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Published on 2/22/2020 additional information available

Coronavirus: British passengers on Diamond Princess cruise ship are on their way home

#Coronavirus: British passengers on Diamond Princess cruise ship are on their way home

Coronavirus: British passengers on Diamond Princess cruise ship are on their way home.

Thirty-two British and European evacuees are aboard the repatriation flight from Tokyo to Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base.

Workers wear a protective suit work near the plane chartered by the British government at Haneda airport on February 22, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Passengers who have tested negative for the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be allowed to disembark the cruise ship since Wednesday after two weeks quarantine period

Dozens of people who spent two weeks isolated on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan are finally on their way back to the UK.

Thirty-two British and European nationals took off from Haneda airport in Tokyo late on Friday and will land in Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base near Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Saturday morning.

The flight also has British government and medical staff on board, the Foreign Office said.

Around 35 people are expected to be on board the repatriation flight
Image:Thirty-two people are said to be on board the repatriation flight

The Britons in the group will then be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral for two weeks of quarantine.

It is unclear where the small number of EU citizens will be taken after landing in the UK.

Among the Britons heading back after two weeks in isolation on the Diamond Princess are Alan and Vanessa Sandford, who were kept in their room after hundreds of cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on board.

Some 634 passengers and crew caught the SARS-like illness aboard the ship, which makes up more than half the confirmed cases outside of China.

Only the people who were not exhibiting symptoms were allowed to board the repatriation flight on Friday.

Mr Sandford said he understood why people might be "nervous" about those jetting back to the UK, but said he and his wife could not wait to be back home.

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He told Sky News: "I think I might struggle a bit with this second lot of 14 days (on the Wirral).

"You can't get on with your life, everything's on hold, and I've got this certificate that says I'm negative for the virus and nobody on the aircraft is going to be anything other than negative, so it just seems excessive.

"But I understand as well that people are nervous about having people back in the country."

Another passenger, Alan Steele, who was separated from his new wife after being diagnosed with COVID-19, made a joke comparison between his awaited quarantine on the Wirral and Butlins.

Writing on Facebook, he said: "Wendy's test was negative so Butlins the Wirral here we come for 14 days."

One Briton who has already spent two weeks on the Wirral after being evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, said the time should go quickly.

"It is going to be boring at times, but if you can interact with others a bit and use the entertainment systems the time should pass pretty quickly," Kharn Lambert told Sky News.

Alan Sandford and wife Vanessa haven't left their room for two weeks
Image:Alan Sandford and wife Vanessa are heading back to the UK

Two Britons, David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, are being treated in a Japanese hospital after being diagnosed with the virus.

In a Facebook post, Mr Abel said the couple were "in the best place" and added: "See you all before we know it."

He said they would both need to test negative three times in order to be discharged.

Alan Steel, coronavirus survivor, still

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Two other British nationals who have been diagnosed with the virus are not present on the flight.

It is understood that several Britons who work on the ship have opted to remain, while other British nationals who live overseas have taken different routes home.

How does the UK respond to an outbreak?

Meanwhile, passengers aboard another cruise ship in Cambodia have been cleared for travel home.

Britons aboard the Westerdam, who all tested negative for the virus, are said to be receiving health advice and help with booking flights home.

There are now 77,654 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus, with a death toll of 2,360.

Fifteen people have died outside mainland China - four in Iran, two in Hong Kong, two in South Korea, two from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, and one each in Japan, Italy, France, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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