Coronavirus: Britons on Diamond Princess cruise ship to be flown home

Britons stranded on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan will be able to board an evacuation flight home on Friday, the foreign secretary has said.

Only those who are showing no signs of illness will be able to travel, and they will be quarantined on their return to the UK, it is understood.

Those who have tested positive will remain in Japan for treatment.

Dominic Raab said the flight would be from Tokyo, and urged any other Britons who wanted to leave to get in touch.

There were 78 British nationals on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner when it was quarantined on 5 February, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

More than 620 people onboard the cruise ship – which was carrying 3,700 passengers – have tested positive for the condition. It is the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Two passengers from the ship have now died. The Japanese citizens were in their 80s and had underlying health conditions, local media said.

On Wednesday, when the two-week quarantine period on the liner expired, officials allowed passengers who had tested negative for the virus to disembark.

The Foreign Office advised all UK nationals to stay onboard until it organised an evacuation flight for them, warning there could be administrative problems if they left the ship.

Confirming that a flight had been organised, Dominic Raab said in a statement: "Details have been sent to those who have registered for the flight. We urge other British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us," he said.

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

Those returning from the ship will spend 14 days at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, where two groups of people travelling from China have already been taken.

"There is no risk to the public, and the hospital will continue to run as normal," the Department of Health said.

Meanwhile, one of the British passengers who has tested positive for the virus, David Abel, has posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed in Japan.

Mr Abel, who had been giving regular updates from the ship via social media, revealed earlier this week that he and his wife Sally had both been told they had the virus.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, he wrote that the couple had arrived at a "lovely hospital" and they had both had "a full health inspection".

He said they will have further tests, including a chest X-ray, on Friday, adding they were in "the best place".

It comes as Alan Steele, a British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus on the cruise ship, announced on Facebook that he had left hospital.

Mr Steele said he is in a hotel in Yokohama and has been told he will need to spend two weeks in quarantine when he returns to the UK.

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