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Officials urge Canadians to ‘avoid all cruise ship travel’ over COVID-19 risk

Coronavirus outbreak: Canada’s Public Health Agency advises Canadians to avoid cruise ship travel
WATCH: On Monday, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that all Canadians should avoid all cruise ship travel, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending against “all cruise ship travel” because of the risk of contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, said in a press conference in Ottawa on Monday that the close quarters on cruise ships offer an environment where the virus can spread quickly, and Canadians should not take cruises for the foreseeable future.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Booked a cruise and want to cancel? Here’s what you need to know

“Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending that Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19,” said Tam.

“The virus can spread quickly on cruise ships due to the close contact between passengers.”

More government officials warn of cruise ship risks
More government officials warn of cruise ship risks

She was joined at the press conference by Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who were questioned on why it has taken until now for the government to recommend against cruise travel by Canadians.

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There have been hundreds of cases of COVID-19 reported on cruise ships since the outbreak began, including dozens of cases of Canadians infected on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been quarantined for weeks at the harbour in Japan.

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A second cruise ship, the Grand Princess, is quarantined off the coast of California over 21 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

Health officials warn against cruise ship travel
Health officials warn against cruise ship travel

READ MORE: 2 U.S. congress members self-isolating after contact with patient

The federal government said over the weekend it will repatriate the 237 Canadians on board that ship and Champagne said that the cruise line, Holland America, has agreed to pay the costs of bringing those Canadians back to Canada.

They will be quarantined for 14 days at CFB Trenton, as were previous repatriations from Wuhan in China, and anyone showing symptoms will not be allowed on the return plane.

Tam said the situation is changing quickly and officials are trying to learn from the past.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Grand Princess cruise ship carrying 237 Canadians docks in California

“As you know, the global situation changed quite rapidly even from the time of the Diamond Princess cruise ship to now,” she said.

“I think it’s really a constant learning from the very rapidly evolving situation and I think this is a precautionary measure that we absolutely support from a public health perspective.”

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A third cruise ship operated by the same line was also held at sea on Monday afternoon over concerns some aboard could have the virus.

Is coronavirus worse than the flu?
Is coronavirus worse than the flu?

Tam had previously urged Canadians last week to “think twice” before booking a cruise because of concerns about the virus, which has now infected more than 110,000 people in more than 100 countries around the world.

There are 71 confirmed and presumed Canadian cases.

READ MORE: 16 million people locked down as Italy reports 7,300 infections

As well, Tam confirmed that a Canadian tourist visiting the Dominican Republic has contracted the virus.

She said that individual stayed at a hotel where an infected person from Italy also stayed.

When does an outbreak become a pandemic?
When does an outbreak become a pandemic?

Italy is among the countries witnessing some of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.

The Italian government and police have locked down roughly 16 million people in an attempt to contain the spread.

More than 360 people in Italy have died from the virus.

South Korea and Iran are also among some of the hardest-hit countries apart from China, where the outbreak originated.

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How the coronavirus is affecting Italy
How the coronavirus is affecting Italy