The federal government is sending a plane to pick up Canadian passengers of a cruise ship that has confirmed COVID-19 cases on board.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Sunday that the passengers on the Grand Princess will be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario.
There are 237 Canadian passengers on board, according to Global Affairs Canada.
“Ensuring the health and safety of Canadians both at home and abroad remains our priority,” Champagne said in a statement. “We are working hard to help Canadians return home and make sure appropriate measures are in place to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19.”
The Grand Princess was denied permission to dock in San Francisco. Calif., last week after it was determined that passengers on a previous sailing — including several Canadians — were later diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The two voyages shared some passengers and crew.
Wider testing took place after 21 cases were confirmed on the vessel on Friday. Nineteen of those infected are crew members.
After days in limbo, the cruise liner is scheduled to dock in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. Operator Princess Cruises, a division of Carnival Corp., said passengers in need of medical care would be allowed to disembark first, followed by other guests. U.S. residents will serve a period of time in quarantine at various locations, while the crew will remain on board.
Champagne said the move to fly the Canadians home came at the request of the U.S. government.
The passengers will not be allowed to board the flight if they exhibit symptoms. Instead they will receive further assessment to determine next steps, Champagne said.
Grand Princess passenger Robert Grubb from Surrey, B.C., first heard of the news from Global News reporter Sean Boynton, in a phone interview on Sunday afternoon.
“It feels bloody wonderful, is how it feels,” he said with a laugh.
He and his wife, both in their 80s, have been waiting to hear good news while biding their time on the ship. A two-week quarantine at CFB Trenton doesn’t faze him, he said.
“I would rather be on Canadian soil under Canadian medical care if that’s necessary than here in the United States,” Grubb said.
“In the United States, it seems to be so disorganized, just the comments that Trump is making leads everyone to a state of confusion. So I am exhilarated by that news. And Trenton is fine, it’s Canadian soil.”
Canada has already sent several planes to bring home Canadians in China, where the virus originated, as well those on board the Diamond Princess.
That vessel had been quarantined off Japan due to the virus. Nearly 700 people contracted COVID-19 and seven died.
On Friday, Canada’s top public health doctor issued a caution regarding cruise ships.
There are more than 105,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide as of Sunday, and almost 3,600 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.
— With files by Global News reporter Sean Boynton