Brits returning from the area of China hit by coronavirus are set to be quarantined for 14 days upon their return.
A flight is due to leave Wuhan on Thursday to bring British people in the area home, with the Department of Health saying that officials are looking at taking passengers to a military base.
Passengers may be asked to sign a contract before they board the plane saying they agree to being placed in quarantine. Anyone who does not wish to sign could be asked to stay.
Around 200 British nationals are thought to be in the Chinese city.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “We are working hard to get British nationals back from Wuhan. Public safety is the top priority.
“Anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.”
British Airways have suspended flights to and from China for the time being with the Foreign Office advising against all but essential travel to the country.
In a statement, British Airways said: “We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.
“Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com.”
BA operates daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow.
Culture Secretary Baroness Morgan said BA’s decision to suspend all flights to China would give “more impetus” to the Government’s bid to arrange for Britons to travel home.
“The Foreign Office will be working with staff on the ground to identify UK nationals,” the Conservative peer told BBC Breakfast.
“We will get people home as soon as we can, as soon as we can make arrangements.
“Obviously, today’s decision by British Airways provides more impetus to the Government to make other plans and communicate those.
“The health system is well prepared. We are not aware of any confirmed cases of the virus here in the UK but we do have the expertise to look after people, to treat and to test should that become necessary.”
Virgin Atlantic said its flights between Heathrow and Shanghai will continue to operate as scheduled, although passengers are able to rebook or obtain a refund free of charge.
The airline issued a statement which read: “We continue to monitor the situation regarding coronavirus and will always follow guidance as set out by relevant authorities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China, excluding Hong Kong.
“For customers who have booked to travel to China, including Hong Kong, and would like to discuss their travel plans further, we would invite them to contact our customer care team via our SMS messaging system, on +44 (0)7481 339184. The team are happy to assist with any inquiries.”
Chinese airlines which serve UK airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester – including Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Tianjin Airlines – all appear to be operating flights as normal.
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