Coronavirus: Flight carrying 32 British and European evacuees lands in UK

22 February 2020, 16:31

Passengers from aboard Diamond Princess landed in the UK this morning
Passengers from aboard Diamond Princess landed in the UK this morning. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A repatriation flight carrying 32 British and European passengers from the coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan called Diamond Princess has landed in the UK.

The plane touched down at the Ministry of Defence base Boscombe Down in Wiltshire shortly after 11:30am, carrying British government and medical staff.

Passengers are now being driven to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral where they will be quarantined for two weeks.

None of those on board have so far tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement issued after the plane landed, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "We have brought 32 British and European citizens safely home from Japan.

"The FCO worked hard to get them back to the UK securely.

"Our number one priority has consistently been the health and safety of UK nationals."

People were pictured getting off the plane with their luggage before boarding coaches parked nearby.

The bus drivers did not appear to be wearing protective clothing as the convoy, escorted by police and ambulance vehicles, left the base.

The evacuees spent more than 14 days trapped on the coronavirus-stricken ship off the coast of Japan.

It is not clear where the small number of EU citizens will be taken following the plane landing in the UK.

Not on board the flight were the four Britons on board the Diamond Princess who tested positive for coronavirus.

Arrowe Park was previously used to host 83 British nationals for a 14-day quarantine period earlier in February after they were flown out of Wuhan in China, which has been at the centre of the outbreak.

Before the flight, one passenger who was diagnosed with coronavirus and has since been given the all-clear, joked that the experience would be like visiting a holiday camp.

"Wendy's test [his wife] was negative so Butlins the Wirral here we come for 14 days," Alan Steele posted on Facebook.

The flight landed at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on Saturday morning
The flight landed at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on Saturday morning. Picture: PA

A total of 634 passengers and crew have been infected since being kept on the cruise ship in the port of Yokohama. The total accounts for more than half of all the confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.

It is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew opted to remain.

One British couple on board who were diagnosed with coronavirus have both since been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The family of David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, said they have now been moved to a "prison"-like hospital.

The couple were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary when it was placed into quarantine.

Mr Abel has been diagnosed with acute pneumonia, while Mrs Abel has a mild case.

Although they were originally in a hospital just 90 minutes from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, Mrs Abel called her son in the middle of the night to say the couple were suddenly being moved to a different "three-star" hospital.

Steve Abel, their son, posted video updates on the couple's YouTube channel alongside his wife Roberta on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Britons in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, and who have been cleared for travel, are also being assisted by the Foreign Office to make their way home.

All have tested negative after one case was diagnosed on board.

In order to help combat the spread of the virus in the UK, the NHS has started pilots of home testing for coronavirus where NHS staff, including nurses and paramedics, will visit people in their own homes.