Coronavirus: My wife must stay in Wuhan, says British man

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media captionJeff Siddle's wife will have to stay behind in Wuhan when he leaves with their daughter

A British man and his daughter have been offered a flight to the UK from Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, but his Chinese wife has been told she must stay behind.

Up to 200 Britons will be flown out of China on Thursday, and put into quarantine for two weeks in the UK.

Jeff Siddle, from Northumberland, told Radio 4's Today he had to decide whether to leave with his nine-year-old daughter or keep his family together.

"My wife is distraught," he said.

"The Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave."

It comes after the UK Foreign Office advised all but essential travel to China because of the virus outbreak, which has spread across the country and to at least 16 other countries, causing more than 130 deaths.

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the virus.

Mr Siddle and his family travelled to Wuhan to spend Chinese New Year with relatives.

They were due to return to the UK on 1 February, but their flight was cancelled. Up to 300 British people are thought to be stranded in the Hubei area.

media captionNorthumberland family torn apart by coronavirus

Mr Siddle said travel restrictions meant only he and his daughter would be allowed on board an airlift out of the city on Thursday.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today, he said: "My wife's a Chinese citizen although she's got a permanent residency visa for the UK as a spouse.

"The Foreign Office are saying they're going to be doing an airlift possibly tomorrow but it's only British citizens."

He added: "I had to make a decision where it's either my nine-year-old daughter, who's got a British passport, and myself to leave - and leave my wife here in China - or the three of us stay.

"We'd have to have a nine-year-old child separated from her mother. Who knows how long that could be for?

"My daughter's obviously been in floods of tears. She's absolutely devastated."

image captionBritish PE teacher Kharn Lambert was prepared to stay in Wuhan - and send his grandmother home - to avoid spreading the virus

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered that hundreds of British citizens flying in to the UK from Wuhan, in China, on Thursday be put into quarantine.

They could be held at a military facility in the UK for two weeks, he said.

Earlier, British PE teacher Kharn Lambert, who lives in Wuhan, told the Victoria Derbyshire programme he gave up his place on the flight to the UK over the "potential to infect other people on the way home".

He claimed passengers were told it was their responsibility to find transport back to their home-towns and to "self-isolate", describing the plans as "ludicrous".

Mr Lambert added that he ensured that his 81-year-old grandmother, Veronica Theobold, was still booked on the flight as it was better for her "to be at home than at risk".

She has been stranded in Wuhan with a dwindling supply of medicine for her lung condition.

Speaking after the UK quarantine plans were announced, Mr Lambert was unsure whether he would still be allowed to evacuate with other Britons.

"I think it will be too late for me, but that's a consequence of the government releasing tentative rather than concrete information and the time difference that we have between here and the UK," he said.

Meanwhile, British lecturer Yvonne Griffiths, who is currently in a hotel in Wuhan, said she was told in the early hours of Wednesday morning that there would be a flight from Wuhan airport to the UK.

She said they were told Stansted Airport in London was a possible destination, but that had not been confirmed - nor had timings - and they had been put on standby.

"We have to be there six to seven hours before the flight leaves, and we would have a screening from some health people here in Wuhan, and if we are not showing any symptoms then we'll be able to board that plane.

"If we were to be suffering temperature or any other symptoms, breathing problems, then there seems to be a possibility of quarantining at this end."

Coronavirus in China

  • 132Deaths

  • 5,974Confirmed cases

  • 9,239Suspected cases

  • 16Other countries with confirmed cases

Source: China National Health Commission as of the end of 28 January; WHO

Hundreds of foreign nationals have been evacuated from Wuhan since the outbreak.

Australia plans to quarantine its 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.

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.

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