Wales

China coronavirus: Cardiff lecturer 'stranded' in Wuhan

Dr Yvonne Griffiths
Image caption Dr Yvonne Griffiths is in a hotel room in Wuhan

A lecturer "stranded" in China in the coronavirus outbreak will not be able to leave unless the UK government intervenes, her daughter said.

Dr Yvonne Griffiths, 71, from Thornhill in Cardiff, has been in Wuhan for three weeks with two colleagues on behalf of Birmingham City University.

She had been due to fly back on Monday but her flight has been cancelled and public transport is on lockdown.

The coronavirus has killed more than 50 people and infected thousands.

An airlift for Britons stuck in Hubei province by the coronavirus outbreak is being kept "under review", the UK government said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all travel there and advised anyone able to leave to do so.

Dr Griffiths' daughter Bethan Webber said a government airlift would now be her mother's only option.

"The Foreign Office advice is just ridiculous, they're telling everybody to leave and in the next sentence that everything is shut down," she said.

"Short of the government getting her out there's no getting out.

"They say they're reviewing and monitoring the situation but they don't really know who's there, there's no contact with the people that I know are there to be able to monitor it effectively.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The effectiveness of certain masks has been questioned

"It feels like British people are being left to their own devices in this crisis."

Ms Webber added her mother was getting more anxious about the spread of the virus.

"There have been some mixed messages about masks and their effectiveness, that's adding more uncertainty and it's more scary than if you think you're going to be protected by wearing a mask and then suddenly everyone is saying you may not be," she said.

"She's ok, she has to be ok really, but there's a bit more panic about the actual illness and the rate of the infection spreading."

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The virus originated in Wuhan City, Hubei province, and has infected 2,000 people since its discovery

Speaking to BBC News, Dr Griffiths said: "We've noticed everybody wearing masks now, the government has instructed that... so everybody in shops, on the streets, in the hotel where we are, you will see nobody without a mask now.

"We're also getting information about different types of masks, that some of them are not effective. We went today to try to buy some better ones.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, I think it's the uncertainty really that is the worst for us because we're not sure when we will be able to get out.

"All the transport links are closed so I find it a little bit surprising that we're being told to leave if we can when there is no possible route."

'Completely deserted'

Dr Griffiths, who is originally from Holywood near Belfast, Northern Ireland, works as an English language lecturer and is in Wuhan due to its twinning with Birmingham City University.

She said of the Chinese city: "It's just changed completely in the last few days in terms of normal people going around their normal business.

"We've moved hotels and the young man from the previous hotel came and took us in a car to a local supermarket today and the roads are completely deserted.

"I don't think we passed another vehicle in a very busy, normally busy part of Wuhan."

Dr Griffiths, who also works for Cardiff Metropolitan University but is not in China in that role, said her hotel is comfortable, warm and well-stocked with food.

"But outside really there's nowhere to go.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption More people have been spotted wearing masks in London in recent days where many are celebrating the Lunar New Year

"We've been advised by various people and the university too, to not really go out too much."

But she said she would like more information from the British Embassy.

"I've tried calling the consulate in Wuhan and, of course, it's the weekend so no one is answering.

"Although there's been so much in the media about the virus and about the risk of students travelling back and forwards from the UK, there doesn't seem to be anything about stranded individuals like ourselves."

Ms Webber said her mother still had not been able to speak to the embassy and was trying an emergency line.

The FCO said it was monitoring the situation in China "closely" and is advising against all but essential travel to Hubei Province.

A spokesperson added: "We have updated our travel advice and are keeping it under review.

"Our consular team are ready to assist any British people who need help."

Labour MP for Cardiff North Anna McMorrin - the local MP for Dr Griffiths - said: "I'm very worried about her being stranded there and other UK nationals.

"The government is not stepping up and acting quickly or urgently enough."

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