The son of a British couple who caught coronavirus on a cruise ship in Japan has today savaged the UK government’s ‘appalling’ handling of the case.
Steve Abel said his parents David and Sally Abel were ‘not getting any communication’ from the Foreign Office and ‘feeling very unloved’ despite repeated pleas for help.
The British couple were among 88 people who tested positive for the virus in Japan today, taking the total on board the ship to 542.
They will now be taken into a further quarantine on the mainland just a day before their quarantine on board the Diamond Princess was due to end.
Their son Steve has also blasted the ‘failure’ of the Japanese quarantine measures after the number of patients spiralled despite the two-week lockdown.
He said he could hear his father David vomiting when he spoke to his mother on the phone, though he thought it might be ‘shock’ rather than a virus symptom.
‘The quarantine in Japan has been a failure, that is obvious, so my parents are obviously going to have to go through it again,’ he lamented today.
Whitehall has come under increasing pressure over its slowness to arrange a rescue flight after the US evacuated 340 of its citizens on Monday.
The Foreign Office finally said today it was ‘working to organise a flight back to the UK’ for the 78 Britons on board but it is unclear whether Mr and Mrs Abel will now be eligible.
The lockdown officially ends tomorrow, but passengers who were close to virus patients will have to finish a 14-day quarantine from the date of their last contact.
Even for passengers who can leave, Japanese officials say the disembarkation process could take several days.
British cruise ship passenger David Abel and his wife Sally (pictured in their cabin on the Diamond Princess) have tested positive for coronavirus in Japan
The Diamond Princess (pictured today) remains in lockdown and hundreds face a longer spell in quarantine even after the official incubation period ends tomorrow
When asked about the Government’s treatment of his parents, Steve Abel today described it as ‘appalling’.
‘They haven’t done anything,’ he said.
‘They aren’t communicating with us, the Foreign Office have my number, my wife’s number, my brother’s number, my sister’s number and they haven’t got back to us on anything and we have been calling them every day for four or five days.’
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 dark and feeling very unloved.’
David Abel revealed the couple’s diagnosis on Facebook, where he has been providing regular updates from on board the ship but now expects a ‘time of quiet’.
‘We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all,’ the 74-year-old said.
In the last of his regular Facebook videos, Mr Abel had said he was ‘confident we will test negative’ after medics screened the couple for the virus.
After receiving his test results, Mr Abel initially said the pair were heading for hospital but later said they were destined for a ‘hostel’.
‘That’s where partners are sent waiting out their quarantine. No phone, no wi-fi and no medical facilities,’ he claimed.
Mr Abel had also been leading calls for the UK to organise a rescue flight after the US pulled out its citizens and other countries lined up similar flights.
After growing frustration from British passengers, the UK embassy in Tokyo said today it was hastily making arrangements to repatriate them.
‘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,’ the embassy said.
‘Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements.’
Japanese authorities confirmed another 88 cases today, bringing the total on the ship to 542.
Some 169 people had tested positive in the previous two days, meaning that the total has almost doubled in the last 72 hours.
Passengers are seen on the Diamond Princess today where a two-week lockdown is due to end tomorrow
Clothes hang out to dry on a balcony of the Diamond Princess where passengers have been confined to their cabins for two weeks
Nearly 3,000 people are still on board the Diamond Princess and were told that their quarantine would end on February 19, which is tomorrow.
However, Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said the process of leaving the ship would last two to three days.
‘We have done tests for everyone’ on board the ship, he told reporters.
‘Some results have already come out… and for those whose test results are already clear, we are working to prepare disembarkation from the 19th,’ he said.
Passengers who had close contact with the more than 450 virus patients on board will have to finish a 14-day quarantine from the date they last saw them.
The ship’s crew, many of whom have been supervising guests and delivering food, are also expected to observe another quarantine after the last guests have left.
Medical staff wearing protective suits are seen at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess is anchored
A bus carrying US citizens leaves the Daikaku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port early yesterday after Washington organised an airlift
US passengers wearing masks look out from the window of a coach which took them from the Yokohama port to an airport from which they flew across the Pacific
Mr and Mrs Abel were among 3,711 people taken into quarantine when the ship arrived in Yokohama two weeks ago.
Mr Abel won praise for his good-humoured Facebook videos which became a valuable source of information for the world’s media.
Japanese authorities ordered tests after an 80-year-old passenger who left the ship in Hong Kong last month was found to have the virus.
Passengers have been confined to their cabins amid a spiralling number of cases which has sparked growing criticism of Japanese authorities.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of America’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA Today that the quarantine process had ‘failed’.
‘I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship,’ he said.
‘Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.’
More than 1,800 people have now been screened for the virus on the Diamond Princess with more than 400 of them testing positive.
As a result, the cruise liner is now the largest cluster of virus cases outside mainland China.
Another Briton, Alan Steele, was separated from his wife Wendy and taken off the ship ten days ago after testing positive for the virus.
A total of 78 Britons were on board the ship when it was taken into quarantine, it is believed.
More than 300 Americans were evacuated from the ship early on Monday, among them over a dozen who have tested positive for the virus.
The evacuees are now facing another 14-day quarantine after they landed in North America yesterday.
The two British tourists are among 169 people confirmed to have the virus over the last 48 hours, taking the total on board the Diamond Princess (pictured) to more than 500
Canada said today it had ‘secured a chartered flight to repatriate Canadians on board the Diamond Princess’ but gave no further details.
There were 256 Canadians on board the ship, with 32 so far testing positive for the virus.
South Korea will send a presidential aircraft on Tuesday to fly back four nationals and one Japanese spouse, an official told reporters.
There are 14 South Koreans on board in total, but the other ten have declined to be evacuated because they live in Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported.
While foreign governments have couched their decision to remove citizens as an attempt to reduce the burden on Japanese authorities, many have interpreted the evacuations as criticism of Tokyo’s handling of the situation.
The US and Australia have told citizens that if they decline repatriation and an additional 14-day quarantine, they will not be allowed home for at least two weeks, suggesting they do not believe the ship-based quarantine has worked.
Experts say that cruise ships are vulnerable to the spread of viruses because of the high number of elderly passengers who are confined together.
A study by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the elderly and sick are most at risk from the virus.
In addition, passengers who have shelled out large sums of money for a holiday may not want to flag up their medical problems and jeopardise their trips.
Health officials in protective suits on a shuttle bus transporting U.S. passengers who have chosen to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship
There are nearly 3,000 people on board the Diamond Princess, which has been held at a port near Yokohama, Japan, since February 3 with passengers not allowed to leave
Japan has also confirmed at least 65 cases domestically, including many involving people with no history of recent travel to China.
Authorities have said the virus is being transmitted locally now, and have asked citizens to avoid crowds and non-essential gatherings.
On Monday, the amateur portion of the Tokyo Marathon, which had been expected to attract some 38,000 runners, was cancelled. Only elite athletes will now be able to take part.
The public celebration for Emperor Naruhito’s birthday has also been scrapped over virus fears.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people in total with nearly 72,500 people confirmed to have the virus.
The official death toll in China hit 1,868 today after another 98 people died, mostly in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei.
Five people have died outside mainland China – in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wild animals in Wuhan last year before spreading across China.