Coronavirus: British man among 41 new cases on quarantined cruise ship

A British man believed to be on his honeymoon is among 41 people who have tested positive for coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship off Japan.

The British passenger has been identified as Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, who posted on his social media that he had been diagnosed with the virus.

Mr Steele said he was not showing any symptoms but is being taken to hospital.

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He wrote on his Facebook page: "Just to let you all know I have been diagnosed as having the virus and am being shipped to hospital.

"Would also like to say that at the moment I am not showing any symptoms so just possible a carrier.

"Will let you know how I am going on when possible."

More than 3,600 passengers were on the Diamond Princess cruise, with the number of confirmed cases on the ship now rising to 61.

David Abel, who is onboard the quarantined ship off the coast of Yokohama, said he knew the British man who tested positive for the virus. He said they frequently had dinner together while on the cruise.

He told ITV News the man was on his honeymoon with his wife and that the pair have now been separated as she has tested negative for the disease.

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Mr Abel said: "One of my friends who we sit with for an evening meal on the 15 days of the cruise... he messaged me to say he is one of the 41 that have been infected.

"So he and his wife are now being separated. He will be taken off to a medical facility, she has to remain on board as he is not testing positive.

"The dreadful thing is, they are on their honeymoon."

In a statement, Princess Cruises said: "The Japanese Ministry of Health has confirmed this is the last batch to be tested and the quarantine end date will be February 19, unless there are any other unforeseen developments.

"The Japanese government is also providing our ship and team members additional manpower support."

Passengers from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan and the US are also among the new cases on board.

There are 78 people with British passports - including crew - on the ship docked in Japan.

More than 3,600 passengers were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with the number of confirmed cases now rising to 61. Credit: AP

On Thursday, the Department for Health confirmed a patient in the Brighton became the third person in the UK to be diagnosed with the disease.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director, said: “This patient did the right thing when they had concerns about coronavirus by calling NHS 111 for advice.

“After a telephone assessment, they were advised to make their way to Royal Sussex County Hospital Brighton for testing.

"Following a pre-arranged plan with the NHS they drove themselves to the hospital, were tested in isolation and away from public areas of the hospital, and returned home in isolation in their own car."

He urged any travellers from China and the other specified countries who have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath are advised to follow the example of this patient and call NHS 111 for advice.

It's also been confirmed the next Briton due home on a flight from China on Sunday will be taken to a holding facility in Milton Keynes.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess is docked at Yokohama Port. Credit: AP

Experts say there are early signs the number of coronavirus cases in China is beginning to slow.

Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said there have been declines in the number of new cases reported in China over recent days.

However experts said it was unclear whether this represented an actual levelling off or a difficulty recording such large numbers.

The latest figures reported by health authorities in Beijing were 31,161 confirmed cases in mainland China and 636 deaths.

There were roughly 3,900 new cases reported worldwide on February 5, 3,700 on February 6 and 3,200 on February 7 - the vast majority in China, World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show.

Among them is the doctor who first raised the alarm about the new coronavirus.

Dr Li Wenliang, 34, was reportedly reprimanded for “spreading rumours” in late December.

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Meanwhile, a newborn discovered to be infected 36 hours after birth has become the youngest known patient.

The number of people infected globally has risen to more than 31,000.

Dr Li had worked at a hospital in the epicentre of the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.

He was reprimanded by the police for “spreading rumours” about the illness in late December, according to news reports.

Medical workers in protective suits help patients who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Credit: AP

The outbreak has spread to around two dozen countries, triggering travel restrictions and quarantines around the world and a crisis inside the country of 1.4 billion.

Dr Li was among a number of medical professionals in Wuhan who tried to warn colleagues and others when the government did not, The New York Times reported earlier this week.

It said that after the mystery illness had stricken seven patients at a hospital, Dr Li said of them in an online chat group on December 30: “Quarantined in the emergency department.”

Another participant in the chat responded by wondering, “Is SARS coming again?” – a reference to the 2002-03 viral outbreak that killed hundreds, the newspaper said.

Wuhan health officials summoned Dr Li in the middle of the night to demand he explain why he shared the information, and police later forced him to sign a statement admitting to “illegal behaviour”, the paper said.

“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” Dr Li said in an interview in the Times via text messages, “I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”

China finished building a second new hospital on Thursday to isolate and treat patients - a 1,500-bed centre in Wuhan.

Earlier this week, another rapidly constructed, 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms began taking patients.

People queue to buy face masks in Hong Kong. Credit: AP

Authorities also moved people with milder symptoms into makeshift hospitals at sport arenas, exhibition halls and other public spaces.

Altogether, more than 50 million people are under virtual quarantine in Hubei province in an unprecedented – and unproven – bid to bring the outbreak under control.

In Hong Kong, hospital workers demanding a shutdown of the territory’s border with mainland China were still on strike on Friday.

The territory’s leader Carrie Lam announced a 14-day quarantine of all travellers entering the city from the mainland starting on Saturday, but the government has refused to seal the border entirely.

Taiwan has said it will refuse entry to all non-citizens or residents who have recently visited Hong Kong, Macao or China from Friday.

From Europe to Australia and the US, universities that host Chinese students or have study-abroad programmes are scrambling to assess the risks, and some are cancelling opportunities and prohibiting student travel.

The Department for Health has now urged anyone who has travelled from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is feeling unwell to be tested for coronavirus.

The organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have again sought to allay fears that the 2020 Games could be postponed or cancelled because of the crisis.