Coronavirus Covid-19 cases: Canadians from quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship are back home

After spending weeks in a Covid-19 quarantine on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, 129 passengers are back in Canada.

The travellers arrived early Friday morning at the CFB Trenton airport, and according to Global Affairs Canada, they didn’t show any symptoms of the virus upon arrival.

They were then taken to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., to complete another two-week quarantine. It’s the same safety procedure that people returning from Wuhan, China, the centre of the outbreak, have had to go through.

Passengers were able to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday, which marked the end of a 14-day quarantine aimed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19.

Passengers who were granted permission off the cruise were given a certificate by Japanese health authorities, which indicates a negative Covid-19 test result.

Out of the 256 Canadians on board, there are at least 47 Canadians that have been diagnosed with Covid-19, out of 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members, according to statement by Global Affairs Canada on Feb. 19. They join the 621 reported cases on the cruise.

On Thursday, Japan’s health ministry confirmed that two elderly passengers had passed away due to the virus. It’s believed the two Japanese citizens contracted the disease before the ship entered quarantine. It also marks the first fatal Covid-19 cases among passengers who were on the Diamond Princess cruise.

The ship was originally put under quarantine Feb. 4, but the number of cases has continued to rise since then. The latest diagnosis of 47 Canadians, which was provided Feb. 19, is up from the 43 cases reported on Feb. 18, and the 12 cases that were reported Feb. 14.

Canada announced Feb. 15, that they planned on evacuating its residents from the quarantined ship. Only those who are healthy have been eligible for the flight home.

Those who do show Covid-19 symptoms, even during the screening that will take place before the boarding of the evacuation flight, will instead be directed to a health care facility in Japan.

Canada’s Global Affairs said that there are currently four members of the Standing Rapid Deployment Team, three experts from the Pubic Health Agency of Canada and seven Canadian Armed Forces medical personnel who have been deployed to Japan to help with the evacuation.

If space permits, non-Canadians who are immediate family members of citizens and permanent residents will also be allowed on the flight, according to the statement.

On Monday, health minister Patty Hajdu said that the government is trying to figure out how many Canadians want to be evacuated from the cruise.

"I know there's about 100 Canadians or so out of the 250-plus that have not respond yet in terms of what their intentions are," said Hajdu.

Global Affairs said that those who choose not to return on the charter flight will need to complete the current quarantine being administered by Japan and follow the instructions of local authorities.

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The ship was known for having the most cases outside of mainland China, which has over 1,800 reported deaths and at least 70,000 coronavirus infections. The quarantine method on the ship has also been criticized, but Japan’s government has defended its effectiveness as people get ready to leave the ship.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the decision to evacuate Canadians from the ship was “because of the extraordinary circumstances faced by passengers on the Diamond Princess and to lighten the burden on the Japanese health-care system.”

On Feb. 17, the United States successfully evacuated over 300 Americans who were onboard the cruise ship, which also includes 14 passengers who tested positive for the virus. They’re all now being held in quarantine at California and Texas military bases.