'I smell a rat here': British couple quarantined on cruise ship claim their coronavirus diagnosis 'might not be true'

British couple Sally and David Abel have been stuck on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan (PA)

A British couple on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan with 542 cases of coronavirus on board say they believe their positive test for the illness is a hoax.

David Abel and his wife Sally are stuck on the Diamond Princess, which has been moored near Yokohama since 3 February.

The couple from Oxfordshire have been posting regular Facebook and YouTube updates from the ship.

In a Facebook update on Tuesday, Mr Abel posted: “There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all xxx”.

However, a short time later he expressed doubts that the couple have coronavirus, officially called Covid-19.

He wrote: “Frankly I think this is a setup! We are NOT being taken to a hospital but a hostel.

“That's where partners are sent waiting out there [sic] quarantine.

“No phone, no wi-fi and no medical facilities. I really am smelling a very big rat here!"

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When asked by a Facebook user about the test, he replied: “I doubt it was positive. If it was, we would be in hospital.”

When asked if the authorities were trying to keep him quiet, he replied: “Maybe”.

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On Monday, the couple’s son Steve appealed to the British government to help his parents. He said the government’s response was “appalling”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, he said his parents are “very high-spirited people" but “there are cracks in the armour and they are getting down”.

He said: "My mum breaks down in tears frequently, my dad is short-tempered.

"They are not getting any communication from our country, so they are in the dark and feeling very unloved."

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When asked about the British government, he said: "They haven't done anything.

David Abel raised doubts about the couple's positive test for coronavirus (PA)

"They aren't communicating with us, the Foreign Office have my number, my wife's number, my brother's number, my sister's number and they haven't got back to us on anything and we have been calling them every day for four or five days."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it is "working to organise" a flight back to the UK for British nationals on board the cruise ship.

The department has faced pressure to fly home the 74 Britons on the Diamond Princess after the US chartered two planes and repatriated 340 of its citizens.

"Given the conditions on board, we are working to organise a flight back to the UK for British nationals on the Diamond Princess as soon as possible," a statement from the FCO said.

David Abel has posted images from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been quarantined in Japan (PA)
David Abel posted this image of the atrium on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been quarantined in Japan (PA)

"Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements. We urge all those who have not yet responded to get in touch immediately."

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Earlier, a Number 10 spokesman said those on board the ship were being contacted about the possibility of a repatriation flight.

The Japanese Health Ministry has tested 1,723 people among the 3,700 initially on board and 542 have tested positive, leading to heavy criticism of the decision to quarantine passengers on board.

Four Britons with confirmed coronavirus are currently in hospital in Japan, according to the latest official figures.