TORONTO — The Canadian government has chartered a plane to repatriate Canadians on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed late Saturday night that the decision was taken “because of the extraordinary circumstances faced by passengers on the Diamond Princess and to lighten the burden on the Japanese health-care system.”
In what is the largest concentration of people infected with coronavirus outside China, 355 people on the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, including 15 Canadians, following the discovery of 67 new cases Saturday.
The aircraft will bring home many of the 255 Canadians on board the Diamond Princess to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont. , after which they will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont. to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine.
“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 François-Phillippe Champagne said in a Global Affairs press release.
Passengers will be screened for coronavirus symptoms in Japan before boarding the aircraft and those that show symptoms of COVID-19 will be denied boarding and transferred to a Japanese hospital for treatment, Global Affairs wrote.
An elderly Quebecois couple from Gatineau, Que., aboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, their daughter said on Saturday.
Diane, 73, and Bernard Menard, 75, are confined to their cabin and awaiting transportation by ambulance to a military hospital where they will be kept in isolation until they no longer test positive for the virus, Chantal Menard told The Canadian Press in an interview.
The couple are among the 67 new positive cases of COVID-19 virus detected aboard the ship, which has been under quarantine at a port city southwest of Tokyo since Feb. 5, according to a statement issued Saturday from Jan Swartz, president of the cruise line.
Those who remain in Japan will continue to receive full consular services from the Canadian government, Global Affairs said.
Medics from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces are already on the ground in Japan.
The timing of the chartered plane has yet to be announced.
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.
– With files from The Canadian Press