Two Canadians on a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
“Princess Cruises can confirm that we have been notified that amongst the second set of samples that have completed testing, 10 additional people have tested positive for Coronavirus,” a statement from the company explained.
“This includes four Japanese guests, one guest from Taiwan, two Americans, two Canadians and one guest from New Zealand.”
It added that local public health authorities will be immediately disembarking those guests for transport to local hospitals.
“The health and safety of our guests and crew remains our top priority,” the company said.
“We continue to work closely with the Japan Ministry of Health on all protocols and procedures while ensuring the comfort of our guests.”
Diamond Princess at first confirmed 10 cases of the virus. None of those were Canadian.
(Original story: Feb. 5 @ 5:40 am): A cruise ship carrying 251 Canadians has been quarantined off the coast of Japan following a confirmed outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Ten people have tested positive for the virus, but none are Canadian, said a statement from Princess Cruises on Wednesday.
The ship is carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew.
Almost half of the guests on board are Japanese, the firm said.
“Princess Cruises can confirm that the first phase of health screening of all guests and crew onboard Diamond Princess, by the Japanese Ministry of Health, has been completed,” it said.
it's my parents whos on #DiamondPrincess, not me. I tweet for lots of families worried about passengers and crews. my parents are unable to talk over the phone, so I refuse interviews. but it's Okay to use my tweets for good intentions. Please pray for crews and passengers. pic.twitter.com/nUs4vMXbr3— cocorobyn (@coco12013yn) February 5, 2020
The 10 infected cases include two Australians, three Japanese, three people from Hong Kong, and one from the United States, as well as a Filipino crewmember, the statement explained.
Covered from head-to-knee by large, white sheets, the positive cases were led by gloved and masked officials onto Coast Guard vessels, to be taken ashore and transported to local hospitals.
The ship will remain under quarantine for at least 14 days in Yokohama, it said.
Princess Cruises will continue to fully co-operate with and follow the instructions of global medical authorities and the Japanese government, the statement added.
It will also be cancelling the next two Diamond Princess cruises departing Yokohama on Feb. 4 and 12, it said.
The company added: “The ship plans to go out to sea to perform normal marine operations including, but not limited to, the production of fresh water and ballast operations before proceeding alongside in Yokohama where food, provisions, and other supplies will be brought onboard.
“Guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone to use in order to stay in contact with their family and loved ones, and the ship’s crew is working to keep all guests comfortable.”
The viral outbreak that began in China has so far infected more than 24,500 people globally with 490 deaths reported in the Hubei province, the epicentre of the disease, and one in Hong Kong.
More than 1,800 people on another cruise ship were being screened in Hong Kong after three passengers on a previous voyage were diagnosed with the virus.
Meanwhile, Canadians stranded in a Chinese city under quarantine have been told a flight to bring them home has been delayed.
Myriam Larouche, a 25-year-old student from Quebec who is in Wuhan, says she got an email from the Canadian Embassy about the delay.
She says the flight that was scheduled to leave early Thursday morning, local time, is now expected to leave in the evening.
The email says the delay was “due to circumstances beyond the control of the Government of Canada.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has said the plane would wait in Vietnam for permission from Chinese authorities.
Ottawa has said more than 300 Canadians have asked for help to leave Wuhan but the plane has room for only 250 passengers.