Bus drivers without protective gear are set to transport 11 UK nationals evacuated from China to hospital today – while Indonesian students arriving from disaster-hit Wuhan were sprayed with disinfectant as they arrived home.
A fleet of Horseman coaches are waiting to collect a second group of British evacuees due to join 83 already in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, near Liverpool.
On Friday the bus drivers for the first group of British evacuees spent an entire 172-mile journey from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to Wirral without wearing face masks. Today’s drivers were also pictured without safety equipment.
The Britons boarded a French flight and will be brought to the hospital where they will spend 14 days in quarantine, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘It’s correct that there is a further French flight that is expected back in Europe today and that will carry some UK nationals.’
Mr Raab confirmed 11 British nationals would be returning and said the Government is doing all it can to help Britons in Wuhan leave if they want to.
More and more countries are taking measures to tackle the rapidly-spreading coronavirus. Indonesian students were pictured being sprayed with disinfectant by officials in full protective gear today as nations around the world take measures to contain the outbreak.
A coach arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, ahead of the repatriation of British nationals to the UK from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China
Police escort due to travel with more British nationals repatriated from Wuhan in China
The Police escort due to escort more British nationals repatriated from Wuhan in China arrive at RAF Brize Norton ready to ferry them up to Arrowe Park Hospital
Coaches seen ready to set off to collect a second load of British nationals evacuated from China today
Drivers stand by as to collect a second load of British nationals evacuated from China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, at the Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral, near Liverpool
Indonesian students were pictured being sprayed with disinfectant by officials in full protective gear today as nations around the world take measures to contain the outbreak
The students disembarked upon arrival at Hang Nadim international airport in Batam, following their evacuation from the Chinese city of Wuhan due to the deadly SARS-like virus, and were hosed down as they left the plane.
Indonesia flew back 241 nationals from Wuhan on Sunday and quarantined them on the remote Natuna Islands for two weeks.
Several hundred residents protested the move, with one saying, ‘This is not because we do not have a sense of solidarity with fellow nationals. But because we fear they could infect us with the deadly virus from China.’
On Friday the bus drivers for the 83 British evacuees spent the 172-mile journey from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to Wirral without wearing face masks.
Police arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, ahead of the repatriation of British nationals to the UK from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China
The first evacuation on Friday: Photos from the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire showed paramedics, coach drivers and other staff greeting and even shaking hands with the passengers, are being quarantined for two weeks
In this picture taken on January 31, one medic wears a protective Hazmat suit, the bus driver sat next to him does not wear any mask at all
The Department of Health had said coach drivers – who MailOnline understands will not be quarantined – would be wearing ‘appropriate protective equipment’, but images emerged of them wearing none, despite being sat beside hazmat-wearing medical workers.
It was reported the drivers would also spend 14 days in isolation themselves. They were asked to drive those brought back from China without any masks or specialist clothing – and will now take a period of paid leave away from others.
A spokesman for Horseman Coaches said their staff had been reassured by Government officials that they did not need to wear masks for the journey because passengers had been quarantined for eight days in China and only allowed on the flight because they were clear of any symptoms.
However, the Department of Health rubbished the eight-day claim and said no protective gear was required because the risk to drivers was ‘very low.’
The drivers will not be formally quarantined but were advised to ‘self-isolate’ at home for 14 days as a precaution and their vehicles will also be deep-cleaned before being allowed back into service in a fortnight.
Today: Coaches are made ready to set off to collect a second load of British nationals evacuated from China amid the coronavirus outbreak, at the Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral
The second group of British evacuees boarded a French flight and will also be brought to the hospital where they will spend 14 days in quarantine, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said
The Mail understands that the pilot and crew on the flight from Wuhan province were also not instructed to wear masks and it was unclear last night whether they had also been told to self-quarantine.
The Ministry of Defence insisted that all Government employees and military personnel who had come into close contact with passengers would be put into supported isolation.
The Department of Health also explained that each of the seven coaches had one medic – dressed in specialist protective gear – onboard in the unlikely event any passengers developed symptoms during the journey.
A source at Horseman, the company operating the coaches, said the Department of Health was instructing its employees.
They had told MailOnline: ‘I want to make clear, we have been instructed by the [Department of Health]. Our drivers are not making decisions. They are being told what to do.’
Peter Badger, a Horseman driver, transported British passengers to the Wirral hospital without protective fear, telling the Sunday Times it had nothing to do with coach company managers.
He said the firm had secured protective suits for drivers, but health officials ordered the company not to issue them.
Company director James Horseman said he was ‘told categorically by government that drivers wuld not be allowed’ to wear the suits.
Health and safety experts concluded that wearing the suits could hamper driver vision and movement and raise the risk of fatigue.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dominic Raab said: ‘We’ll do everything we can to make sure that those that still want to leave, give them the opportunity to do so’
A University of York student and their relative remain the only two confirmed cases in the UK (pictured: Drivers walk by as coaches are made ready to set off to collect a second load of British nationals evacuated from China)
Today’s evacuation comes as a man in the Philippines became the first person to die from the virus outside China.
A 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan was admitted on January 25 after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat.
He developed severe pneumonia, and in his last few days before his condition deteriorated and died – the first coronavirus fatality outside China.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dominic Raab today said: ‘We’ll do everything we can to make sure that those that still want to leave, give them the opportunity to do so.
He added: ‘The challenge that we’ve got, and the Chinese have got frankly, is to contain the virus but also then to lift out people that want to come back home and we’re doing that as sensitively and as effectively as we can.’
The latest repatriation to Britain comes as the Government launched a public health campaign advising people how to slow the spread of the virus.
Coaches ready to set off to collect a second load of British nationals evacuated from China
A University of York student and their relative remain the only two confirmed cases in the UK.
From Sunday, advertisements advising people to use tissues when sneezing or coughing and wash their hands regularly will appear in newspapers, on the radio and on social media.
The ads will also target publications and forums in the UK known to be read by Chinese nationals here, the Department of Health said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said UK medics are working ’round the clock’ to prevent the spread of the illness, but added the general public can do its bit.
He said: ‘Basic hygiene such as washing our hands regularly and using tissues when we cough and sneeze can play an important role in minimising the spread of viruses like this.’
The Foreign Office, which has withdrawn some staff from China and closed the British Consulate-General in Wuhan, said it is continuing to work with EU countries to add remaining Britons to any rescue flights they may charter back from Wuhan.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office (FCO) said: ‘The Government is in touch with British nationals who remain in Wuhan, and are doing everything we can to bring them home as safely and quickly as possible.’
The death toll has risen above 300 and the number of confirmed cases of infection increased to 14,380, Chinese authorities said.
Indonesian students listening to officials in full protective gear upon their arrival before going to quarantine, at Hang Nadim international airport in Batam, following their evacuation from the Chinese city of Wuhan
Some of the 83 Britons holed up quarantine in the Wirral shared video footage of their first hours in a locked NHS staff accommodation block following their arrival back in the UK on Friday’s evacuation flight.
They showed the food and other essential items they had been provided with, and referenced entertainment including televisions and Playstations – which will help them while away their 14 days in isolation.
The University of York’s vice-chancellor, professor Charlie Jeffery, acknowledged the ‘concern and anxiety’ among students and staff when details of one of the UK’s two cases were confirmed.
But the university said the wider risk remains low as investigations revealed the unnamed student has not been on campus since being exposed to the virus, and was not there in the period beforehand either.
Public Health England is continuing to work to try to trace people who had close contact – defined as being within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes – with the pair, who had checked in to the Staycity apartment-hotel in York and are now being treated at a specialist unit in Newcastle.
One expert called on health bosses co-ordinating the response to the virus to share more information about any future cases sooner in order to reassure people.
Indonesian people who arrived from Wuhan, China, are sprayed at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Indonesia Sunday, February 2, 2020
Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, said the York location and dates on which people might have come into contact with the two confirmed cases could have been provided so people knew whether they were at risk or not.
The university has advised people concerned about their health in relation to the disease to call 111, and have also set up a call centre over the weekend.
The UK risk level from coronavirus remains at moderate, having been raised from low last week, on the same day the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an international public health emergency.
The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed that of the Sars epidemic, although death rates are lower.
Many other countries have said they plan to quarantine evacuees for two weeks to avoid spread of the virus.
Evacuation flights by European governments out of Wuhan – where the virus was first identified – are expected to continue.
Russia, Mongolia and North Korea have announced that they will close their land borders with China to guard against the spread of the virus.