This Is What It's Like To Be British, Quarantined And Pregnant In China Right Now

"It feels a little bit like you are in a movie, like 'Zombieland'," a family stuck in Beijing amid the coronavirus outbreak say.

Irene and Francis Lau took their three-year-old son Freddie to Beijing to celebrate Chinese New Year with family.

But instead of a fun-filled holiday, they found themselves near the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. Then, just as they tried to get back to Britain, they found their flight back to London, where they live, had been cancelled.

Adding to the sense of crisis, Irene is 21 weeks pregnant.

“It’s double the risks for me. If I for any reason get sick it’s just double the risk,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“We try not to worry too much, we try not to panic, but it’s difficult to be at ease at the moment.”

The family had a flight booked on Saturday with British Airways but have were told on Thursday morning that it had been cancelled - with no further flights until March 2. Luckily they have been able to book another flight on China Airlines, which will leave on Friday.


The government is still negotiating with Chinese authorities over a flight to evacuate British nationals from Wuhan – the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak. But in the Chinese capital the Lau family say they have had no help from the UK government.

“We’ve tried ringing the embassy [in Beijing] but no one is picking up the phone,” Francis says.

The situation is surreal. “It feels a little bit like you are in a movie, like a ‘Zombieland’ movie or something, because you think: ‘Where is everyone?’” he adds.

“This is China, a population that has nearly 2bn people in the country.

“Where is everyone? It just feels a bit strange from previous experiences being in China.”

The family said they will self quarantine once they are back, and stay at home for 14 days with no contact with anyone without a face mask.

“We’ll be working from home for two weeks and our son will stay at home with us.”

The feeling of isolation is unlikely to abate even once the Laus are back in the UK. On Thursday Nick Gibb, the school standards minister, told Sky News the plan was for evacuees to be taken to an “NHS facility” on their return where they would be kept for 14 days to make sure that they do not have symptoms of the virus.

The death toll, which has risen to 170, is currently lower than the 348 people who died in China from Sars but the number of cases has jumped to 7,711.

Speaking of her worries about her son Freddie, Irene says: “It’s actually quite worrying because he is little and the only defence we have at the moment is to wear that face mask.

“And he’s little. He doesn’t understand why he has to wear that and the consequences of not wearing it.”

The government anticipates flying out around 200 UK citizens who have been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Wednesday night that “a number” of countries’ flights had been unable to take off as planned.


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