Coronavirus news – live: British Foreign Office pulls staff from China as US declares national emergency and death toll reaches 259

Coronavirus news – live: British Foreign Office pulls staff from China as US declares national emergency and death toll reaches 259

Britain is withdrawing its Foreign Office staff from China hours after dozens of UK nationals were evacuated from the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

They arrived at a hospital in Merseyside on Friday, where they will spend 14 days in quarantine.

Their arrival came as the UK’s first cases of the new disease were confirmed, with health officials urgently trying to trace those who came into contact with two people diagnosed with the virus.

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Meanwhile, China’s death toll from the new virus rose to 259 on Saturday, with the number of confirmed cases reaching 11,791, surpassing the number in the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak.

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Infections have jumped in two cities flanking Wuhan, raising concerns that new hot spots are emerging despite strict travel restrictions.

In one of them, Huanggang, authorities are requiring households to designate one individual who can leave the home, a local newspaper said. The city has a population of about 7.5 million.

The northern city of Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, suspended all schools and businesses until further notice, joining other cities across China in implementing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pathogen.


Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium, illustrating concerns about a slowdown in economic activity in China and elsewhere.


A British citizen who has remained in coronavirus-hit Wuhan to be with his wife and family is worried he will be forgotten by the government.

The Foreign Office has said it will have “limited” ability to help Britons in China after it made the decision to withdraw all but essential staff from the country.

Chris Hill, 38, is one of the Britons who has chosen to remain in the country where he lives with his wife, Caitlyn Gao, and daughter, Renee Gao, who are both Chinese citizens.

He told the PA news agency: “My only worry now is after everybody pulls out the FCO will forget about those who are staying and not give any support for us.”

Mr Hill added: “For British nationals that are staying in Wuhan, but also in China, to have the consulate and embassy evacuating, it’s not a good sight to see really, is it?

“My concerns would basically be that they’re going to completely write off China in the long run. Even though they say that they are trying, it’s also a fear that with pulling all the staff out, they’re just going to go ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of thing.”

Mr Hill, who is from Sunderland, said he received a call from the FCO on Saturday morning saying he, his wife and daughter would be able to get on an evacuation plane bound for France.

But his wife is unable to leave because she works as a nurse at a hospital and is also unwilling to abandon her parents.

“I am not willing to leave her behind and take my daughter,” Mr Hill said. “It’s either we all go or we all stay in Wuhan, which I told the FCO officer and she was shocked at my answer but respected my choice to not break up the family.”

He added: “Family is very important to me so it wasn’t really a hard choice.”


Satellite images also showed a Wuhan almost bereft of cars and people.


Drone footage shows the streets of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, are almost empty as the city remains under lockdown.


Qatar Airways has become the first Middle Eastern airline to ban all flights to China.


Vietnam has declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus and banned all flights to and from China.

The government said it would also stop issuing visas for foreign visitors who had been in China in the past two weeks.

All permits granted for flights between Vietnam and China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau have been revoked until further notice, the government said in a statement.


One of the two individuals in the UK who has tested positive for coronavirus is a student at the University of York, the Press Association reports, citing a university spokesperson.

The spokesman said Public Health England has advised university officials the risk of infection being passed on campus is “low”.

He said: “Public Health England (PHE) have informed us that one of the two individuals to have tested positive for coronavirus is a student at the University of York.

“We understand this development will cause concern and anxiety among our students, staff, and the wider community.

“PHE has advised us that the risk of infection being passed to others on campus is low. Current information from PHE suggests that the student did not come into contact with anybody on campus whilst they had symptoms, but investigations are ongoing to fully establish this.

“Our immediate concerns are for the affected student and family, along with the health and continued wellbeing of our staff, students and visitors.”


China will implement tax exemptions for imports of products related to curbing the coronavirus outbreak, the finance ministry has announced.

Materials directly used for epidemic control will be exempt from import tariffs from 1 January 31 March, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Imports of donations including ambulances and disinfectant products will also be exempt from tariffs, value-added tax and consumption tax, it added.


Video has emerged showing drones being used in some villages and cities in China to remind citizens to wear face masks if they leave their homes, Kate Ng reports:


A plane carrying Indians from Wuhan landed in New Delhi today, and the government said they would be quarantined in a nearby city, Manesar.

Sri Lanka also pulled out more of its citizens and promised to bring out the remaining 204 students.

South Korea’s second evacuation flight landed in Seoul with 330 people from Wuhan. They were to be screened for fever before being taken to two quarantine centers.


After the US barred entry to most foreigners who visited China in the past two weeks, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced similar measures on Saturday, following Japan and Singapore.

On Friday, the US declared a public health emergency and Donald Trump signed an order barring entry to foreign nationals, other than the immediate family of American citizens and permanent residents, who had visited China within the last 14 days. Scientists have said 14 days is the virus’s longest incubation period.

China has criticised the US controls, which it said contradicted the World Health Organisation’s appeal to avoid travel bans.


China’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 259, with the number of known cases increasing from 9,962 to 11,791 today.

No deaths have occurred outside China so far, though cases have been confirmed in at least 23 countries.


The evacuation of Britons from China came as the first two cases of coronavirus in the UK were confirmed by Public Health England (PHE).

PHE confirmed the two people – who are members of the same family – had been staying at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York when they became unwell.

They are being treated by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in its specialist Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centre (HCID).

A specialist outbreak investigation team is working to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the patients, Shaun Lintern reports:


Those taken to Arrowe Park Hospital are being given fully-furnished rooms, food, and laundry facilities, and have access to a team of medical staff who will closely monitor their condition, the Press Association reports.

Kitchens are available for those who wish to self-cater, and families are being kept together, with games consoles, toys and cots provided.


The rescued UK nationals were taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in a convoy of six coaches shortly after 7.15pm Friday. They will spend the next 14 days in quarantine.

The evacuation flight from Wuhan carried 83 Britons and 27 non-UK nationals. It landed at the Brize Norton RAF base in Oxfordshire around 1.30pm.


The Foreign Office has began pulling its staff out of China after evacuating dozens of UK nationals from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan.

Essential staff will remain to continue “critical work,” but the FCO has warned its ability to provide help to Britons in the country may be “limited”.

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