Lancaster grandmother trapped in Wuhan due to coronavirus outbreak expected to fly back to UK today

A Lancaster grandmother trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan following the outbreak of coronoavirus is expected to fly back to the UK today, Friday.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 9:41 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 9:42 am
Veronica Theobald from Lancaster, who was trapped in Wuhan, appearing on ITV News.

Veronica Theobald, 81, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had not left the house where she has been staying in more than a week for fear of falling ill.

Veronica, who was running short of vital medication, had been visiting her grandson, Kharn Lambert, who has lived in the city for five years, and was due to fly back to England on Monday.

However, her return was cancelled after the city was placed on lockdown over the deadly virus outbreak, which has so far killed 213 people.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a flight carrying 150 Britons and 50 EU citizens was scheduled to leave China for at 7am local time (11pm GMT Thursday), but it was delayed.

According to the BBC, they will fly to RAF Brize Norton before the UK nationals are quarantined at a centre believed to be Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral.

The remaining passengers will then fly to another EU airport.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared an international public health emergency over the outbreak.

And the UK's four chief medical officers have said they were raising the risk level from low to moderate.

"This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities," a joint statement said.

They added that it was "likely" there would be "individual" cases of coronavirus in the UK.

But they said they were confident the heath services would be able to protect the public and provide high quality care.

So far, the virus has caused 213 deaths in China, where health officials have confirmed 9,692 cases.

Elsewhere, 98 cases have been confirmed across 15 other countries.

As of Wednesday, 161 tests have been carried out on people across the UK - all with negative results.

The flight to repatriate UK citizens comes as airline Virgin Atlantic announced it had suspended its flights between Britain and China due to fears about the spread of the virus.

'Supported isolation'

Passengers flying from Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, will be checked by Chinese officials at a handling centre in the airport, then taken to its departure area where they will be met by British officials.

Anyone who is unwell will not be allowed to board the flight, which will have a team of Ministry of Defence medics on board.

Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood said she was told by the health secretary that the government did not think any of the people being flown back from Wuhan would be carrying the virus.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym said he understood UK passengers would be taken to NHS staff accommodation.

They will be put in "supported isolation" for 14 days with "all necessary medical attention", a Downing Street spokesman said.

The flight had been due to leave Wuhan earlier but was delayed because of a lack of clearance from Chinese authorities.

In a statement, Mr Raab said: "The safety and security of British nationals is our top priority.

"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."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lancaster University, which has around 2,300 Chinese students on campus, said: “Lancaster University is continuing to monitor the global situation with the coronavirus and will issue further advice to students and staff as it becomes available from the World Health Organisation, Public Health England and other organisations.”