Canada to evacuate citizens from virus-hit cruise ship on Feb 20

A bus carrying passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship leaves the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, on Feb 19, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - The Canadian government will begin evacuating its citizens from a virus-hit cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama, Japan, on Thursday evening (Feb 20), Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Wednesday.

"The aircraft the government has chartered is currently in Tokyo. We will begin pre-flight screening and disembarkation tomorrow evening local time," Mr Champagne told reporters in Ottawa.

People with symptoms of the coronavirus will not be allowed to leave, and those who have tested positive will be treated in Japan, he added. There are 251 Canadians on board the Diamond Princess and 47 have tested positive.

On arrival in Canada, the evacuees will be transported to an aviation training base in Ontario for a 14-day quarantine period.

Initially with 3,700 passengers and crew, the Diamond Princess cruise liner has been in quarantine since early this month.

On Wednesday, even as some passengers rolled their luggage off the ship, Japanese authorities announced 79 new cases had been discovered on board, bringing the total above 620, well over half of the known cases outside mainland China.

Canada has already evacuated almost 400 people from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.