Britain to evacuate 74 citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan


A United Kingdom hospital has been criticized for putting other patients at risk by failing to segregate a woman who was potentially infected with the novel coronavirus.

The National Health Service hospital trust that runs James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough has apologized for not providing “robust signage” to point people toward its coronavirus isolation unit.

That lack of signs led the woman and her family to enter an oncology department, where vulnerable cancer patients were being treated.

The Guardian newspaper said on Tuesday the woman became concerned when she developed flu-like symptoms after returning from Hong Kong and Singapore. She called 111, the NHS’s advisory number, and was told to go to the hospital where quarantine facilities awaited.

But she was surprised not to be met by medical teams and subsequently struggled to find the isolation unit, visiting several wards along the way.

“Nobody had been told about a place for coronavirus,” she told the paper. “We had been told we should go to the ambulance bay and that there would be a sign for coronavirus, but the sign did not lead to a door.”

She said they were eventually directed to the main outpatient reception area, where they were “met with alarm, but no… assistance”.

The woman’s husband said: “It was an utterly disorganized farce.”

Fortunately, the family subsequently tested negative for the virus.

The hospital admitted it failed to handle the situation properly.

A hospital spokesman told the paper: “The production of robust signage obviously takes a few days and we were aware that the signage was not optimum. However, what we failed to do was ensure that staff at all potential entrances to the hospital were briefed in how to direct people to the assessment area around the perimeter of the hospital.”

He said workers have since received more training, and information posters have been improved.

The BBC, meanwhile, reports that the UK is close to evacuating 74 British nationals from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where they have been quarantined off Yokohoma, Japan since Feb 3.

Around 3,700 people remain on board. At least 542 passengers contracted the virus on the ship, the largest cluster outside China.

On Tuesday, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement it was “working to organize a flight back to the UK”, something that should happen in two to three days.

It added: “Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements.”

When the passengers are brought back, they will have to endure another 14 days of quarantine.

British passenger Elaine Spencer said on Radio 4’s Today program she was “very disappointed” with the UK government’s slow response to passengers’ pleas to be evacuated, and the prospect of more quarantine.

“I need to go home,” she said. “I want to see my family, but obviously it’s going to be another 14 days (of UK quarantine). I wish that they’d decided to do this last week.”

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