'100 Brits' to be put in coronavirus quarantine on the Wirral under watch of army medics

30 January 2020, 06:12

Protective suits are unloaded off a plane in Wuhan, China
Protective suits are unloaded off a plane in Wuhan, China. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Scores of Brits will be flown from China tonight and straight into coronavirus quarantine on the Wirral tomorrow morning.

The evacuation flight to bring Brits back to the UK from the Chinese city of Wuhan at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak will leave later tonight.

The flight will leave the city at 11pm tonight before touching down at RAF Brize Norton tomorrow morning. British passengers on board will be whisked off the plane and straight into medical quarantine for two weeks

It is understood the patients will be taken to accommodation at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral.

Its chief executive Janelle Holmes sent a letter to staff today saying they were expecting “around 100 British citizens.”

Around 100 Brits are expected to be on board the flight which leaves at 11pm tonight
Around 100 Brits are expected to be on board the flight which leaves at 11pm tonight. Picture: PA

She said: “If anyone becomes unwell after arrival they will be treated following appropriate protocols.”

It also emerged this evening that the World Health Organisation has declared coronavirus to be a global health emergency of "international concern".

Dominic Raab said earlier: "The safety and security of British nationals is our top priority.

"Our Embassy in Beijing and consular teams remain in close contact with British nationals in the region to ensure they have the latest information they need."

The flight, which will have military medics on board, will land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Passengers will then be taken to an NHS facility - thought to be former NHS staff accommodation - on the Wirral for a quarantine period of 14 days.

There, they will have access to medical staff, and it is understood they will have the internet and be able to make contact with family.

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

In an email letter to those boarding the flight, the Foreign Office said they should go to Tianhe Airport Expressway Toll Gate by no later than 1am local time on Friday.

"They have also been clear that we cannot add additional passengers to the flight manifest at this point."

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to 170. Authorities cancelled sporting events in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

The increase in deaths and infections comes as the World Health organisation prepare to meet on Thursday, warning the "whole world needs to be on alert" over the new coronavirus outbreak as it reconsiders whether to declare a global health emergency.

Officials have also expressed concern that the coronavirus is spreading between people outside China.

The US today recorded its first person-to-person transmission of the disease.

Sporting events across China have been cancelled with many cities on lockdown. The country has delayed the start of its domestic football season because of the escalation of the virus.

The WHO will assess the virus again on Thursday
The WHO will assess the virus again on Thursday. Picture: PA

Yvonne Griffiths, who is a Birmingham City University lecturer trapped in Wuhan, told LBC News she was already expecting to be on a flight home but had received a call from the UK Foreign Office announcing the rescue flight would probably take place on Friday morning.

A flight that was due to bring 200 British nationals back from Wuhan - at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - has been unable to take off.
A flight that was due to bring 200 British nationals back from Wuhan - at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - has been unable to take off. Picture: PA

Mrs Griffiths said she had been told upon her arrival back in the UK she had been told all those on the flight would be taken to an "NHS facility" in the North of England and place in "supported isolation," she said trapped Brits had been given no information on conditions.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK. A number of countries' flights have been unable to take off as planned.

"We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.

"We remain in close contact with the Chinese authorities and conversations are ongoing at all levels."

Chinese citizens are temperature checked at checkpoints
Chinese citizens are temperature checked at checkpoints. Picture: PA

A Downing Street source said it was expecting about 200 British nationals to be returned from Wuhan and they had agreed to be placed in "assisted isolation".

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) emergencies chief told reporters that China was taking "extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge" posed by the outbreak.

Dr Michael Ryan spoke at a news conference after returning from a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

He said the epidemic remains centred in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province but that "information is being updated and is changing by the hour".

Mr Ryan said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China - in Japan, Germany and Vietnam - were part of the reason the UN health agency's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has reconvened an expert committee to meet on Thursday. It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

He said: "The whole world needs to be on alert now, the whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come, either from the original epicentre or from other epicentres that become established."

The first cases in the Middle East have been confirmed as a family-of-four from Wuhan that was visiting the United Arab Emirates.

Australia and Singapore are among the countries reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. The vast majority are people who came from Wuhan.

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