The government’s business secretary Andrea Leadsom on Thursday said all passengers arriving from Wuhan to the UK are being screened for coronavirus – which seems reasonable until you consider the fact there are no flights at all arriving anywhere from the Chinese city because it is in lockdown.
The 11m people living in Wuhan have been told they are not allowed to leave the city unless in exceptional circumstances, in a bid to halt the spread of a new virus that has killed 17 people and infected almost 600 people, according to Chinese officials.
All flights in and out of the city, as well as nearby Huanggang, have been cancelled, alongside trains, buses, road routes and ferries.
The last flight from Wuhan to the UK arrived at Heathrow shortly after 6pm on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK would be screened, but accepted that they were currently suspended by Chinese authorities.
The Civil Aviation Authority said it was unaware of any flights currently scheduled to arrive in the UK from Wuhan, adding that flights scheduled earlier in the week appeared to have been postponed.
Speaking to Kay Burley, Leadsom said: “As I understand it we are now routinely checking all flights from Wuhan.
“Obviously this is a huge concern for the world but in particular for that city in China which I understand is now in lockdown and we will of course be guided by all of the advice that comes from the world health authorities and also on the evidence that’s coming out of China itself.”
Business secretary Andrea Leadsom has told Sky News the new coronavirus outbreak is a "huge" concern for the world and she understands all flights from Wuhan to the UK are now being checked routinely adding the UK's response will be guided by advice from world health authorities— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) January 23, 2020
Two Chinese cities – Wuhan and Huanggang – have been placed on lockdown amid the outbreak, which has killed 17 people and infected almost 600, officials have said.
All train stations in nearby Ezhou, which is home to around a million people, have also now been closed, and Beijing has announced that its iconic Lunar New Year celebrations have been cancelled in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that there was an “increased likelihood” of the UK seeing cases of the new virus, and warned travellers against “all but essential” travel to Wuhan.
He told the Commons on Thursday: “The chief medical officer has revised the risk to the UK population from ‘very low’ to ‘low’ and has concluded that while there is an increased likelihood that cases may arise in this country, we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them.”
Addressing the UK’s preparedness for potential cases of the virus, Hancock added: “The UK is one of the first countries to have developed a world-leading test for the new coronavirus.
“The NHS is ready to respond appropriately to any cases that emerge.
“Clinicians both in primary and secondary care have already received advice covering initial detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and control and clinical diagnostics.”
He continued: “We are working closely with our counterparts in the devolved administrations and the public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well-prepared for these types of outbreaks.
“And we’ll remain vigilant and keep our response under constant review in the light of emerging scientific evidence.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.