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Coronavirus: Wuhan Britons end quarantine as cruise passengers isolate

People leave Kents Hill Park near Milton Keynes Image copyright PA Media

More than 100 Britons rescued from China have left isolation, as dozens of people from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship begin a two-week quarantine.

UK citizens previously evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan - the centre of the virus outbreak - have ended their isolation in Milton Keynes.

It comes a day after those rescued from the Diamond Princess ship in Japan were taken to Wirral's Arrowe Park Hospital.

On Saturday, the government confirmed that no new UK cases had been detected.

People with backpacks and suitcases were pictured getting into waiting taxis outside Kents Hill Park conference centre in the east side of Milton Keynes, where 118 UK nationals and their family members were isolated.

Paul Wilkinshaw, 39, who left the centre with his wife Lihong, 33, said it "feels weird" to not require protective equipment.

"It feels fantastic to leave, although it feels weird not having to wear a mask and gloves in public," Mr Wilkinshaw said.

Image caption Bill To said "everything was excellent" during his two-week quarantine in Milton Keynes

"It was really good, everything was excellent. I'm happy I can go home now," another evacuee, Bill To, said.

"I'm going to get some Chinese food. Everything is good."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commended the group "for their patience and perseverance".

At the scene

Vinnie O'Dowd, BBC News

The last of those in quarantine at Kents Hill Park training centre left just before 12:00 GMT.

The 118 people isolated here for two weeks were treated to pizza, katsu curry and steaks.

They were also offered microwave meals and goods such as smartphones, with SIM cards, and brand-new suitcases.

We spoke to Bill To, who said his first day from quarantine would be partly spent seeking out his first Chinese meal in two weeks.

Others said they were just glad to be leaving and had sumptuous praise for the NHS staff that tended to them during their stay.

The Department of Health provided care and also splashed out on entertainment such as basketball nets and football posts, fitness dumbbells, and Netflix accounts.

However, there was a function to the frills.

It kept those in quarantine happy and relaxed, as each of them were tested for coronavirus three times over the two weeks of their stay.

It came as the Foreign Office amended its travel advice for South Korea as cases of the new coronavirus, and the disease it causes, increased.

It advised against all but essential travel to the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo in the country, which have been declared "special care zones" by South Korean authorities.

The latest group of Britons to be evacuated - passengers from the cruise liner Diamond Princess - arrived at Arrowe Park on Saturday.

The 30 Britons and two Irish citizens will spend the next 14 days isolated from the world in nurses' accommodation.

They have already spent two weeks in quarantine on board the ship, but since then 600 passengers and crew have tested positive for the new virus.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Those evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship landed at Boscombe Down, a MoD base in Wiltshire

Four Britons from the ship who recently tested positive for the new coronavirus were not on the latest evacuation flight.

They include David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, who have since been diagnosed with pneumonia, according to their family.

They are being treated in a Japanese hospital.

Hospital 'blueprint'

Arrowe Park was previously used to isolate 83 British nationals who were flown back to the UK from Wuhan.

The chief executive of Wirral Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Janelle Holmes, said the hospital was using its previous experience as a "blueprint" for treating the new group.

In other developments:

  • Italy has introduced "extraordinary measures" to tackle the spread of the new virus there after the number of cases in the country rose to 79 - including two Italian citizens who have died
  • Restrictions by the Italian government led to the postponement of the Scotland Women's Six Nations rugby match on Sunday, with plans put in place to bring staff and players back to the UK
  • In South Korea, a fourth person has died and the number of confirmed cases has jumped to more than 550, an increase of more than 100 on the previous day. Most cases are linked to a hospital and a religious group near the south-eastern city of Daegu
  • Israel refused to allow some 200 non-Israelis to disembark from a plane which had arrived from South Korea, sending them back to Seoul; the 12 Israelis on board were quarantined
  • Iran reported its fifth death from the disease, and ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres in 14 provinces

The BBC's medical correspondent Fergus Walsh said it seems increasingly likely that the spread of the new coronavirus will become a pandemic - or global outbreak.

"The combined situation in South Korea, Iran and Italy point to the early stages of pandemic," he said. "In each of these countries we are seeing spread of the virus with no connection to China."

Chinese health authorities reported a decrease in the rate of deaths and new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. Some 76,392 cases including 2,348 deaths have been confirmed in China.

The head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the greatest concern now was countries with weaker health systems, particularly in Africa.

In the UK, a total of 6,152 people have been tested for the virus, as of 14:00 GMT on Saturday. Nine people have tested positive.


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