Diamond Princess evacuees arrive for quarantine in Canada

OTTAWA — 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 this morning.

The former Diamond Princess passengers can expect to undergo another two weeks of isolation at the Nav Centre 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.

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.

There were about 250 Canadians 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 Canadian 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. They are to be confined to rooms in the Nav Centre until they are released from quarantine.

“The returning Canadians have been through a stressful experience over the past couple of weeks. During their quarantine in Canada, we will offer support for both their mental and physical well-being,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a written release Friday.

The Diamond Princess evacuees will be subjected to the same screening as the Canadians who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak — hundreds of whom are to be released today.

The 213 evacuees leaving quarantine at CFB Trenton were the first to arrive from Wuhan on Feb. 7.

Government officials say none of the evacuees at the base has shown any symptoms of the virus during their stay.

Hajdu says the government is helping all the evacuees with their travel plans, but all will be expected to make their own ways home from Ontario.

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