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Coronavirus: Britons on Wuhan flights to be quarantined

By Wendy Amarteifio
Coronavirus: Britons on Wuhan flights to be quarantined
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Hundreds of British citizens being flown back to the UK from Wuhan on Thursday will be put in quarantine for two weeks.

It comes as British Airways suspends all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Australia, Japan, the US and the EU are also repatriating citizens.

The virus has caused more than 100 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries. The UK government plans to fly 200 British citizens out from Wuhan, the centre of the new coronavirus outbreak, on Thursday.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has instructed officials to put them in quarantine for two weeks - possibly at a military base.

Sources told the BBC the returning Britons will be given the best possible medical care and advice.

Australia plans to quarantine it's 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island - some 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland.

Japan, the US and other EU countries are also repatriating their citizens.

British Airways, which operates daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow, announced the suspension of flights to and from mainland China "with immediate effect" until 31 January while it assesses the situation.

A statement said: "We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority."

Other airlines, including United Airlines, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific Airways, have already cancelled some flights to China.

The number of deaths from the virus has risen to 132 in China, the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) said on Wednesday.

Four cases have been confirmed in Germany, making it the second European country to report cases, after France.

The United Arab Emirates has also confirmed its first cases of the virus in a family who recently returned to the UAE from Wuhan. An expert from the NHC said it could take 10 more days for the outbreak to peak.

Like similar Sars and influenza viruses, the new coronavirus is a particular risk for elderly people and those with pre-existing illnesses.

The sharp rise in cases is in part attributed to increased awareness, monitoring and testing in recent days.

The virus, which can cause severe acute respiratory infection, is thought to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

There is no specific cure or vaccine. A number of people, however, have recovered after treatment.