Britons stuck on coronavirus-stricken cruise ship prepare to fly home

Dozens of Britons who have been trapped on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan are set to fly home on Friday after the UK government sent a plane to repatriate them.

Around 70 people who have been held in quarantine on the Diamond Princess are due to land Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base near Salisbury, Wiltshire, in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.

The Diamond Princess was carrying more than 3,700 people in early February when 10 passengers were diagnosed with the Covid-19 strain of the disease.

Since being quarantined in the port of Yokohama, a total of 621 passengers and crew have been infected, accounting for more than half of all the confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.

Although given the all-clear in Japan, those on Friday’s flight evacuation flight will be taken straight to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral for 14 days of quarantine.

Coronavirus
Those flown home from Japan will still have to spend two weeks in quarantine in Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, Merseyside (Danny Lawson/PA)

The four Britons on board the Diamond Princess who have tested positive for coronavirus will not be on the flight.

David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, have been documenting their time on the quarantined ship on Facebook.

The couple are now being treated in a Japanese hospital after days shut in their cabin following their diagnosis.

Mr Abel admitted he was initially sceptical about whether his diagnosis was accurate, but has since confirmed both he and his wife have tested positive.

In his latest post, Mr Abel said: “Full health inspection and now we know what’s going on. We both contracted a cold (unaware of) and it has not yet turned into pneumonia. (we do have coronavirus).

“Tomorrow the big tests commence. chest x-rays, ECG, chest scan, urine + more.

“We are both in the best place! They do know what they are doing and our two nurses are gorgeous. Sally likes the Dr too.”

Coronavirus
David Abel posted pictures of himself from a Japanese hospital after being allowed to disembark from the Diamond Princess (David Abel/PA)

Mr Abel said that following treatment, the couple will need three rounds of all-clears on coronavirus tests.

He added: “WiFi will not work for me, so this will be the final communication for some time.

“See you all before you know it.”

Meanwhile, Britons in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, and who have been cleared for travel are being assisted by the Foreign Office to make their way home.

The group are receiving health advice and being helped with commercial flight bookings. All have tested negative after one case was diagnosed on board.

The number of Britons in the group has not been disclosed, and it is unclear whether some have already come back to the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) said airport health teams will meet the flights and speak to Westerdam passengers about any symptoms.

If they do not have symptoms, passengers will be given health advice and told to self-isolate at home for 14 days but, if they have symptoms, they will be taken to hospital for testing.

As of 2pm on Thursday, a total of 5,549 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus, of whom nine have tested positive.

"This is the time for facts, not fear.

This is the time for science, not rumors.

This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.

𝑾𝒆 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒐𝒈𝒆𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓."@DrTedros of @WHO on the #coronavirus epidemics. #COVID2019pic.twitter.com/Nsgxhu1GWq

— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) February 20, 2020

There have been more than 74,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and around 1070 cases across 26 other countries – including those on borad the Diamond Princess.

In the World Health Organisation (WHO) briefing on Thursday, director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “You will get sick of me saying that the window of opportunity remains open for us to contain this Covid-19 outbreak.

“WHO is doing everything we can to seize that window of opportunity, and we urge the international community to do the same.”

He said the data continues to show a decline in new cases “but this is no time for complacency”.

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