Coronavirus: Britons returning from Wuhan to be quarantined 'in military base' for two weeks

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Hundreds of Brits returning to the UK from the centre of the coronavirus crisis will be placed in quarantine for two weeks to stop the infection spreading.

As the death toll hit 132, a flight to the UK is due to leave Wuhan in China on Thursday – and passengers may be asked to sign a contract before they board the plane saying they agree to being placed in quarantine.

Anyone who does not wish to sign could be asked to stay.

The quarantine centre may be at a military base, according to a government source.

Tourists in protective masks walk through Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. (Getty)
A pilot in a protective suit parks a cargo plane at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on Tuesday. (AP)

The source said: “I think it’s going to be a military base. We have got the facility ready for them to arrive.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock has instructed officials to place the 200 citizens into isolation.

He tweeted: "We are working hard to get British nationals back from Wuhan. Public safety is the top priority.

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"Anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention."

Around 200 British nationals are thought to be in the Chinese city, the capital of Hubei province.

The move comes after Britons returning to the UK expressed fury after being told they must "self-isolate" – while also making their own way home from the airport.

Lecturer Yvonne Griffiths, who is in a hotel in Wuhan, said she received news in the early hours of Wednesday morning that there was to be a flight from Wuhan to the UK.

She told BBC Breakfast that Stansted is a possible destination but that has not been confirmed, and timings had not been been firmed up either.

"We've to be there six to seven hours before the flight leaves, and we would have a screening from some health people here in Wuhan, and if we are not showing any symptoms then we'll be able to board that plane,” she said.

"It has been frustrating up until today. I think the lack of certainty about the time of this flight isn't so worrying as long as we know that it's going to happen.”

Global cities receiving airline travellers from 18 high-risk cities in mainland China over three month period. (SWNS)

Previous advice from Public Health England was that those returning should stay at home for 14 days.

Experts in China have said there is evidence that people could transmit the virus without showing any symptoms, although UK experts think the risk is low.

The quarantine news comes as British Airways announced it was suspending all flights to mainland China with immediate effect.

(PA)

In a statement, the airline said: "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."

The death toll in China from coronavirus has risen to 132, with confirmed infections surging to nearly 6,000.

Members of a military medical team head for Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital. (AP)

Four cases have been confirmed in Germany, making it the second European country to report cases after France.

In Australia, officials unveiled plans to evacuate its nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, with plans to quarantine them in the Christmas Island immigration detention centre.

The World Health Organization said the latest indications are that one in five cases of coronavirus are leading to severe disease, such as pneumonia, or were causing death.

The Department of Health and Social Care said on Tuesday that 97 people in the UK had been given the all-clear for the virus, although scientists say it may have already entered the country.