January 31, 2020 / 6:25 AM / 25 days ago

Plane leaves China virus epicentre with 110 Britons and foreigners aboard

BEIJING (Reuters) - A plane carrying 83 British and 27 foreign nationals flew out on Friday from China’s central city of Wuhan, the centre of a virus epidemic that has killed more than 200 people and infected more than 9,000, the British government said.

The civilian aircraft chartered by the Foreign Office left Wuhan at 9.45 a.m. (0145 GMT), the government said in a notice on its website.

It is due to arrive at 1 p.m. (1300 GMT) in Britain later on Friday, before continuing on to Spain, where the home countries of European Union citizens will take responsibility for the remaining passengers.

“We know how distressing the situation has been for those waiting to leave,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, according to the notice. “We have been working round the clock to clear the way for a safe departure.”

The flight had been expected to depart Wuhan on Thursday morning with around 150 British citizens and 50 non-British nationals, but its departure was blocked by Chinese officials.

The reasons for the delay by Chinese officials and the lower-than-expected number of passengers were not immediately clear.

The UK embassy in Beijing and the UK Foreign Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some British citizens have spoken of being told they could not take family members with Chinese passports out of the city.

Those returning to Britain will be quarantined for 14 days at a National Health Service facility.

A British government spokesman said any citizens who were eligible for the flight would be given a seat but nationals already infected would not be allowed to leave Wuhan.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to China as the death toll from the new coronavirus reached 213 on Friday and the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Stephen Coates

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