PEI

Island couple aboard Diamond Princess hoping to return to Canada Friday

A P.E.I. couple aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner are hopeful they will be departing for Canada on Friday after a quarantine extended their trip by over two weeks.

‘We’re sort of, again, in limbo’

'Now it looks like tomorrow we'll find out about our flight and stuff, and then hopefully Friday we'll be able to leave and start heading towards Canada,' says Helen McKenna, with her husband John. (Helen McKenna/Facebook)

A P.E.I. couple aboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner is hopeful they will be departing for Canada on Friday after a quarantine extended their trip by over two weeks.

Helen McKenna and her husband John are among the 256 Canadians being quarantined on the cruise ship in Japan. In a statement Tuesday, Global Affairs Canada said the number of Canadians on board who tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, had increased to 43.

"We're sort of, again, in limbo," McKenna said in a Facebook live video posted to her profile Tuesday evening. "We were hoping that today we would find out about our flight time and stuff, so now it looks like tomorrow we'll find out about our flight and stuff, and then hopefully Friday we'll be able to leave and start heading towards Canada." 

Japan's health minister told reporters Tuesday that all passengers who remained on the cruise ship have had their samples taken and that those who tested negative would start getting off the vessel beginning Wednesday, when their required 14-day quarantine was scheduled to end.

In the Facebook live video, McKenna said the couple have not been tested as of Tuesday evening, but are showing no symptoms. Hundreds of people began disembarking the ship Wednesday as criticism of the country's handling of the coronavirus outbreak mounted.

Helen McKenna and her husband John have been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship since Feb. 3. (Koji Sasahara/The Associated Press)

Initial reports suggested about 500 people would be allowed off the cruise ship, which is docked at Yokohama, south of Tokyo. The ordeal for passengers and staff began when the ship was quarantined on Feb. 3 after a former passenger was diagnosed with the virus in Hong Kong.

As of Wednesday, Japanese health officials said more than 600 cases have been identified among the original 3,711 people on the ship.

The Japanese government has been questioned over its decision to keep people aboard the ship, which some experts have called a perfect virus incubator. The Diamond Princess is the site of the most infections outside of China, where the illness emerged late last year. 

Communication difficulties

The Island couple have been occupying themselves throughout the unexpected quarantine, posting Facebook live updates for their family and friends, and even having their vows renewed by the ship's captain. 

In her most recent video, McKenna said the couple were waiting on more information after the captain announced the Canadian plane would be arriving Friday. 

McKenna said the couple was originally told they would be leaving Wednesday.

"I'm not sure what the delay was, we heard that the Canadian plane had touched down in Portugal, and has not left there yet."

McKenna said the couple have already filled out paperwork with their current health information and are being told they'll be screened no fewer than three times before the plane departs. 

After arriving in Canada, they'll be held under another two-week quarantine in Cornwall, Ont., McKenna said, before "hopefully" being allowed to return to P.E.I. March 6 or 7. 

McKenna said she and her husband will be taking some time to let the experience sink in and readjust before returning to work. 

Only Canadians citizens and permanent residents who test negative for the virus will be allowed on the plane chartered by the Canadian government.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning and The Associated Press

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