Canadians on cruise ship in Japan prepare to come home
TORONTO -- On a quarantined cruise ship where more than 600 passengers have tested positive for COVID-19, Kate Bedding is one of the lucky ones.
The Canadian woman, who has been sequestered in her cabin for over two weeks, received official word Thursday morning local time that she tested negative for the novel coronavirus – giving her the all-clear to fly back to Canada on Friday.
“I have two friends who were tested positive and were taken to the hospital yesterday. So I’m still worried about them. But I’m pleased that I’ll be able to go home,” Bedding told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
So far, 47 Canadians of the 250 on board the ship have tested positive for the illness that has killed more than 2,100 people worldwide and infected 76,000 others. Another 79 cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the total number to 621.
Unfortunately, Bedding will not make the trip home with her friends, Rose and Greg Yerex. Greg tested positive for the virus first, and Rose caught it shortly afterwards. They were removed from the ship and are being treated at a university hospital, where they are sharing a double room.
“They got a bento box of Japanese food last night, so they were happy about that,” said Bedding, who had been in touch with the couple over email. “They’re two healthy people. I think because they have no symptoms, it’s a mild version and I’m sure that they will be treated and quickly making their way home, too.”
Hundreds of foreign nationals have already disembarked the plane. Early Friday morning local time, Canadians who’ve tested negative will board a chartered flight back home.
Once they land in Canada, they will be checked again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario before being transported east to a hotel and conference centre in Cornwall, Ont. for another 14-day quarantine.
Bedding said she isn’t fazed about re-entering quarantine back in Canada.
“No, I am not worried that I have the virus or that any symptoms could show up in the next 14 days,” she said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the best plan for Canadians who tested positive is to be treated locally in Japan.
But Japanese authorities have received criticism for how they handled the cruise ship outbreak. A doctor who helped treat passengers on the ship said not enough was being done on board to separate passengers who tested positive and those who were negative.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control echoed those concerns, suggesting that Japan’s efforts may not have been sufficient to prevent widespread transmission on the ship.
The Japanese government has defended its response, calling it thorough.
Even so, Japan is already seeing the crisis hurt its economy. An estimated 400,000 Chinese tourists have cancelled their trips to Japan through the end of March.
In response, Japan is providing a $96 million emergency aid package to help struggling businesses cope.
--With files from The Canadian Press