Confusion, anger aboard quarantined cruise ship as coronavirus spreads
TORONTO -- Canadians quarantined on a cruise ship with a growing manifest of passengers infected by a deadly coronavirus expressed frustration with Ottawa’s response Monday.
Despite the fast-approaching end of the 14-day isolation period on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Canadian citizens on board aren’t sure what’s happening next. Some expressed anger to CTV National News over apparently conflicting information provided by their own government.
On Monday, the ship confirmed 99 new cases of COVID-19 as Canadian passengers learned in a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne that a plane was headed to Tokyo with Canadians expected to board Tuesday. Champagne’s tweet was deleted minutes later.
“The plane is now wheels up to Tokyo,” the since-removed tweet read. “We expect Canadians to board on Tuesday for their journey back home. Passengers will be screened there before boarding.”
On Monday night, CTV National News learned that the plane was indeed on its way to Tokyo, but was delayed on a tarmac in Portugal. Thirty-two Canadians on the ship are known to have coronavirus, according to the government.
For some Canadians on board, the deleted tweet was the first they’d heard of the plane’s status.
“It’s frustrating and confusing. We wish that we would just be told, specifically, when we are going and when we are to be ready,” passenger Kate Bedding told CTV News. “It’s just important -- clear communication in a crisis.”
It’s unclear how many Canadians will board the flight. In a news conference Monday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there were about 100 Canadians of more than 250 on board that had yet to confirm their intentions with the government. If leaving the ship for the charter jet, Canadian personnel will run medical tests as they leave. Anyone exhibiting symptoms will not be allowed to board the plane.
Once the passengers return home, they will have to undergo a second 14-day quarantine as hundreds of Americans have already started doing after landing in California and Texas Air Force bases. Some Canadians are reportedly considering not boarding the flight to avoid another quarantine. Ottawa is advising against that decision. In emails to those passengers, the government warned they may be prohibited from boarding a commercial flight or entering other countries.
Adding to the frustration and fear, the ship saw its biggest one-day surge in coronavirus infections, with 99 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on board. At least 1,800 people have died worldwide among more than 72,000 official cases. The Diamond Princess houses the largest cluster of coronavirus patients outside China.
Some Canadians on board have questioned whether the cruise ship quarantine is even working.
“All these experts are saying ‘They should have never been confined to a ship in the first place,’” said Edmonton’s Mark Rodrigue. “Well maybe the experts should have told us that 13 days ago and we could have been back in Canada with our 14-day period half over.”
And... Minister @FP_Champagne has now just deleted the tweet saying that the Canadian charter is in route to Tokyo.— Omar Sachedina (@omarsachedina) February 17, 2020
What a roller-coaster of emotions for the passengers.
This was the original (now deleted) Tweet. #diamondprincess pic.twitter.com/vGUG9oxMbd
#Breaking— Omar Sachedina (@omarsachedina) February 18, 2020
Number of cases of Canadians infected with Covid-19 has more than doubled. Global Affairs says of the 256 Canadians on board, 32 have tested positive.