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

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 quarantined Diamond Princess.

It comes as the first passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus began leaving the ship in Japan after 14 days in isolation and the government announced that British passengers on board would be evacuated.

Mr Abel raised concerns before the announcement that his father has a number of medical issues.

Described him as an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic, who has a tooth infection, he said today that he was also diagnosed with early onset dementia a couple of years ago.

An obviously-upset Mr Abel described it as a ‘very frustrating’ situation for the whole family, telling 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 – who have been regularly updating British audiences about their experiences and health – 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’.

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

According to the Chinese authorities, the rate of infection has now slowed down. There have so far been 2,004 deaths and 74,185 confirmed infections, they added.

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 online, 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 added: ‘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: ‘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.

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 that 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 for a hotel in Yokohama.

He added that he expects to spend two weeks in quarantine when he returns to the UK.