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Coronavirus evacuees tell of ‘hard’ quarantine as they are freed after 14 days

UK News | Published:

More than 100 people have left a UK training centre for the first time in two weeks.

Paul Walkinshaw speaking to the media

Evacuees released from a two-week coronavirus quarantine centre have described the experience as “hard” but praised staff for looking after them.

More than 100 people flown out of the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak left a UK training centre on Sunday for the first time in 14 days.

All 118 people staying at the Kents Hill Park training and conference centre in Milton Keynes tested negative for the virus.

One man, who was among guests holding backpacks and suitcases pictured getting taxis, said it was a “fantastic” feeling to be able to go home.

A car leaves Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre in Milton Keynes where coronavirus evacuees were released from quarantine
A car leaves Kents Hill Park training and conference centre in Milton Keynes (Joe Giddens/PA)

The group, who were brought back to Britain earlier this month on a repatriation flight from Wuhan, included around 10 children and a family of four.

Paul Walkinshaw, from Manchester, left with his wife Lihong, having been on holiday visiting her parents in the city of Shiyan for Chinese New Year when family members contacted them and told them about the virus outbreak.

Speaking to reporters as he exited the centre on Sunday morning, he said: “It feels fantastic to leave, although it feels weird not having to wear a mask and gloves in public.

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“The first 48 hours were hard when we were confined to our rooms, after that it was fine.”

The 39-year-old praised “friendly” staff and the local community for their support and said he was looking forward to sleeping in his own bed again.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is sleep in my own bed.”

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Another evacuee, whose name was given as Sadiqi, said they had been looked after “brilliantly”.

“Since we’ve been quarantined, we’ve been treated brilliantly.

“It was definitely hard at first (inside the quarantine) but it is just what it is. It was just one of those things.”

One family with a young toddler, who did not want to be named, also praised staff at the centre.

They told the PA news agency: “The staff were really nice and really helpful. They got us lots of things.

People leave Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre
People leave the training and conference centre (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We live in the UK but it hasn’t put us off going back to Wuhan.”

The training and conference centre has been professionally cleaned and will be back to business as usual from next week, NHS England said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commended the evacuees “for their patience and perseverance”, and NHS strategic incident director Professor Keith Willett thanked them for “the very responsible compliance they have shown”.

It comes as dozens of evacuees from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship spent their first night quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

Thirty-two people, who were trapped for more than two weeks on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, arrived in Merseyside on Saturday evening.

Some of the group – reportedly made up of 30 Britons and two Irish nationals – gestured from their coaches as they arrived on Saturday evening, one forming a heart symbol with her hands and another an OK signal.

All of those brought to Arrowe Park tested negative to having Covid-19 before flying back to the UK.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

This is the second batch of evacuees staying in Merseyside following the hosting of 83 British nationals earlier in February and a health official said they now have a “blueprint” for how to handle the new arrivals.

But honeymooner Alan Steele, who is among those staying there with his wife, vented his frustrations with the facilities, complaining things were broken and that the food was cold.

Posting on Facebook on Sunday morning, he wrote: “Supposedly 2nd fresh breakfasts turned up also cold. who the f*** organised this and as they had 80 odd 2 weeks b4 would have thought could manage such a simple task as 32 ppl.”

It is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew opted to remain.

Since being kept on board the cruise liner in the port of Yokohama, more than 600 passengers and crew have been infected.

British couple David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, who were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary, are still in a Japanese hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus and pneumonia.

Sally and David Abel
Sally and David Abel (David Abel/PA)

Relatives said the couple are both “having a really tough time” and feel “very much in the dark” in terms of treatment, adding that they are awaiting further tests.

Speaking in a liveblog on Sunday, their daughter-in-law Roberta Abel said: “We want to get them discharged from the hospital and back to the UK as negative.

“They are scared. They said to us today, ‘If we get that virus again, we are not coming home’.”

Britons in Cambodia who left another cruise ship, the Westerdam, have also received Government help to return home and are being advised to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back to the UK.

A spokeswoman said: “Our staff have worked throughout the week to provide assistance to the Britons who were on the Westerdam cruise ship.

“Those cruise ship passengers and crew who were tested in Cambodia all had negative results.”

The death toll in mainland China from Covid-19 has risen to more than 2,400, Chinese health authorities said.

In a bid to help stop the spread of the virus in the UK, the health service is piloting home testing for where NHS staff, including nurses and paramedics, will visit people in their own homes.

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