UK Government Release Coronavirus Q&A for Nationals in China

The UK government in China have reached out to That's in the hope of informing British people (and everyone else) of their current status/stance on the coronavirus outbreak. Over to them...

We understand there is considerable concern regarding the spread of coronavirus. The safety and well-being of British nationals and their dependents is our absolute priority and we will continue to provide updates and essential guidance as the situation develops. To stay updated, please follow us on WeChat (QR code at bottom of page) and forward our official account card to other British nationals in China. For real-time updates of Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel guidance, subscribe by scanning the QR code below:

Essential phone numbers:

  • In a medical emergency: Dial 120 and ask for an ambulance

  • Consular Emergency Assistance 24/7 Hotlines: (+86) (0) 10 8529 6600 / (+44) (0) 207 008 1500

Health and Welfare

How serious is the current situation? Should I be worried?

We understand there is considerable concern regarding the spread of coronavirus. Current Public Health England and World Health Organisation guidance is that, outside the epicentres of Wuhan and Hubei, the risk to the general population posed by novel coronavirus is low provided basic precautions are followed (see below). British nationals should comply with local restrictions and preventive measures where they are based, and monitor developments. Please see Q&A on Leaving China below.

What measures should I be taking to protect myself/others?

Current advice is to prioritise good hand hygiene wash hands frequently, especially before and after meals or putting on or removing a facemask or that of a family member/dependent. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser while outside the home, especially when in public spaces such as shops or public transport, after touching objects that might host viruses such as doorknobs, lift buttons and ATMs. 

Those with children should encourage regular hand-washing and the use of hand sanitiser. Limit your exposure to crowds and other potential sources of infection. When outside the home, local Chinese authorities recommend using a properly-fitted N95 facemask without a ventilator. 

While advice on the efficacy of facemasks varies between countries and health authorities, you may find it difficult to enter public places, access transportation or even enter your own home unless you are wearing a facemask. Therefore, UK guidance is to comply with local regulations and wear a facemask outside the home.

Are certain groups at higher risk than others?

Those who are elderly or infirm, or those with underlying or chronic health problems, should take additional precautions.

Should I submit to temperature checks where I live or elsewhere?

Temperature checks are being implemented in many locations across China, including residential compounds and workplaces, sometimes with no warning. Anyone whose temperature is above what is considered normal (37.3 degrees Celsius/99.14 degrees Fahrenheit) may be reported to the China Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and referred to a state-run fever clinic.

If I fail a temperature check will I be forcibly quarantined; if this happens what support is available?

UK officials are unable to intervene in cases where Chinese officials are implementing local policy. If your temperature is identified as being above the threshold for potential fever you are likely to be referred to a Chinese fever clinic. If this happens to you, please notify the Foreign and Commonwealth Office via our 24/7 crisis hotline at the earliest opportunity (see number above).

I or someone close to me is showing symptoms. What should I/they do?

In a medical emergency, or if someone is displaying severe symptoms such as breathing difficulties, call 120 and ask for an ambulance. This number can connect to an English-speaking service. If you or a family member are feeling unwell, particularly with symptoms associated with novel coronavirus such as fever or dry cough, immediately go to your nearest designated medical facility. Lists of these, often Chinese-language only, are typically being posted in public spaces and widely on social media. Expatriate WeChat groups can be a valuable source of essential information in English but be mindful of the reliability of the information source.

What are the current recommendations regarding self-quarantine?

Self-quarantine means limiting non-essential personal movement outside your home (getting groceries or medical supplies, or seeking necessary medical treatment) and personal contact with others beyond people you live with. If you or someone close to you has been in direct contact with an infected person or someone with flu-like symptoms, or has returned from any province, they should exercise caution and self-quarantine at home for 14 days. If you are returning from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan, you should self-quarantine for 7 days.

Leaving China: British nationals in Wuhan/Hubei

Im currently in Wuhan/Hubei, concerned for my health and welfare and that of my loved ones, and wish to leave. Will the UK Government help me to evacuate?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is in the process of supporting the evacuation of British nationals known to be in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and Hubei province. Any British nationals in this region wishing to be evacuated who has not yet registered with us should do so immediately by calling our 24/7 Consular Emergency Assistance hotline at the numbers above.

I am registered for/am considering registering for an evacuation flight but wish to have Chinese national family members accompany me. Can they?

Chinese nationals classed as immediate family by the local authorities (spouses, parents and children) have been permitted to accompany British nationals on evacuation flights operated by the UK and other countries.

I am registered for/am considering registering for an evacuation flight but wish to have third-country (non-Chinese) national family members accompany me. Can they?

Yes, however individuals will need to have correct paperwork including a valid visa to leave China on any evacuation flight. Please ensure all relevant information is shared with our Consular Emergency Assistance team (numbers above) when registering for an evacuation flight.

If I take an evacuation flight, will I be quarantined on arrival in the UK?

In order to protect public health, and the health and welfare of those boarding evacuation flights from Wuhan/Hubei, all British nationals and immediate family members travelling on these flights will be quarantined for 14 days following arrival. Your ability to contact friends and family during quarantine will not be restricted.

Can I bring baggage on an evacuation flight?

Each passenger is limited to a single item of carry-on baggage of weight not exceeding 15kg. Special arrangements might be made in cases involving those with special needs including infants, disabled or elderly passengers.

Im boarding an evacuation flight but have a pet. What should I do?

Pets are the responsibility of their owners. The UK Government cannot make provisions for the pets of British nationals boarding evacuation flights. Please make your own local arrangements.

Leaving China: British nationals in China outside Wuhan/Hubei

I am currently in China residing outside Wuhan and Hubei. Should I leave China?

Current UK travel advice for British nationals is to leave China, if you are able. The Chinese government continues to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

These restrictions include the closure of some provincial highways and inter-city high speed rail, tight control on entry and exit to villages and townships across the country, and restrictions on movement within some cities and municipalities including Chongqing. 

Some airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have announced a suspension of flights to and from mainland China. Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks.

Will the UK Government help me to evacuate?

We are working on arrangements to evacuate any remaining British nationals from Hubei province who wish to leave. There are commercial flights available for anyone in other areas of China.

Is there a list of international flights still operating routes out of China?

We are aware that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced a suspension of flights to and from mainland China but other airlines are continuing to operate. British nationals in China who need consular support should call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on +44 (0) 207 008 1500.

The situation is changing rapidly and it is the responsibility of those wishing to self-evacuate to ensure they have made appropriate arrangements with airlines. Check reservations on a regular basis and plan for unanticipated delays at airports/in transit. Those with travel insurance should verify coverage regarding emergency situations prior to travel.

Other countries are blocking arrivals from China? Will the UK?

We have no current plans to restrict entry to the UK, but we will keep this constantly under review and follow WHO guidance.

If I self-evacuate, will I be placed in quarantine in the UK on arrival?

No. People arriving from Wuhan and Hubei province to the UK in the last 14 days should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu, and call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area. This applies even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.

The UK is not taking special measures regarding arrivals of any nationality from China beyond standard entry procedures. However, if you believe you may have been exposed to coronavirus or been in contact with another person exhibiting flu-like symptoms, you may wish to take precautions and self-quarantine for a minimum seven days, also informing anyone you might be living with of your concerns.

I wish to self-evacuate from China but I/a loved one does not have a passport. Can I still leave the country?

British nationals who currently lack essential documentation should contact the 24/7 Consular Emergency Assistance hotline at the above number and make UK Consular officials aware of your situation.

I wish to self-evacuate but my partner/spouse/child/someone close to me is a Chinese/foreign national and doesnt have a valid visa for the UK. Can they obtain one?

UK Visas and Immigration operations in China are currently suspended until further notice. British nationals wishing to self-evacuate with accompanying foreign nationals not in possession of a valid UK visa should contact the 24/7 Consular Emergency Assistance hotline and explain your situation to our team.

I am renewing my Chinese visa/residency permit. How can I retrieve my passport from the PSB in order to evacuate?

Chinas visas and immigration services resumed normal operations from Monday, February 3 and the latest information is that processing will continue even if normal working hours are affected by crisis control measures. Please note that processing times may be affected.

Im a British national outside China and wish to return. Can I?

Current Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance is to avoid all non-essential travel to China, and all travel to Wuhan and Hubei province, until further notice. There is no official definition of non-essential travel, it is up to the individual to make their own decisions based on currently available information.

Is the British Embassy/Consulate Generals in China currently open?

The British Embassy in Beijing is focussing efforts on overseeing the coronavirus situation, so is currently closed for routine business. The British Consulates General in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Wuhan are closed until further notice, with Beijing assuming responsibility for essential functions. British nationals in China will continue to have access to 24/7 consular assistance via our UK Consular Emergency Hotline.

The health and wellbeing of UK nationals remains our overwhelming priority. Our crisis response teams in Beijing and London are working tirelessly to secure the evacuation of remaining British nationals and their families from Wuhan and Hubei province, support British nationals in the rest of China affected by the current situation, and monitor the situation as it develops.

Third-Country Nationals

What if my countrys travel advice is different to the UKs?

Third country nationals should follow the instructions of their consular authorities.

Can third-country nationals who are immediate family members of British nationals from Wuhan/Hubei board evacuation flights arranged by the UK Government?

Yes, provided they register with our team on the above numbers and are travelling with a British national. If they wish to travel unaccompanied this may necessitate making separate arrangements via the third-country nationals consulate.

Can third-country nationals who are NOT immediate family members of British nationals from Wuhan/Hubei board evacuation flights arranged by the UK Government?

Any requests of this nature need to first be made with the consulate in China of the individual in question. Any subsequent arrangements including logistics will need to be managed by the individuals consulate and not the UK Government.

Will there be any public health requirements if I return to my country of origin/countries other than the UK?

Other countries may take different approaches from the UK. Please check the information available from public health bodies in the country to which you are intending to travel, and monitor their travel advice.

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[Cover image via Wikimedia Commons]

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