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More passengers leave virus-hit ship as Trump praises operation

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Oakland (United States) (AFP)

More passengers disembarked from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in California Tuesday after days stranded at sea, as US President Donald Trump said the operation was "going along incredibly well" despite reports of slow progress.

The Grand Princess arrived at a sealed-off wharf at the port of Oakland in San Francisco Bay Monday with 21 confirmed coronavirus infections among some 3,500 passengers and crew.

The most critically ill were immediately taken for medical care onshore by emergency workers equipped with gowns, gloves, respirators and face shields, while other passengers including tourists from Canada also disembarked.

After an overnight pause, more masked passengers were escorted from the Grand Princess to ambulances and waiting buses from around 9:00am (1600 GMT) Tuesday.

"You know all about the big ship that came in yesterday, and that's going along incredibly well," Trump said at a White House meeting.

Robert Kadlec, a senior Department of Health and Human Services official, had said Monday that around half of the passengers would leave the ship that day, "and the other half tomorrow."

But some passengers from California were still on board Tuesday morning, according to social media posts. Around 900 Californians were due to be the first tranche of the 2,421 passengers to leave the ship.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the operation would likely take two to three days, but warned the operation was "dynamic" and could take longer.

Epidemiologist John Redd said it was an "unprecedented and difficult operation."

After initial screening, those who don't require acute care will be quarantined for 14 days at US military bases in California, Texas and Georgia -- or flown to their home countries, in the case of foreign residents.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said 228 Canadians were repatriated Tuesday from the ship and will be quarantined for two weeks after landing at the Trenton air force base.

"A very, very small number" of the Canadian passengers on the cruise ship stayed behind for treatment in California of health issues unrelated to the coronavirus, he said.

Trump added: "They're being met and brought to planes and being brought in a very dignified fashion back into Canada."

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