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  1. ITV Report

Patient from coronavirus-hit cruise ship is being treated at the RVI

Confirmation of the cases brings the total number of people to be diagnosed with the Covid-19 strain in the UK to 13. Credit: ITV News

One of four British people rescued from a coronavirus hit cruise ship is being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary after testing positive for the illness.

The Newcastle hospital is one of four in the country to have a specialist infectious disease unit.

Confirmation of the cases brings the total number of people to be diagnosed with the Covid-19 strain in the UK to 13.

The four had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had been stationed off the coast of Japan. Credit: PA

The four - the first diagnoses in people brought back to the UK on repatriation flights - had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had been stationed off the coast of Japan for more than two weeks amid the outbreak.

They were among a group of 30 Britons and two Irish citizens who arrived at a quarantine block at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside on Saturday, but on Sunday NHS England confirmed the positive diagnoses.

The virus was passed on in the cruise ship, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said.

Two of the patients are in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, one is in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and a fourth was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

The Newcastle hospital is one of four in the country to have a specialist infectious disease unit. Credit: PA

The Department of Health said a "full infectious disease risk assessment" was done before the repatriation flight and that no-one who boarded the plane had displayed any symptoms of the virus.

Any more passengers who test positive will immediately be taken into specialist NHS care, the department said.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus, said the specialist centres are "well prepared to deal with cases" as he called for a calm approach in the face of any further potential cases.

Experts said it was unsurprising that some of the returned passengers had tested positive, because the ship "was not working as a quarantine".

Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said: "The UK authorities brought the passengers home as they would have continued to be at risk staying on the ship."

The Dimond Princess was stationed just off the coast of Japan. Credit: ITV News

Almost one-fifth of the 3,711 passengers originally on board the cruise liner have been infected and it is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew had opted to remain on the ship.

The number of coronavirus fatalities from the Diamond Princess rose to three on Sunday, after Japanese authorities confirmed a local man in his eighties had died in hospital.

British couple David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, who were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary, are still in a Japanese hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus and pneumonia.

Relatives said the couple are both "having a really tough time" and feel "very much in the dark" in terms of treatment, adding that they are awaiting further tests.