Coronavirus: Brits evacuated as 'international public health emergency' declared

31 January 2020, 07:38

The viral outbreak started in Wuhan
The viral outbreak started in Wuhan. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The death toll from the coronavirus has increased to 213 as 83 Brits are evacuated from the city at the centre of the outbreak

With 9,692 confirmed cases worldwide and the World Health Organisation declaring a global public health emergency.

The figures show an increase of 1,981 cases and 81 deaths since Wednesday.

After several delays, the British evacuation flight - chartered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) - left Wuhan at 9.45 am local time on Friday, carrying 83 Britons and 27 non-UK nationals, mostly from EU countries.

The flight is expected to arrive at the Brize Norton RAF base in Oxfordshire around 1 pm, the FCO said in a statement.

The United States State Department has advised against all travel to China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The WHO's announcement led Virgin Atlantic to suspend its flights between the UK and China for two weeks starting on Saturday.

British Airways on Thursday extended its suspension of China flights until Monday.

The British 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 of 14 days.

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.

After the British passengers disembark, the flight will continue to Spain, where EU countries will process the non-British evacuees.

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

"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."