A British couple who have told the world about the plight of passengers on a coronavirus-plagued cruise ship today said they had become the infection’s latest victims.
Today Mr Abel, 74, said they had tested positive and also claimed the Japanese authorities were taking them off the ship to a “hostel” rather than a hospital.
“There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon,” he said in a Facebook update early this morning.
Shortly afterwards, he messaged again: “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 their quarantine.
"No phone, no wi-fi and no medical facilities. I really am smelling a very big rat here! Waiting for the transfer now.”
Mr Abel, from Northamptonshire, told of their ordeal as:
Eighty-eight more cases of coronavirus were confirmed on the Diamond Princess, taking the total to 542.
Despite about one in seven people on the vessel being infected, Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga claimed it had still been “appropriate” to keep them quarantined on board.
The British Government was racing to send a plane to repatriate UK citizens but was facing growing criticism for not doing so earlier. About 70 Britons are on board, including 22 crew members.
China reported 1,886 new virus cases and 98 more deaths yesterday, taking the totals to 72,436 and 1,868 respectively.
Minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that the NHS was “very well placed” to deal with a major outbreak here, despite doctors in London raising concerns that it would struggle.
As the ship crisis grew, the Abels’ son Steve branded the quarantine arrangements on board “a failure” and the Government’s treatment of his parents “appalling”.
“I’m not actually that worried about the virus, looking at the recovery stats,” he added, with more than 98 per cent of those infected expected to survive.
“It is more about the stress, the diet.”
He added that he could hear his father, who has diabetes and a tooth infection, vomiting in the bathroom the last time he spoke to his mother on the phone, but believed it might be due to “shock” rather than a virus symptom.
Mrs Abel had earlier told how every time there was a knock at the door “your stomach flips” because of worry it would be an official confirming a positive test for the virus.
About half of all known cases outside China have been found on the Diamond Princess which has been under quarantine since February 3.
The Foreign Office confirmed early this morning that it would fly UK citizens on the ship back home, where they will face a 14-day quarantine to stop the infection spreading.
Diplomats urged passengers who wanted to board the plane to contact them immediately as they sought to arrange the flight “as soon as possible”.
But with some 340 US citizens having been repatriated from the vessel yesterday, British passenger Elaine Spencer said she was “very disappointed” that the UK had not yet sent a plane.
“I wished they had decided to do this maybe last week,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
At least six British citizens on the ship are understood to have been diagnosed with the infection.
Business minister Mr Kwarteng accepted the Abels were facing a “terrifying” situation, but added: “People are working very hard at the Foreign Office, night and day, to make sure that we can protect our citizens.”
Given that the Abels had tested postive, their treatment was now a “matter for the Japanese authorities on the ground”, Mr Kwarteng said.
He added: “Clearly, for other British citizens, we want to fly as many people back home as possible.”