A British couple who have been quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan have revealed they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
David and Sally Abel have been posting regular updates online from the Diamond Princess, which has been docked off the coast of Yokohama since 3 February.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mr Abel said: "There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all."
However Mr Abel, from Oxfordshire, later said he doubted the diagnosis because he and his wife were being taken to a hostel instead of a hospital.
He wrote on Facebook: "Frankly I think this is a setup! We are NOT being taken to a hospital but a hostel. That's where partners are sent waiting out their quarantine.
"No phone, no wi-fi and no medical facilities. I really am smelling a very big rat here! Waiting for the transfer now.."
When asked if he was sure the test for COVID-19 was positive, Mr Abel replied: "I doubt it was positive. If it was, we would be in hospital."
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Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he understood Mr and Mrs Abel had been quarantined by Japanese authorities
He told Sky News' Kay Burley @ Breakfast show: "This is a really, really serious outbreak – a serious case which people, through no fault of their own, have been exposed to this potentially lethal virus.
"What we're trying to do as a government is try and get people back to Britain, fly them back so that they can be with their families."
On Mr and Mrs Abel, Mr Kwarteng added: "It will be terrifying and very frightening but I think where they are is [with] the Japanese authorities. My understanding [is they] have essentially quarantined them and are looking after them."
The Foreign Office says it is "working to organise a flight" back to the UK for British nationals on the coronavirus-hit cruise ship – and those trapped are being "strongly encouraged" to take it.
Those in quarantine on the Diamond Princess are being contacted to make the necessary arrangements, with a spokesperson adding: "We urge all those who have not yet responded to get in touch immediately."
More than 70 British nationals have faced an anxious wait to find out whether they will be evacuated from the cruise liner.
The Foreign Office had come under increasing pressure to bring them home after the US chartered two planes to repatriate 340 of its citizens – 14 of whom had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Those who had tested positive were moved to the back of the plane in a "specialised containment area" to be isolated – even though they did not display any symptoms.
Approximately half of all known cases of COVID-19 outside China have been found aboard the Diamond Princess.
About 450 people have tested positive since the cruise liner was ordered to stay under quarantine on 3 February.
Four Britons are among the confirmed cases, and they are currently in hospital in Japan.
In a letter to those still stranded, the FCO said: "We strongly encourage British nationals on board Diamond Princess, or those passengers now in separate quarantine accommodation ashore, to take this opportunity to return to the UK on this flight.
"If you disembark from the ship before this British government organised evacuation, there is a risk that you may find it difficult to return by other commercial means."
Affected Britons are being told that they will not be charged for the flight – however, they will need to sign an agreement to complete 14 days of "supported isolation" in the UK.
Those on board have been given until 8pm local time (11am UK time) to express an interest in taking the flight.
In other developments:
- The director of a hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has died
- There are now 73,335 suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 1,873 deaths
- The number of new cases has fallen below 2,000 for the first time since 30 January
- World Health Organisation officials say "it's too early to telRead More – Source [contf] [contfnew]