Atlantic City

Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

'If you are in China and able to leave you should do so'

British citizens in China are being advised to leave a.s.a.p by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which warned that flights from China might be suspended altogether in the coming weeks as the deadly coronavirus spreads.

It warned that the Chinese government is continuing to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected more than 20,000 people and claimed 427 lives.

These restrictions include the closure of some provincial highways and inter-city high speed rail, tight control on entry and exit to villages and townships across the country, and restrictions on movement within some cities and municipalities including Chongqing.

Some airlines - including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic -  have suspended flights to mainland China. "Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks," said the FCO.

It is advising against all travel to Hubei Province, where the virus is believed to have originated, and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.

The British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed. 

"If you're in China and able to leave, you should do so. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be at heightened risk," said the FCO in an update to its travel advice this morning.

A number of countries, including the United States, have announced restrictions on entry by travellers from China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

There have also reports of cruise ships being turned away from ports in Asia. The Diamond Princess is currently in quarantine after a passenger who had cruised on the ship was diagnosed with coronavirus several days after he disembarked in Hong Kong.

"Given the fast-changing situation, you should check the latest FCO travel advice (including entry requirements) for your destination and check with your airline before you travel," said the Foreign Office.

Since the outbreak of the virus, some staff and dependants from the British Embassy and Consulates are being withdrawn from China. 

Essential staff needed to continue critical work - including consular assistance - will remain. "But the ability of the British Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China is currently limited, and would be even more limited in the event that the situation deteriorates further," warned the FCO.

British nationals in China who need consular support should call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on +44 (0) 207 008 1500.

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