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Coronavirus: 75 cruise ship workers return to Canada, minister says

Canadian cruise ship crew members repatriated after weeks at sea
WATCH: After seven weeks of being stranded at sea, dozens of Canadians who worked on cruise ships are now back at home. Abigail Bimman looks at how they managed mentally to survive.

Canadian cruise ship crew workers who had been left stranded by the novel coronavirus pandemic have returned to Canada, the country’s foreign affairs minister says.

In a tweet on Saturday, Francois-Philippe Champagne said officials worked with U.S. authorities and cruise ship lines Holland America, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises to assist with the return of the 75 Canadians.

READ MORE: Thousands of crew members still stuck on cruise ships, begging to leave

He said officials are “continuing to work with cruise lines and local authorities to ensure the safe return of remaining Canadian crew.”

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Lethbridge man going on 8 weeks stuck aboard cruise ship
Lethbridge man going on 8 weeks stuck aboard cruise ship

In a statement emailed to The Canadian Press, Princess Cruises said 19 Canadians on the Koningsdam disembarked in Los Angeles, Calif., on Friday and would be flown or driven home by the company.

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The cruise line says another 53 Canadians are scheduled to leave the Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday and would head to Miami where they would board a chartered flight to Toronto.

Approximately 99 U.S. crew are also being allowed to leave both vessels, the statement says.

There are 70 cruise ships remaining at sea with about 200 Canadians on board, though the number could be higher as it only reflects those who have registered with Canadian consular officials.

Global Affairs Canada says it’s doing everything it can to provide assistance.

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“To help Canadians return home, the Government of Canada is actively working with airlines, cruise lines and foreign governments to facilitate flights to Canada from locations where there is a lack of international flights, or where local restrictions on travel exist,” a spokesperson said Saturday.

Coronavirus outbreak: Cruise ship passengers disembark after 15 weeks at sea
Coronavirus outbreak: Cruise ship passengers disembark after 15 weeks at sea

READ MORE: Lethbridge man stuck on cruise ship for nearly 8 weeks: ‘I imagine this is what prison is like’

Both national and local governments have stopped crews from disembarking in order to prevent new cases of COVID-19 in their territories.

Some of the ships, including 20 in U.S. waters, have seen infections and deaths among the crew.

Most ships have had no confirmed cases.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday that there were still 70,000 crew members on 102 ships either anchored near or at U.S. ports, or underway in U.S. waters.

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Saskatoon woman among hundreds stuck on cruise ship amid COVID-19
Saskatoon woman among hundreds stuck on cruise ship amid COVID-19

In March, Travel Canada the country’s Public Health Agency urged Canadians to “avoid all cruise ship travel,” over the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Travellers were warned that if they chose to voyage on a cruise ship that they may not be offered a spot on a repatriation flight, or could be on the hook to cover the cost.

— With a file from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press