Milton Keynes quarantine site for Britons returning from coronavirus-hit city

People wearing masks in China Town, London Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Around 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 that Kents Hill Park, a conference centre and hotel, will be used to house the returning citizens after they land at RAF Brize Norton.

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

Everyone boarding the plane at 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 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.

“It also allows their health to be regularly monitored and has the necessary medical facilities close at hand should they be required.”

All staff working at the facility will wear appropriate protective equipment at all times.

Britons who returned on a flight last month were taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

It comes after a British honeymooner was taken to hospital after he and dozens of other passengers tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is quarantined off Yokohama in Japan.

Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, said on Friday that he was being taken to hospital while his wife, Wendy, remained on board the ship.

There are 78 people with British passports – including crew – among the nearly 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship, sources told the PA news agency.

Princess Cruises said an additional 41 people, including Mr Steele, had tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess, taking the total number of cases to 61.

The company said the quarantine on the ship was due to end on February 19, barring “unforeseen developments”, and confirmed that all the affected guests were being taken to hospital.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

There are no plans to fly anyone off the ship and back to the UK at the moment.

A separate ship in Hong Kong, the World Dream, has about 66 British passport holders on board. Nobody on that ship has tested positive.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that the reported number of new cases has fallen over the past two days, which experts welcomed with caution.

There were roughly 3,900 new cases reported worldwide on February 5, 3,700 on February 6 and 3,200 on February 7 – the vast majority in China, WHO figures show.

But experts warned it is not yet clear if this represents an actual fall in cases or whether the fall will prove sustainable.

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.

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

Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director, said the patient had called the NHS 111 service after becoming concerned.

“After a telephone assessment, they were advised to make their way to Royal Sussex County Hospital Brighton for testing,” he said.

“Following a pre-arranged plan with the NHS they drove themselves to the hospital, were tested in isolation and away from public areas of the hospital, and returned home in isolation in their own car.”

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.

Meanwhile, the UK has pledged £5 million of aid to help the WHO respond to the global outbreak.

The Department for International Development said the money would go towards efforts to stop the spread of the disease by supporting the developing countries most at risk of coronavirus to quickly identify cases and care for patients.

This will include training rapid response teams and medical staff to identify and respond to symptoms, raising awareness in developing countries of how to avoid coronavirus and predicting the spread of the virus to better target future support.