/Coronavirus: Britons ordered to LEAVE China immediately as crisis escalates

Coronavirus: Britons ordered to LEAVE China immediately as crisis escalates

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also warned against “all but essential travel to mainland China”. Mr Raab said: “The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority. As such, we now advise British nationals in China to leave the country, if they can, to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus. Where there are still British nationals in Hubei Province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this.”

The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority

Dominic Raab

Commercial airline options for leaving China remain throughout the country except in Hubei province but British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have already grounded all flights to and from China and officials fear further suspensions of flights out of China and heavier restrictions on movement on the ground will make it more difficult for people to get out of the country in coming weeks.

In an update to its travel advice, the Foreign Office  said some staff and dependents from the British Embassy and consulates were being withdrawn from China.

Essential staff, such as those providing consular assistance, will stay put for now


Officials disinfect a railway station in the Chinese province if Hunan (Image: REUTERS)

The Foreign Office said: “The ability of the British embassy and consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China is limited, and would be even more limited in the event that the situation deteriorates further.”

Mr Raab said the British Government had been “allocated 14 places on an Air New Zealand fight today for UK nationals and their dependants”.

Speaking during Commons Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions, shadow foreign minister Afzal Khan described the Government’s handling of the crisis as a shambles.

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The coronavirus crisis continues to deepen in China (Image: REUTERS)


Security personnel man a checkpoint to ensure travel restrictions are being enforced (Image: REUTERS)

He said: “The evacuation of British nationals and their families from Wuhan has been nothing short of a shambles, given the delays, the lack of information and the terrible cases of family separation that have occurred.

“Can I ask the minister of state why on earth the Foreign Office does not have protocols and plans in place to manage this crisis when they occur?”

Mr Raab responded: “In fairness we’ve seen 83 British nationals repatriated on Friday, another seven British nationals and four dependants evacuated on a French flight that returned to the UK on Sunday, and I can tell him that we have also been allocated 14 places on an Air New Zealand fight today for UK nationals and their dependants.

“We have an excellent cross-Whitehall team including the department for defence, the Department for Health and Social Care, working with our consular offices.

“There are challenges dealing with the Chinese authorities in relation to the permissions to get the charter flight in to get people to the muster points.

“We hired four coaches for the flight that arrived on Friday and we delayed the flight for three hours on the tarmac to make sure all the people could get on that needed to, and of course we’ll continue working with our international partners and the Chinese to get those who need to come home out of the country.”

Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: “The safety and security of British nationals must be our primary concern and would he therefore press the Chinese authorities to co-operate in granting any assistance necessary to ensure that our nationals are looked after whilst they remain in China.”

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More than 20,600 people have been infected worldwide, with 427 deaths as the crisis continues to spread out from China.

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he expected more cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Speaking before a meeting with German Health Minister Jens Spahn, Mr Hancock said the UK was working with other countries to develop a vaccine.

He said: “We haven’t seen the peak of the coronavirus by a long stretch and we expect more cases in the UK.

“We have a full plan in place to treat all those who have symptoms and test positively for coronavirus and we are working with international partners both to slow the spread and also to do the research that we need to do to find a vaccine.”

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