Coronavirus: Flight of more than 200 heads to UK after leaving outbreak epicentre in China

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

An evacuation flight of more than 200 passengers has left the coronavirus epicentre in China and is heading for the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said.

It comes after a child was confirmed to be among five Britons who had tested positive for coronavirus in France.

French health minister Agnes Buzyn said they had been in contact with a person who had been in Singapore.

The second and final flight to be chartered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) left Wuhan at 3.20am local time on Sunday, carrying Britons and other nationalities.

The plane, with British Government staff and military medics on board, is expected to arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at around 5.30am.

An FCO spokesperson said : "Our final flight from Wuhan took off at 03.20AM (local time) with over 200 passengers on board, including our staff who have facilitated the flight and medics.

"Alongside British nationals, there are other nationalities on board."

None of the patients in France are in a serious condition and it brings the total number of people in the country with the disease to 11.

All of the five were staying in the Alpine resort town of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc, eastern France.

A flight carrying 200 passengers is heading for the UK. (stock image) Credit: Guilherme Madaleno / Unsplash

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Ms Buzyn said: "That original case was brought to our attention last night, it is a British national who had returned from Singapore where he had stayed between January 20 and 23, and he arrived in France on January 24 for four days."

The five Britons whose diagnosis was confirmed, as well as people they had close contact with - 11 people in total, all of British nationality - were taken to hospital on Friday night in Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are urgently seeking information from the French authorities following reports of five British nationals currently being treated in France, and stand ready to offer any support.”

The French government has brought hundreds of people from European and African countries back from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Those who stayed in France are in quarantine.

There are also:

  • More than 700 people have died of coronavirus and at least 34,000 others infected in China

  • 620 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus as of 2pm on Friday, with three cases confirmed.

  • A British man is among 64 people on quarantined boat off coast of Japan diagnosed with coronavirus

  • Some 150 Britons being flown back from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan on Sunday will be quarantined at a facility in Milton Keynes

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was transferred to hospital on Friday while his wife Wendy remains on board. Credit: Alan Steele/ Facebook

Three people in the UK have tested positive for the disease, while another Briton also tested positive for coronavirus onboard a cruise liner off the coast of Japan.

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was transferred to hospital on Friday while his wife Wendy remains on board.

The Diamond Princess cruise liner has been isolated off the port of Yokohama, with 61 people having been taken to hospitals after testing positive for the virus.

Wendy Marshall Steele has been in telephone contact with her husband. She said on Saturday that he was still feeling healthy.

“Alan is well, Japanese doctors are excellent,” she posted on Facebook.

“He is in a little room. Just Dr and nurse visit him.”

Officials in protective suits talk near the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at Yokohama Port. Credit: AP

Mrs Marshall Steele said she was also well but had “cabin fever” as she continued to be confined to her room on the ship, a status shared with nearly 3,700 other passengers and crew.

“It was a hard first night without Alan. But hey, we are constantly in touch. Japanese doctors are excellent and he is in safe hands,” she wrote.

A total of 78 British passport holders – including crew – were among those who boarded the ship.

A British honeymooner who was taken off a cruise liner near Japan after testing positive for coronavirus said he is feeling well and is in good spirits. Credit: PA

The ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, said the vessel’s quarantine was due to end on February 19, barring “unforeseen developments”, and confirmed all affected guests were being taken to hospitals.

Meanwhile, a British family of four is being tested in Majorca after coming into contact with a coronavirus sufferer in France, the government in the Balearic Islands said.

Some 150 Britons being flown back from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan on Sunday will be quarantined at a facility in Milton Keynes.

South Central Ambulance Service said Kents Hill Park, a conference centre and hotel, would be used to house the returning citizens after they landed at RAF Brize Norton.

The group will remain at the site in isolation for 14 days, it added.

Staff in protective clothing on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama Bay Credit: PA

Everyone boarding the plane in the Chinese city, which is the epicentre of the outbreak, will be assessed and will continue to be monitored after landing in the UK on Sunday morning.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the flight would be the final service chartered by the Foreign Office to bring UK nationals back from the Chinese city.

The ambulance service said the presence of the group in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, does not present a risk to local people.

The first group of Britons who returned on a flight last month are continuing their period of quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

“The local site has been chosen because it offers appropriate accommodation and other facilities for those coming back from Wuhan while they stay in Milton Keynes,” the ambulance service said.

The death toll in the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 722 on Saturday, while new cases jumped to 34,546.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that 620 people in the UK have been tested for coronavirus as of 2pm on Friday, with three cases confirmed.

It is understood that the third person in the UK to be diagnosed with coronavirus caught the illness in Singapore.

He is reported to be a middle-aged British man and is understood to be the first UK national to contract the disease.

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The man is thought to have been diagnosed in Brighton and was transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where there is an infectious diseases unit, on Thursday afternoon.

Two other patients, who had recently travelled from China, are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle.

One is a student at the University of York, while the other is a family member.