Coronavirus: Lancaster man and 81-year-old grandmother stranded in China as government stalls on evacuation flights

A Lancashire man and his elderly grandmother remain stranded in the infected Chinese city of Wuhan after their evacuation is delayed.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:29 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:54 am

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 - as the death toll in China rose to 170 this morning (January 30).

The Foreign Office said the flight will not take place today as the Government had planned, with stranded passengers being told they may only be evacuated on Friday.

Kharn Lambert and his 81-year-old grandmother Veronica Theobald, from Lancaster, were hoping to leave Wuhan today, but said they now face a further 24 hours trapped in the quarantined city.

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Around 200 British nationals are believed to still be stranded in Wuhan - the city at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak which has killed 170 people

"We are still in the flat," said Kharn, who has been living in Wuhan.

"My grandmother needs to come home urgently because she suffers with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and is running low on medication.

"She is very vulnerable and being in the UK is her best option right now.

"We are more positive that the Government are actually doing something now and they are communicating with us better than before.

British Airways has extended its suspension of all flights to and from mainland China until Monday

"The situation is basically we won't go to the airport until we receive the confirmation email from the embassy.

"Nobody has actually received an official email to say whether we are on the flight or not and what time it will be leaving, so people will still be in their apartments waiting for that email.

"They said that it's probably more likely going to be tomorrow morning now, but again, you know that could change.

"The information is changing hour by hour so we will just have to see."

The British government are understood to still be negotiating with Chinese officials for permission to evacuate around 200 British nationals from Wuhan.

According to PA, a Downing Street source said the British nationals had agreed to be placed in "assisted isolation" for 14 days, with unconfirmed reports that passengers will be confined to a military base after touch down in the UK.

Passengers say they have also been told to only take hand luggage on the flight.

"There are some difficult issues that are being negotiated at very senior levels between the British Government and the Chinese Government," said a Foreign Office spokesman.

"Our priority is to ensure the safety and welfare of British nationals in Wuhan and we continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible."

British Airways has extended its suspension of all flights to and from mainland China until Monday.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency committee is expected to meet today to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency.

The WHO said the "whole world needs to be on alert" over the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of cases has jumped to 7,711, with 170 confirmed fatalities as of today (Thursday, January 30).