Infected Briton on coronavirus-stricken ship has early onset dementia, says son

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The Foreign Office said Britons on board the Diamond Princess will be evacuated ‘as soon as possible’.

Sally and David Abel on board the Diamond Princess

A British pensioner who has tested positive for coronavirus on board a quarantined cruise ship in Japan is also suffering from early onset dementia, his son has said.

Steve Abel, of Northampton, said his parents, David and Sally Abel, have confirmed that they have tested positive for the virus and have been told to stay in their cabin on the Diamond Princess.

It comes as the first passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus began leaving the ship after 14 days in quarantine.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said that Britons on board the liner will be evacuated “as soon as possible”.

Mr Abel said his father has a number of medical issues.

He described him as an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic, who has a tooth infection, and was also diagnosed with early onset dementia a couple of years ago.

A clearly upset Mr Abel described it as a “very frustrating” situation for the whole family as he told BBC Breakfast: “They are just waiting. They have had their bags packed for over 24 hours now. They thought they were being taken yesterday but no-one came and there was no communication.”


He added: “One minute they are being told they are being taken in an ambulance. The next minute they are being told they will be taken on a coach. I do not know what the next few days are going to hold for them.

“They are just being messed about. These are two old-age pensioners. They have been through so much and I just want someone to take care of them.

Mr Abel said his worst fear would be if his parents were separated because “with my dad’s early onset dementia … he could wake up and be a little bit confused, so my mum needs to be there with him”.

People wearing protective clothing on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship (@daxa_tw/PA)


Reports from mainland China state that the number of deaths has now topped 2,000 but the rate of infection has slowed down.

There have been 2,004 deaths and 74,185 confirmed infections, according to the data.

New cases have fallen to less than 2,000 for the past two days, but officials and analysts have warned that the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as people gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.

Mr and Mrs Abel, who have posted regular updates on Facebook and YouTube, have confirmed that they have tested positive for the virus and it has now also been confirmed by an English-speaking doctor.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Abel said: “We are going to a hostel because there isn’t a hospital bed anywhere around. In four or five days we will be removed from the hostel and put into a hospital where we will receive treatment, so I can’t see in any way we are on that flight to the UK.”

Pressure has been mounting on the Government to evacuate Britons in light of the cramped conditions on board and the fact the number diagnosed with the virus on the ship continues to rise.

The FCO said it is planning an evacuation flight from Toyko to the UK, which it hopes will go ahead  later this week.

A spokesman said: “At 0700 local time on Wednesday (10pm Tuesday, UK time), the Diamond Princess cruise operator and Japanese authorities allowed passengers to disembark from the cruise ship.

“However there is a chance that people who disembark will not be able to join the evacuation flight.

“We have the utmost concern for the affected Britons and strongly encourage them to register for the evacuation flight.”

Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess on Wednesday.

Japan Outbreak Ship
A bus carrying passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leaves port in Yokohama, Japan (Eugene Hoshiko/PA)

Some passengers said on Twitter that they received health check forms asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing.

Passengers who tested negative for coronavirus and had no symptoms still had to have their body temperature checked before leaving.

Japan’s health minister told reporters on Tuesday that all passengers still on board had been tested and had samples taken for the coronavirus illness, also known as Covid-19.

Katsunobu Kato said those who had tested negative would start leaving the ship, which had 74 Britons on board, on Wednesday.

It comes as Alan Steele, a British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, said on Facebook that he had left hospital.

He 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.

Meanwhile, Britons have been tested for coronavirus in Cambodia after leaving a cruise ship where an elderly woman was diagnosed with the illness, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Passengers disembarked from the Holland America Westerdam ship on Friday and the 781 guests have since tested negative for the virus, while testing of 747 crew members continues.

Holland America said the results “provide the required clearance for remaining guests in Cambodia to begin their onward journey home”.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 4,916 people in total have been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of which nine have come back positive.

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