/British father stranded in Wuhan with his Chinese wife and baby after missing 3am evacuation flight

British father stranded in Wuhan with his Chinese wife and baby after missing 3am evacuation flight

Dozens of Britons are trapped in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan today after being given as little as seven minutes to pack up their lives and get to the airport for a rescue flight that ended up having hundreds of empty seats.

The Government chartered plane is hours from landing back in the UK where passengers face a two-week quarantine – but the Boeing 747 jet took off with just 83 of the 150 Britons with tickets on board – meaning a third of people with allocated seats never left the virus-hit city.

It came as Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said two patients from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus – the first confirmed cases on British soil – and are being treated in a specialist disease unit in Newcastle.

British academic Michael Pattison, who has lived in Wuhan for 15 years, revealed the shambolic evacuation arrangements and told Sky News: ‘I only received the travel documents seven minutes before the deadline to get to the muster point (at the airport) with virtually no transport available in the city’. 

Pictures on social media showed Briton Ben Kavanagh wearing a mask on board before take-off – but the jet’s cabin with a 300-plus passenger capacity was practically empty. 

Adam Bridgeman is also stranded with his Chinese wife and newborn baby after being given less than two hours notice. He had pledged to stay after he was told that seats on jumbo jet due into Brize Norton at 1pm were only for British citizens – meaning his spouse and child would have to stay behind. 

But last night in a sudden U-turn he received a call at 11.15pm saying the entire family could fly back to the UK – but only had until 1am to get to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport for check-in despite a travel ban in the city.

Mr Bridgeman said it was impossible to pack up their flat in that time – but the Foreign Office called again saying the rescue flight was delayed and sent a taxi for them. But by the time the car turned up it was too late for the 3am check-in, leaving them stranded.

He told Good Morning Britain: ‘We received a call from the Foreign Office at around 11.15pm saying my wife and child would be allowed on plane but had to be at airport at 1am we couldn’t get ready in time we decided not to do that. Later at 1am they said we could get the plane if we made it at 3am.

‘We couldn’t get a taxi we phoned police to try and get a ride but nothing. The Foreign Office managed to arrange for a car to pick us up.   But unfortunately by the time he arrived we only had about 15 minutes to get to the airport, so we thought ‘it’s too late’.’

Mr Bridgeman said the FCO had told him that his family might be able to leave the city on another flight. He added: ‘The Foreign Office said that they might be able to organise for us to board a different plane from, in their words, one of Britain’s EU partners.’  

There were around 300 people from the UK in Wuhan – but only around half have expressed a wish to leave.  

Adam Bridgeman is stuck in Wuhan after being given just a few hours to get to the airport after the Foreign Office changed their minds and offered him, his Chinese wife and baby a seat on a flight to Britain - but they and others failed to get there on time

Adam Bridgeman is stuck in Wuhan after being given just a few hours to get to the airport after the Foreign Office changed their minds and offered him, his Chinese wife and baby a seat on a flight to Britain - but they and others failed to get there on time

Adam Bridgeman is stuck in Wuhan after being given just a few hours to get to the airport after the Foreign Office changed their minds and offered him, his Chinese wife and baby a seat on a flight to Britain – but they and others failed to get there on time

Ben Kavanagh posted an eerie selfie of him on the largely empty rescue aircraft, captioned with a joke saying: 'Group selfie of me and my friends'.

Ben Kavanagh posted an eerie selfie of him on the largely empty rescue aircraft, captioned with a joke saying: 'Group selfie of me and my friends'.

Academic Michael Pattison revealed he was given just seven minutes to make the flight

Academic Michael Pattison revealed he was given just seven minutes to make the flight

Ben Kavanagh posted an eerie selfie of him on the largely empty rescue aircraft, captioned with a joke saying: ‘Group selfie of me and my friends’. Academic Michael Pattison revealed he was given just seven minutes to make the flight

A member of the Armed Forces guards the gate at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where the  Britons evacuated from China overnight land today

A member of the Armed Forces guards the gate at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where the  Britons evacuated from China overnight land today

A member of the Armed Forces guards the gate at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where the  Britons evacuated from China overnight land today

Coaches snake into Britain's main RAF base where they will take 83 people to the Wirral this afternoon

Coaches snake into Britain's main RAF base where they will take 83 people to the Wirral this afternoon

Coaches snake into Britain’s main RAF base where they will take 83 people to the Wirral this afternoon 

They are expected to be moved to a block of apartments in Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, where it is believed British citizens will be quarantined for a fortnight

They are expected to be moved to a block of apartments in Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, where it is believed British citizens will be quarantined for a fortnight

They are expected to be moved to a block of apartments in Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, where it is believed British citizens will be quarantined for a fortnight

Almost 10,000 people in 23 countries and territories have now been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus and 213 people have died, all in China

Almost 10,000 people in 23 countries and territories have now been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus and 213 people have died, all in China

Almost 10,000 people in 23 countries and territories have now been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus and 213 people have died, all in China

The rate of deaths because of coronavirus is increasing

The rate of deaths because of coronavirus is increasing

the rate of cases is also rising sharply

the rate of cases is also rising sharply

The rate of deaths because of coronavirus is increasing as it reached 213 – and the rate of cases is also rising sharply

First cases of coronavirus in Britain as two English patients from the same family test positive

Two people in England have been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus.

The patients, being treated in Newcastle, are members of the same family and are the first English people to be diagnosed with it on British soil.

Until today, at least 161 people had tested negative for the virus but none had been diagnosed with it.

The infection makes England the 23rd country or territory outside of China to declare the infection has spread there.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said in a statement this morning: ‘We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus. 

‘The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

‘The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

‘We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately. 

‘We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.’

As the coronavirus death toll in China today rose to 213 after the World Health Organisation declared a global emergency, it has also emerged: 

  • The first two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK;
  • After two days of uncertainty, a 747 rescue plane carrying mainly British citizens took from the city of Wuhan last night, touching down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at around 1pm;
  • It left China carrying 83 Britons – but had been expected to be carrying 150;
  • Several people with seats reveal they have been stranded after being given between seven minutes and two hours to get to the airport in city with public transport shut down;
  • Wirral residents furious that the 83 Britons being evacuated from China will be housed in NHS unit in the area;

MailOnline has been contacted by others given similarly last minute instructions, with dozens of other Brits also likely to have been given two hours or less to get to the airport without any public transport running.

The Foreign Office has not said how many people have been left behind in Coronavirus hit China, where at least 213 have died and thousands have fallen ill. Last night they had expected 150 people from the UK to board the flight – but this morning said just 83 flew.

The Government chartered aircraft left China at 9.45am local time and is due to arrive at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, at around 1pm today, before the evacuees are taken north by bus to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, Merseyside where they will spend the next fortnight in its former student halls. 

British citizen Matt Raw was given permission from the Chinese authorities to fly home with his wife and his mother.

Previous restrictions meant those with Chinese passports, such as Ying, were not permitted to leave the country.

In a video, filmed at the airport, Mr Raw told the Guardian: ‘We have finally been given permission to fly. We are at the airport, ready to go through security. We have been able to get my mother and wife, she has been told she can fly. So, fingers crossed, we get through security and can return to England.’

He later said while waiting to board the plane: ‘We are being evacuated right now. The Chinese authorities have seen fit to allow [my wife] to travel. We have been queued up here for some time now. The flight was supposed to leave at 7am, but now it is closer to 9 o’clock.’

Ben  Kavanagh, who was one of the first to board the plane, compiled a video diary showing his journey to Wuhan Tianhe Airport, which started at the toll bridge preparing to leave the city, while masked Chinese authorities kept a close watch on proceedings.

The teacher gave a thumbs up to the camera as he got on the bus saying ‘let’s go home’, then adding ‘well England first…then home’. Video from the coach showed him sat next to other passengers wearing protective masks and goggles. 

Britons Patrick Graham and Ben Kavanagh  waiting for repatriation flight out of Wuhan, China, this evening

Britons Patrick Graham and Ben Kavanagh  waiting for repatriation flight out of Wuhan, China, this evening

Britons Patrick Graham and Ben Kavanagh waiting for repatriation flight out of Wuhan, China, this evening

Britons Patrick Graham and Ben Kavanagh waiting for repatriation flight out of Wuhan, China, this evening

Britons Patrick Graham (left) and Ben Kavanagh (right) waiting for repatriation flight out of Wuhan, China, this evening

Irishman Mr Kavanagh, who was one of the first to board the plane, compiled a video diary showing his journey to Wuhan Tianhe Airport, which started at the toll bridge preparing to leave the city, while masked Chinese authorities kept a close watch on proceedings

Irishman Mr Kavanagh, who was one of the first to board the plane, compiled a video diary showing his journey to Wuhan Tianhe Airport, which started at the toll bridge preparing to leave the city, while masked Chinese authorities kept a close watch on proceedings

Irishman Mr Kavanagh, who was one of the first to board the plane, compiled a video diary showing his journey to Wuhan Tianhe Airport, which started at the toll bridge preparing to leave the city, while masked Chinese authorities kept a close watch on proceedings

Brits wrapped up warm in coats could then be seen presenting their passports ready to board the flight home

Brits wrapped up warm in coats could then be seen presenting their passports ready to board the flight home

Brits wrapped up warm in coats could then be seen presenting their passports ready to board the flight home

At the airport, weary-looking Brits sat in the terminal waiting for the plane back home, as officials diligently checked the papers of those getting ready to board. 

Briton in Wuhan refuses to board flight to UK as daughter may be left behind

Chris Hill, 38, chose not to board the flight back to the UK after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) could not say if four-year-old Renee would be allowed on board because she is a Chinese national.

The Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality, and it is thought that people with Chinese citizenship are unable to leave the affected area.

Chris Hill with his four-year-old daughter Renee Gao

Chris Hill with his four-year-old daughter Renee Gao

Chris Hill with his four-year-old daughter Renee Gao

Mr Hill lives in Wuhan with his wife Caitlyn Gao and their daughter, who are both Chinese nationals.

He told said: ‘When [the FCO] called me they said they would not be able to say if my family could go with me or not.

‘I said ‘Oh OK so you cannot confirm in any way that they could travel with me’, and they said ‘We’re trying our best but we can’t guarantee anything,’ so I said ‘No, I’m not going’.

‘The whole point of saying you can go to the airport and try is like going well, it may happen, it may not. So it means if you take your family to the airport, and then they turn around and say no, what would happen?

‘With the current situation and the way the FCO is handling the diplomatic side of things, I’m just losing faith.’

A staff member then called out names for people to collect their tickets, but strikingly some people did not collect their tickets. Brits wrapped up warm in coats could then be seen presenting their passports ready to board the flight home.

Welshman Mr Graham also showed the buses ready to take him to the airport on Instagram and posted a video of the deserted terminal as he appeared to queue to go back to the UK, captioned with the words ‘He’s goin home…he’s goin home he’s goiiiin’. 

The Wuhan exodus commenced as 213 people have now died in China after contracting the coronavirus and the number of global cases has soared to more than 9,600.

After landing on Friday morning, passengers will then be put onto buses which will take them on a three and a half hour drive to former student accommodation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, Merseyside, where they’ll be kept for two weeks.

The group will be housed in a seven-storey NHS staff block with a pool table, TVs and wi-fi, including access to outdoor areas. Anyone with suspicious symptoms will be taken to the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital. Passengers were asked to sign contracts agreeing to be quarantined as a condition of getting the flight.

They will be allowed to work during the quarantine but cannot see visitors. Food and drink will be ordered in. Two weeks is the maximum incubation period of the illness – the duration between someone becoming infected and showing symptoms.

Should anyone show signs of coronavirus, which include a cough, sore throat or temperature, they will be taken ten miles to the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital’s infectious diseases unit. 

Janelle Holmes, chief executive of Wirral University Hospital, sent a message to hospital staff on Thursday evening saying they will welcome ‘around 100 British citizens’ and before their arrival they will be ‘screened for symptoms’. 

Korean citizens were also pictured queuing up at Wuhan Tianhe Airport ready to take a plane home on Thursday night, with authorities keeping a close watch in full yellow hazmat gear.   

Authorities wearing hazmat suits standby at Wuhan Airport as Korean citizens wait for their repatriation flight from Wuhan city

Authorities wearing hazmat suits standby at Wuhan Airport as Korean citizens wait for their repatriation flight from Wuhan city

Authorities wearing hazmat suits standby at Wuhan Airport as Korean citizens wait for their repatriation flight from Wuhan city

Pictured: Arrowe Park Hospital. It is understood that people returning will be taken to staff accommodation at the flagship hospital

Pictured: Arrowe Park Hospital. It is understood that people returning will be taken to staff accommodation at the flagship hospital

Pictured: Arrowe Park Hospital. It is understood that people returning will be taken to staff accommodation at the flagship hospital

A family is pictured in an airport in Beijing wearing protective masks and plastic as they prepare to board a flight

A family is pictured in an airport in Beijing wearing protective masks and plastic as they prepare to board a flight

A family is pictured in an airport in Beijing wearing protective masks and plastic as they prepare to board a flight

Medical workers are pictured pulling someone suspected to have the coronavirus out of an apartment building in Wuhan today, January 30

Medical workers are pictured pulling someone suspected to have the coronavirus out of an apartment building in Wuhan today, January 30

Medical workers are pictured pulling someone suspected to have the coronavirus out of an apartment building in Wuhan today, January 30

A military quarantine (pictured, a quarantine exercise in 2014) is likely to await passengers flying back to the UK from China

A military quarantine (pictured, a quarantine exercise in 2014) is likely to await passengers flying back to the UK from China

A military quarantine (pictured, a quarantine exercise in 2014) is likely to await passengers flying back to the UK from China

Hazmat-wearing workers are seen on a runway in Tokyo for the first flight to carry Japanese nationals out of the crisis-hit Wuhan

Hazmat-wearing workers are seen on a runway in Tokyo for the first flight to carry Japanese nationals out of the crisis-hit Wuhan

Hazmat-wearing workers are seen on a runway in Tokyo for the first flight to carry Japanese nationals out of the crisis-hit Wuhan

Anthony May-Smith told Sky News he had been waiting for days to hear confirmation of the UK evacuation flight but has had to stay in Wuhan because the Government only gave him two hours to get to the airport

Anthony May-Smith told Sky News he had been waiting for days to hear confirmation of the UK evacuation flight but has had to stay in Wuhan because the Government only gave him two hours to get to the airport

Anthony May-Smith told Sky News he had been waiting for days to hear confirmation of the UK evacuation flight but has had to stay in Wuhan because the Government only gave him two hours to get to the airport

Adam Bridgeman, pictured with his wife and their son, said the Government said he could 'try his luck' at bringing his son, who has dual nationality, on the flight but they couldn't guarantee he would be allowed

Adam Bridgeman, pictured with his wife and their son, said the Government said he could 'try his luck' at bringing his son, who has dual nationality, on the flight but they couldn't guarantee he would be allowed

Adam Bridgeman, pictured with his wife and their son, said the Government said he could ‘try his luck’ at bringing his son, who has dual nationality, on the flight but they couldn’t guarantee he would be allowed

Ben Pinkerton, pictured, is a British teacher from Northern Ireland and living Wuhan. He said it is 'nerve-wracking' to be in the city at the moment and the evacuation arrangements seem like a 'shambles'

Ben Pinkerton, pictured, is a British teacher from Northern Ireland and living Wuhan. He said it is 'nerve-wracking' to be in the city at the moment and the evacuation arrangements seem like a 'shambles'

Ben Pinkerton, pictured, is a British teacher from Northern Ireland and living Wuhan. He said it is ‘nerve-wracking’ to be in the city at the moment and the evacuation arrangements seem like a ‘shambles’

Jeff Siddle, his wife Sindy and their nine-year-old daughter Jasmine will be torn apart because officials in Beijing won't allow his Chinese wife on the British evacuation flight, but Mr Siddle and his daughter will travel

Jeff Siddle, his wife Sindy and their nine-year-old daughter Jasmine will be torn apart because officials in Beijing won't allow his Chinese wife on the British evacuation flight, but Mr Siddle and his daughter will travel

Jeff Siddle, his wife Sindy and their nine-year-old daughter Jasmine will be torn apart because officials in Beijing won’t allow his Chinese wife on the British evacuation flight, but Mr Siddle and his daughter will travel

Veronica Theobald, 81, is stranded in Wuhan with her grandson Kharn Lambert (pictured together on This Morning yesterday). Ms Theobald is expected to fly home but Mr Lampard will stay in China

Veronica Theobald, 81, is stranded in Wuhan with her grandson Kharn Lambert (pictured together on This Morning yesterday). Ms Theobald is expected to fly home but Mr Lampard will stay in China

Veronica Theobald, 81, is stranded in Wuhan with her grandson Kharn Lambert (pictured together on This Morning yesterday). Ms Theobald is expected to fly home but Mr Lampard will stay in China

In a desperate plea for help, Tom Williams (pictured with his wife, Lauren, and son, James) published an open letter on Twitter to say: 'I just want to try and share our story so I can try and get my wife, son and unborn child safely out of the city'. It is not clear whether the family will be on the flight

In a desperate plea for help, Tom Williams (pictured with his wife, Lauren, and son, James) published an open letter on Twitter to say: 'I just want to try and share our story so I can try and get my wife, son and unborn child safely out of the city'. It is not clear whether the family will be on the flight

In a desperate plea for help, Tom Williams (pictured with his wife, Lauren, and son, James) published an open letter on Twitter to say: ‘I just want to try and share our story so I can try and get my wife, son and unborn child safely out of the city’. It is not clear whether the family will be on the flight

WUHAN CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – 213 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who catch the Wuhan coronavirus may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MAILONLINE’S FULL Q&A ON THE CORONAVIRUS 

British Airways yesterday announced it would be stopping all flights to and from mainland China for the forseeable future. It runs daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai from London Heathrow.

The airline said in a statement: ‘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.’

Virgin Atlantic said it would continue to run flights between Heathrow and Shanghai as scheduled, but passengers will be able to rebook or get a refund for free.

The airline issued a statement which read: ‘We continue to monitor the situation regarding coronavirus and will always follow guidance as set out by relevant authorities. 

‘The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China, excluding Hong Kong.

‘For customers who have booked to travel to China, including Hong Kong, and would like to discuss their travel plans further, we would invite them to contact our customer care team via our SMS messaging system, on +44 (0)7481 339184.’ 

Airlines around the world have announced they are reducing services to China or stopping them altogether: action has been taken by Air France, Air KBZ (Myanmar), Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Lion Air, Myanmar Airways International, Myanmar National Airlines and Urals Airlines (Russia).

Kazakhstan has also announced it will stop all flights from February 3, and Hong Kong will halve the number of planes travelling to mainland China. 

In the US, United Airlines said it would ‘trim’ its services to China because of a drop in demand. 

US health officials have advised against all but essential travel to China as a whole, the same measure taken by the UK Government. 

United said flights from the US to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from February 1 were currently unaffected. 

For US citizens stranded in the crisis-hit Wuhan, a flight chartered by the US Government yesterday retrieved 240 people and flew them back to America.

The plane first landed in Anchorage, Alaska to refuel.

It was then due to fly on to Ontario, California, but was diverted to a military base in Riverside.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman said: ‘The CDC just let us know the flight [would] be directed to March Air Force Base.’ 

He offered no explanation as to why, adding: ‘We were prepared for the worst.’ 

In the US there have been five cases of the Wuhan coronavirus confirmed already, and dozens more people have been tested in more than 20 states.  

First cases of coronavirus are diagnosed in Britain as two English patients from the same family test positive for the killer Chinese virus

Two people in England have been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus and are being treated in Newcastle.

The patients are members of the same family and are the first people in England to be diagnosed with it on British soil.

They did not fly back to the UK on the Government’s evacuation flight, which is scheduled to land in Oxfordshire at around 1pm this afternoon. 

Until today, at least 161 people had tested negative for the virus in the UK but none had been diagnosed with it.

The infection makes England the 23rd country or territory outside of China to declare cases of the infection. 

It did, however, confirm that they are not in Wirral, Merseyside, where people being evacuated from the centre of the outbreak will be quarantined later today. 

There are four hospitals in England equipped to handle the patients – Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Free in London, the Royal Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital. Whether they are already at one of these has not been confirmed.  

Ambulance crews arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning in preparation for an evacuation flight which is bringing people back from China

Ambulance crews arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning in preparation for an evacuation flight which is bringing people back from China

Ambulance crews arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning in preparation for an evacuation flight which is bringing people back from China

Ambulance workers and military are pictured at RAF Brize Norton, awaiting the arrival of 83 British people from China

Ambulance workers and military are pictured at RAF Brize Norton, awaiting the arrival of 83 British people from China

Ambulance workers and military are pictured at RAF Brize Norton, awaiting the arrival of 83 British people from China

A coach arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning, 31 January as it prepares for a return flight from Wuhan carrying 83 British evacuees

A coach arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning, 31 January as it prepares for a return flight from Wuhan carrying 83 British evacuees

A coach arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning, 31 January as it prepares for a return flight from Wuhan carrying 83 British evacuees

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said in a statement this morning: ‘We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus. 

‘The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

‘The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

‘We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately. 

‘We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.’ 

The confirmation comes just hours before an evacuation flight which left China last night is expected to land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Scientists had been expecting a case to be diagnosed here for more than a week, since it became clear how widely the virus was spreading. 

A fleet of coaches is pictured arriving at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire today. The buses will carry 83 British passengers to an NHS facility in Wirral, Merseyside

A fleet of coaches is pictured arriving at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire today. The buses will carry 83 British passengers to an NHS facility in Wirral, Merseyside

A fleet of coaches is pictured arriving at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire today. The buses will carry 83 British passengers to an NHS facility in Wirral, Merseyside

Coaches arrive this morning to collect passengers who have been flown back to the UK from China by RAF personnel and Army medics

Coaches arrive this morning to collect passengers who have been flown back to the UK from China by RAF personnel and Army medics

Coaches arrive this morning to collect passengers who have been flown back to the UK from China by RAF personnel and Army medics 

Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The report of the first two cases diagnosed positive for 2019-nCoV in the UK is not surprising and was almost inevitable.’

Nathalie MacDermott, a Kings College London lecturer told Sky News: ‘I think this is to be expected. 

‘We’ve been expecting it for the last week or so at least. To some degree, a little bit of a surprise that it’s only happened now given the spread of cases overseas from China over the last two weeks.’

More cases may emerge in the coming days and weeks as more people return from China.  

A total of 83 British citizens are on board under the guard of Army medics and RAF personnel and will be taken by bus to Wirral, Merseyside to be quarantined.

They have flown home after the Government rustled together an evacuation flight yesterday for people trapped in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak. 

The patients will all have had medical testing before boarding the plane and any who showed signs of sickness would have been turned away at the airport and left in China.

It is not known whether anybody was refused a seat because of their health.

There remains a possibility that passengers on the flight, who include holidaymakers and expats who were living in China, are infected with the virus.

It can take up to two weeks, or potentially more, for symptoms to appear so people may not know they are infected.

For this reason, the passengers will all be isolated in an NHS facility in Wirral, believed to be a nurses’ accommodation apartment building. 

The confirmed cases come after recent days have seen coronavirus scares around the UK with video and pictures emerging of hazmat-clad medical workers in London, Bristol and Hertfordshire.  

New Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Hertfordshire was last night evacuated in an infection scare.

In a video clip a hospital worker can be heard telling patients: ‘It’s highly unlikely, but the people who do actually test positive in any way, we can contact you in advance of anything going on.’

Dead in the streets: Appalling sight of man’s body on the pavement lays bare the crisis in coronavirus ground zero Wuhan 

Police in hazmat suits yesterday swarmed around the body of a man who was found dead on the pavement at ground zero of China‘s virus epidemic. 

The grey-haired man collapsed and died while wearing a face mask on a street in Wuhan, a city of 11million people which is under quarantine amid the coronavirus crisis. 

It is feared that the virus caused the man’s death, and the reaction of police and medical staff in forensic suits highlighted the fear pervading the city. 

The death toll in China today rose to 213 after the World Health Organisation declared a global emergency and the US told its citizens to avoid China. 

A medic in a hazmat suit attends to the body of a man which was found in a street in Wuhan yesterday, in the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak

A medic in a hazmat suit attends to the body of a man which was found in a street in Wuhan yesterday, in the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak

A medic in a hazmat suit attends to the body of a man which was found in a street in Wuhan yesterday, in the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak 

A man wearing a face mask cycles past the body of a man who collapsed and died on a pavement in Wuhan, a city of 11million people which is under quarantine

A man wearing a face mask cycles past the body of a man who collapsed and died on a pavement in Wuhan, a city of 11million people which is under quarantine

A man wearing a face mask cycles past the body of a man who collapsed and died on a pavement in Wuhan, a city of 11million people which is under quarantine 

Wuhan is the centre of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which is believed to have jumped from wild animals at a city market into humans. 

The virus, which emerged late last year, has infected thousands in China with at least 159 deaths in Wuhan alone. 

Authorities have imposed an unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan, blocking off roads out of the city and banning flights, in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

Yesterday police and medical staff in hazmat suits attended to the man’s body outside a furniture store in the city.  

Medical staff in blue overalls gently shrouded his body with a blue blanket before police stacked supermarket cardboard boxes to hide the scene.

The body was eventually zipped into a yellow surgical bag and carried into a van on a stretcher before staff began to disinfect the streets. 

A team of forensic experts who examined him were also sprayed with disinfectant by colleagues after removing their hazardous material suits. 

A woman standing near the man, wearing pink pyjamas and a Mao cap, said she believed he had died from an illness caused by the virus.

‘It’s an absolute joke!’: Furious Wirral residents slam ‘bizarre’ decision to bus 83 British evacuees 180 miles from RAF Brize Norton to be quarantined in NHS housing amid coronavirus fears

Wirral residents were left furious at the 83 Britons being evacuated from China amid the coronavirus pandemic being housed in a unit on their peninsula.

The evacuees will be taken 180 miles by bus to Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside for a 14-day quarantine period after landing at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at 1pm.

Some people living on the Wirral took to social media to express their concerns at the move, calling it a ‘bizarre’ move and an ‘absolute joke’.

A block of apartments pictured today at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside, where it is believed British citizens flown out of Wuhan will be quarantined

A block of apartments pictured today at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside, where it is believed British citizens flown out of Wuhan will be quarantined

A block of apartments pictured today at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside, where it is believed British citizens flown out of Wuhan will be quarantined

A removal van outside flats today at Arrowe Park Hospital, where the British passengers - who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province - will be housed

A removal van outside flats today at Arrowe Park Hospital, where the British passengers - who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province - will be housed

A removal van outside flats today at Arrowe Park Hospital, where the British passengers – who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province – will be housed

Removal vans outside the block of apartments at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral last night

Removal vans outside the block of apartments at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral last night

Removal vans outside the block of apartments at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral last night

Fridges, TVs, and washing machines are moved into the hospital accommodation last night

Fridges, TVs, and washing machines are moved into the hospital accommodation last night

Fridges, TVs, and washing machines are moved into the hospital accommodation last night

Ambulances lined up outside Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside last night

Ambulances lined up outside Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside last night

Ambulances lined up outside Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in Merseyside last night

Jane Godman, from the Wirral, wrote on Twitter, ‘Decision to have a coronavirus quarantine centre at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral is bizarre.

‘One of the busiest hospitals in the North West, with a maternity unit, in a built up area, 170 miles from where the Wuhan plane lands. Who decided this and why?’

Phillip Cunnington, from nearby Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, tweeted his reaction to a Sky News tweet saying the evacuees were being taken to the Wirral.

He said: ‘Oh great, Wirral’s in the news, you don’t often see that, so often overshadowed by Liverpool, it’d be great to see it get some positive pub… Oh.’ 

 

Amanda Jelley, from West Kirby on the Wirral, added: ‘Why are the 150 people being isolated at Arrowe Park Hospital, 187 miles from Brize Norton.

How the WHO has declared public health emergency over virus 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern in response to the coronavirus outbreak which originated in China.

The disease has killed 170 people and infected around 8,000 worldwide, with cases detected in countries including the US, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Russia has closed its 2,600-mile border with China, joining Mongolia and North Korea in barring crossings to guard against the outbreak.

It is just the fifth time the WHO has issued such a declaration.

‘Arrowe Park Hospital is on a small peninsular so is that the choice to try and contain the virus? Being from the Wirral I am furious at this decision.’

The British passengers – who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province – will be housed in an NHS staff accommodation block.

They will have access to the internet but had to sign a contract agreeing to isolation before they could board the flight, and underwent temperature checks.

Asked whether she was informed of the decision, Labour MP for Wirral South Alison McGovern tweeted: ‘No. No one has informed me. Awaiting a call.

‘Will be asking Department for Health to make sure that those being brought to Wirral be made as comfortable as possible.

‘Know my constituents will feel for them and will back our brilliant NHS staff to do everything necessary to help.’

Another person asked: ‘What did The Wirral do to deserve this?’ A further tweet said: ‘This is very worrying and will cause panic in the Liverpool area.’

Chinese health official said the death toll in the country from the virus had risen to 213, up from 170 a day earlier, with the number of known cases now at 9,692.

No deaths have occurred outside China, although 82 cases have been confirmed across 18 countries.

Janelle Holmes, chief executive of Wirral University Hospital, sent a message to staff last night, saying: ‘Around 100 British citizens will be travelling to the UK from China tomorrow.

‘We will be welcoming and housing them in the accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital. Before arrival they will be screened for symptoms. If anyone becomes unwell after arrival they will be treated following appropriate protocols.’  

Everything we know we know about the deadly coronavirus in China: But how worried should we be? 

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

FAMILIES TORN APART IN SCRAMBLE TO ESCAPE WUHAN 

The scramble to evacuate coronavirus ground zero is tearing families apart, including one British man who says he is being forced to leave his Chinese wife behind to get his daughter to safety.

Up to 200 Britons are due to be evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan tomorrow and will be quarantined for two weeks in a UK military base. 

British teacher Jeff Siddle is among them, along with his nine-year-old daughter Jasmine – but Beijing is barring his Chinese wife Sindy from boarding the rescue flight.

Mr Siddle and his family flew to Hubei province to spend time with his partner’s family and celebrate the Chinese New Year – before the warnings were in place about the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Mr Siddle said today: ‘My wife’s a Chinese citizen, although she’s got a permanent residency visa for the UK as a spouse.

‘But what the Foreign Office is saying is they are going to be doing an airlift, possibly tomorrow, but it’s only [for] British citizens. Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave.

Mr Siddle and his wife and daughter flew to Hubei before the outbreak to celebrate Lunar New Year

Mr Siddle and his wife and daughter flew to Hubei before the outbreak to celebrate Lunar New Year

Mr Siddle and his wife and daughter flew to Hubei before the outbreak to celebrate Lunar New Year

‘I was put in the position to make a decision to either leave my wife here in China, or the three of us stay here (in Wuhan). We have to basically have a nine-year-old child separated from their mother. Who knows how long that is going to be for?’

Other expats stranded in Wuhan and the wider Hubei province – including PE teacher Kharn Lambert and Malcolm Lanyon – have chosen to stay in the region. 

Mr Lambert said he had given up his seat on the rescue flight because he does not want ‘to come home and put everybody’s health at risk’, while Mr Lanyon refused to leave his Chinese wife behind. 

At least 170 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 8,000 have been infected in at least 18 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here’s what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 4,500.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 30, the number of deaths had risen to 170 and cases were in excess of 7,500. 

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don't realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don't realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don’t realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Where does the virus come from?

Nobody knows for sure. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.

Bats are a prime suspect – researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a recent statement: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.’

And another scientific journal article has suggested the virus first infected snakes, which may then have transmitted it to people at the market in Wuhan.

Peking University researchers analysed the genes of the coronavirus and said they most closely matched viruses which are known to affect snakes. They said: ‘Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,’ in the Journal of Medical Virology.

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

WHAT MIGHT AWAIT THE PASSENGERS TAKING UK EVACUATION FLIGHT?

People will be responsible for making their own way to the airport in Wuhan through a deserted city without any functioning public transport and with police roadblocks and traffic stops throughout the Hubei province.

They will be met by Chinese officials, potentially armed soldiers, at the airport. 

Once in the care of staff at the airport, the British passengers will probably have their temperatures checked to see whether any of them have a fever.

On the plane, all flight attendants will likely be wearing at least face masks in a thoroughly disinfected cabin, which will probably have cleaning products on board for people to use during the long-haul journey. 

Upon landing at an unspecified airport in London, the passengers will probably then have medical checks again before being taken to a military base, the location of which is unknown. 

Japanese people who were evacuated by their own nation were met on the runway by coaches which then ferried them away from the airport – it is not clear what will happen in England.

Once out of the airport and at the quarantine location the passengers will be confined and looked after by health workers, government employees and possibly the military. Medical facilities will be set up on site to avoid having to take any infected patients to a public hospital.

They won’t be allowed out in public for two weeks, it is reported – this is because scientists have worked out the virus has an incubation period of around this long. 

An incubation period is the time between someone becoming infected and starting to show symptoms. During this time someone could be contagious without knowing they’re sick, making them extra dangerous. 

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 170 people out of a total of at least 8,200 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak has not officially been confirmed as either an epidemic or a pandemic yet. This is likely because, despite the global concern, the number of people who have been confirmed to be infected is still relatively low.

A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

An epidemic is when a disease takes hold of a smaller community, such as a single country, region or continent.

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