Coronavirus evacuation plane with more than 80 Brits on board due to land in UK today

31 January 2020, 10:38

The plane is expected to land at the Brize Norton RAF base at 1.30pm
The plane is expected to land at the Brize Norton RAF base at 1.30pm. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

An evacuation flight from Wuhan - the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak - with 83 Britons onboard is due to land in the UK today at around 1:30pm.

An aircraft carrying 110 passengers, including 83 Britons, left the Chinese city of Wuhan at 9.45am local time (11pm GMT on Thursday).

It will land just hours after the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were announced.

The plane, chartered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), is expected to land at the Brize Norton RAF base in Oxfordshire at 1.30pm.

It is understood the British passengers will be taken to an NHS facility on the Wirral to be quarantined for 14 days.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: "It's welcome news that our evacuation flight has now left Wuhan.

"We know how distressing the situation has been for those waiting to leave. We have been working round the clock to clear the way for a safe departure. The welfare of those trapped and public safety have been our overriding priorities."

After landing at Brize Norton, the chartered aircraft will continue to Spain, where the 27 non-British nationals on board will be processed by their EU home governments, the FCO said.

Some Britons in Wuhan had declined to join the repatriation flight after being told any Chinese nationals in their family would be unable to join.

That decision was reversed hours before the plane was due to depart, leaving it too late for some to make it to the airport.

One British teacher, who asked not to be named, said she had stayed behind because her husband was a Chinese national and therefore would not be allowed to join her.

She claimed she had not been told by the Foreign Office of the change of policy, instead of learning of it through messages from other British expats.

A British father has said his family missed an evacuation flight to the UK from Wuhan because they could not get to the airport in time.

Adam Bridgeman told the BBC on Friday that he, his wife and one-month-old son had been unable to find a car to the airport in time to catch the flight.

Virgin Atlantic has 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.

The decision came after the World Health Organisation on Thursday declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency.

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

Two people are confirmed to have the virus in the UK. This brings the total number of countries outside China to have the coronavirus to 19. There have been no deaths from the virus outside China.