Coronavirus repatriation flight delayed until Saturday

The repatriation flight due to bring home dozens of Britons who have been trapped on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan has been delayed.

More than 70 British nationals who have been quarantined on board the Diamond Princess were due to fly home on Friday, but they will now leave the cruise ship on Friday night, and the flight will depart in the early hours of Saturday, local time, the PA news agency understands.

The passengers are due to land at Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base, near Salisbury in Wiltshire.

Japan Outbreak Ship
Staffs in protective suits escort foreign passengers disembarked from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship to buses (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

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.

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

Since being kept on board the cruise liner in the port of Yokohama, a total of 634 passengers and crew have been infected, accounting for more than half of all the confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.

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

Coronavirus
David Abel receives treatment for the coronavirus in a hospital in Japan (David Abel/PA)

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 spending 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.”

Mr Abel said that, following treatment, the couple would 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.”

Cambodia Outbreak Cruise Ship
Passengers disembark from the MS Westerdam disembark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia (Heng Sinith/AP)

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 would 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.

There have been more than 75,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and around 1,070 cases across 26 other countries – including those on board the Diamond Princess.

Authorities in China recorded 118 deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 2,236 inside the country.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

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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