Coronavirus: Britain charters 'second and final' Wuhan evacuation flight

Some 83 British citizens returned on a UK government-chartered flight from Wuhan to Brize Norton on Jan 31, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - Britain will charter what it said was a "second and final" flight this weekend to evacuate its nationals from China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The civilian aircraft will leave Hubei's capital Wuhan on Sunday, bound for the Royal Air Force base at Brize Norton in southern England.

Medics and Foreign Office officials will be on board to provide support if necessary.

"We have been working round the clock to help British nationals leave Hubei province, on UK, French and New Zealand flights," said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

"The Foreign Office is chartering a second and final UK flight with space to help all British nationals and their dependants remaining in Hubei to leave.

"I encourage all British nationals in Hubei to register with our teams if they want to leave on this flight."

Britain has advised all its nationals in China to leave.

Some 83 British citizens returned from Wuhan on a UK government-chartered flight from Wuhan to Brize Norton last Friday.

They were then sent into 14 days' isolation at a medical facility in north-west England.

So far, there have been two confirmed cases of the virus infection in Britain, two relatives who had recently been to China.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC television that the pair remained in quarantine.

"There are two cases only here in the UK but we do expect more, so we are taking no chances," he added.

Mr Hancock said people returning from China would not be quarantined and should instead "self-isolate" at home and call medics if they show symptoms, rather than go to a hospital, for fear of spreading the virus.

Eight British nationals and six of their family members left China on a flight to New Zealand on Tuesday.

More than 24,000 people have been infected in China. The virus has already killed nearly 500 people.

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