Officials welcome cruise passengers, test one as precaution upon arrival

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By Shawna O'Neill
Officials welcome cruise passengers, test one as precaution upon arrival
From left, Rebecca Hickey of Nav Canada, Rhona Kropp of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement during the press conference on Friday, Feb. 21. (Shawna O'Neill/Seaway News photo).

CORNWALL, Ontario – The arrival of 129 repatriated Canadians to the Nav Centre on Friday, Feb. 21 was considered an emotional experience, as discussed during an afternoon press conference at the Cornwall SDG Paramedic Services Headquarters.

“It was an emotional time this morning as we saw these Canadians arrive home,” said Rebecca Hickey, Nav Canada Senior Manager of Public Affairs. “We want to welcome these guests to the Nav Centre.”

RELATED: Diamond Princess cruise passengers arrive at Nav Centre

The passengers who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise were monitored and assisted by 22 health officials, as well as crew members, throughout their journey from Yokohama, Japan to our city. These 22 individuals will also undergo a modified duration of quarantine.

Rhonda Kropp, the Director General for Public Health Canada, explained that any passengers who tested positive for the novel coronavirus remain in the care of the Japanese health system.

“We remain very confident that the risk of of the novel coronavirus for Canadians and the people in the Cornwall community remains low at this time,” said Kropp.

“At no point will members of the general public come in contact with the individuals who are in quarantine,” she added.

Kropp shared that one passenger felt unwell upon arriving in Cornwall and was tested for the novel coronavirus as a precaution. The test results have yet to be determined.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), explained two potential scenarios if any passengers do test positive for the novel coronavirus while staying at the Nav Centre. If a passenger tests positive at any point and develops coronavirus symptoms they will remain on site and confined to their room if they do not require hospitalization. Should a passenger develop symptoms or other health issues that require hospitalization, protocol with local partners, including local EMS and the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH), have been established. Regional health partners, including the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the Ottawa Hospital have also been informed and prepared in the case a passenger requires specific care not available locally.

“We have a protocol in place that we will safely transfer (a passenger), if required…and we will take the necessary infectious control precautions to transfer the patient,” explained Dr. Roumeliotis. He also said that Public Health Agency and Ontario Emergency Management Assistance Team personnel are carrying out operations at the Nav Centre, and no local nurses and/or doctors are on site.

“The collaboration with…partners…has been crucial to ensuring that we were very well prepared for this day to come and in order to welcome Canadians home,” said Kropp, commending the work of numerous agencies involved.

“These fellow Canadians, as you can imagine, have been through a very very stressful and arduous experience. We are doing what we can to ensure that not only is their physical health taken care of, but their mental health and well-being is taken care of as well,” said Kropp, explaining that local Paramedic services are offering on site and online mental health and social services for passengers.

“It’s very important, when we are looking at the health of the people who are being repatriated, that we look at them as whole individuals…in addition to physical challenges of being in a small space for a very long period of time, this incredible amount of travel, this is going to have an impact for some people on their wellness and mental health,” added Kropp.

Dr. Roumeliotis said that individuals will mostly remain in their rooms throughout the 14-day stay, but will be allowed to go outdoors in a particular area that has been marked off, twice daily.

“I can tell you that people in Cornwall are very caring. I have had a lot of media interviews and people are saying ‘wow, the folks here are friendly! It’s a beautiful place’ —  and it is, and we are,” said Mayor Bernadette Clement, adding that many individuals have reached out inquiring about how they can help and volunteer.

“I think we have to respect people have some fear about this. This is uncharted territory and we are being very brave. That’s it. So, the sense I get from Cornwall residents is they need information, a constant flow of information…” she added.

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