Coronavirus: British couple on cruise ship say they have tested positive

Chiara Giordano
British couple David and Sally Abel who are stuck in quarantine on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan: PA

A British couple on board a coronavirus-hit cruise ship say they have tested positive for the illness.

David and Sally Abel have posted regular updates on Facebook and YouTube pleading with the UK government to be flown home from the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined near Yokohama, Japan, since 3 February.

On Monday afternoon, Mr Abel said the couple were well and had passed all medical checks run by the ship, which has 74 Britons on board and a small number of Irish people.

But on Tuesday morning UK time, he posted on Facebook: “There is going to be a time of quiet.

“We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all xxx.”

In a follow-up post, he said: “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! Waiting for the transfer now. xx”

In response to a question as to whether he was "sure" they were positive for the virus, he responded: "i doubt it was positive. If it was, we would be in hospital."

Eighty-eight more people have been diagnosed with the strain of the virus, officially named Covid-19, on the ship, bringing the total to 542, the Japanese Health Ministry revealed on Tuesday.

People with the virus are being taken off the ship for treatment at hospitals in Japan.

According to the latest government figures, a confirmed diagnosis for the Abels would put the total number of Britons from the ship with coronavirus at six.

The quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess is anchored at the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Japan, 18 February, 2020. (Koji Sasahara/AP)

It comes as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was “working to organise” a flight back to the UK for British nationals on the Diamond Princess.

Pressure has been mounting on the government to evacuate Britons in light of the cramped conditions on board, and the fact that the number diagnosed with the virus on the ship keeps rising.

On Sunday, the US chartered two planes and repatriated about 340 of its citizens from the vessel, while other countries are also flying their citizens home.

A statement from the Foreign Office said: “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.

“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.”

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said Virgin Atlantic was “in discussions” with the government over whether he could help those stranded.

He responded following an appeal from Mr and Ms Abel, who have asked the British businessman and philanthropist to charter a special plane.

Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said the firm has worked with authorities to send more doctors and nurses on board the ship and has helped fulfil 2,000 prescription requests.

However, there is still uncertainty over whether other passengers will be able to leave the ship at the end of the 14-day quarantine period on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the government has block-booked the Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel hotel as a potential quarantine zone for people arriving in the UK who develop coronavirus, or for Britons evacuated from overseas.

As of Monday afternoon, 4,501 people in total have been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of which nine have come back positive.

The death toll in mainland China rose by 98 to 1,868, in figures announced early on Tuesday morning, while the number of people infected globally stands at 72,436, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

Additional reporting by PA.

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