Why has Britain still not barred visitors who’ve been to China in the last 14 days? UK under pressure to ban ALL flights from the country amid furious backlash over coronavirus ‘shambles’ after US, Italy, Australia and New Zealand introduce strict rules
- Almost 25,000 people have now been infected in the outbreak and 493 are dead
- The UK will operate its second official evacuation flight from Wuhan on Sunday
- There is currently no routine screening of passengers arriving from China
- But stricter measures could come in after advice for all Brits there to leave
- Are you a Brit in China and considering leaving the country? Email [email protected]
The UK is considering a blanket ban on all flights from China and on foreign citizens entering the country if they have been to China in the last two weeks, reports suggest.
It could follow in the footsteps of the US, which has put a stop to any non-Americans entering the country if they have come from China.
Italy, Australia and New Zealand have taken similar steps, and authorities in France and Germany – potentially the EU as a whole – are also considering the move.
Currently, the UK has no routine screening of people arriving from China because there is such a slim chance of them showing symptoms during the time they are in the airport, MailOnline understands.
There are, however, checks on people being evacuated from the crisis-hit Hubei province, and doctors on standby at London Heathrow for anyone who becomes ill.
Dramatic advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) yesterday urged all Brits currently in China – thought to be around 30,000 people – to leave the country.
The developments come as the number of global cases has soared to almost 25,000 and 493 people have died.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he expects more cases to appear in the UK – there have been two so far – and that the worst of the outbreak was yet to come.
The Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, has slammed the Government’s response during the entire outbreak as ‘a shambles’.
The UK Government is reportedly considering stopping all direct flights from China to the UK and preventing non-British people from entering the country if they have been in China in the past two weeks. Pictured, passengers wearing face masks at London Heathrow this month
Almost 25,000 people have now been infected with the coronavirus which is spreading out of China, and 492 have died
Getting out of China is becoming increasingly difficult as dozens of commercial airlines around the world have stopped flying to the country. Pictured, passengers wait in the deserted departures hall of Shanghai’s Pudong Airport
The UK is one of a few countries to have dished out the unprecedented advice that all residents should leave China, if they can.
Others have put strict rules in place to protect their citizens, such as barring foreign travellers and deporting those who get infected.
Most are quarantining anyone returning from the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is capital.
US officials temporarily banned foreign nationals who have been to China in the past two weeks from entering the US. The order excludes immediate family of US citizens..
Foreign travellers who have left or passed through mainland China will be barred from Australia. Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be exempt from the strict measures.
Italy, which has had two cases of coronavirus, has declared a state of emergency and stopped all flights to and from China.
Taiwan announced it would ban foreigners who have visited mainland China over the past 14 days from entering the island.
Russia has restricted border crossings from China. Some flights are still allowed but everyone will be screened at a separate terminal in Moscow. The government said it may deport foreigners are diagnosed with the virus.
Whether the UK Government puts the drastic measures in place will depend on how the outbreak develops in the coming days and weeks, The Times reports.
Its response to the coronavirus has escalated in the past week. A total of 416 people have been tested for the virus in the UK, with just two returning positive.
A second UK-run evacuation flight will be sent to Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, on Sunday in a bid to bring any remaining Britons home.
The first landed last Friday, January 31, carrying 83 British passengers who are now in quarantine at a hospital in Merseyside. A further 11 arrived on Sunday.
However, the Government’s response has been critcised for poor organisation, after passengers hoping to get on the first flight were given just two hours’ notice to get to the airport.
And those who did arrive were driven almost 200 miles by coach drivers without any protective equipment.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: ‘From the very start of this outbreak, the government’s response has been a total shambles, and now they appear to be telling British nationals in China simply to fend for themselves in terms of getting out of the country.
‘How on earth has the Foreign Office not got plans and protocols in place for how these crises are managed?
‘The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens, at home and abroad, and Boris Johnson is manifestly failing to do that.’
Britain’s borders remain open to travellers from China, while other Western countries have tightened rules to control who can enter freely.
The US, Australia, New Zealand and Italy have all put some form of ban on people travelling across their borders from China.
However, there are still direct flights to London Heathrow from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
France and Germany still have open borders but the governments there are considering shutting out travellers from China, too.
The snowy streets of Beijing are deserted today, February 5, as people stay home and avoid crowded places to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus
A maintenance worker is pictured clearing snow in a deserted shopping mall in Beijing today, February 5. Many businesses are still closed while the nation’s efforts focus on stopping coronavirus
A team of people with disinfecting equipment is pictured working in a railway station in Kunming, Yunnan, China
Jens Spahn, German health minister, raised the issue at a meeting alongside his French counterpart, Agnès Buzyn.
Mr Spahn said: ‘Indeed, there is the question of possible travel restrictions or at least increased examination (of travellers) at the border.’
WHAT IS THE NEW FOREIGN OFFICE ADVICE?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday made the unprecedented step of advising all British nationals in China to leave, if they can.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that there are an estimated 30,000 British citizens scattered across China.
Ministers are not expected to organise evacuation flights for anyone outside the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is capital.
Instead, it said commercial airline options for departing China remain available elsewhere in the country.
Mr Raab said: ‘The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority.
‘As such, we now advise British nationals in China to leave the country if they can, to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
‘Where there are still British Nationals in Hubei province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this.’
He added that because of the borderless travel allowed within the EU, all of Europe would have to make the same move at once if it were to be effective.
‘It makes no sense that a single country takes measures,’ he added.
Ms Buzyn, France’s minister for solidarity and health, agreed and said: ‘[Travel restriction] is one of the questions for European ministers. We must have a coherent vision in the (passport-free) Schengen area.
‘There is no sense in one country taking this type of decision while citizens move around freely.’
The Government says it has a dedicated team of public health experts at Heathrow to support anyone who feels unwell arriving from China.
The World Health Organisation and Chinese authorities have expressed disappointment at other countries’ decisions to shut their borders.
Even where governments have not changed the rules, many commercial airlines have taken matters into their own hands and suspended flight routes.
Virgin Atlantic is still flying from Beijing to London, but British Airways last week stopped its regular flights between London and Beijing and Shanghai.
And the final commercial flights into the US from China will land today, Wednesday, meaning no American airlines will continue the route across the Pacific.
Other airlines which have suspended all services to and from mainland China include Air France, Air Seoul, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Egyptair, El Israeli Airlines, Finnair (from Feb 6), Iberia Airlines, Kenya Airways, Lion Air, Lufthansa, Oman Air, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, all Russian airlines except Aeroflot, Rwandair, SAS (Norway), Saudia, Scoot (Singapore), Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, United Airlines, Vietjet, Vietnam Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Those which have reduced their services are Air Canada, Air India, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, LOT Polish Airlines and Philippines Airlines.
Chinese airlines, however, are still operating flights out of Chinese cities, with some available to the UK.
Air China is flying out of Beijing, as well as from Shanghai.
China Eastern is flying out of Shanghai; China Southern is flying from Guangzhou; and Tianjin Airlines and Hainan Airlines are flying out of Chongqing.
The number of people confirmed to have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus is now around 25,000 and has spiked sharply since the outbreak took off in late January
Nearly 500 people have died of the virus so far. Most of the deaths have been among elderly people or those with long-term illnesses
Briton stranded in tiny Chinese village is told to make his own way home by Foreign Office
London-born Navjot Singh, 40, flew to China on January 20 with his Chinese wife Vicky and their two-year-old daughter Tara to celebrate the Lunar New Year as well as his birthday.
But their holiday was turned upside down after their return flights were cancelled repeatedly in the wake of the epidemic.
After seeking help from the Foreign Office hotline in desperation, Mr Singh said he was advised to make his own arrangements because the authority said they could only help British expats in Wuhan and Hubei Province.
Navjot Singh, 40, flew from London to Shanghai on January 20 with his Chinese wife Vicky and their two-year-old daughter Tara
‘Foreign Office could do better for Brits in all of China, not just Wuhan,’ Mr Singh, an author, said as he stayed at his in-laws’ home in the village of Dinggou outside Yangzhou, some 400 miles from Wuhan.
Mr Singh, who lives in Dulwich, said they were due to fly back to London from Shanghai via Switzerland on February 2, but their flight was cancelled.
Their airline, Lufthansa, put them on another flight operated by Air China, but that flight was also cancelled.
They were then transferred to a third flight, also by Air China, which was due to take off today.
Mr Singh said Dinggou, where his wife’s family live, became a ghost town overnight after locals heard about the coronavirus.
And the residents started to take up preventative measures after a young woman living in a village about 30 minutes away were said to have been diagnosed with the virus on January 24.
He said villagers started to dig up roads and install checkpoints to prevent outsiders from coming in. They even armed themselves with weapons in case of an emergency.
Mr Singh said his wife’s family had to call off their Chinese New Year dinner and he also decided to scrap his birthday bash, which would have involved more than 100 people.
MailOnline has contacted the Foreign Office regarding the situation of Mr Singh and other Britons who are currently in China but outside of Hubei Province.
It said it did not comment on individual cases and advised British citizens to refer to its travel advice.
What do we know about the Wuhan coronavirus?
Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.
At least 490 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 24,000 have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases. Here’s what we know so far:
What is the Wuhan coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
WHAT HAVE OTHER COUNTRIES DONE TO TRY AND STOP THE CORONAVIRUS?
The US temporarily banned foreign nationals who have been to China in the past two weeks from entering America. President Donald Trump signed an order on Friday denying entry to foreign nationals. But the immediate family of US citizens were exempt from that order
Australia has banned entry for any Chinese travellers or foreign passengers who have passed through the mainland. But Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families will be exempt from the strict measures
New Zealand has closed its borders to any foreigners arriving from China – including passengers who passed through in transit
Officials in Italy have suspended all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan until the end of April
Japan has barred entry for anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus. No travellers from Wuhan are allowed to enter – even if they don’t have symptoms
Officials suspended visa-free tourist travel to and from China. Russia also closed its 2,609-mile (4,200km)-long eastern border with China
Authorities in Mongolia have shut the border with China until March
Vietnam have banned all flights to and from China, as well as Macau and Hong Kong, until May
North Korea was one of the first countries to shut its borders, introducing the measure on January 21
South Korea has banned all foreign travellers who have passed through Wuhan in the past 14 days
All arriving tourists from China have been asked to provide medical certificates to prove they are free of the virus
Officials have suspended all forms of passenger travel to and from neighbouring China. The country has also suspended the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens
Authorities have decided to ban entry to all foreign nationals who have visited mainland China in the past two weeks
Malaysia has suspended all visa-on-arrivals for any visitors from Hubei province
Mozambique has suspended visas for any visitors from China
Singapore has banned travellers who have been to mainland China in the past 14 days. Existing visas have also been suspended
India has cancelled existing visas for Chinese nationals and foreign travellers who have passed through the country in the last two weeks
Bangladesh has suspend visa-on-arrivals for all travellers from China
Israel has banned all incoming flights from China. China’s acting ambassador to Israel had to apologise after comparing the travel ban to the turning away of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust
Myanmar has suspended the issuance of visas for all visitors from China
South Korea has temporarily barred foreigners from entering if they have visited or stayed in Hubei in the past two weeks
Authorities banned all travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau – except for Filipino citizens and holders of permanent residency visas
Hong Kong closed all but three border crossings with the mainland
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Papua New Guinea has shut its air and seaports to all foreign travellers from Asia. Its land border with West Papua has also been closed
Indonesian officials have banned all flights from mainland China. They have also withdrawn visa-free entry for Chinese nationals
Nepal has closed two checkpoints on the Chinese border for 15 days
Iraq has banned entry for all foreign nationals travelling from China
Uzbekistan has cancelled all flights from China
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.
By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.
Where does the virus come from?
Nobody knows for sure. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
Bats are a prime suspect – researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a recent statement: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.’
And another scientific journal article has suggested the virus first infected snakes, which may then have transmitted it to people at the market in Wuhan.
Peking University researchers analysed the genes of the coronavirus and said they most closely matched viruses which are known to affect snakes. They said: ‘Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,’ in the Journal of Medical Virology.
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has so far killed 490 people out of a total of at least 24,000 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.
Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.
Can the virus be cured?
The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology .
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.
She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.
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