06 Feb Jon Cartu Reports: Woman who was on now-quarantined cruise ship says she wasn’…
An Ottawa area woman who spent two weeks in January aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship said she was shocked at how lax screening was in both Canada and the U.S. when she returned home from Asia with a sore throat and symptoms of a cold.
“I came back ill and not one person asked me anything. My eyes were red, my nose wouldn’t stop running.”
The ship, which she left on Jan 17, is now quarantined off Yokohama, near Tokyo, after 10 passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. Among the ship’s 3,700 passengers are 251 Canadians.
The woman, whose name this newspaper has agreed not to use, has been in contact with public health officials in Ottawa who told her she doesn’t need testing for coronavirus since she has recovered from her symptoms and never developed a high fever.
Still, she said she is concerned that other people could easily pass through airport screening with the coronavirus.
The woman said she woke up on Jan. 22, the day she was scheduled to fly home from Tokyo, with a sore throat. “By the time I got on the plane I felt like s—t. It surprised me that I got sick so fast.”
When she arrived in Detroit from Tokyo, amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak in China, she was not asked any questions about her travel, her health or possible exposure to coronavirus. Before boarding her cruise in Singapore on Jan. 6, she had visited Beijing for a couple of days.
When she arrived in Toronto from Detroit, she used a kiosk at customs and was asked if she had travelled to Wuhan, which she hadn’t.
She didn’t think too much about coronavirus immediately, but after she got home as there was more and more news about the outbreak, she began reading everything she could about symptoms. She decided if she got a serious fever she would call a doctor and get it checked. She never did and her symptoms began to improve within days, aside from a lingering fatigue.
She has since checked with Ottawa Public Health and has been told that if she didn’t have a high fever and has recovered, she probably didn’t have it.
But she believes she was at risk of being exposed during her trip.
“Of course, I could have (been exposed). I was on a cruise ship with 2,000 Asians, some of them from (Hubei) province, I am sure. Since then, there have been 10 cases involving passengers.” Some of the infected passengers might have been aboard at the same time she was, she said.
The woman was on a 14-day cruise, but many passengers on the ship remained on for a full 28 days. The woman is left wondering how many people who were on board with her have since tested positive for coronavirus.
She travels frequently and said it is not unusual to pick up colds or other illnesses during cruises or long international flights. But she said she saw an unusual number of people showing signs of sickness on board.
“I have been on many cruises, but this was more than I have ever seen before. A lot of people were coughing.”
She has remained in contact with some of the passengers she met while on board who are now quarantined aboard the ship for two weeks.
“They are more annoyed than worried. They are quarantined in their rooms and not allowed to walk around the ship.”
The woman said she had joked on her last night that she wished she was staying on the cruise with her friends. “I don’t think that any more.”
Princess Cruises tested all passengers and staff after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25, later tested positive for coronavirus.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday that government officials have been in touch with Canadian passengers on the quarantined ship.
“We have our mission in Tokyo, which has been in touch with the Canadian passengers to offer them consular assistance,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ottawa travel agent Paul Turner of Expedia Ottawa Cruise Ship Centres, said the situation is difficult for many travellers.
“The whole thing is a nightmare. We have people affected.”
Some of his customers were scheduled to board cruises that have now been delayed or changed routes because of coronavirus. “It keeps snowballing.”
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