Priti Patel says ministers looking at 'all options' to help Brits trapped in Wuhan amid coronavirus outbreak

Posted On: 
26th January 2020

Ministers are looking at "all options" to help more than 200 Britons stuck in Wuhan amid the coronavirus epidemic, Priti Patel has said.

Medical staff receive training on the virus in Wuhan, China.
Credit: 
PA

The Home Secretary confirmed that no cases of the deadly new virus had yet been detected in Britain.

But she refused to deny newspaper reports that the Government is considering emergency airlifts for UK nationals trapped in the country.

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The coronavirus has killed at least 56 people since its discovery in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and isolated cases have since been confirmed in Australia, France and the United States.

Asked if there were still no confirmed cases in the UK on Sunday morning, Ms Patel told Sky News' Niall Paterson: "That's right. That's absolutely right."

It was reported in the Sun on Sunday that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has asked officials to explore the possibility of airlifting those affected out of Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province.

A source told the paper: "a number of things need to fall into place on the Chinese side before we can make any firm promises".

Pressed on the possibility of airlifts, Ms Patel said: "We're looking at all options. 

"I'm not going to comment specifically on newspaper stories, but it's right that we look at all options and that's exactly what the Government is doing right now."

Public Health England, which is tasked with protecting the country from public health hazards, has set up a dedicated hub at Heathrow airport as officials try to trace around 2,000 people who have recently flown back to the UK from the Hubei province.

Ms Patel said: "This is not just all about the particular location. This virus has spread obviously to other locations within China and to the regions.

"So it's important that we share data, we share information in terms of passengers and travellers. That's something that we are doing."

She added: "Obviously this is a fast-moving situation. There's work taking place in Government right now, every day, we're watching the situation, we're working with the WHO [World Health Organisation], the authorities in China too, to assess how we can practically give assistance but also what are the measures we will have to undertake."