Canadian passengers aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan who have not tested positive for COVID-19 are disembarking today ahead of a charter flight that’s scheduled to leave Tokyo on Friday.
There are 256 Canadians on the ship, which has been docked in Yokohama since early February. Of those, 47 have tested positive for COVID-19, Global Affairs Canada said.
A charter flight to repatriate Canadians and permanent residents who have not tested positive is expected to leave Friday morning Tokyo time.
Lolita Wiesner of Alberta, who has been in quarantine on the ship along with her husband, posted on Facebook Thursday saying they had been checked by nurses and passed a pre-flight screening.
“Our bags are packed and outside the cabin. We have fresh masks. Now we just wait until we’re called,” her post said.
Allan and Diana Chow, an Ontario couple who were also on the Diamond Princess, have been eager to get off the ship, which Allan previously described as a “floating jailhouse.”
The pair, who have been sending photos back to their daughter in Toronto who then posts to Twitter, said they are off the ship and heading to buses that will take them to the airport.
Global Affairs said that if space allowed, non-Canadian immediate family of citizens and permanent residents would be allowed on the flight to allow families to stay together.
If people choose not to return home on the charter flight, GAC said they would have to finish the quarantine being run by health officials in Japan and follow local instructions.
“Canadians seeking to return to Canada by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act upon their return, in line with a determination to be made by the Public Health Agency of Canada,” the statement read, though it did not say exactly what that would mean for those who elect not to board the charter.
Cruise ship case numbers increase
On Thursday, Japan said another 13 people from the ship had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to more than 630.
The increase came after local media reported that two Japanese citizens who had contracted the virus while on the ship had died.
The two patients who died, an 87-year-old man and an 84-year-old woman, had both tested positive for the virus although the woman’s cause of death was listed as pneumonia, the Health Ministry said. Two government officials who had worked on the ship were infected, it added, bringing the number of infected officials to five.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that 27 people from the ship were in serious condition. Kyodo News has previously reported 29 were in serious condition.
Hundreds of passengers who were cleared were able to get off the ship on Wednesday, the first batch of travellers to leave the ship after the two-week quarantine ended.
The coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, apparently in a wildlife market, and has now infected some 75,000 people and killed about 2,100.
The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China, and more specifically Hubei province, of which Wuhan is capital, but the global spread appears inexorable.