Coronavirus: British couple welcome treatment as others prepare to fly home

By Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor

A British couple diagnosed with coronavirus in Japan have said they are “in the best place” as dozens of other Britons prepare to fly back to the UK.

David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, are being treated in a Japanese hospital after being taken from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined near Yokohama, Japan.

The ship has seen more than 620 cases of coronavirus, including at least four Britons, and is the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Around 70 other Britons from the ship – who have tested negative – are due to fly back to the UK from Tokyo on Friday.

Thursday 20th February. Thinking of all the Brits flying to UK tomorrow. Here I am having given 10 files of blood, ECG (EKG) and radiogram

Posted by David Abel on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

They will land at the Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base near Salisbury, Wiltshire, in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.

In a Facebook post, Mr Abel said: “We arrived in lovely hospital a couple of hours ago.

“Taken by ambulance blues & twos the entire journey.

“Outside the hospital I came over a bit weird and nearly passed out. Every pore on my body opened and i was wheelchaired to our room.

“Full health inspection and now we know what’s going on. We both contracted a cold (unaware of) and it has not yet turned into pneumonia. (we do have coronavirus).

(PA Graphics)

“Tomorrow the big tests commence. chest x-rays, ECG, chest scan, urine + more.

“We are both in the best place! They do know what they are doing and our two nurses are gorgeous. Sally likes the Dr too.”

Mr Abel said that following treatment, the couple will need three rounds of all-clears on coronavirus tests.

He added: “Wi-fi will not work for me, so this will be the final communication for some time.

“See you all before you know it.”

Now Sally’s turn. Both beds in same room.

Posted by David Abel on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In further posts, Mr Abel said his wife Sally had a bed in the same room as him and that they were “thinking of all the Brits flying to UK tomorrow.”

Another British national on the ship who has recovered from the virus posted on Facebook on Wednesday to say he is heading home.

Alan Steele wrote: “Informed we will have to do another 2weeks quarentine back in blighty although japan has set me free as all ok.”

Meanwhile, two other British passengers, Alan Sandford and his wife Vanessa, said they were “very happy” to be flying back to the UK.

The Foreign Office has told Britons to stay on the ship while arrangements are made for them to disembark, although other passengers have been getting off.

Mr Sandford, from Nottinghamshire, told BBC Breakfast the last few weeks had “certainly tested us” and been “a major inconvenience” .

But, because they were both fit and well, they had “been able to cope”, he said.

Other passengers had faced much more difficult circumstances, he said, such as getting ill or being split up from their partners.

“When I think of other people – like those on the inside cabins who have got no daylight coming in at all – it’s horrific really,” he added.

Those passengers who are fit to fly home from the Diamond Princess will do so, while any Briton confirmed with the virus will stay in Japan for treatment.

Passengers brought back to the UK on Friday’s evacuation flight will be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral for 14 days of quarantine.

Meanwhile, Britons in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, and who have been cleared for travel are being assisted by the Foreign Office to make their way home.

The group are receiving health advice and being helped with commercial flight bookings. All have tested negative after one case was diagnosed on board.

Passengers leave the Westerdam (Heng Sinith/AP)

The number of Britons in the group has not been disclosed, and it is unclear whether some have already come back to the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) said airport health teams will meet the flights and speak to Westerdam passengers about any symptoms.

If they do not have symptoms, passengers will be given health advice and told to self-isolate at home for 14 days but, if they have symptoms, they will be taken to hospital for testing.

As of 2pm on Thursday, a total of 5,549 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus, of whom nine have tested positive.

There have been more than 74,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and about 700 cases in other countries.

In the World Health Organisation (WHO) briefing on Thursday, director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “You will get sick of me saying that the window of opportunity remains open for us to contain this Covid-19 outbreak.

“WHO is doing everything we can to seize that window of opportunity, and we urge the international community to do the same.”

He said the data continues to show a decline in new cases “but this is no time for complacency”.

He said of all cases outside China, more than half are among passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

And he said he had written to 12 firms to ensure continued supply of protective equipment such as face masks to health workers.