Britons on coronavirus-hit cruise ship face 14-day quarantine after UK return

By PA Reporters

Britons due to be repatriated from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan will be quarantined in NHS accommodation for 14 days.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said that British passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise liner will be evacuated “as soon as possible”.

The FCO is organising a repatriation flight from Toyko to the UK, which it hopes will go ahead later this week.

It is understood that only passengers without symptoms of the new coronavirus, known as Covid-19, will be able to board the flight, while any confirmed cases will continue to be treated in Japan.

Those on board will be monitored and taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral once they return to the UK.

Anyone who develops symptoms during the flight will be taken to hospital.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We can confirm that an accommodation block on the Arrowe Park NHS site will be used to isolate those returning from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan.

Passengers look out from balconies on the Diamond Princess cruise ship (David Abel/PA)

“They will be kept in this location for the 14-day quarantine period, with around-the-clock support from medical staff at all times.”

He added: “There is no risk to the public, and the hospital will continue to run as normal.”

There were 78 British passengers on the cruise liner when cases of coronavirus started to emerge. Four British cases have since been confirmed by the Foreign Office.

It is unclear how many British nationals will be repatriated.

In a letter to staff, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Trust said: “Following the successful management of two previous groups of repatriated British citizens, from Wuhan in China, Arrowe Park has been asked to host the Britons from Japan and look after them throughout their quarantine period.

“We are still waiting for final confirmation of how many will be joining us but we wanted you to be aware of the situation as soon as we could.”

The first of the Diamond Princess cruise passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus began leaving the ship after 14 days in quarantine.

But the Foreign Office warned that people who disembarked may not be able to join the evacuation flight.

One of the passengers who has tested positive is a British pensioner who is also suffering from early onset dementia, his son has said.

Steve Abel, of Northampton, said his parents, David and Sally Abel, have confirmed they have tested positive for the virus and have been told to stay in their cabin on the Diamond Princess.

Mr Abel said his father has a number of medical issues.

He described him as an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic, who has a tooth infection, and was also diagnosed with early onset dementia a couple of years ago.

A clearly upset Mr Abel described it as a “very frustrating” situation for the whole family as he told BBC Breakfast: “They are just waiting. They have had their bags packed for over 24 hours now. They thought they were being taken yesterday but no-one came and there was no communication.”

He added: “One minute they are being told they are being taken in an ambulance. The next minute they are being told they will be taken on a coach. I do not know what the next few days are going to hold for them.

“They are just being messed about. These are two old-age pensioners. They have been through so much and I just want someone to take care of them.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Abel senior said: “We are going to a hostel because there isn’t a hospital bed anywhere around. In four or five days we will be removed from the hostel and put into a hospital where we will receive treatment, so I can’t see in any way we are on that flight to the UK.”

People wearing protective clothing on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship (@daxa_tw/PA)

Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess on Wednesday.

Some passengers said on Twitter that they received health check forms asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing.

Passengers who tested negative for coronavirus and had no symptoms still had to have their body temperature checked before leaving.

Japan’s health minister told reporters on Tuesday that all passengers still on board had been tested and had samples taken for the coronavirus illness, also known as Covid-19.

It comes as Alan Steele, a British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, said on Facebook that he had left hospital.

Meanwhile, all remaining passengers who disembarked from the Holland America Westerdam ship in Cambodia after an elderly woman was diagnosed with coronavirus have tested negative for the illness.

Some 781 guests have since tested negative for the virus, clearing them to return home, while testing of 747 crew members continues, Holland America said.

In Stoke-on-Trent, two police constables and a PCSO have self-isolated as a precautionary measure after a woman held in custody fell unwell.

Staffordshire Police said it was highly unlikely that the woman has the new coronavirus, but the three officers will remain isolated until the results of tests come back later this week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 4,916 people in total have been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of whom nine have come back positive.

Reports from mainland China state that there have been 2,004 deaths and 74,185 confirmed infections.

New cases have fallen to less than 2,000 for the past two days but officials and analysts have warned that the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as people gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.