Search continues for more travellers from Wuhan in UK

By PA Reporters

British officials are still trying to trace 239 people who flew from the Chinese city of Wuhan to the UK before travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus came into force.

Efforts to track down and assess the travellers, who left Wuhan after the virus emerged, began last week as the crisis intensified, leading British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to suspend UK-China flights.

A total of 94 UK nationals and family members have been evacuated to Britain from Wuhan, the city in Hubei province at the epicentre of the outbreak, on two flights which arrived on Friday and Sunday.

The evacuees are now undergoing 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

The British Embassy in Beijing on Monday announced the last flights from China to the UK for British nationals were set to leave this week.

It said flights would be run by “partner countries” and any British nationals and their immediate families, including those with non-UK passports, must make themselves known if they wish to travel.

Separately, officials have said there are no plans to introduce a US-style travel ban on foreign nationals who had recently been in China from entering the country.

Sources told PA news agency the UK would continue to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which does not advocate such bans.

The death toll in mainland China from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 425, with the total number of cases now standing at 20,438, Chinese officials said on Tuesday.

The latest figures are up from 361 deaths and 17,205 confirmed cases on Monday.

Hong Kong reported its first death linked to the virus on Monday, that of a 39-year-old man who had travelled to the territory from Wuhan. He became the second person to die outside China from the disease, after a man from Wuhan died after travelling to the Philippines.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte subsequently approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions.

The US, Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and an assessment from WHO that they were unnecessarily hurting trade and travel.

The Chinese government has accused the US of causing “panic” in its response instead of helping.

In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the virus would be around for several months yet.

(PA Graphics)

Looking at the global picture, Mr Hancock said: “Currently the number of cases is doubling every five days and it’s likely that the virus will be with us for at least some months to come.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

The Department of Health said on Monday that 326 UK tests for coronavirus have concluded, of which 324 are negative.

Two people, a University of York student and one of their relatives, continue to be treated for coronavirus in the specialist infectious diseases unit at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.