Britons flying home from Wuhan face 14-day quarantine as Coronavirus fears grow
Britons returning from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will be put in quarantine for 14 days, the Government confirmed, as British Airways suspended all flights to and from mainland China.
Officials are looking at taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health said.
A flight is due to leave Wuhan on Thursday.
The UK Government is finalising urgent plans to bring Britons back from the coronavirus-hit province of Hubei.It is understood a man from Birmingham joined dozens of people from across the UK to be tested for coronavirus.
The Department of Health last night moved to quell panic about the possible spread of coronavirus to the West Midlands.
A spokesman said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and they would not detail individual cases due to patient confidentiality.
Fights suspended after Government warning
British Airways, which operates daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow, confirmed it was halting its flights with immediate effect.
It came after the Foreign Office warned against “all but essential travel” to the country because of the virus outbreak.
A British lecturer stranded in Wuhan city, who described the streets as “deserted”, said UK officials have confirmed a flight will take citizens back to England, while others said this would be on Thursday.
In a statement this morning, British Airways said: “We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.
“Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com.”
It comes after the Foreign Office updated its advice on Tuesday to warn against “all but essential travel” to mainland China, saying it may become more difficult for British nationals in other provinces to leave.
Up to 200 UK citizens are expected to want to fly home from Hubei province.
They are being told by the Government to “self-isolate” for 14 days after they arrive in the UK, but there are no plans to forcibly quarantine them.
Fears rise in West Midlands after social media sighting
Tests have been carried on dozens of people across the UK in recent days after the outbreak in China emerged.
Some 1,561 people are now known to have entered the UK from Wuhan since January 10, including airline crew, although some have since left again.
As of yesterday Public Health England said there are currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public remains low.
Fears had spread on social media after a video appeared on Twitter of people in hazardous area suits in a street in Harborne, Birmingham, on Monday.
The footage shows what is thought to be West Midlands Ambulance Service crews wearing protective clothing.
West Midlands Ambulance Service declined to comment but directed media to the Department of Health after reports suggested a man had been tested.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said there were no confirmed cases and refused to comment further.
Passengers face fortnight in quarantine
The Department of Health today confirmed it will ask Britons arriving back from Wuhan to remain in quarantine when they arrive back in the UK.
Passengers may be asked to sign a contract before they board the plane saying they agree to being placed in quarantine.
Anyone who does not wish to sign could be asked to stay.
Around 200 British nationals are thought to be in the Chinese city.
Lecturer Yvonne Griffiths, who is currently in a hotel in Wuhan, said she received news in the early hours of Wednesday morning that there is to be a flight from Wuhan airport to England.
She told reporters that Stansted is a possible destination, but that has not been confirmed and timings had not been been firmed up either.
“And we’ve to be on stand-by so that we can go to the airport very early,” she said.
“We’ve to be there six to seven hours before the flight leaves, and we would have a screening from some health people here in Wuhan, and if we are not showing any symptoms then we’ll be able to board that plane.
“If we were to be suffering temperature or any other symptoms, breathing problems, then there seems to be a possibility of quarantining at this end.”
The death toll in China from coronavirus has risen to 132, with confirmed infections surging to nearly 6,000.
Four cases have been confirmed in Germany, making it the second European country to report cases, after France.
The Department of Health and Social Care said on Tuesday that 97 people in the UK have been given the all-clear for the virus, although scientists predict it may have already entered the country.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said officials are “working urgently” to get Britons out of Hubei province.
He added: “Due to the increasing travel restrictions and the public health situation, we now advise against all but essential travel to China.”
The Foreign Office has said UK nationals in China should “make decisions based on their own personal circumstances” over whether to leave other parts of the country.