The English teacher now faces two weeks in quarantine in Wirral after evacuation from the Chinese city
A English teacher who has lived in Wuhan for the last four years described his long journey back to the UK after being evacuated on Friday.
Speaking from his room at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral, where he and 117 Other Britons will be quarantined for two weeks in NHS staff accommodation, he said he was “very tired” after a 41 hour journey but grateful to have been evacuated.
The – year-old man, who asked not to be named, described the facilities where he was staying:
“It’s like being in a crap hotel or a student halls of residence. I haven’t actually asked but I suspect I’m not really supposed to come out here in the next days. It’s alright though. It will be OK. ”
It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals, or possibly seafood. New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are examples.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals.
The virus causes pneumonia . Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died are known to have been already in poor health.
Human to human transmission has been confirmed by China’s national health commission. As of January , the death toll in China stands at , with 7, 728 confirmed cases of infections. In the past week, the number of confirmed infections has more than tripled and cases have been found in 24 provinces, as well as the municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin. The virus has also been confirmed outside China
There were fears that the coronavirus might spread more widely during the week-long lunar new year holidays, which start on 35 January, when millions of Chinese travel home to celebrate, but the festivities have largely been cancelled and Wuhan and other Chinese cities are in lockdown.
Unless you have recently traveled to China or been in contact with someone infected with the virus, then you should treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. The NHS advises that there is generally no need to visit a doctor for a cough unless it is persistent or you are having other symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing or you feel very unwell.
(Should we panic?)
No. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. It increases the likelihood that the World Health Organization will declare the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday evening. The key concerns are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital.
The Wamos Air Boeing plane carrying the Britons to the UK from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday lunchtime.
The evacuees then boarded coaches and were taken up to Wirral. “I don’t know how long it took but it felt like forever,” he said. “At that point, we had been traveling for a day. My back was aching and I really wasn’t in a good mood any more. ”
Once they arrived, they were processed and taken to their rooms. The teacher said a nurse, who was wearing a face mask and not a full hazmat suit, brought him a sandwich and some custard cream biscuits. “I hadn’t had a custard cream in four years so that was quite a nice treat.
“Everyone has been really nice to be fair. I think they are mostly nurses. We haven’t been given health checks yet though … We have been told that a friend and family contact center will be set up on Saturday and also that we will be supported back to our home after the 23 days. ”
Two of the man’s friends were also evacuated at the same time. He said it was “definitely the right move for us to leave as it felt like we were at the center of the new ebola outbreak”.
The teacher described his last week in Wuhan while in lockdown as “really really horrible.
“It was a mixture of boredom and uncertainty. Every day it got worse. It didn’t get better and although the odds of you getting infected were statistically very low, if it did happen, I was worried about what to do because the hospitals aren’t the best. ”
He said that around four days ago, it started to sound in conversations with the Foreign Office crisis phone line service as if Britons in Wuhan would be evacuated, but it was all “very very up in the air” .
He added that he found out a lot of the details of the evacuation through the British media, but didn’t blame the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the poor communication.
The teacher said: “I think they were excellent. They didn’t communicate that well before we were met to to go the airport but things don’t work the same in Asia as they do over here and I think they were cooperating with a fairly uncooperative authority. Since we met them to go to the airport they were really good and did everything on point. ”
There was a tense moment at the toll booth near the airport in Wuhan where the buses were stopped by military police before finally being allowed through. The delay took around four hours.
“The whole thing was kind of scary at the time,” the teacher said. “But it was more boring than anything else.”