Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Coronavirus cruise ship Brits to be evacuated to UK and put in quarantine
19 February 2020, 18:16
Britons aboard the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess will be flown home and placed into quarantine, it has been confirmed.
The Britons will be repatriated "as soon as possible", and will be quarantined in NHS accommodation for 14 days.
More than 70 British nationals are passengers but it is unclear how many will be repatriated.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social care said: "We can confirm that an accommodation block on the Arrowe Park NHS site will be used to isolate those returning from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
"They will be kept in this location for the 14-day quarantine period, with around-the-clock support from medical staff at all times.
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank NHS and PHE staff who have continued to provide world-class care, as well as the wider Wirral community for their understanding and support.
"There is no risk to the public, and the hospital will continue to run as normal."
In a letter to staff, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Trust said: "Following the successful management of two previous groups of repatriated British citizens, from Wuhan in China, Arrowe Park has been asked to host the Britons from Japan and look after them throughout their quarantine period.
"We are still waiting for final confirmation of how many will be joining us but we wanted you to be aware of the situation as soon as we could."
It comes as the first passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus began leaving the ship after 14 days in quarantine.
But the Foreign Office warned that people who disembarked may not be able to join the evacuation flight.
Passengers were finally able to disembark the ship on Wednesday morning after spending 14 days confined to their cabins.
At least 542 of the 3,700 people onboard were infected by Covid-19, with those who tested negative leaving over the next few days.
The Diamond Princess' virus cases were the most in any place outside of China, and medical experts have called its quarantine a failure.
Reports from mainland China state that the number of deaths has topped 2,000 but the rate of infection has slowed down.
There have been 2,004 deaths and 74,185 confirmed infections, according to the data.
New cases have fallen to less than 2,000 for the past two days but officials and analysts have warned that the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as people gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.
David Abel, who was aboard the ship, does not believe he will be on a planned evacuation flight to the UK after he and his wife Sally tested positive for the virus.
Mr Abel appeared to cast doubt on the diagnosis on Tuesday when he described the situation as "a setup" in a Facebook post.
But he said in a YouTube video on Wednesday: "We've since spoken to a doctor that speaks English, and we've had to really press hard for that, and it has been confirmed by him we are both positive.
"We are going to a hostel because there isn't a hospital bed anywhere around. So, we're going to a hostel and in four or five days we'll be removed from the hostel and put into a hospital, where we will receive treatment.
"So I can't see that there's going to be any way we're on that flight to the UK."