VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – More than 200 Canadians stuck in Japan because of the COVID-19 coronavirus are still waiting to find out when their evacuation plane will be able to leave.
Even as some people are being allowed to leave the quarantined cruise ship docked in Yokohama, the number of cases on board is still rising.
Another 79 cases have been confirmed, with more than 600 people sick, including at least 43 Canadians.
While the company operating the Diamond Princess has said the Canadian flight has been “shifted” to early Friday, it’s not clear when the plane Ottawa has chartered will leave Japan as final arrangements are settled. Passengers were earlier told the flight set to bring them home was “expected” to fly out on Thursday.
So far, about 500 people who have not shown symptoms of infection disembarked the ship on Wednesday, but the United Kingdom is telling its citizens to stay on board, in quarantine, or risk not being allowed on that country’s eventual evacuation flight.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, based out of the Toronto General Hospital and University of Toronto, says with the virus spreading so easily on the ship, that decision is not a surprise.
“You know, people may have been exposed later, at the tail end of the boat quarantine, so the goal is really to reset the clock back to zero,” Bogoch tells NEWS 1130, adding some people may just not have started to show symptoms yet. “The other issues is, if people have signs and symptoms of infection, and are indeed positive for infection, many countries are choosing to ensure that those citizens get the appropriate medical care while in Japan and not fly them over just yet.”
He says countries like Canada are choosing to do the same thing as other countries, but are opting to quarantine citizens on home soil.
“I think every country is looking at the same data and coming up with slightly different policies based on their interpretation of the data,” Bogoch explains.
However, he points out the quarantine on the ship may not have worked out the way officials had hoped.
“There’s likely evidence that while on the cruise ship, even in quarantine, there was still some ongoing transmission of this infection on the ship,” Bogoch says. “So, I think the safe approach of what many countries are taking is that they will assume, even on the last day of that ship, people may have been exposed to the virus, so they just reset that clock back to zero and will count another 14 days.”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths has surpassed 2,000 — all but six in Mainland China. More than 75,000 people have been infected around the world.