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Alberta couple three days into 14-day coronavirus quarantine on cruise ship off Japan
EDMONTON -- When Lolita and Hans Wiesner were told they were being put under a 14-day quarantine due to 10 positive cases of coronavirus on their cruise ship, the Alberta couple of 47 years just laughed.
They were supposed to leave the Princess Cruises ship Feb. 4 when it arrived in Yokohama, Japan, having planned to spend several weeks in Lisbon and one week in Morocco before heading to Europe to visit family.
But on Feb. 3, the ship captain announced Japan's health ministry had requested they arrive earlier.
"We were not allowed to dock. We had to anchor off the pier out at open sea," Lolita recalled to CTV News Edmonton on Friday. "The health ministry officials boarded us and then started taking everybody's temperature, face to face."
By then, the Wiesners were certainly aware of coronavirus. When they were in Hong Kong a week earlier, the overwhelming majority of people in public had been wearing a face mask – and the Canadian couple purchased their own at a 7 Eleven.
So it wasn't as surprising when, on Feb. 4, all 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on the cruise were informed a passenger who had been aboard Jan. 20 to 25 had been diagnosed with coronavirus a week later.
Tests by the Japanese health ministry found 10 cases of the novel virus.
The ship was put under a 14-day quarantine.
"At least knew where we were standing," Lolita said.
By Friday, the number of positive cases had grown to 63. Princess Cruises told CTV News seven of those positively diagnosed are Canadians. Those who are sick have been taken off the ship by ambulance.
"We are very appreciative of the Japanese government for moving proactively to provide the ship additional medical professionals and 7,000 protective face masks," a statement from the company read. "Those resources include 16 doctors plus 12 additional personnel which includes teams of nurses and clerks."
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Guests have not been allowed to leave their cabins, except for 90-minute breaks on the deck in groups according to floor. Staff – wearing face masks and gloves – deliver water, meals and Sudoku and crossword puzzles to cabins each day. Passengers have been given thermometers and instructions to self-monitor their temperature, and alert the medical staff if it rises.
But guests are also being monitored to ensure they respect the rules put in place by health officials.
"Kleenex ran out this morning. I put the empty box out and within a minute, crew was knocking on the door with a fresh box. So they're monitoring the halls, probably to make sure we're not wandering the ship," Lolita told CTV News Edmonton.
"The good news is that we're not sick. We're comfortable."
The snowbird couple is from Joffre, Alta., about 20 kilometres east of Red Deer.
"It's one of those things if you can't change it, don't sweat it," Lolita said of the quarantine.
"We know how to tread carefully around each other if things get tense – which they haven't been. We ordered a bottle of champagne yesterday and thought, 'What the hell? We may as well enjoy ourselves.'"
They called it bad luck they weren't able to change some flights and rental accommodations in time, but otherwise an experience they'll certainly remember.
"Normally we would be in (Arizona) at this time, but this year we decided to something differently. ... Who knew, hey?" the couple laughed.
"We're looking forward to this being a memory."
The quarantine is currently expected to end Feb. 19.
With files from CTVNews.ca