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Tuesday, Sep 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Flight taking Britons out of Wuhan 'unable to take off'

Coronavirus: Flight taking Britons out of Wuhan 'unable to take off'

A flight to bring about 200 British nationals back to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan is unable to take off as planned on Thursday.
It is understood relevant permissions from Chinese officials have not yet come through.

The Foreign Office said it was "working urgently" to organise a flight to the UK "as soon as possible".

The virus has caused more than 130 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries.

The flight from Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged, had been expected to arrive at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Thursday morning. Passengers were to be taken to an NHS facility.

When the passengers do return they will be put in "supported isolation" for 14 days with "all necessary medical attention", a Downing Street spokesman said.

The Foreign Office said a number of other countries' flights had also been unable to take off as planned.

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

Hundreds of foreign nationals are being evacuated from Wuhan, with Japan, the US and the EU among those repatriating their citizens.

Some 200 Japanese nationals have been flown from Wuhan and have landed at Tokyo's Haneda airport.

Roughly 200 Americans - including workers from the local US consulate - have also left Wuhan on an evacuation flight.

However, on Wednesday, a British man in Wuhan told the BBC that Chinese authorities were refusing to grant permission for his Chinese wife to accompany him back to the UK.

Jeff Siddle, from Northumberland, said he and his nine-year-old daughter had been told they could fly back - but only without his wife, who has a permanent residency visa for the UK.

"My wife is distraught," he said. "The Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave."

He added: "I had to make a decision where it's either my nine-year-old daughter, who's got a British passport, and myself to leave - and leave my wife here in China - or the three of us stay."

Another UK citizen due to be flown out of Wuhan said she was told to leave behind her three-year-old son because he has a Chinese passport.

Natalie Francis, originally from York, said: "I literally had no words when I got the call."

"All three of us are in Wuhan at the moment," she added. "Physically we are fine, but the stress of being locked up for so long... the emotional health is starting to suffer a little bit... especially after this news."

The Foreign Office said its priority was to keep British nationals and their families together.

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