UK Politics

‘An utter joke’: Briton who caught COVID-19 criticises ship’s quarantine


A British newlywed who contracted COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan has described quarantine protocols on the ship as "a joke".

Alan Steele, 58, from Shropshire, was the first British passenger revealed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, while onboard the ship that was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama.

On his honeymoon at the time, the lorry driver was taken to hospital in Tokyo and placed in isolation while his new wife, Wendy, had to stay alone in their cabin.

Image: Mr Steele told Sky's Siobhan Robbins he was most concerned about leaving his new wife alone

Speaking exclusively to Sky News after spending almost two weeks in hospital, he said he got a call a few days after he had a coronavirus swab test telling him he had tested positive and medics were coming to collect him.

He is one of four British passengers on the ship to have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with more than 600 others also testing positive – the highest concentration outside mainland China.


On Thursday, officials confirmed two Japanese patients in their 80s who caught the virus onboard died. Both are said to have had underlying health issues.

The Japanese government has defended the way it has managed the quarantine, saying "thorough action" to prevent the spread has been taken including using masks, disinfectant and keeping people apart.

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But Mr Steele disagrees.

"The quarantine process was a joke, an utter joke.

Passengers can be seen disembarking the Diamond Princess
Image: Passengers can be seen disembarking the Diamond Princess

"I think there was a terrific rise in numbers because they had people just wandering all around the ship going cabin to cabin to cabin.

"So, if they caught it in one cabin then they're just spreading it to everyone else aren't they.

"Because at this point we weren't given masks or nothing, it was only later they gave anybody masks to go to the door."

Alan Sandford onboard quarantined ship.
British passenger Alan Sandford's guide to quarantine

This week, passengers have finally started disembarking, with the British Foreign Office confirming a plane will arrive on Friday to bring the Britons home.

Once in the UK, they will have to spend another 14 days in quarantine on the Wirral – a prospect Mr Steele is dreading after his recent experience.

Other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea are also evacuating their nationals from the ship.

Quarantine officials on the Diamond Princess Pic: David Abel
Image: Quarantine officials on the Diamond Princess Pic: David Abel

While grateful to Princess Cruises for all of their support, Mr Steele believes the UK government has treated them "pretty badly" and has been too slow to offer help.

He said: "I know poor Boris has got his hands full, he's got Brexit, reshuffling his cabinet, the floods, so I suppose 78 Brits, what the hell do they matter?

"To be honest, the embassy wanted me to keep in touch with them and they did phone the hospital every day to see Read More – Source