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‘A handful’ of Canadian crew on Grand Princess cruise ship have coronavirus: Champagne

Coronavirus outbreak: Plane carrying repatriated Canadians from Grand Princess cruise ship arrives at CFB Trenton
A plane carrying Canadians who were stranded in quarantine on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California landed at CFB Trenton in Ontario on Tuesday. Those people will spend an additional 14 days quarantined on the base due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

A total of 228 Canadians are back home following several days at sea on-board the Grand Princess cruise ship where dozens of people have contracted the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

But some of the Canadian crew members on board the ship tested positive for the virus and had to be left behind.

READ MORE: Plane carrying Canadians from Grand Princess cruise ship lands at CFB Trenton

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke with reporters on Tuesday morning before heading into a federal cabinet meeting, where response plans to the growing global spread are expected to be among the key topics of discussion.

“There were a very limited number of people who had other medical conditions that were not coronavirus related who stayed and are receiving treatment from California health services,” Champagne said.

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“We have also a handful of crew that were Canadians that were on the Grand Princess that will be treated. They tested positive for the coronavirus.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: Government will help workers with no sick leaves, Freeland says

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommended on Monday that Canadians avoid all travel on cruise ships because the close quarters make for easy spread of disease. There are now three cases of cruise ships being quarantined because of confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus on board.

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

The Grand Princess is operated by Princess Cruise Lines, which, in turn, is owned by Holland America Group, which Champagne said on Monday had agreed to pay the cost of repatriating Canadians from the Grand Princess.

Only those who did not have any symptoms of the coronavirus were allowed to board the plane to return.

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A look inside Quebec’s new COVID-19 clinics
A look inside Quebec’s new COVID-19 clinics

The 228 who did return are now in quarantine at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where they will remain for the next two weeks.

There are now 79 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in Canada.

The first death was reported on Monday in British Columbia at a care home.

Globally, there are roughly 115,000 cases and a little over 4,000 people have died as a result of the virus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What exactly is social distancing? Here’s what experts say

The spread of the virus has prompted varying degrees of lockdowns and quarantines around the world.

Italy, which is the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, has locked down more than 60 million people and shut down public venues and gatherings.

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The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that have put travel restrictions in place for people coming from areas experiencing outbreaks.

Major public events including concerts and sporting concerts have also been cancelled as public health officials fight to contain the spread.

READ MORE: Canadians urged to avoid non-essential travel to Italy over coronavirus lockdown

Those moves have prompted repeated questions about why the Canadian government isn’t imposing any travel restrictions of its own or doing things like temperature screenings at airports for inbound passengers.

Public Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said the government is focusing on things that are proven to work, and that such measures are not shown to actually identify or limit the spread of outbreaks.

Coronavirus outbreak: Hajdu stresses shutting down borders over illness ‘not effective at all’
Coronavirus outbreak: Hajdu stresses shutting down borders over illness ‘not effective at all’

Champagne told reporters though that the risks of travelling are on his mind and that could lead to some trips being re-evaluated.

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“It’s in the back of my mind. Just generally – when you have a situation like that which is pretty unprecedented at least in my generation, you need to reconsider certain things,” he said when asked if he was looking at his own travel plans.

He said while nothing has been rescheduled or cancelled yet, that could change.

“We are rethinking some of the things that may be scheduled already. There’s certain meetings that were to happen in Italy. I don’t think that would be advisable for us to gather. So we’re looking at if there’s other ways for us to keep in touch.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister hasn’t cancelled his travel plans
Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister hasn’t cancelled his travel plans