A plane carrying 129 Canadians and their families who have spent weeks confined to cabins aboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan landed on Canadian soil on Friday morning.
The former Diamond Princess passengers can expect to undergo another two weeks of isolation in Cornwall, Ont., where they will be monitored for potential signs of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
All of them were tested for the virus by Japanese officials before they left the ship, which has been docked in Yokohama, Japan, since early February. So far none shows any symptoms of the virus.
Canada chose to re-quarantine the passengers after they’ve already gone through two weeks of isolation aboard the Diamond Princess because new cases were still cropping up on the ship at the end of the incubation period, said Canada’s top public-health official Dr. Theresa Tam Friday.
“We are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
The ship was the site of the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside of China, where the virus originated. The Diamond Princess had more than half of the confirmed cases outside that country.
Canadian passenger Lolita Wisener said she was amazed to feel her eyes well up when she saw the Canadian flags on the medics’ white coveralls as they boarded the plane in Japan.
“Everyone, without exception, has said ‘welcome home’ when they see us,” Wisener said. “It’s wonderful to be Canadian!”
About 250 Canadians were originally aboard the ship, and of those 47 contracted the illness and were not allowed to return home. They have been admitted to a dozen hospitals in Japan near Yokohama, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said, and they will remain in Japan for treatment while they receive “tailored” consular services.
He said the federal government has made sure those people have special dietary needs met, are able to communicate with their families and receive interpretation services.
Others who chose to stay behind — with loved ones who are sick, for instance — will be subjected to a mandatory quarantine when they return to Canada on commercial flights.
Those who were allowed to return landed at Canadian Forces Base Trenton at 2 a.m. Eastern time, where they were screened for symptoms before they were taken by bus to Cornwall.
The Canadian Press