Coronavirus: This is why Britons are being quarantined in the North West following evacuation from China

More than 80 Britons will be quarantined at a NHS facility in the North West after they touch down at an RAF base in Oxfordshire today.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 11:27 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 1:14 pm

The 83 British evacuees boarded a flight from Wuhan - the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak - at around 1.45am UK time.

The plane is expected to touch down at Brize Norton RAF airbase in Oxfordshire at around 1pm.

But people in the North West have been left wondering why the Britons are being transported 200 miles north to the Wirral for quarantine.

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The Department of Health said a special facility has been set up at Arrowe Park Hospital near Birkenhead - just 40 miles from Preston.

Anyone with suspicious symptoms will be taken to the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, just a mile from the city centre.

Britain is well equipped to deal with infectious diseases, with two high secure units located at the Royal Free Hospital in London and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

So why has the government chosen the Wirral to quarantine people and a Liverpool hospital to treat those passengers who might test positive for the deadly virus.

More than 80 people evacuated from China will be quarantined at Arrowe Park Hospital in Birkenhead, Wirral, Merseyside. Pic: Google

Why the North West?

Speaking to the Post, the Department of Health initially said it "can not confirm reasoning" behind its decision to transfer returnees to the Wirral.

But after further discussion, a spokesman revealed that the NHS site in the Wirral had been chosen due to its "higher accommodation capacity".

A DOH spokesman said: "An NHS accommodation block in the Wirral has been chosen for quarantine as it has the capacity to accommodate up to 200 people in isolation.

83 Britons will be kept in isolation at former nursing accommodation in Birkenhead, Wirral for the next two weeks

"Whereas other sites also have high-level infectious disease units, the site in the Wirral has a higher capacity and appropriate self-contained areas.

"They will remain in isolation at former nursing accommodation, which is equipped with private rooms, bathrooms and internet access for those who will remain there for the next two weeks.

"The site is also in close proximity to Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital which has a high-level infectious diseases unit, specially equipped to receive and treat people with infectious airborne diseases such as coronavirus.

"I'd like to remind people that none of the passengers on the flight from Wuhan have tested positive for coronovirus and testing will continue over the next fortnight."

The British passengers on the evacuation flight - who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province - had to sign a contract agreeing to isolation before they could board the flight, and underwent temperature checks in China.

First cases of coronovirus confirmed in UK

This morning's reassurances from the Department of Health were shortly followed by confirmation that two members of the same family have tested positive for coronavirus in England.

The government has declined to say where in England the patients are from but it is understood they are being treated at the high security infectious disease unit at Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

On Wednesday night, the Staycity Hotel in the centre of York was put on lockdown when a male guest, understood to be a Chinese national, was taken to hospital after falling ill.

In a statement about the first two confirmed UK cases, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

"The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections, and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.

"We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.

"We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities."

No deaths have occurred outside China, although 82 cases have been confirmed across 18 countries.