Coronavirus: Stranded Britons on cruise ship could be flown home

The government is trying to rescue British nationals from a cruise ship in Japan that has been quarantined due to coronavirus fears.

There are 74 British passengers and crew on board the Diamond Princess.

Two of those passengers, Sally and David Abel, were told they had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, their son told the BBC.

The Foreign Office said it was “working to organise a flight back to the UK for British nationals” as soon as possible.

The evacuation from the ship, which was quarantined on 3 February, is expected to take place within the next two to three days.

Steve Abel, son of Mr and Mrs Abel, from Woodford Halse in Northamptonshire, told BBC Breakfast that his father had emailed him on Tuesday morning to tell him they had both tested positive and were being taken to hospital.

He said he then spoke to his mother, who was doing “OK” and “at least they were going together” and would not be separated.

However, he said subsequent posts from his father on Facebook suggested they were being taken to a hostel instead, adding “no-one knows what’s going on”.

He said the conditions on the ship, which is at the Japanese port of Yokohoma, had made it difficult for his father to manage his diabetes and he would prefer his parents to be quarantined in the UK “where the food is more suitable for my dad”.

“I’m not actually that worried about the virus – looking at the recovery stats. It is more about the stress, the diet.”

He added that the UK government’s treatment of his parents had been “appalling”, saying they “they haven’t got back to us on anything and we have been calling them every day for four or five days”.

Another British passenger on board the ship, Elaine Spencer, said she had been “very disappointed” with the UK government’s initial response and they should have organised a rescue flight sooner.

She told Radio 4’s Today programme that British passengers who wanted to get on the rescue flight had to sign an agreement that they would go into quarantine for 14 days on their return to the UK.

She said they had received a note from the Foreign Office which told them that if they didn’t get on the flight, it was unlikely they would be allowed out of Japan.

“I need to go home, I want to see my family but obviously it’s going to be another 14 days (after the flight). I wish that they’d decided to do this last week.”

The US has already repatriated more than 300 of its citizens from the ship.

On Tuesday, Japanese officials said there were 88 new cases of infections on board the ship, bringing the total to 542 confirmed cases. It is the largest cluster of cases outside China.

The president of Princess Cruises, Jan Swartz, said the company has sent more doctors and nurses on board the ship.

There is still uncertainty over whether passengers will be allowed to leave the ship at the end of the 14-day quarantine period on Wednesday.


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