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COVID-19: B.C. man on quarantined Japanese cruise ship gets early flight home on U.S. plane

B.C resident coming home after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess
Canadians stuck on the COVID-19 quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan will soon be headed back to Canada.

A B.C. father is relieved after learning his son, who has been quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan for nearly two weeks, is finally coming home.

But Spencer Fehrenbacher won’t be flown back to Canada with the 255 Canadians stuck on the Diamond Princess ship. As an American citizen, he’s getting flown out by a U.S. military plane Sunday.

The permanent Canadian resident will then spend another two weeks under a whole new quarantine at either Travis Air Force Base in California or Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Americans evacuated from Japanese cruise ship face 2nd quarantine

For father Scott Fehrenbacher, who has been watching the saga unfold from the family home in Fort Langley, he’s just relieved his son is no longer stuck on board the ship.

“He’ll be in a much safer place, so I don’t mind the extra two weeks, he doesn’t mind the extra two weeks,” Fehrenbacher said. “It just won’t be on the Diamond Princess.”

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Fehrenbacher says Spencer has passed a required screening that Americans must pass in order to board the two chartered planes, which departed Sunday. The planes will head to the California base first, then take the remaining passengers to Texas.

COVID-19: Ottawa to bring home Canadians on Diamond Princess cruise ship
COVID-19: Ottawa to bring home Canadians on Diamond Princess cruise ship

The 29-year-old was on the ship with his two friends to celebrate Chinese New Year. The trio had spent the past two years studying abroad in China.

The ship rushed toward Yokohama near Tokyo early this month over concerns that the new COVID-19 was spreading among its passengers.

More than 350 people have since tested positive for the virus, according to Japanese health officials. Seventy of those cases were reported Sunday.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. man among those stuck on quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Spencer has not been among them, but that hasn’t stopped his father from worrying.

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“I wish I could trade places with my son, because you just feel so out of control,” Fehrenbacher said. “He’s the one in a tough spot, but it makes for sleepless nights.”

The two talk through WeChat every day, which Fehrenbacher says “helps both of us.”

“He’s been an inspiration to me,” the father said. “I’m thinking, ‘you should be much more like I am, very nervous.’ But he’s been optimistic, he’s been even, he’s been very positive.”

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U.S. chartered planes carrying cruise ship passengers depart Tokyo to return home after COVID-19 quarantine
U.S. chartered planes carrying cruise ship passengers depart Tokyo to return home after COVID-19 quarantine

Spencer has previously told Global News that while being stuck in his cabin has been difficult, he and his friends in the next cabin over have been able to access their balconies and talk. Staff have also been accommodating and helpful.

Recently, guests have been allowed to move around some common areas of the ship for brief periods of time.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Washington was evacuating the Americans because the passengers and crew members on board the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus.

Some American passengers aboard the ship said they would pass up the opportunity to take a flight to the U.S. because of the additional quarantine. There also was worry over being on a long flight with other passengers who may be infected or in an incubation period.

READ MORE: Federal government charters plane to evacuate Canadians on board Diamond Princess

Canada announced Saturday it was chartering its own plane to evacuate Canadian citizens from the ship, but a final departure date has not yet been announced,

The Canadian flight is expected to fly the evacuees from Japan to the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., where they will be assessed and then transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont.

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Spencer says he’s happy to be finally getting off the ship and is looking forward to the day he can be back with his family in Fort Langley.

“The plan is to go meet my dad, go sit down at Trading Post Brewery in Fort Langley, and have a beer with a good chicken sandwich and yam fries,” he said.

Upon hearing about Spencer’s dream meal earlier this week on Global News Radio CKNW, Trading Post Brewery staff informed him the beer and food would be on the house.

Mainland China on Monday reported a slight upturn in new virus cases and an increase by 105 in deaths caused by the illness for a total of 1,770 since the outbreak began in that country.

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The 2,048 new cases followed three days of declines but was up by just 39 cases from the previous day’s figure. Another 10,844 people have recovered from COVID-19 and have been discharged from hospitals, according to Monday’s figures.

—With files from the Associated Press