A Briton stranded on a coronavirus-infected cruise ship off Japan said today he has ‘never felt less loved by my own country.’
As the figure of those infected jumped by 70 overnight to 355, some 400 American passengers were to be evacuated from the vessel on Sunday while 78 Britons remain on board.
David Abel, who is with his wife Sally, has posted regular updates of life on board the Diamond Princess since it was quarantined in Yokohama Bay on February 5 but the videos are increasingly alarming.
Speaking this morning, Mr Abel, from Oxfordshire, said: ‘Don’t you want the English people home? I am always proud to be British but this now – it’s gone beyond a joke, I’ve never felt less loved by my own country.
‘The people that are listening, I know you love us … I thought the UK would be as quick as the USA. But it just shows we’re wrong.
‘UK government don’t you want your country people British people home? Are you closing the borders because you don’t want us home?
‘Doesn’t the UK government want the English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, don’t you want us back. The message that we are seeing is that you’re closing your borders to us, you want to keep us out. We are literally being treated like trash.’
The ship was carrying more than 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries and territories when it docked and was placed in isolation, after authorities found a passenger who got off in Hong Kong during the voyage had tested positive for the virus.
Japanese officials continued to find new infections among the passengers and crew and rushed them to local hospitals, while others have been told to stay inside their cabins during the 14-day quarantine period set to end Wednesday.
Passengers wave on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, as the vessel’s passengers continue to be tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama today
An ambulance believed to be carring an infected passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship leaves the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on Sunday
An ambulance believed to carry an infected passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship leaves the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama
The US was preparing Sunday to evacuate some of its citizens but said those repatriated will go through another two-week quarantine period at home.
‘Based on the high number of COVID-19 cases identified on board the Diamond Princess, the Department of Health and Human Services made an assessment that passengers and crew members on board are at high risk of exposure,’ the US embassy said in a letter to its citizens on the boat.
Hong Kong has also said it will offer its 330 city residents on board the chance to take a charter flight back.
Canada announced a similar decision to repatriate its nationals.
Japan has not been able to test all those on board due to limited supplies of testing kits, facilities and manpower, which are also needed by authorities tracking the spread of the virus on land.
But the health ministry said Saturday that passengers older than 70 are being examined and those testing negative and in good health will be allowed to leave the ship from Wednesday.
Tests on younger passengers were expected to start Sunday and healthy people will be allowed to get off after Wednesday, it said.
Ambulance workers wearing protective suits leave the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship
Japan Self-Defense Forces walk past the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikaku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 16
Mr Abel, however, also revealed his concerns for passengers’ mental health today. ‘This can lead to some really really serious issues, if you don’t have a strong mindset. This is the place where bad things can start happening.’ He said.
He added: ‘Can I just tell you – UK – how this makes me really feel. It feels that we have been forgotten that you don’t really care about us and that you’re actually not wanting us to come home.
‘That’s how it feels. And this is going to be final time at begging you to change this situation for my friends on board this ship who are English – less than 80 of us – to get us off ASAP.’
He added that he has been told that he could be on board for up to eight more weeks.
However, Mr Abel qualified that by saying he was basing that on reading the news because the information given to the passengers from the authorities had been so dire.
A British Foreign Office spokesperson said yesterday: ‘We are urgently speaking to authorities in Japan and the UK. We are working around the clock to ensure the welfare of the British nationals on board.’
Meanwhile, Japan has seen 53 infections across the nation, including a dozen new cases reported on Saturday and 13 cases among more than 760 Japanese nationals and their relatives repatriated from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Buses with closed curtains arrive at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal where the Diamond Princess cruise ship is docked in Yokohama
A Japan Self-Defence Force soldier wears a face mask as he waits to direct traffic near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier as U.S citizens prepare for repatriation
Kato said Japan will boost efforts to encourage people with possible infections to quickly seek medical care.
‘If you look at the figures, we are seeing changing situations compared with before,’ Kato said on the NHK show.
‘What we have to think about now is preventing cases from becoming severe and preventing deaths.’