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Coronavirus: Final British evacuation flight scheduled as death toll rises
5 February 2020, 05:54
The final UK government rescue plane will be sent to China as the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
The move comes just a day after the Foreign Office advised all British citizens to get out of China if they are able to.
In China, the death toll continues to rise, with authorities in the country stating 490 people have died, and the number of infected has risen to 24,324.
The plane is expected to leave from Wuhan on Sunday and land on RAF Brize Norton with evacuated citizens taken to quarantine on the Wirral.
UK officials have encouraged any of the estimated, 185 British nationals in Hubei province to contact them to register if they wish to be evacuated.
A total of 94 UK nationals and family members have already been evacuated to Britain from Wuhan on two flights which arrived on Friday and Sunday.
One passenger was taken to hospital in Oxford after telling medics he had a cough and a cold, while the rest of those who came back are in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday night: "We have been working round the clock to help British nationals leave Hubei province, on UK, French and New Zealand flights.
"The Foreign Office is chartering a second and final UK flight with space to help all British nationals and their dependants remaining in Hubei to leave.
"I encourage all British nationals in Hubei to register with our teams if they want to leave on this flight."
In Japan, 10 people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the virus and were being taken to hospitals, while 3,700 other passengers will be quarantined on board.
Among those stuck on the ship in Yokohama Bay, near Tokyo, are David and Sally Abel.
Speaking on a video posted on Facebook, Mr Abel, of Woodford Halse in Oxfordshire, said: "It appears that our quarantine is on board the ship, that we will not be taken off to a hospital.
"The 10 people that are affected, they are being taken off very soon by the local coastguard into a medical facility. We are to remain on board the ship and we are confined to our cabins.
"Naturally, we want to be home. We are missing our little Yorkie dogs. But two weeks, it'll go quite quickly I hope."
Speaking on LBC, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Nick Ferrari: "It's absolutely clear that a very serious effort is needed".
"As the virus is spreading, we need to recommend that Brits in China come back to this country," he continued.
When questioned on why this action hadn't been taken last week, he responded: "Well a week ago the Chinese were taking action to try and get the virus under control.
"But it's clear that it continued to spread rapidly."
It comes after he said on Monday that there were "no plans to evacuate all remaining UK nationals in China".
He added: "We haven't seen the peak of the coronavirus by a long stretch and we expect more cases in the UK.
"We have a full plan in place to treat all those who have symptoms and test positively for coronavirus and we are working with international partners both to slow the spread and also to do the research that we need to do to find a vaccine."
Health officials are trying to trace 239 people who flew from Wuhan to the UK before travel restrictions came into force.
The Department of Health said that, as of Tuesday, 414 people have tested negative for coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation said it is still early in the outbreak, but coronavirus does not yet constitute a pandemic.
Meanwhile, the University of York confirmed that a student who contracted coronavirus returned to his apartment but did not come into contact with other residents.
The unnamed student, who is being treated with a relative at a specialist facility in Newcastle, was not in the Vita Student block when he came into contact with the virus but "did return to their room on one occasion and stayed overnight", the university said, as it moved to reassure other students.
In a statement on Tuesday, it said: "During this brief period the student did not meet other residents or staff at the building or make use of the communal facilities."
Elsewhere, Public Health England (PHE) confirmed a Belgian woman on board the same French flight that brought back UK citizens from China on Sunday has tested positive for the new strain.
Nick Phin, PHE's National Infection Service deputy director, said: "All of the individuals who were on this flight are currently in supervised isolation and are being monitored for symptoms."