The 78 Britons trapped aboard a coronavirus-blitzed cruise ship in Japan will watch their fellow American passengers evacuated home tomorrow, piling pressure on the UK government to take similar action.
Two US State Department-chartered planes will airlift their 428 stranded citizens from Yokohama, where the Diamond Princess liner has been docked in quarantine for 10 days and will remain locked-down until Wednesday.
Infections on the ship continue to climb and today jumped to 285 – up 67 in the last three days.
Amid the spike in diagnoses of the killer virus, a source said the Foreign Office is ‘actively considering all options’, but has not yet confirmed a US-inspired airlift.
MailOnline understands government crisis teams stationed in London and Tokyo have been working to safeguard the wellbeing of British nationals, all of whom have been contacted by officials today.
Three of those infected are British nationals, including Wolverhampton honeymooner Alan Steele.
The 78 Britons trapped aboard a coronavirus-blitzed cruise ship in Japan (Diamond Princess pictured) will watch their fellow American passengers evacuated home tomorrow, piling pressure on the UK government to take similar action
Three of those infected are British nationals, including Wolverhampton honeymooner Alan Steele (pictured with new wife Wendy)
Trapped Britons David and Sally Abel appealed to billionaire Richard Branson for help
Increasingly desperate to leave, two of the trapped Britons David and Sally Abel appealed to billionaire Richard Branson to send a plane to rescue them.
An Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are urgently speaking to authorities in Japan and the UK.
‘We are working around the clock to ensure the welfare of the British nationals on board.’
The cruise ship initially had 3,700 passengers and crew, but during its quarantine in Yokahama some have been carted off the liner to be treated for the deadly infection.
Those diagnosed on board have been removed to local hospital, with people remaining on the ship told that their quarantine would be over on February 19, two weeks from when it officially began.
But a message broadcast on the ship by the captain on Saturday night local time cast doubt on that timeline.
The captain said: ‘The Japanese government has informed us that they may start a new testing process for guests beginning February 18,’ and warned it could take several days.
‘So guests who are tested on February 18 and have negative test results may be able to disembark beginning February 21,’ the message said.
The US is to evacuate 428 Americans who have been trapped on board a cruise ship in Japan (Diamond Princess pictured, with Hazmat-suited drivers leaving port)
The cruise ship initially had 3,700 passengers and crew on board and was put under a two quarantine on February 5
Those who had close contact with anyone who tested positive would have to restart their quarantine from the date of their last close contact, he added.
When the US launched a similar rescue mission for its citizens trapped in Wuhan, it prompted the UK to follow their lead and also send a plane.
Tomorrow, the Americans will be flown to Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, they will undergo a further 14 days of quarantine, sparking ‘apprehension’ among passengers.
Paul and Cheryl Molesky, from Syracuse, New York, are among those being rescued tomorrow.
Asked how they felt about being evacuated, Ms Molesky said they were a ‘bit apprehensive’ about again being quarantined on arrival to the US.
Paul and Cheryl Molesky, from Syracuse, New York, are among those being rescued tomorrow
She told Sky News: ‘We are relieved but we’re still a little bit shocked…
‘We found out that we’re going to have to be quarantined for an additional 14 days in the United States, so there’s some mixed emotions there.
Mr Molesky added: ‘Because of the speed of what has happened here this last half hour we’re a little dizzy.
The couple also paid tribute to the Japanese government and the Diamond Princess staff for making their stay ‘very comfortable’.
The US embassy in Tokyo said in a letter to passengers that the aircraft would arrive in Japan on the evening of February 16 and that it recommended ‘out of an abundance of caution’ that US citizens disembark and return home for further monitoring.
The number of cases on board the Diamond Princess liner has rise to 218 since it first docked
The passengers would be required to undergo further quarantine of 14 days upon arriving in the United States.
‘We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease,’ the letter said.
‘Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.’
‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final determination on this matter.’
Cambodia cruise ship disembarks passengers
Passengers disembark from the Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville
The cruise ship that was allowed to dock in Cambodia after being turned away at five other ports by authorities fearful of the spread of the deadly new virus from China disembarked passengers for a second day on Saturday so they can fly home.
After being stranded at sea for two weeks, the MS Westerdam was allowed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to dock for what he said were humanitarian reasons.
The Cambodian leader’s decision won praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted: ‘Thank you to the beautiful country of Cambodia for accepting the CarnivalCruise ship Westerdam into your port. The United States will remember your courtesy!’
The first batch of hundreds of passengers who disembarked Friday saw Hun Sen arrive by helicopter and then personally hand them flowers as they made their way to land.
Many were taken to the airport in the port of Sihanoukville from which they were flown to the capital, Phnom Penh, to make onward connections to home.
The ship’s earlier appeals to land in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam had been rejected.
‘The one thing I can say is we’re very, very grateful that Cambodia has opened literally its ports and its doors to people in need,’ U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy said Saturday at a dockside news conference.