Brits stuck in coronavirus-hit Wuhan even longer as flight banned from take off

A planned flight to bring British nationals back to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will not take place on Thursday.

The British government had anticipated flying around 200 UK citizens out of the country but it is understood Chinese officials have not yet granted permission for the chartered flight to depart.

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."

Britons returning from Wuhan will be put in quarantine for 14 days.

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Officials are looking at taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.

Even those not displaying symptoms will be detained for 14 days – thought to be the maximum possible incubation period for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 130 people in China and infected more than 6,000 others.

Passengers 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.

Around 200 British nationals are thought to be in the Chinese city, which has been locked down with all flights grounded, public transport halted and road checkpoints set up.

The deadline for those stuck in the city of Wuhan and surrounding areas to contact the British consulate expressing their wish to leave passed at 3am UK time (11am local time) on Tuesday.

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Nick House, a British national living in Wuhan with his Indonesian wife and two British children, said: “We would like to be out of here.

“The man on the other end of the phone said ‘Yes, you are on the list, but unfortunately your wife probably won’t be able to get on the plane because she doesn’t have a visa at the moment’.

“I won’t leave without my wife, so essentially the Government are leaving three British people here for the sake of one seat on a plane.”

In Australia, officials unveiled plans to evacuate some of its nationals from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with plans to quarantine them in the Christmas Island immigration detention centre for the potential incubation period for the virus.

A US charter plane carrying about 240 consular staff and citizens departed Wuhan and landed at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, where they were re-screened for the virus in an isolated area before reboarding for a flight to a military base in California.

A dormant hangar was being prepared for their arrival and further medical screening, and CNN reported that the evacuees might have to stay in isolation in the hangar for up to two weeks.

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