235 Canadians among 3,500 passengers on cruise ship quarantined over coronavirus fears

A cruise ship that has been quarantined off the coast of California by public health officials over fears of a possible COVID-19 outbreak includes 235 Canadian passengers, Global Affairs Canada has confirmed.

According to a department statement, there are no confirmed cases on board the Grand Princess at present.

Earlier today, the California Air National Guard delivered test kits to the cruise ship so that passengers could be tested for the virus.

The ship, with about 3,500 people on board, was ordered to hold its position off the coast after a traveller from a previous voyage died of the disease and at least two others became infected.

"The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Princess Cruise Lines notified the passengers that federal health officials are investigating a "small cluster" of coronavirus cases connected to the ship's mid-February voyage.

The company asked current passengers to stay in their cabins until they are cleared by medical staff and said those who had been on the previous voyage should contact their doctors if they develop fever or other symptoms.

In a statement early Friday, Princess Cruise Lines said samples have been collected from 45 people on board the ship. They were delivered to the California public health department, and the results are expected within a day.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told CBC News Network's Power & Politics the federal government is doing "what is necessary to protect the best interests of those Canadians."

"We are working very closely with the American authorities," Blair told host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Thursday. "I think we've learned a great deal from the experience, both from the ship that docked in Yokohama and the one in Cambodia."

Michele Smith/The Associated Press
Michele Smith/The Associated Press

While Blair said the government will do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe, he stopped short of pledging to evacuate any infected citizens on the ship back to Canada.

"Well, it really depends on the results of that testing," Blair said. "I am not going to get ahead of that but I am very satisfied with the excellent work that the U.S. authorities are undertaking in Oakland to make sure that those people are in fact tested."

According to a statement from Princess Cruises, fewer than 100 guests and crew members have been identified for testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cruise line said that number includes "all in-transit guests (guests who sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained onboard for the current Hawaii voyage), those guests and crew who have experienced influenza-like illness symptoms on this voyage, and guests currently under care for respiratory illness."