Residents on The Wirral in Merseyside have reacted to the news that 150 Britons being evacuated from China in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic will be housed in a unit at Arrowe Park Hospital.
The flight was scheduled to leave the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan in central China, at 11pm on Thursday evening UK time.
When the 200 people that includes 50 EU nationals land at RAF base Brize Norton in Oxfordshire the British contingent will then be ferried to the secure unit in the north east by bus, while the others will go home from the military base.
Pictured: Arrowe Park Hospital. It is understood that people returning will be taken to staff accommodation at the flagship hospital
None of the people on board the flight, manned by military medics, are believed to be infected but residents on the peninsula across the river Mersey have voiced their concerns that the virus appears to be getting a little too close to home.
Some people living in the Wirral region took to social media to express their concerns at the move, while others tried to reassure locals they will not be at risk.
Jane Godman wrote on Twitter, ‘Decision to have a coronavirus quarantine centre at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral is bizzare (sic). One of the busiest hospitals in the North West, with a maternity unit, in a built up area, 170 miles from where the Wuhan plane lands. Who decided this and why?’
Phillip Cunnington, who lives in nearby Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, tweeted his reaction to a Sky News tweet saying the evacuees were being taken to The Wirral.
He said: ‘Oh great, Wirral’s in the news, you don’t often see that, so often overshadowed by Liverpool, it’d be great to see it get some positive pub… Oh.’
‘Why are they coming here??? Keep them there until they are clear!!!!’ wrote another person in a slightly more concerned manner.
A former student accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital. It is understood that this is where 150 people will be quarantined for two weeks
Asked whether she was informed of the decision, Labour MP for Wirral South Alison McGovern tweeted: ‘No. No one has informed me. Awaiting a call. Will be asking Dept for Health to make sure that those being brought to Wirral be made as comfortable as possible.
‘Know my constituents will feel for them and will back our brilliant NHS staff to do everything necessary to help.’
The news comes as 213 people have now died in China after contracting the coronavirus and the number of global cases has soared to 9,692, at the time of writing.
British evacuees will land in Brize Norton and then be taken by bus to an NHS facility on the Wirral
The group will be housed in a seven-storey NHS staff block with a pool table, TVs and wi-fi, including access to outdoor areas.
Last week, the World Health Organisation said it was ‘too early’ to declare an international public health emergency but on Thursday said action was needed to help countries to prepare for the possibility of it spreading further.
‘What did The Wirral do to deserve this?’ asked another person online. Another concerned person added their thoughts, saying: ‘This is very worrying and will cause panic in the Liverpool area. Why has the Wirral been chosen?’
‘Touché Boris Johnson touché,’ tweeted one woman in jest. ‘Picking the wirral to eradicate us for voting labour. I get it.’
Pictures posted on social media by Emily Xiao appear to show buses getting ready to take Brits to Wuhan Tianhe Airport ready for their flight
Janelle Holmes, chief executive of Wirral University Hospital, sent a message to staff on Thursday evening, saying: ‘Around 100 British citizens will be travelling to the UK from China tomorrow.
‘We will be welcoming and housing them in the accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital.
‘Before arrival they will be screened for symptoms. If anyone becomes unwell after arrival they will be treated following appropriate protocols.’
It is understood passengers will have access to the internet and be able to make contact with family.
None of the people on board the flight are believed to be infected but residents on the peninsula have voiced their concerns that the virus appears to be getting too close to home
Some social media users posted amusing memes to keep their spirits up