235 Canadians on ship held for COVID-19 testing outside Calif.: Global Affairs

TORONTO — More than 200 Canadians are onboard a cruise that’s being held off the coast of California for coronavirus testing, Global Affairs Canada confirmed on Thursday.

The ship, named the Grand Princess, had been returning from Hawaii to San Francisco, Calif. with about 3,500 passengers onboard.

Global Affairs confirmed Thursday that there are 235 Canadians on the Grand Princess.

“Current passengers will be tested for the virus on the ship,” Global Affairs wrote in a statement to CTV News. “At this time, there are no confirmed cases. We are in contact with the cruise line and local authorities and we are monitoring the situation closely.”

Concerns about a spread of COVID-19 on the ship were raised after a 71-year-old Sacramento, Calif. man, who had taken a voyage on the Grand Princess between Feb. 11 and 21, died from the virus on Wednesday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Wednesday following the man’s death.

Princess Cruises, owners of the Grand Princess, said 267 Canadians had been onboard the Grand Princess during its trip in mid-February.

Peel Public Health confirmed on Thursday that a Mississauga, Ont. man in his 60s has been infected with COVID-19 after taking the cruise, while a woman in her 50s from Calgary who also took the cruise is presumed to have the virus.

Newsom said passengers will be held onboard the ship until everyone onboard can be tested for the virus.

Princess Cruises said no one currently on the ship has tested positive for the virus, though some passengers had flu-like symptoms. The cruise line hopes to release the results from testing the passengers on Friday.

This is the second cruise ship with more than 200 Canadian passengers to be held from docking due to concerns of a virus outbreak on board.

In early February, the Diamond Princess, also owned by Princess Cruises, was held from docking in Yokohama, Japan. Of the 3,711 passengers onboard, there were 256 Canadians.

As the ship remained idle and in quarantine, the virus managed to spread throughout the ship, ultimately infecting 705 onboard and at least 47 Canadians.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious disease specialist with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., told CTV News Channel that cruise ships can be easy breeding grounds for these types of viruses.

“The cruise ship is somewhat of a perfect area for viruses to spread, you have a lot of people in a contained area and it’s important that we don’t make the same mistakes that happened with the Diamond Princess,” he said.

Chakrabarti added that he believes the passengers and crew on the Grand Princess should be allowed to disembark the ship for testing on land.

“It’s good that the testing is being done, but I do think the people should be taken off the cruise ship and put into the proper isolation as needed, so we’ll see happens in the next couple of days,” he said.

Global Affairs said Canadians in need of emergency assistance can call the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco at 844-880-6519 or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 or 800-387-3124.

Those seeking assistance can also send an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

With files from The Associated Press

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