Cornwall mayor questions 'suitability' of cruise ship evacuation plan

The mayor of Cornwall, Ont., says she has questions about whether the local facility that will house Canadians evacuated from a quarantined cruise ship is the right place.

On Saturday, the Canadian government announced it had chartered a plane to bring home Canadians from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been docked in Japan since Feb. 3 over concerns about COVID-19, the new coronavirus.

The 15 Canadians being evacuated from the quarantined ship will first undergo assessment at the Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ont., before spending two weeks under further quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall.

The cruise ship is carrying around 3,600 crew members and passengers, including a 75-year-old couple from Cantley, Que., who have tested positive for the virus.

'We have questions'

Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement posted a video to Facebook this morning, telling residents who are concerned about the plans that she shares their concerns. 

"There are questions about the suitability of the Nav Centre and of Cornwall to be receiving people who will be spending a quarantine period [here]," she said in the video.

"We need answers to those questions." 

Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

Clement said it's frustrating the federal government hasn't provided more information about the plan that could be passed along to residents. 

"I really don't have as much details as I would like to have at this time," she said in the video.

Clement said she's been in touch with both local MP Eric Duncan and the training institute, and is scheduled to tour the site this afternoon. 

Before boarding the plane in Japan, passengers were screened for symptoms and those who showed symptoms of the virus were not permitted to board.

Instead, they were transferred to the Japanese health system. 

The federal government said Saturday that those who remain in Japan will continue to receive consular services through the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo. 

Joseph Tunney/CBC

Brenda Villeneuve, a resident of Cornwall who walks through the Nav Centre regularly, said she's concerned some people might not stick to the quarantine protocol — or leave before the 14-day period is over. 

"This should be in a military base where they're more equipped for such a thing," Villeneuve said.

In 2017, the Nav Centre was also used to temporarily house hundreds of asylum seekers seeking a new start in Canada.

As of Sunday evening, it still wasn't clear when the cruise ship evacuees would be arriving in Cornwall.