British passengers from coronavirus-hit cruise start quarantine at Wirral facility

Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship have arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral after landing back in the UK.

The passengers, who were trapped on the ship off the coast of Japan for more than two weeks, will be isolated for a further 14 days at a facility on Merseyside.

The group, who tested negative to having Covid-19 before they flew, are being quarantined again to protect against the spread of the illness should any of them be infected.

A repatriation flight carrying the 32 British and European evacuees from the vessel touched down at Ministry of Defence base Boscombe Down in Wiltshire shortly after 11.30am on Saturday.

Two police cars, two ambulances, several police motorbikes and a fourth coach with no passengers were also in the convoy for the arrival.

In a statement issued after the plane landed, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "We have brought 32 British and European citizens safely home from Japan."

He added: "The FCO worked hard to get them back to the UK securely.

"Our number one priority has consistently been the health and safety of UK nationals."

Arrowe Park Hospital where the cruise ship patients will be quarantined. Credit: PA/ITV News

Another group of evacuees from Wuhan city - the epicentre of the virus - are due to be released on Sunday from a second a quarantine facility in Milton Keynes

Chief executive at the Wirral Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Janelle Holmes, said staff at Arrowe Park now have a "blueprint" for how to handle the new arrivals.

Speaking on Saturday, she said: "There was a lot of preparation that went in for our Wuhan guests who successfully left and had been really appreciative of the support and help that we provided.

Chief Executive at the Wirral University Teaching Hospital Janelle Holmes addresses the media on Saturday. Credit: PA

She added that the quarantined group will be "safe, well-managed and comfortable" during their stay.

Before the flight, one passenger who was diagnosed with Covid-19 and has since been given the all-clear, joked that the experience would be like visiting a holiday camp.

Honeymooner Alan Steele was taken to a Japanese hospital and has since tested negative for the virus and been reunited with wife Wendy.

Alan Steele and his wife Wendy had been travelling on the Diamond Princess for their honeymoon. Credit: Alan Steele/ Facebook

"Wendy's test was negative so Butlins the Wirral here we come for 14 days," Mr Steele posted on Facebook.

Since being kept on board the cruise liner in the port of Yokohama, a total of 634 passengers and crew have been infected, accounting for more than half of all the confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.

David Abel receiving treatment for coronavirus in a hospital in Japan. Credit: PA

It is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew opted to remain.

Some British nationals who were passengers did not register for the flight. It is understood some have returned to their homes overseas, while a number boarded an evacuation flight to Hong Kong where they live.

The four Britons on board the Diamond Princess who have tested positive for coronavirus were not on the flight.

British couple David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, have been diagnosed with pneumonia after contracting Covid-19 on board the Diamond Princess.

The Westerdam was initially refused permission to dock in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, Britons in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, and who have been cleared for travel, are also being assisted by the Foreign Office to make their way home.

All have tested negative after one case was diagnosed on board.