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Coronavirus: Briton isolated after feeling ill on way back to UK

Anthony May-Smith is being cared for in Oxford.

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A plane repatriating British nationals to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan in China arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire (Ben Birchall/PA)

A plane repatriating British nationals to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan in China arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire (Ben Birchall/PA)

A plane repatriating British nationals to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan in China arrives at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire (Ben Birchall/PA)

One of the Britons who returned from coronavirus-hit China on Sunday has said he now feels “fine” after a cough and sore throat led to him being put in isolation.

Anthony May-Smith is being cared for in Oxford after feeling unwell as he made his way back to England.

He travelled on the second evacuation flight carrying 11 British nationals from Wuhan to France, and then continued his journey to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Mr May-Smith said he had had “a bit of a cough and a sore throat” in China and was put in a quarantine area with about 30 others on the initial flight from Wuhan to France.

He told Sky News: “We went through a load of checks at the airport in Wuhan, I had a bit of a cough and a sore throat there.

“Then there was 30 of us on that flight to France that were put in a quarantine section on the flight.

“When we boarded the plane in France to come to the UK, the nurse asked if any of us had had any sort of symptoms in China.

“I made myself known to her and she told me to sit away from anybody else on the flight.

“There were people with babies on the flight and I obviously just didn’t want to be anywhere near them, just in case.

“I feel fine now, I think it’s probably the stress of getting back and being run down more than anything.

“I’m waiting for the test results to come back tomorrow.”

Last week, ministers said passengers would be screened before boarding a flight to the UK and would not be allowed to get on if they showed signs of coronavirus.

Mr May-Smith said it is “a little bit daunting” when medics enter his room as they wear a face mask, are “all covered up, (have) four pairs of gloves and wellingtons”.

The other 10 British nationals continued their journey to join 83 other people in isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

All those who have returned from Hubei province in China are being quarantined in staff accommodation blocks on the site.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “During the most recent repatriation flight one passenger developed mild, cold-like symptoms.

“Following the agreed protocol, this individual was further separated from others on the flight and after landing was taken by ambulance to a specialist NHS facility for further assessment.

“The remaining passengers remain symptom-free and have been taken to Arrowe Park. They will be kept entirely separate from the first group of British nationals to arrive.

“Our robust processes continue to ensure there is no risk to the wider public from those in quarantine or those undergoing further treatment.”

It is understood Mr May-Smith wore a face mask on the flight.

Public Health England conducted a risk assessment before the plane door was opened, and confirmed the other 10 passengers could be allowed off the plane.

In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the virus would be around for several months yet.

Coronavirus: confirmed cases
(PA Graphics)

Looking at the global picture, Mr Hancock said: “Currently the number of cases is doubling every five days and it’s likely that the virus will be with us for at least some months to come.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Mr Hancock said PHE analysis suggests the virus has not evolved in the last month.

The Department of Health said on Monday that 326 UK tests for coronavirus have concluded, of which 324 are negative.

Two people, a University of York student and one of their relatives, continue to be treated for coronavirus in the specialist infectious diseases unit at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Officials are still trying to trace 239 people who travelled from Wuhan to the UK before travel restrictions came into force.

It comes as the British Embassy in Beijing tweeted that the last flights from China to the UK for British nationals are set to leave this week.

It said flights will be run by “partner countries” and any British national and their immediate families, including those with non-UK passports, must make themselves known if they wish to travel.

Separately, officials said there are no plans to introduce a US-style travel ban on foreign nationals who have recently been in China entering the country.

Sources told PA that the UK would continue to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which does not advocate such bans.

The Chinese government has accused the US of causing “panic” in its response instead of helping.

In other countries, there are more than 150 confirmed cases and one person has died in the Philippines.

PA