Around 150 Britons stranded in Wuhan by the coronavirus outbreak will be quarantined for two weeks in an NHS facility on the Wirral after they are flown back to the UK, Sky News understands.
It is expected they will be kept in isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Upton and then monitored – as new details emerged of the plans to be put in place when they return.
The Britons were due to leave the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the deadly outbreak – on Thursday morning but the plane was not able to take off as Chinese authorities had not yet given clearance.
The flight is now expected to depart Wuhan on Friday at 7am local time (11pm GMT on Thursday) and is due to land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday morning – thought to be around 10.45am.
The plane, which was chartered from a Spanish company, will also evacuate around 50 Europeans, and will then fly on to Spain.
The Liverpool Echo reported the Britons would be taken to a former student accommodation block in the grounds of Arrowe Park Hospital.
Janelle Holmes, chief executive of Wirral University Hospital, has told staff: “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.”
Image: A patient is taken off an ambulance in Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak
Other details that Sky News understands include:
Three military medics and Public Health England (PHE) officials will be onboard the plane, but it will be crewed by civilians
The medics will have a script to read out to people letting them know to speak up if they feel unwell
There will be an isolation area onboard
Evacuees will be moved to an isolation unit at the NHS facility on the Wirral to be monitored for 14 days
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he had asked Chinese authorities to allow non-British partners and spouses of UK nationals to be allowed to leave Wuhan with them.
“We have pressed that point with the Chinese authorities,” he said.
Sky News understands the passengers will have to agree to whatever treatment is recommended by experts.
As the details were revealed, British Airways announced it was cancelling all flights to mainland China until the end of February, while some other airlines have suspended flights or are offering refunds or date and destination changes.
Image: The masks are becoming a common sight at airports
Cruise ship on lockdown
In Italy, 6,000 people were kept on board a cruise ship as tests were carried out on a passenger from Macau suspected of having coronavirus.
A spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said she and her partner arrived in Italy on 25 January and boarded the Costa Smeralda in Savona that day before she came down with a fever and breathing difficulties.
The ship docked in Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
The Italian health ministry later declared the passenger did not have coronavirus.
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Another passenger Liborio Iervolino, who was supposed to leave the ship today, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “We have no information, the internet isn’t working aboard the ship and we can’t get any news.
“More importantly we eat our meals all together in the communal areas and we don’t know if somebody has been infected. There are no single-use dishes.
“TVs are just showing adverts, we want to watch the news and understand what’s going on.”
Another passenger, only identified as Alessandro P, told Italian news agency AdnKronos that the only people wearing masks were Asian passengers, and they have been doing that for at least four or five days.
Image: Some 6,000 passengers were kept on board a cruise ship in Italy over coronavirus fears
The virus spreads
The number of dead in China increased to 170 people on Thursday, with 7,736 confirmed cases, including the first one in Tibet – meaning all regions and territories are now affected.
While there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, which surpassed China’s SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003 on Wednesday, countries around the world are doing all they can to limit its spread.
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Most of the confirmed cases are in Hubei, where several cities remain locked down, but the impact of the outbreak has been becoming more widely felt across the country this week.
On Thursday, IKEA said it was closing all 30 of its stores in China and the Chinese Football Association announced domestic matches had been indefinitely postponed.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing have also been postponed until March 2021.
Image: Queues for protective masks at a drugs store in Singapore
The Chinese national health committee has reported 26 cases across Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet, prompting a degree of panic setting in.
People in Hong Kong, where 11 cases are confirmed, have been forming enormous queues to buy protective masks, and in Macau a purchase limit is being imposed to ensure they do not sell out too quickly.
While there are relatively few cases outside mainland China and its territories, other countries remain on high alert.
Outside China, there are 82 infections in 18 countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
On Thursday, the Philippines confirmed its first case, while Singapore confirmed three new coronavirus patients on the same day, taking the total there to 10.
There are seven cases in Australia, five in the US, and four each in South Korea, France, Germany and the UAE.
Image: Protective masks spotted in Chinatown in New York
Canada has three confirmed cases, Vietnam has two, and health officials have reported just one case in each of Cambodia, Nepal, Finland, Zambia and Sri Lanka.
With many governments advising their citizens against travel to China, airlines including British Airways and German carrier Lufthansa have started suspending flights to the mainland.
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Anyone who has returned to the UK from Wuhan in recent weeks has been urged to “self-isolate” for two weeks, although the Department of Health says 130 tests carried out on potential patients have come back negative.
Despite the precautionary measures being enforced all over the globe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been reluctant to declare an international public health emergency.
But it could finally make the call during an emergency committee meeting on Thursday.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director at the WHO health emergencies programme, said on Wednesday: “The whole world needs to be on alert now, the whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come, either from the original epicentre or from other epicentres that become established.”
Source : Sky News