Coronavirus: Thursday's planned flight from Wuhan to UK will not take place

29 January 2020, 19:56 | Updated: 4 March 2020, 17:21

BA has suspended all flights to and from mainland China
BA has suspended all flights to and from mainland China. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A planned flight to bring UK citizens back from the coronavirus-hit province of Wuhan in China on Thursday will not take place.

Chinese officials have not yet granted permission for the departure of the chartered flight.

The British government planned to airlift people back to the UK from Wuhan and quarantine them on an army base for two weeks, according to the Department for Health.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK. A number of countries' flights have been unable to take off as planned.

"We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.

"We remain in close contact with the Chinese authorities and conversations are ongoing at all levels."

Around 200 British nationals are estimated to be in the city, which is currently the epicentre of the outbreak.

When passengers do return, they may be asked to sign a contract before they board the plane saying they agree to being placed in quarantine.

Anyone who does not wish to sign could be asked to stay.

On Wednesday evening, World Athletics announced the World Athletics Indoor Championship would be postponed until March 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this morning British Airways suspended all flights to and from mainland China amid a Coronavirus outbreak which has so far infected almost 6,000 people and claimed the lives of 132.

Currently, the airline's website does not allow users to book any flights to China in January and February.

Yesterday, the Foreign Office advised against "all but essential travel" to and from the mainland due to the outbreak

In a statement, British Airways said: "We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.

"We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.

"Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com."

So far, 132 people have died from the virus
So far, 132 people have died from the virus. Picture: PA
Almost 6,000 have been infected
Almost 6,000 have been infected. Picture: PA

Flights to and from Hong Kong will continue, but BA said passengers will need to use an alternative company if they want to get to the mainland.

Any British citizen in Wuhan - the epicentre of the viral outbreak - or the surrounding area had until 3am (11am local time) this morning to inform the British Consulate of their wish to return.

The first flights could begin to return as early as Thursday morning.

Culture Secretary Baroness Morgan said BA's decision to suspend all flights to China would give "more impetus" to the Government's bid to arrange for Britons to travel home.

"The Foreign Office will be working with staff on the ground to identify UK nationals," the Conservative peer said.

"We will get people home as soon as we can, as soon as we can make arrangements.

"Obviously, today's decision by British Airways provides more impetus to the Government to make other plans and communicate those.

"The health system is well prepared. We are not aware of any confirmed cases of the virus here in the UK but we do have the expertise to look after people, to treat and to test should that become necessary."

The biggest US carrier to China, United Airlines, has also announced it will be cutting 24 flights to the area, and the White House is reportedly considering stopping all US-China flights completely."

Medical workers gather before being sent out to try and help the infected
Medical workers gather before being sent out to try and help the infected. Picture: PA
Some towns have been barricading themselves in to stop the spread of the disease
Some towns have been barricading themselves in to stop the spread of the disease. Picture: PA

So far, 97 people in the UK have been tested for Coronavirus, with all of them coming back negative.

There were fears coronavirus may have entered the UK after medics in hazmat suits were seen dealing with a patient in Birmingham.

A video taken by a concerned resident shows one medic wearing a full body suit entering an ambulance flanked by two other people wearing face masks.

39-year-old Drew Bennett was being taken for tests, according to Birmingham Live.

Mr Bennett reported he had recently returned from China and was suffering from flu-like symptoms, when an ambulance rushed to his home.

In Europe, four cases have so far been confirmed in Germany, with one man being infected by a Chinese colleague making it the first confirmed case of human-to-human transmission on the continent.

France has also confirmed four people have the infection.

More to follow...

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