Ottawa

Outaouais couple 'very afraid' as coronavirus spreads aboard quarantined cruise ship

For Diane and Bernard Ménard, life aboard the Diamond Princess is a constant blend of fear and isolation. On Thursday, Japanese authorities said they may allow passengers to disembark and complete their quarantine on land.

12 Canadians have contracted virus aboard Diamond Princess

Diane and Bernard Ménard are aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama. (Facebook/Diane Ménard)

For Diane and Bernard Ménard, life aboard the Diamond Princess has been a constant blend of fear and isolation. 

The couple, from Cantley, Que., are among the 3,500 passengers still under quarantine aboard the cruise liner docked near Tokyo.

By Thursday, 218 passengers had tested positive for the disease, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has dubbed COVID-19. It's the biggest concentration of confirmed cases outside of mainland China, according to the WHO.

The 12 Canadians who contracted the virus on board the ship have been moved to Japanese health facilities, and at least three require hospitalization, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Thursday.

Japanese authorities now say they may soon let the rest of the passengers, who have been under quarantine since last week, disembark and finish out their isolation on land.

'We wait for the virus'

For the Ménards, that can't happen soon enough.

"We sit down, then wait for the virus," Diane Ménard told Radio-Canada in French. "The people who serve us our meals, who circulate in the corridor, we don't know if they have the virus."

One week ago, there were only about 60 confirmed cases aboard the Diamond Princess, so the virus is spreading. Ménard said she and her husband, both in their 70s, are "very afraid." 

Much of the on-board communication is in Japanese, so the Ménards don't always know what's going on. They've said they've been eating and sleeping poorly, and now stay confined to their cabin at all times, refusing to participate in optional outings to the ship's deck for some air after seeing some passengers ignore instructions to wear masks and stay at least two metres apart.

Ship staff deliver meals to the couple's cabin. (Facebook/Chantal Ménard)

"We went for two days, one hour. Now we don't go anymore," Diane Ménard said. "People take off their masks for smoking, they take off their masks to take photos, they take off their masks for coughing or blowing their nose."

The couple's cabin has a window, unlike other cabins on the ship.

Looking for help from home

On Wednesday, Japanese medical personnel took blood samples from the Ménards and every other passenger age 75 and older. 

The couple said there's a team of 45 doctors, nurses and pharmacists on board the ship. 

Diane Ménard, who has diabetes, said she's been in contact with Canadian diplomatic officials in Japan, who told her they're negotiating with the Japanese government. 

"We are halfway through the quarantine, and nothing has happened," Ménard said.

More than 200 Canadians who had been trapped in Wuhan, China, since the outbreak began returned to Canada in the last week on two government-chartered planes. They're in quarantine at CFB Trenton. 

In Canada, 198 people have been tested for coronavirus, and seven tested positive.

One of those seven is no longer infected, according to public health officials. The student at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., who had been confined to her home since returning from China at the end of January, had only mild symptoms. 

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.