Diamond Princess: British man with coronavirus brands quarantine measures an 'utter joke'

20 February 2020, 15:39

Alan Steele is among the four Brits who have tested positive on the ship
Alan Steele is among the four Brits who have tested positive on the ship. Picture: Facebook

By Ewan Somerville

A Brit among those quarantined on a coronavirus-plagued cruise ship has branded conditions on board as "an utter joke."

Alan Steele, 58, was the first British citizen to become infected with the deadly illness on the Diamond Princess, which is currently docked off the coast of Japan.

The newlywed, from Shropshire was on his honeymoon when the ship was forced to dock in Yokohama.

More than 600 passengers, four of them British, have now tested positive on the ship, the largest amount of cases outside of China where an outbreak began.

Mr Steele says he was taken to hospital for a fortnight after receiving a call that a swab test detected he had the virus, officially called COVID-19, but that guards on the ship roamed different rooms without face masks on.

"The quarantine process was a joke, an utter joke,” he told Sky News.

Passengers are beginning to disembark from the plagued ship
Passengers are beginning to disembark from the plagued ship. Picture: Getty

"I think there was a terrific rise in numbers because they had people just wandering all around the ship going cabin to cabin to cabin.”

"So, if they caught it in one cabin then they're just spreading it to everyone else aren't they.

"Because at this point we weren't given masks or nothing, it was only later they gave anybody masks to go to the door."

The Japanese government has defended the quarantine, insisting “thorough action” was taken including masks, disinfectant and keeping people away from each other.

The Foreign Office is evacuating 78 Brits from the cruise liner
The Foreign Office is evacuating 78 Brits from the cruise liner. Picture: Getty

However, officials confirmed earlier on Thursday that two Japanese passengers in their 80s died after catching the respiratory virus on board.

The Foreign Office has sent a plane to rescue the 78 Brits on the ship tomorrow. They will be isolated for a further 14 days in the Wirral, where 83 China evacuees were placed last month.

The US, China, Australia, South Korea and Hong Kong are among the other countries evacuating their citizens from the Diamond Princess, with most set to disembark over the next two days.

Alan Steele has hit out at the quarantine measures on board
Alan Steele has hit out at the quarantine measures on board. Picture: Getty

But Mr Steele said the UK government’s response had been lacklustre.

He said: "I know poor Boris has got his hands full, he's got Brexit, reshuffling his cabinet, the floods, so I suppose 78 Brits, what the hell do they matter?

"To be honest, the embassy wanted me to keep in touch with them and they did phone the hospital every day to see how I was doing but anyone can do that, that's not a big deal."

It comes after Brit couple David and Sally Abel said on Tuesday that they have been diagnosed on the ship.

More than 75,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded - only 1,000 of them outside China - and 2,130 deaths.

Earlier today, it was announced that those who were healthy enough to make the journey home would be evacuated.

The Home Secretary urged other "British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us" as he said information has been given for those registered for the flight.

He added: "We will continue to support British nationals who wish to stay in Japan."

Those who are brought back from the coronavirus stricken ship will spend a fortnight in quarantine at Arrowe Park on the Wirral on their return.

Japan's health ministry confirmed on Thursday that two passengers aged in their eighties who were taken off the Diamond Princessbecause they were infected with coronavirus have died.

They are the first fatalities from the virus-stricken boat, and Japan now has three deaths linked to Covid-19.

The Diamond Princess started letting passengers who tested negative for the virus off the ship on Wednesday when the government-set 14-day quarantine ended.

In China, it seems the spread of the virus has continued to slow, with 394 new cases reported in the latest daily update from health authorities.

Deaths attributed to the Covid-19 outbreak increased to 114, with mainland China seeing 2,118 people killed and 74,576 total cases.