Coronavirus: UK couple on stricken cruise ship worry they have tested positive

By Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor

A British couple on board a coronavirus-hit cruise ship are worried they have tested positive for the virus.

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 is quarantined near Yokohama, Japan.

As late as Monday afternoon, Mr Abel said the couple, from Oxfordshire, were well and had passed all medical checks run by the ship, which has 74 Britons on board.

But on Tuesday morning UK time, Mr Abel 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”

People with coronavirus illness – also known as Covid-19 – are being taken off the ship for treatment at hospitals in Japan.

The couple’s son, Steve Abel, said they are “high-spirited people.”

But he added: “There are cracks in the armour and they are getting down.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, 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.”

Mr Abel said the conditions on the quarantined cruise ship were making it difficult for his father to manage his diabetes and that he is also suffering from a tooth infection.

When asked about the Government’s treatment of his parents, Mr Abel described it as “appalling”.

He added: “They haven’t done anything.”

The Foreign Office said on Monday that four Britons from the ship had been confirmed with coronavirus.

A confirmed diagnosis for Mr and Mrs Abel would put the total number of Britons diagnosed from the ship at six.

The quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at Yokohama Port, near Tokyo (Koji Sasahara/AP)

Reports from Japan said there are 88 more cases on board the Diamond Princess as of Tuesday, bringing the total to 542.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the president of China about the coronavirus outbreak.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to President Xi of China this morning.

“He offered his sympathies for those affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in China.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was organising 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 around 340 of its citizens from the vessel, while other countries are also flying their citizens home.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We have the utmost concern for the British people currently on the cruise ship.

“We are ensuring those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus receive the best possible care in Japan and are organising a flight back to the UK for other British nationals on the Diamond Princess as soon as possible.”

It comes after Sir Richard Branson said Virgin Atlantic was “in discussions” with the Government over whether he could help those stranded.

He responded following an appeal from Mr and Mrs 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.

Alan Steele, the British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, said on Facebook he will be discharged from hospital on Wednesday and reunited with his wife Wendy.

Meanwhile, Britons are being tested for coronavirus in Cambodia after leaving a cruise ship where an elderly woman was diagnosed with the illness, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Passengers disembarked from the Holland America Westerdam ship on Friday and hundreds have undergone testing for the virus.

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

The British family who contracted coronavirus at a French ski resort after spending time with Briton Steve Walsh, the man linked to 11 cases overall, have also been discharged from hospital, French authorities said.

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.