When a government-chartered plane can carry Canadians home from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan is yet to be confirmed, says Global Affairs.
Thousands of passengers who’d been taking a cruise on the Diamond Princess have been stuck aboard the ship docked in Yokohama, near Tokyo, while the illness dubbed COVID-19 has sickened hundreds.
Global Affairs spokeswoman Barbara Harvey said in an e-mail late Tuesday “the departure date will be confirmed once final arrangements will be confirmed with the Japanese government and the cruise ship company.”
An e-mail Global Affairs sent passengers, shared with The Canadian Press, said the Canadian government “expect(s) the passengers to be transferred from the ship to the airport on Thursday the 20th, pending the necessary approvals from the Japanese authorities. We do not presently have the time for the transfer available to us.”
Passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship were told earlier that a flight set to bring them home was “expected” to depart Tokyo Haneda Airport on Thursday.
A news release from the cruise line on Tuesday said chartered flights for passengers from Australia and Hong Kong would arrive within the next 24 hours.
“We have just been advised that the Canada flight has been shifted to early Friday morning,” it said, noting the company had received the update at 9:30 a.m. local Japan time.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that Canadian officials were waiting on final authorization from those in Japan before the plane ferrying people home is able to take off.
He said the plane was en route to Japan after some unforeseen technical issues prior to takeoff Tuesday.
But those passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19 will remain in Japanese health facilities, Champagne said.
Forty-three of about 250 Canadian passengers had been struck by the bug at last count, according to Canadian authorities.
Those who want to come home and have been cleared to fly will be checked out again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Ontario, before being moved on to quarantine at a hotel and conference centre in Cornwall, a few hundred kilometres east.
COVID-19 is thought to have an incubation period of about two weeks, and the evacuees will wait out that period in quarantine to make sure they don’t get sick and spread the illness in Canada.
The much-criticized quarantine of the cruise ship ends later Wednesday. The Diamond Princess’ 542 virus cases are the most in any place outside of China, and medical experts have called its quarantine a failure.
One healthy Canadian passenger said she’s eager to go home, but the departure date being moved is “discouraging.”
“We’d like to hear what the explanation might be instead of being left in the dark once again,” said Trudy Clement of Callander, Ont.
Lolita Wisener of Red Deer, Alta., who is also looking forward to coming home, said she was “not happy.”
“The smiles are getting a little bit more brittle now, you know,” she said via Skype.
The “hope” they had when it was announced last Saturday that the government would take Canadians from the Diamond Princess is now fading, she said.
“It’s a good thing we’re not drowning, eh?” Wisener said.
“I’m starting to feel bad for me.”
With files from Jordan Press, Laura Osman and The Associated Press
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