Coronavirus: Britons on Diamond Princess cruise ship to be flown home

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The ship has been docked in Yokohama, a city south of Tokyo, since 3 February

Britons stranded on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan will be able to board an evacuation flight home on Friday, the foreign secretary has said.

Only those who are showing no signs of illness will be able to travel, and they will be quarantined on their return to the UK, it is understood.

Those who have tested positive will remain in Japan for treatment.

Dominic Raab said the flight would be from Tokyo, and urged any other Britons who wanted to leave to get in touch.

There are 74 British nationals on the Diamond Princess cruise liner, which was quarantined on 5 February after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

More than 620 people onboard the cruise ship have contracted the virus – it was carrying a total of 3,700 passengers. It is the largest cluster of cases outside China.

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One of the passengers from the ship catching a taxi after being allowed to leave

On Wednesday, when the two-week quarantine period expired, officials allowed passengers who had tested negative for the virus to disembark.

The Foreign Office advised all UK nationals to stay onboard until it organised an evacuation flight for them, warning there could be administrative problems if they left the ship.

Confirming that a flight had been organised, Dominic Raab said in a statement: “Details have been sent to those who have registered for the flight. We urge other British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us,” he said.

“We will continue to support British nationals who wish to stay in Japan.”

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Some passengers who had disembarked left on buses

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The cruise operator and Japanese officials allowed passengers to leave on Wednesday, UK time

Those returning from the ship will spend 14 days at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, where two groups of people travelling from China have already been taken.

“There is no risk to the public, and the hospital will continue to run as normal,” the Department of Health said.

Meanwhile, British couple David and Sally Abel, from Northampton, are expected to remain in Japan after testing positive for the virus.

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Two Britons on the ship, Sally and David Abel, say they have tested positive for the virus

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Wednesday, their son, Steve Abel, said he feared his parents would be separated.

His father had early-onset dementia, he said, and the couple needed to be together.

Earlier this week, another British passenger on board the ship, Elaine Spencer, said she had been “very disappointed” with the UK government’s initial response and said a rescue flight should have been organised sooner.

It comes as Alan Steele, a British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus on the cruise ship, announced on Facebook that he had left hospital.

Mr Steele said he is in a hotel in Yokohama and has been told he will need to spend two weeks in quarantine when he returns to the UK.

Japan has faced criticism over its handling of the outbreak, with one health expert calling the situation onboard “completely chaotic”.

Covid-19 – the illness brought on by the coronavirus – has now claimed 2,004 lives in China, according to the latest Chinese data released on Wednesday.

There have been 74,185 confirmed infections recorded in mainland China and about 700 cases in other countries.

The Foreign Office is advising affected British nationals to call the British embassy in Tokyo on +81 3 5211 1100.

In the UK, a total of 5,216 people had been tested for cornoavirus, as of Wednesday at 14:00 GMT. Only nine people have tested positive and the rest have been confirmed negative.

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