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Federal government charters plane to evacuate Canadians on board Diamond Princess

Americans on Diamond Princess about to be repatriated
WATCH: Americans on Diamond Princess about to be repatriated

The Canadian government has chartered a plane to evacuate Canadians on board the quarantined Diamond Princess Cruise Ship.

“This decision was taken because of the extraordinary circumstances faced by passengers on the Diamond Princess and to lighten the burden on the Japanese health-care system,” said a statement by Global Affairs Canada on Saturday night.

“We are working closely with Carnival Cruise Lines and the Government of Japan to assist in this evacuation.”

A group of quarantined passengers exercise on the Diamond Princess cruise ship Feb. 15, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
A group of quarantined passengers exercise on the Diamond Princess cruise ship Feb. 15, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Jae C. Hong / The Associated Press

The government’s announcement came at the same time Japan announced more positive COVID-19 cases on the ship.

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Another 70 people aboard the ship have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 355 cases, Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday.

The Diamond Princess, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.

READ MORE: COVID-19: China reports drop in new cases for 3rd consecutive day

Some 3,700 passengers and crew were aboard the ship, where the most coronavirus infections outside China have occurred. Those testing positive are transferred to Japanese hospitals.

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The United States is also evacuating its citizens from the cruise ship, as is Hong Kong.

Earlier Saturday, the Canadian government had said they were “urgently assessing” the situation after three officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada arrived in Yokohama, Tokyo, on Friday to determine the best course of action for the 255 Canadians on the ship.

Canadians quarantined on the Diamond Princess with medical concerns have been advised to consult ship personnel and medical authorities on board.

Coronavirus outbreak: Japanese minister says U.S. to evacuate citizens on board Diamond Princess
Coronavirus outbreak: Japanese minister says U.S. to evacuate citizens on board Diamond Princess

The charter plane is expected to fly the evacuees from Japan to the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont.

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“They will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ontario, to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine,” Global Affairs said in their statement.

Passengers will be screened for any symptoms before they board in Japan.

“Those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health system to receive appropriate care,” the statement said.

The federal government said anyone who remains in Japan will “continue to receive full consular services.”

Princess Cruises has previously said in a statement to Global News earlier on Saturday that 285 passengers, including 244 guests 41 crew members, had tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of Canadians on-board infected with the virus rose to 15 after the cruise ship company confirmed 67 new cases over the weekend.

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WHO says it is ‘impossible to predict’ direction coronavirus will take
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The Japanese Ministry of Health has allowed 12 “medically vulnerable” guests who tested negative for the coronavirus to disembark from the ship on Saturday. They said the term “medically vulnerable” refers to passengers aged 80 years or older who are either staying in a cabin without a balcony or have chronic medical conditions. The cruise company added 55 guests who tested negative chose to remain on-board.

An elderly Quebecois couple aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday.

The couple’s daughter told The Canadian Press in an interview that Diane and Bernard Menard, both 75 years old, called around 2:30 a.m Saturday to inform the family.

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Chantal Menard said her parents were feeling weak and fragile, and were confined to their cabin on the cruise ship. She said the couple, from Gatineau, Que., are currently waiting to be transported by ambulance to a military hospital where they will be kept in isolation until they no longer test positive for the virus.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan said in a statement earlier on Saturday that all 380 Americans aboard the ship would be flown to a military base on a government-chartered flight for screening. They said passengers are expected to leave Sunday evening to the Travis Air Force Base in California, where they will face a two-week quarantine upon arrival.

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“To fulfill our government’s responsibilities to U.S. citizens under our rules and practices, as well as to reduce the burden on the Japanese healthcare system, the U.S. government recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that U.S. citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring,” the statement read.

—With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters