02/18/2020 08:42 EST | Updated 02/18/2020 17:56 EST

Canadians Stuck On Quarantined Cruise Ship May Finally Get To Leave

A flight carrying U.S. passengers departed early Monday from Japan.

David Mareuil via Getty Images
The Diamond Princess cruise ship is seen here off the coast of Japan on Saturday. The Japanese Health Ministry said at least 454 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus on the ship, including 43 from Canada.

A plane carrying Canadians from a quarantined cruise ship in Japan will leave the region by week’s end, the federal government says, as the number aboard sickened with the novel coronavirus continues to rise.

More than 450 people from the Diamond Princess, held in the port of Yokohama, had tested positive for the virus known as COVID-19, among them 43 Canadians at last count.

Authorities in Japan and here say only people who are examined and found healthy will be allowed to fly to quarantine in Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that Canadian officials were waiting on final authorization from those in Japan before the plane ferrying people home is able to take off.

Departure is now likely to happen Thursday or Friday, he said. The plane was en route to Japan after some unforeseen technical issues prior to takeoff Tuesday, Champagne said.

“The plane right now is in the air and will be there on the 19th,” he said.

Canadians who are sick will remain in Japanese health facilities, he said.

But not everyone who is healthy will travel: Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said some aboard the cruise ship have indicated they plan to stay with ill family members. She said their travel home, whenever it happens, will be tracked and they, too, will be subject to quarantine rules when they land.

Hajdu said there are others aboard the cruise ship who officials are still trying to get in touch with. In all, there are 256 Canadians aboard the ship.

Those who have requested and been cleared to fly will arrive at CFB Trenton for health examinations before being moved on to a Nav Canada training centre in Cornwall, Ont., which includes a large hotel.

Hajdu said the amount of time they stay in quarantine will be unique to each person based on the symptoms they show and whether they test positive for the virus.

“In every circumstance, we’ll be considering that particular person’s health and the risk of further infection,” Hajdu said at a press conference in nearby Belleville, Ont.

Watch: Americans have been evacuated from the quarantined cruise ship. Story continues below.

“What we’re trying to do as a country is do our global part in containing the spread in Canada and I will say that I am very proud of the work that’s been happening at all levels of jurisdiction to reach that goal together.”

She had just visited an existing quarantine site at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in southern Ontario. More than 400 Canadians and family members airlifted from Wuhan, China, are waiting out the COVID-19 bug’s two-week incubation period.

She met health workers, Canadian Armed Forces members and staff from the Red Cross, who are all trying to keep the people in quarantine healthy and not too bored while they wait out the incubation period for the respiratory illness.

So far, no cases of COVID-19 have been detected there.

Most cases of the virus are mild, but the illness can be deadly, especially in people who are already in poor health. Eight people in Canada have tested positive for the virus, out of about 350 cases tested at the country’s premier microbiology lab, and none has died. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 18, 2020.

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