UK ‘steps up coronavirus airlift evacuation plans’ for Brits trapped in Wuhan

Evacuation plans are being drawn up to get more than 200 Brits out of the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, according to government sources.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has reportedly ordered officials to examine the possibility of airlifting the Brits to safety, although a source said “a number of things need to fall in place” before such a plan can get the go-ahead.

Brits have now been urged to leave Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak – if they are able to do so.

The Foreign Office updated its guidance to "advise against all travel to Hubei province", which has been on lockdown for several days as China seeks to contain the illness.

But the guidance also added: "If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak."

Brits inside Wuhan demanded action be taken after China’s President Xi Jinping warned of the “grave situation” created by the “accelerating” spread of the virus.

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A senior government source told Mail Online: “It is a fast-moving situation and it requires some tough calls to be made. Originally, the advice we received was that Britons should stay in China, rather than risk spreading the virus to the UK.

“But the situation is now so bad locally, and the medical system so overstretched, that it could prove to be a death sentence. We need to get people out.

“We are looking at removing Britons. Bt we do not yet know how the logistics will work. They are challenging.”

It came as the death toll in China rises to 56 and tens of thousands are struck down by the disease.

As of Saturday afternoon, 31 people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been tested for the deadly flu-like virus, but all tests have come back negative, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

There are also no confirmed diagnoses in UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is still classed as low.

Meanwhile, health officials are continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan, the area of China worst affected by the outbreak.

The DoH confirmed it is trying to find "as many passengers as we can" who arrived from the region in the past two weeks to check on their wellbeing.

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It is understood Border Force officers have been recruited to help speed up the search for passengers as testing for the virus continues in the UK.

One British man who had travelled to Wuhan to visit his girlfriend is stuck in the city after his return flight on February 3 was cancelled, and he described trying to get out of the area as "impossible".

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The 29-year-old, who did not want to be named, said: "There have been sporadic warnings from local government in Chinese to tell us that there will be road closures.

"There is no news on when the airport will re-open therefore the airline (China Southern) have just cancelled the flight.

"I've also had no help from the UK Embassy in Beijing who are conveniently closed for the weekend."

Daily Star Online has reached out to the Foreign Office for comment.

  • China
  • Coronavirus

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