Britain withdraws diplomats from China as coronavirus death toll rises to 259

1 February 2020, 08:50

The government confirmed the decision this morning as the death toll has risen to 259
The government confirmed the decision this morning as the death toll has risen to 259. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Britain is withdrawing some staff from its Chinese Embassy and Consulates as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise.

The government announced the decision this morning as Chinese authorities confirmed 259 people have died and almost 12,000 have been infected with the virus.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "As of January 31, some staff and dependants from the British Embassy and Consulates are being withdrawn from China. Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain.

“In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China may be limited."

It is not only Britain who have said they are removing staff while the crisis deepens.

The US state department said as of January 31 family members of embassy staff in China under the age of 21 will be required to leave immediately.

No deaths have occurred outside China, although cases have been confirmed across 19 countries, including two in the UK.

Passengers were greeted by staff in hazmat suits on their chartered flight back to the UK
Passengers were greeted by staff in hazmat suits on their chartered flight back to the UK. Picture: Maeve Clarke

Yesterday afternoon 83 Britons landed in the UK after being evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the crisis.

They have now been taken to a hospital in Wirral where they will remain in quarantine for the next two weeks.

The series of six Horseman coaches was seen pulling up at the facility in the Wirral shortly before 7.30pm yesterday evening.

Other passengers on board the flight were EU nationals who went on to Spain.Driving on the M6, Liam Musgrove passed the convoy as it travelled on Friday evening.

"The experience was harrowing and quite surreal," he said.

"Seeing such an organised operation in place, it really puts into perspective what a deadly virus this could be."

Passengers shared this image of inside the plane with LBC
Passengers shared this image of inside the plane with LBC. Picture: Maeve Clarke

While in quarantine, the evacuated passengers are being given fully furnished rooms, food, laundry facilities and have access to a team of medical staff who will closely monitor their condition.

Kitchens are available for those who wish to self-cater, and families are being kept together, with games consoles, toys and cots provided.

One British passenger who was on the UK Government evacuation flight from Wuhan told LBC News it had been a "job well handled."

The plane landed just hours after Britain's first two cases of the virus were announced.

Public Health England said the family members are receiving specialist NHS care, and that tried and tested infection control procedures are in place.

The evacuation came after the UK's four chief medical officers raised the risk level of the illness from low to moderate and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency.

In a letter following the WHO's announcement, the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said: "In light of the increasing number of cases in China and using existing and widely tested models, the four UK chief medical officers consider it prudent for our governments to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak."

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