NEWS
22/02/2020 12:40 GMT

Coronavirus: Britons Evacuated From Stricken Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Land In UK

Thirty-two British and European evacuees from the coronavirus–stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship have landed in the UK. 

The repatriation flight, which also carried British government and medical staff, touched down at Ministry of Defence base Boscombe Down in Wiltshire shortly after 11.30am on Saturday morning.

Passengers will now be taken by road to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral for 14 days of quarantine to protect against the spread of the illness should any of them be infected. They have so far tested negative for Covid-19.

The evacuees have spent more than two weeks trapped on the coronavirus-stricken ship off the coast of Japan.

It is unclear where the small number of EU citizens will be taken following the plane landing in the UK.

In a statement issued after the plane landed, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “We have brought 32 British and European citizens safely home from Japan.

“The FCO worked hard to get them back to the UK securely.

“Our number one priority has consistently been the health and safety of UK nationals.”

The four Britons on board the Diamond Princess who have tested positive for coronavirus were not on the flight.

Arrowe Park was previously used to host 83 British nationals for a 14-day quarantine period earlier in February after they were flown out of Wuhan in China which became the centre of the outbreak.

One passenger, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 but has since been given the all-clear, joked before the flight that the experience would be like visiting a holiday camp. 

Honeymooner Alan Steele was taken to a Japanese hospital and has since tested negative for the virus and been reunited with wife Wendy.

“Wendy’s test was negative so Butlins the Wirral here we come for 14 days,” Mr Steele posted on Facebook.

Since being kept on board the cruise liner in the port of Yokohama, a total of 634 passengers and crew have been infected, accounting for more than half of all the confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.

It is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew opted to remain.

One British couple on board who were diagnosed with coronavirus have both since been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The family of David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, said they have now been moved to a “prison”-like hospital.

The couple were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary when it was placed under quarantine.

David has been diagnosed with acute pneumonia, while Sally is believed to have a mild case of the illness. 

Although they were originally in a hospital just 90 minutes from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, Sally called her son in the middle of the night to say the couple were suddenly being moved to a different “three-star” hospital.

Steve Abel, their son, posted video updates on the couple’s YouTube channel alongside his wife Roberta on Friday night and Saturday morning.

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

All have tested negative after one case was diagnosed on board.

In order to help combat the spread of the virus in the UK, the NHS has started pilots of home testing for coronavirus where NHS staff, including nurses and paramedics, will visit people in their own homes.

Despite a marked decline in the number of new cases in China, the spread of the disease has continued to cause concern worldwide. 

On Saturday morning Italy reported its second death from the virus – a woman living in the northern region of Lombardy. Her death was announced just a day after a 78-year-old man became the first person to die from the new form of the virus in the country.

South Korea on Saturday reported 346 coronavirus cases – a six-fold jump in four days – with most linked to a church and a hospital in and around its fourth-largest city.

Schools were closed in Daegu, with churchgoers and others told to avoid mass gatherings in a bid to contain the disease.

Initial infections were linked to China, but new cases in South Korea and Iran — where there have been four deaths — do not show a clear connection to travel there.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned clusters not directly linked to travel, such as those in South Korea and Iran, suggested time might be running out to contain the outbreak.

“The window of opportunity is still there. But our window of opportunity is narrowing,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

Dr Tedros singled out Iran’s discovery of 18 cases and four deaths in two days — and that a traveller from Iran carried the virus to Lebanon, and another traveller from Iran to Canada.

“These dots are very concerning — take them as dots or trends,” he said.

Globally, more than 77,000 people have been infected in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died.