Dozens of British Expats Left Behind in Wuhan, After Plane...

Source: DailyMail

Dozens of Britons are trapped in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan today after being given as little as seven minutes to pack up their lives and get to the airport for a rescue flight that ended up having hundreds of empty seats.

The Government chartered plane is hours from landing back in the UK where passengers face a two-week quarantine - but the Boeing 747 jet took off with just 83 of the 150 Britons with tickets on board - meaning a third of people with allocated seats never left the virus-hit city.

It came as Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, said two patients from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus - the first confirmed cases on British soil - and are being treated in a specialist disease unit in Newcastle.

British academic Michael Pattison, who has lived in Wuhan for 15 years, revealed the shambolic evacuation arrangements and told Sky News: 'I only received the official travel documents seven minutes before the deadline to get to the muster point which was 25 miles away in a city that's in total lockdown with virtually no transport available'.

Pictures on social media showed Briton Ben Kavanagh wearing a mask on board before take-off - but the jet's cabin with a 300-plus passenger capacity was practically empty.

Adam Bridgeman is also stranded with his Chinese wife and newborn baby after being given less than two hours notice. He had pledged to stay after he was told that seats on jumbo jet due into Brize Norton at 1pm were only for British citizens - meaning his spouse and child would have to stay behind.

But last night in a sudden U-turn he received a call at 11.15pm saying the entire family could fly back to the UK - but only had until 1am to get to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport for check-in despite a travel ban in the city.

Mr Bridgeman said it was impossible to pack up their flat in that time - but the Foreign Office called again saying the rescue flight was delayed and sent a taxi for them. But by the time the car turned up it was too late for the 3am check-in, leaving them stranded.

He told Good Morning Britain: 'We received a call from the Foreign Office at around 11.15pm saying my wife and child would be allowed on plane but had to be at airport at 1am we couldn't get ready in time we decided not to do that. Later at 1am they said we could get the plane if we made it at 3am.

'We couldn't get a taxi we phoned police to try and get a ride but nothing. The Foreign Office managed to arrange for a car to pick us up.   But unfortunately by the time he arrived we only had about 15 minutes to get to the airport, so we thought 'it's too late'.'

Mr Bridgeman said the FCO had told him that his family might be able to leave the city on another flight. He added: 'The Foreign Office said that they might be able to organise for us to board a different plane from, in their words, one of Britain's EU partners.'  

There were around 300 people from the UK in Wuhan - but only around half have expressed a wish to leave.

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