Britons stranded in China’s coronavirus epicentre board evacuation flight and prepare for quarantine in UK

British nationals who have been trapped at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China have boarded their evacuation flight to return the UK.

Their plane was set to leave Wuhan, where the deadly illness is believed to have originated, at about 7am local time (11pm on Thursday night, UK time).

The flight, which will have military medics on board, will to land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday and passengers will placed in quarantine for 14 days.

It is carrying about 150 Britons who had been stranded following the outbreak of the virus, which has sparked an international health emergency.

Passengers posted images on their Instagram stories of themselves wearing masks as they arrived at Wuhan airport and then on board the rescue plane.

But the flight has reportedly been delayed to allow as many people to get to the airport as possible.

The UK’s four chief medical officers raised the risk level of the illness from low to moderate.

So far, the virus has caused 213 deaths, although there have been none outside of China. There have been 9,692 confirmed cases worldwide.

Upon their arrival at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire the passengers on the evacuation flight, who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, will be taken to an NHS facility on the Wirral for a quarantine period.

Passengers wear protective masks as they walk he their luggagein the arrivals area at Beijing Capital Airport (Getty Images)

It is understood they will be taken to a former student accommodation block in the grounds of Arrowe Park Hospital, where passengers will have access to the internet in order to contact relatives.

Fifty foreigners, mainly from EU countries, will also be on the evacuation flight which will head to Spain afterwards.

On Thursday evening, WHO declared coronavirus as an international public health emergency due to fears of the virus spreading to countries with weaker health infrastructure.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than fell ill during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

Coronavirus: The confirmed cases around the world

As of Thursday, 161 people have tested negative for the virus in the UK and 124 people have recovered and have since been discharged from hospital in China.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had been “working tirelessly” to get British citizens out of Wuhan, where the majority of coronavirus cases have been found.

A British man in Wuhan has said he is “losing faith” in the Government after he could not board an evacuation flight because it was unclear if he would be allowed to bring his young daughter.

Chris Hill, 38, chose not to board the flight back to the UK after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) could not say if four-year-old Renee would be allowed on board because she is a Chinese national.

The Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality, and it is thought that people with Chinese citizenship are unable to leave the affected area.

Mr Hill lives in Wuhan with his wife Caitlyn Gao and their daughter, who are both Chinese nationals.

He said: “When [the FCO] called me they said they would not be able to say if my family could go with me or not.

“I said ‘Oh OK so you cannot confirm in any way that they could travel with me’, and they said ‘We’re trying our best but we can’t guarantee anything,’ so I said ‘No, I’m not going’.

“The whole point of saying you can go to the airport and try is like going well, it may happen, it may not. So it means if you take your family to the airport, and then they turn around and say no, what would happen?

“With the current situation and the way the FCO is handling the diplomatic side of things, I’m just losing faith.”

The rescue flight was set to take off as Virgin Atlantic suspended its flights between Britain and China due to fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

The airline said in a statement it would suspend its daily operations between the UK and Shanghai for two weeks from Saturday.

It also follows British Airways’ decision to suspend flights to and from China, which is in place until at least Monday.


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