A British lecturer stranded in Wuhan province, the epicentre of the lethal Chinese coronavirus, said last night she has received no information about getting home.
Dr Yvonne Griffiths, 71, from Thornhill in Cardiff, has been posted in Wuhan for three weeks with two colleagues from Birmingham City University.
‘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,’ Dr Griffiths told the BBC.
‘And it seems maybe the British government has a lack of either concern or lack of planning in place, I’m not sure. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty – that’s what’s frustrating at the moment as much as disappointing.’
Dr Yvonne Griffiths, 71, from Thornhill in Cardiff, has been posted in the Chinese province for three weeks with colleagues from Birmingham City University
Medical staff wearing protective clothing to protect against the coronavirus arrive with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on Saturday
The university had arranged for the English language lecturer and her colleagues to fly back on Monday but there have been no updates on when the airport will re-open.
The Foreign Office has said it is available to provide assistance and was last night preparing to charter a flight for 200 citizens and diplomats to be evacuated from Wuhan.
Dr Griffiths, however, said she had tried calling the consulate in Wuhan on Saturday but ‘of course, it’s the weekend so no one is answering.’
She feels that British people in the midst of the global health crisis have been left to deal with the problem themselves.
Dr Griffiths’ daughter Bethan Webber said she and her mother were struggling to sleep with the stress of the situation.
Dr Griffiths described the streets in Wuhan as ‘completely deserted’ and that she had been advised to remain in the hotel where people are wearing face masks.
There have been 1,975 cases in China and a total of 2,010 cases worldwide, with three in France
Dr Griffiths’ daughter Bethan Webber said she and her mother were struggling to sleep with the stress of the situation
The virus has so far killed at least 56 people and another 1,900 have been infected with millions across China put on lock-down.
As of Saturday afternoon, 31 people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been tested for the deadly flu-like virus, but all tests have come back negative, according to the Department of Health (DoH).
There are also no confirmed diagnoses in UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is still classed as low.
Meanwhile, health officials are continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan, the area of China worst affected by the outbreak.
The DoH confirmed it is trying to find ‘as many passengers as we can’ who arrived from the region in the past two weeks to check on their wellbeing.
It is understood Border Force officers have been recruited to help speed up the search for passengers as testing for the virus continues in the UK.
One British man who had travelled to Wuhan to visit his girlfriend is stuck in the city after his return flight on February 3 was cancelled, and he described trying to get out of the area as ‘impossible’.
Passengers arriving at heathrow airport wearing masks, so far there have not been any confirmed cases in the UK
The 29-year-old, who did not want to be named, said: ‘There have been sporadic warnings from local government in Chinese to tell us that there will be road closures.
‘There is no news on when the airport will re-open therefore the airline (China Southern) have just cancelled the flight.
‘I’ve also had no help from the UK Embassy in Beijing who are conveniently closed for the weekend.’
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said there is a ‘fair chance’ cases will emerge in Britain as the overall number reported around the world climbed to more than 1,200, including 41 deaths – all in China.
The professor spoke following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee in Whitehall on Friday, chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
He said: ‘I am working closely with the other UK chief medical officers.
‘We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage.’
He added: ‘The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.
‘A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today. This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures.’
Medics attending to patients at the Central Hospital of Wuhan on Saturday
In an interview, Prof Whitty said: ‘We think there’s a fair chance we may get some cases over time.
‘Of course this depends on whether this continues for a long time, or whether this turns out to be something which is brought under control relatively quickly.’
He added: ‘I think we should definitely see this as a marathon, not a sprint, we need to have our entire response based on that principle.
‘At the minute it definitely looks like this is a lot less dangerous if you get it than Ebola, and a lot less dangerous than the recent coronavirus MERS, and it’s probably less dangerous if you get it than SARS virus.
‘What we don’t know is how far it’s going to spread, that really is something we need to plan for all eventualities.’