Healthy Canadians from the Diamond Princess cruise ship will shortly be heading home, according to Canada’s foreign affairs minister, after weeks under quarantine for the novel coronavirus, or COVID−19.
The ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, has seen the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, with 634 passengers having tested positive at last count.
Among the infected are 47 Canadians who will have to remain in Japan for treatment.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois−Philippe Champagne said on Feb. 19 that passengers would be screened Thursday evening, Japan time—mid−day in North America.
The passengers will each be issued a face mask and colored wrist band before they are ushered off the ship to the Haneda Airport, according to a letter from government officials to the evacuees on board the ship.
Those who are cleared to travel will be taken to Canadian Forces Base Trenton for further screening before they are placed under another two−week quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.
The plane is set to take off from at 3:30 a.m. Japan time and land at CFB Trenton at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time, about 14 hours later.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said there was a chance that those who tested negative for the virus and show no signs of symptoms may be released from quarantine early under the discretion of Canada’s top public−health doctor.
The evacuation comes just after Japanese officials broke the news that two passengers from the ship died after contracting the virus.
The two fatalities, a man and woman in their 80s who are both Japanese, were believed to have been infected before the quarantine began on the ship, Japanese health ministry official Masami Sakoi said Thursday.