Quarantined British prepare for return from coronavirus-hit cruise ship

 breakingnews.ie  02/21/2020 11:06:00 

Dozens of British citizens who have spent more than two weeks trapped on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan are gearing up for their return home this weekend.

A repatriation flight, initially due to leave today, will now depart in the early hours of Saturday, local time, the PA news agency understands.

More than 70 British nationals quarantined on the Diamond Princess will leave the cruise ship tonight.

The passengers are due to land at Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, England.

Staff in protective suits escort foreign passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship to buses (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)
Staff in protective suits escort foreign passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship to buses (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Only those without symptoms will be able to board the plane, and all the passengers will be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, in the north-west of England for 14 days of quarantine.

One passenger, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 and has since been given the all-clear, joked that the experience will 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 his wife, Wendy.

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

Elaine Spencer is one of those who has been trapped on the ship.

Ms Spencer, from Sittingbourne, Kent, southern England told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she was “relieved” to be coming home.

Asked how the British Foreign Office had handled their repatriation, she said “slowly”.

David Abel receives treatment for the coronavirus in a hospital in Japan (David Abel/PA)
David Abel receives treatment for the coronavirus in a hospital in Japan (David Abel/PA)

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.

The four British people on board the Diamond Princess who have tested positive for coronavirus will not be on the flight.

David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, England, are now being treated in a Japanese hospital after spending days shut in their cabin following their diagnosis with the virus.

In a Facebook post, Mr Abel said he and his wife were “in the best place” and said the couple will need to test negative for Covid-19 three times after treatment.

“See you all before you know it,” he added.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, British nationals in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, and who have been cleared for travel are being assisted by the British 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.

It is unclear how many British travellers are returning and whether some British passengers had already returned.

Public Health England (PHE) said airport health teams would 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.

Passengers disembark from the MS Westerdam in Cambodia (Heng Sinith/AP)
Passengers disembark from the MS Westerdam in Cambodia (Heng Sinith/AP)

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 75,000 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and around 1,070 cases across 26 other countries – including those on board the Diamond Princess.

Authorities in China recorded 118 deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 2,236 inside the country.

In the World Health Organisation (WHO) briefing on Thursday, director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said data continues to show a decline in new cases “but this is no time for complacency”.

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