Quarantined Brits released as China coronavirus deaths and cases soar

Dozens of Brits have been freed after spending two weeks in quarantine amid the coronavirus outbreak, as China recorded the deadliest day of the epidemic with 254 deaths reported.

Matt Raw, from Knutsford, Cheshire, was one of 83 Britons rescued from the Chinese city of Wuhan and quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside.

He exclaimed: "We're free...and the sun's shining," as he was released from isolation.

All of the group – who had signed a contract agreeing to the quarantine period – have tested negative for the virus.

Mr Raw said "it is absolutely lovely to be out" and said he was looking forward to enjoying a pint later.

Brits have left Arrowe Park Hospital after spending 14 days in quarantine. Credit: PA

He told ITV News the level of care they received from NHS staff was "absolutely first class."

"You just can't fault them on anything at all, they've absolutely worked as hard as they can to make us as comfortable as possible," Mr Raw said.

"This wasn't a prison, it was about looking after people, looking after their mental health in what were relatively trying circumstances for many people and many of those staff were actually working really, long hours.

"I think I heard of people who had done more 100 hours last week, it's just absolutely crazy, the thought and care that has gone into looking after our mental well-being, I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart and I think I'm saying that on behalf of every single one of us that stayed there."

Mr Raw said "99.9% of us" were happy to be quarantined,.

"The last thing that any one of us would have wanted is to have passed that virus on, if we were infected, to pass it on to somebody else," he added.

"You have to live with that. If somebody does get sick from it and dies we'd have to live with that knowledge for the rest of our lives and of course that's not who we are."

Their release comes as Wednesday proved to be the disease's deadliest day in China, with 254 deaths reported, bringing the total to more than 1,360.

There were also 15,152 new cases of the coronavirus - also known as Covid-19 - bringing the total to more than 60,000.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship is quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Credit: AP

Dr William Welfare, interim deputy director for health protection at Public Health England North West, thanked the people who have been quarantined at Arrowe Park for their "patience and support."

"All the test results from flight one have come back negative so we can be very clear that all of those leaving today do not pose risk to the wider public," he said."We're delighted they're leaving and they'll be able to continue with their normal lives."

He said a further group of guests, who arrived on a later flight, would leave at the weekend if all was well.

Dr William Welfare said a further group would leave at the weekend. Credit: PA

In the rest of the world more than 400 cases have been confirmed across 24 countries and only two deaths have occurred outside of mainland China.

On Thursday the number of coronavirus cases from a cruise ship quarantined in Japan rose by 44 - bringing the total to 218 cases.

Two of those are Britons, taking the number of Brits on the ship diagnosed with coronavirus to three.

A British honeymooner diagnosed with coronavirus has said a language barrier meant he mistakenly believed he had tested negative for the disease.

While a second cruise liner that had been refused entry by four Asian and Pacific governments due to fears over the outbreak has now anchored off Cambodia.

Health checks will now be carried out on the 2,200 passengers and crew on board The Westerdam.

A medical worker in Wuhan waves as patients arrive at a temporary hospital built in a sports centre. Credit: AP

China had reported a slow in the spread of the disease and the numbers of those dying from it, and although the large increase in cases has been put down to a change in the way in which cases are recorded, the number of deaths in a single day is still the highest it has been.

Previously authorities in China relied on the nucleic test - which tests for the genetic materials of the virus - but now they are including people who display the symptoms of the illness - for example having a CT scan showing an infected lung - which is quicker.

Meanwhile, the top Communist Party official in Hubei has been sacked for the province's response (or perceived lack thereof) to the virus.

This follows the sacking of two top officials from Hubei's provincial health committee in previous days.

The chief executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said many more people may need to self-isolate in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

He said the Brits quarantined on the Wirral had "set an important example" by acting in a "highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical way" to keep "both themselves and others safe."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said those quarantined had been given a clean bill of health and people "can be reassured that their departure presents no risk to the public".

England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said officials were working on delaying the spread of coronavirus cases throughout the UK.

He said it is "highly likely" the UK will see more cases, but it is possible the epidemic will go away, possibly aided by a change in the seasons.

Prof Whitty said the current UK strategy was focused on containment of individual cases, followed by delaying the spread.

83 UK nationals spent 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital. Credit: PA

The evacuated group’s release comes a day after a ninth UK case was confirmed on Wednesday evening – the first instance of Covid-19 in London.

The patient, who is now being treated at a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in the capital, got the virus in China, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said.

The unnamed woman turned up unannounced at Lewisham Hospital in an Uber after falling ill, the Guardian reported.

Two staff from Lewisham hospital in south London are now in isolation at home after coming into contact with the woman, a Chinese national, it said.

As with the previously confirmed cases, officials are working to identify recent contacts she had.

The news comes as doctors warned the London Underground could be a hotbed for the spread of the virus.

Mr Walsh contracted coronavirus on a business trip to Singapore. Credit: PA

Also on Wednesday, Steve Walsh, the businessman at the centre of the UK outbreak of coronavirus, was given the all-clear and discharged from hospital.

Mr Walsh, a 53-year-old scout leader from Hove in East Sussex, contracted coronavirus on a business trip to Singapore – and is linked to five other people diagnosed with it in the UK.

On his way back to the UK from Singapore, he stopped off at a ski region in France, where five other Britons were subsequently infected with coronavirus, now also known as Covid-19.

Mr Walsh is also linked to a Briton taken ill in Majorca, taking the number of confirmed cases linked to him to 11.

Dr Paul Cosford, from Public Health England, on Wednesday admitted more cases of coronavirus in the UK are "highly likely" due to people returning after travelling abroad.

The WHO said it is too early to make such a prediction on when numbers of the virus will peak and said the disease still remains a threat:

"This outbreak could still go in any direction," Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing on Wednesday.

WHO’s Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr Michael Ryan Credit: AP

Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, told the briefing: "I think it’s way too early to try and predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic."

Elsewhere a major technology show has been cancelled after a number of firms pulled out over coronavirus fears.

Organisers of the Mobile World Congress, which had been due to take place in Barcelona at the end of the month, said it had become "impossible" to hold it this year due to “global concern” around the outbreak.

Of the nine people so far diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK, two are GPs who are known to have worked at a nursing home, Worthing Hospital A&E and two GP practices between them.

Public Health England (PHE) confirmed on Wednesday it has traced and advised all close contacts of the two GPs, including about 12 patients.