30/01/2020 13:42 GMT

Coronavirus: British Nationals To Be Evacuated From Wuhan On Friday, Foreign Secretary Confirms

It is believed the specially-charted plane will fly into an RAF base in Oxfordshire before passengers are quarantined for 14 days.

British nationals stranded in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan will fly out of China on Friday morning, the foreign secretary has confirmed. 

Chinese authorities granted permission on Thursday for the specially-chartered evacuation flight to depart for the UK at 5am local time on Friday.

It is understood that the flight could land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Passengers on board will then be taken to an NHS facility in the north west to be quarantined for 14 days, sources told news agency PA. 

In a statement, Dominic Raab said: “We are pleased to have confirmation from the Chinese authorities that the evacuation flight from Wuhan airport to the UK can depart at 5am local time on Friday, January 31.”

Speaking earlier on Thursday, the foreign secretary said his department had been working “flat out” with the Department of Health to identify British nationals in Wuhan and organise an evacuation.  

The city of 11m people has been on lockdown for a week in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, which is now believed to have infected more than 7,000 people and killed 170.

Now 6,000 people have been stranded on a cruise ship off the shore of Italy at Civitavecchia, about 53 miles north of Rome, after a Chinese couple on board came down with a fever and started experiencing breathing difficulties. 


News agency Reuters reports that the two passengers arrived in Italy on 25 January and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day, before falling ill. 

A company spokesperson said the liner had visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia. 

It was also confirmed that no one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were being carried out to see if the illness was linked to coronavirus. 

The spokesperson said it could be “a few hours” before the situation became clear.