A BRITISH couple aboard a coronavirus-hit cruise ship are fearful at having tested positive for the killer virus.
David and Sally Abel have posted regular updates on Facebook and YouTube pleading with their government to be flown home from the Diamond Princess, quarantined near Yokohama, Japan.
As late as yesterday afternoon, Mr Abel said the Oxfordshire couple (above) were well and had passed all medical checks run by the ship, which has 74 Britons on board.
But this morning he posted on Facebook: ‘There is going to be a time of quiet.
‘We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all.’
In a follow-up, he said: ‘Frankly I think this is a set-up! We are NOT being taken to a hospital but a hostel. That’s where partners are sent waiting out there [sic] quarantine.
‘No phone, no wifi and no medical facilities. I really am smelling a very big rat here! Waiting for the transfer now.’
Victims of the virus — also known as Covid-19 — have been taken off the ship for treatment at hospitals in Japan.
The couple’s son, Steve Abel, said they were ‘high-spirited people’.
But he added: ‘There are cracks in the armour and they are getting down.’
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘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.’
Mr Abel said conditions on the quarantined ship were making it difficult for his father to manage his diabetes and he also had a tooth infection.
He revealed 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.
When asked about the government’s treatment of his parents, Mr Abel described it as ‘appalling’.
He insisted: ‘They haven’t done anything.’
The Foreign Office said yesterday that four Britons from the ship had been confirmed with coronavirus. A diagnosis for Mr and Mrs Abel would take the total to six.
Reports from Japan said there were 88 more cases on board the Diamond Princess as of today, bringing the total to 542.
It comes as Boris Johnson spoke to the president of China about the coronavirus outbreak.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The prime minister spoke to president Xi of China this morning.
‘He offered his sympathies for those affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in China.
‘President Xi thanked the UK for its support and in particular welcomed the donation of vital medical equipment to China.’
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was organising a flight back to the UK for British nationals on the Diamond Princess.
Pressure has been mounting on the government to evacuate them in light of the cramped conditions on board and the fact that the number diagnosed on the ship keeps rising.
On Sunday, the US chartered two planes and repatriated around 340 of its citizens from the vessel, while other countries are also flying theirs home.
An FCO spokesman said: ‘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.’
It comes after Sir Richard Branson said airline Virgin Atlantic was ‘in discussions’ with the government over whether he could help those stranded.
He responded following an appeal from Mr and Mrs Abel, who have asked the British businessman and philanthropist to charter a plane.
Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said the firm had worked with authorities to send more doctors and nurses to the ship and had helped fulfil 2,000 prescription requests.
However, there is still uncertainty over whether other passengers will be able to leave the liner at the end of the 14-day quarantine period tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the government has block-booked the Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel hotel as a potential quarantine zone for people arriving in the UK who develop coronavirus, or for Brits evacuated from overseas.
As of yesterday afternoon, 4,501 people have been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of whom nine have come back positive.
The death toll in mainland China rose by 98 to 1,868, in figures announced early this morning, while the number infected globally stands at 72,436, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
Public Health England has published guidance to schools telling them there is no need for children to stay away if staff, pupils or family members are undergoing Covid-19 testing.