Thursday, 9 Apr 2020

British tourist’s first stop is McDonald’s after being ‘cured’ of coronavirus

A British honeymooner who caught coronavirus on a cruise ship says he is being released from hospital after successful treatment for the SARS-like illness.

Newlywed Alan Steele, 58, has been in a Tokyo hospital for almost two weeks and his wife, Wendy Marshall Steele, is still trapped on the Diamond Princess.

Mr Steele, from Wolverhampton, announced he is due to be discharged on Wednesday – and the first thing he wants to do is go for a meal at McDonald's.

In a series of Facebook posts, he told friends he will get a hotel room and wait for his wife to be released from the quarantined ship, which has been docked near Yokohama, Japan, for two weeks.

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At least six Britons are among 542 people who have been diagnosed on the vessel, as the Foreign Office prepares to rescue the UK nationals who haven't been infected.

The Steeles were on their honeymoon when he tested positive for the flu-like virus despite showing no symptoms.

Mrs Marshall Steele tested negative. The 14-day quarantine is due to end on Wednesday, but an extension has not been ruled out.

Mr Steele wrote on Facebook: "Well have just had great news. i get out of this prison cell tomorrow whoooopey."

He wrote to a friend: "On Google maps now finding nearest mac donalds."

He added: "Seems there are loads of McDonalds near cruise terminal so things getting even better."

Earlier, he wrote that he would be released after having two consecutive negative test results.

At least six Britons on the ship have caught the illness.

The latest two are David and Sally Abel, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and had become the faces of the quarantine.

The couple, from Woodford Halse, Oxfordshire, had been posting multiple video blogs every day to describe the conditions on the ship and call for the UK Government to rescue the Britons.

Mr Abel announced on Tuesday that he and his wife were told they had tested positive for the virus after two weeks trapped on the vessel.

He wrote on Facebook: "There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all."

But he later told friends he didn't believe the results, writing: "Frankly i think this is a setup! We are NOT being taken to a hospital but a hostel. That’s where partners are sent waiting out there quarantine.

David Abel's blog update on Monday:

"No phone, no wi-fi and no medical facilities. I really am smelling a very big rat here! Waiting for the transfer now."

He told a friend: "I doubt it was positive. If it was, we would be in hospital."

Mr Abel, 74, wrote that he and his wife would be removed from the ship together but they might be separated once they arrive at the hostel.

In a previous video he had appealed to Virgin billionaire Sir Richard Branson for help.

The Abels' son, Steve, said the conditions on the quarantined vessel were making it difficult for his father to manage his diabetes and that he is also suffering from a tooth infection.

Steve added he could hear his father vomiting in the bathroom the last time he spoke to his mother on the phone but believed it might be due to "shock" rather than a symptom of the disease.

"The quarantine in Japan has been a failure, that is obvious, so (my parents) are obviously going to have to go through it again," Steve Abel said.

"I would like them to go through it here where the food is more suitable for my dad."

But he added: "I'm not actually that worried about the virus – looking at the recovery stats.

"It is more about the stress, the diet."

When asked about the Government's treatment of his parents, Steve Abel described it as "appalling".

"They haven't done anything," he said.

"They aren't communicating with us, the Foreign Office have my number, my wife's number, my brother's number, my sister's number and they haven't got back to us on anything and we have been calling them every day for four or five days."

Steve Abel told BBC Breakfast: "They are very high-spirited people.

"There are cracks in the armour and they are getting down.

"My mum breaks down in tears frequently, my dad is short-tempered.

"They are not getting any communication from our country, so they are in the dark and feeling very unloved."

The ship was carrying 3,700 passengers to places such as Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan when it was quarantined at the port near Yokohama two weeks ago.

The Foreign Office was organising a flight back to the UK for British nationals on board the ship.

The department has faced pressure to fly home the 74 Britons on the Diamond Princess after the US chartered two planes and repatriated 340 of its citizens.

It said in an updated statement on Tuesday afternoon: "We have the utmost concern for the British people currently on the cruise ship.

"We are ensuring those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus receive the best possible care in Japan and are organising a flight back to the UK for other British nationals on the Diamond Princess as soon as possible."

Earlier, a Number 10 spokesman said those on board the ship were being contacted about the possibility of a repatriation flight.

On Tuesday, the Japanese Health Ministry confirmed 88 more people on board have been diagnosed with the illness, bringing the total to 542.

The Abels were the fifth and sixth Britons to test positive on the ship. Four others with confirmed coronavirus are currently in hospital in Japan, according to the latest official figures.

The data comes after Sir Richard Branson said Virgin Atlantic was "in discussions" with the Government over whether he could help those stranded.

He responded via Twitter to an appeal from Mr and Mrs Abel, who asked the British businessman and philanthropist to charter a special plane.

Sir Richard wrote: "@VirginAtlantic does not fly to Japan, but we are in discussions with the UK government and seeing if there is anything we can do to help."

Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said the firm has worked with authorities to send more doctors and nurses on board the ship and has helped fulfil 2,000 prescription requests.

However, there is still uncertainty over whether passengers will be able to leave the ship at the end of the 14-day quarantine period on Wednesday.

The ship was put in quarantine after a former passenger – an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who disembarked in late January – tested positive for SARS-like coronavirus.

Medics in protective suits began testing passengers and the number of infected guests and crew has steadily increased since the first positive test results.

Meanwhile, the Government has block-booked the Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel hotel as a potential quarantine zone for international visitors to the UK who develop coronavirus, or for Britons evacuated from overseas.

As of Monday afternoon, 4,501 people in total have now been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of which nine have come back positive.

The death toll in mainland China rose by 98 to 1,868, in figures announced early on Tuesday morning, while the number of people infected globally stands at 72,436, according to the country's National Health Commission.

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