More Britons fly back from Wuhan as virus spreads

Eleven more evacuees were last night due to arrive back in the UK from coronavirus-hit China to join 83 people who are in quarantine on Merseyside.

Their return came as a man in the Philippines became the first person to die from the virus outside China.

The second group of evacuees – made up of British nationals and family members – boarded a French flight and were expected to land at RAF Brize Norton last night and be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral where they will spend 14 days in quarantine, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

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He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It’s correct that there is a further French flight that is expected back in Europe today and that will carry some UK nationals.”

Mr Raab had said 11 British nationals would be returning but the Foreign Office later confirmed the group includes a mix of British nationals and some of their relatives.

He said the government is doing all it can to help Britons in Wuhan leave if they want to.

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure that those that still want to leave, give them the opportunity to do so,” he said.

“The challenge that we’ve got, and the Chinese have got frankly, is to contain the virus but also then to lift out people that want to come back home and we’re doing that as sensitively and as effectively as we can.”

A University of York student and their relative remain the only two confirmed cases in the UK.

Public Health England is continuing to work to try to trace people who had close contact – defined as being within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes – with the pair, who had checked in to the Staycity apartment-hotel in York and are now being treated at a specialist unit in Newcastle.

The Foreign Office, which has withdrawn some staff from China and closed the British Consulate-General in Wuhan, said it is continuing to work with EU countries to add remaining Britons to any rescue flights they may charter back from Wuhan.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office (FCO) said: “The government is in touch with British nationals who remain in Wuhan, and are doing everything we can to bring them home as safely and quickly as possible.”

The death toll has risen above 300 and the number of confirmed cases of infection increased to 14,380, Chinese authorities said.

The UK risk level from coronavirus remains at moderate. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the virus an international public health emergency.

Many other countries have said they plan to quarantine evacuees. Russia, Mongolia and North Korea have announced that they will close their land borders with China.