AFP – January 31, 2020
Britain has received clearance to evacuate its citizens and a number of other foreign nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of a deadly virus outbreak, London said on Thursday.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the charter flight would leave early on Friday morning local time, after receiving the necessary clearance from Beijing.
“We are pleased to have confirmation from the Chinese authorities that the evacuation flight from Wuhan airport to the UK can depart at 0500 local time on Friday, 31 January,” he said.
“Our embassy in Beijing and consular teams remain in close contact with British nationals in the region to ensure they have the latest information they need.”
London had hoped the flight could leave the central city of Wuhan on Thursday morning UK time, but on Wednesday evening was forced to tell those waiting to board that it would be delayed.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a number of countries had similar issues.
The flight — a Spanish charter — is due to return to Royal Air Force base Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, south central England, the spokesman told reporters.
Those on board will be isolated for 14 days at a medical facility in the northwest of England.
About 200 people will be on the plane, including about 50 foreign, mainly EU nationals. The Britons will disembark at Brize Norton. The plane will then go on to Spain, the spokesman said.
The Wuhan metropolis is at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic that has so far killed 170 people and spread to at least 15 countries around the world.
China reported its biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, deepening global fears about the extent of the outbreak.
Thousands of foreigners have been trapped in Wuhan since it was sealed off last week.
Japan and the United States became the first countries to organise airlifts out of Wuhan for their citizens on Wednesday.
Britain is joined by Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, in planning similar operations.