British passengers stuck on the cruise ship in Japan where over 600 people have been infected with the coronavirus have have been told to stay onboard by the Foreign Office.
Japanese authorities said those who had tested negative for the virus were allowed to leave on Wednesday, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned that passengers who disembark may not be allowed to board a British evacuation flight scheduled for later this week.
An FCO statement read: “We are planning an evacuation flight from Tokyo to the UK as soon as possible for Britons who are on the Diamond Princess. We hope the flight will be later this week, subject to permissions from the Japanese authorities.
“However there is a chance that people who disembark will not be able to join the evacuation flight. We have the utmost concern for the affected Britons and strongly encourage them to register for the evacuation flight.”
A British couple who have been putting pressure on the UK government to organise a repatriation flight will not be on the plane after testing positive for the new coronavirus.
David and Sally Abel were diagnosed with the virus just one day before the ship’s quarantine was due to end.
The couple, who are in their 70s, have been documenting their ordeal through a video diary and in their latest post said they were pleased their efforts to bring about a British flight had paid off, despite the fact they will not be on it.
They said they are being taken to a nearby hostel as there are no available hospital beds nearby.
David said: “We are going to a hostel because there isn’t a hospital bed anywhere around. In four or five days we will be removed from the hostel and put into hospital where we will receive treatment.
“So I can’t see there’s going to be any way we’re on that flight to the UK.”
Speaking to the BBC, their son, Steve Abel, said: “They’re being messed about […] I just want someone to take care of them.”
Another British passenger, Elaine Spencer, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that those wanting to board the evacuation flight later in the week have to sign an agreement that they will go into quarantine for 14 days once back in the UK.
“We know we won’t be going today, I reckon it’s going to be the end of the week, if not longer. I’m disappointed, it’s like everyone going to a party and leaving you out,” she said.
She also said the FCO sent a note stating it was unlikely they would be allowed out of Japan if they did not board the specific evacuation flight. There is no set date for the flight yet.
The US has already evacuated 340 of its citizens from the ship and taken them back to America for further quarantine. Other countries, including Canada and Australia, have plans to fly back their citizens in the coming days.
Questions continue to be raised about the effectiveness the cruise ship quarantine after the virus spread rapidly among those onboard.
Prof Kentaro Iwata, a specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University hospital, said the infection control onboard was “chaotic”.
After spending time on the ship, Iwata told the Guardian: “The cruise ship was totally inadequate in terms of infection control. A lot of officials are insisting there have been no secondary infections aboard the ship [since quarantine began] … that is their best-case scenario and they are sticking to that. They don’t want to accept that their plan has failed.”
“I never had a fear of getting an infection myself with Ebola or Sars because I know how to protect myself and how to protect others, and how the infection control should be,” he said in a video post.
“But inside the Princess Diamond I was so scared of getting Covid-19 because there was no way of telling where the virus was.”