Confusion surrounds a British couple on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan after they feared they had tested positive for coronavirus.
David and Sally Abel announced the news on Facebook, saying they were being taken to hospital, but a few minutes later said they were in fact going to a hostel “with no medical facilities”.
In the same post he said he is “really smelling a very big rat here” and in a reply he added that neither he nor his wife had any symptoms of the virus.
The couple have been posting regular updates on social media about their situation and have garnered a huge following.
Late on Tuesday, they posted again suggesting there had been a “massive communication error” with Japanese officials and that they might not have coronavirus after all.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning, their son Steve said his parents are “not getting any communication” from the UK.
He added: “They are very high-spirited people. There are cracks in the armour and they are getting down.”
“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 ark and feeling very unloved.”
Ten passengers were diagnosed with coronavirus on February 4 while the ship was in Japanese waters. It was taken to the Port of Yakohama for a 14-day quarantine where it remains.
Cases of the virus have steadily increased. On Monday, the Japanese Health Ministry confirmed 99 more people on board have been diagnosed with the illness, bringing the total to 454.
The news comes as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced it is is “working to organise” a flight back to the UK for British nationals on board the Diamond Princess.
The department has faced pressure to fly home the 74 Britons after the US chartered two planes and repatriated 340 of its citizens.
“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,” a statement from the department said.
“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.”
Earlier, a Number 10 spokesperson said those on board the ship docked near Yokohama, Japan, were being contacted about the possibility of a repatriation flight.
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 data comes after Sir Richard Branson said Virgin Atlantic was “in discussions” with the government over whether he could help those stranded.
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 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 international visitors to the UK who develop coronavirus, or for Britons evacuated from overseas.
As of Monday afternoon, 4,501 people in total have now been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of whom 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.
NOTE: Story was updated to reflect couple’s later post on Facebook.