British nationals trapped in Wuhan will return home on Friday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Chinese authorities have confirmed the evacuation flight will leave at 05:00 local time (21:00 GMT Thursday). It is expected to land at RAF Brize Norton.
The flight, carrying 200 Britons, was due to leave the centre of the coronavirus outbreak earlier but was delayed because of a lack of clearance.
The virus has caused 170 deaths and spread to 15 other countries.
When the passengers return to the UK they will be transported to former NHS staff accommodation in the north-west of England.
They will be put in “supported isolation” for 14 days with “all necessary medical attention”, a Downing Street spokesman said.
A small team of military medics is flying out to Wuhan to accompany passengers on the repatriation flight.
In a statement, Mr Raab said: “The safety and security of British nationals is our top priority.
“Our embassy in Beijing and consular teams remain in close contact with British nationals in the region to ensure they have the latest information they need.”
Separately, British Airways said it had extended its cancellation of services to mainland China until 29 February, following Foreign Office guidance against “all but essential travel” to the country.
Virgin Atlantic flights between Heathrow and Shanghai are continuing to operate as scheduled.
In another development, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government was pressing Beijing to allow the spouses or partners of UK nationals to be on the flight.
Several Britons said they faced a stark choice as family members with Chinese citizenship were not being permitted to travel by local authorities.
Matt Raw, who lives in Wuhan with his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and his wife – who helps care for her – told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme his spouse had been prevented from flying so the whole family was staying.
He said they were also concerned about the risks of flying, having seen reports that three Japanese people on evacuation flights were found to have the virus.
Adam Bridgeman said he would stay in Wuhan if his wife and one-month-old son were not allowed to fly with him.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that remaining in Wuhan with a newborn was “a tough situation” as they were “not willing to take the risk” of bringing him to hospital for routine treatment such as vaccinations.
Jeff Siddle, from Northumberland, told the BBC his family faced a “terrible dilemma” after he and his nine-year-old daughter were told they could fly back – but not his Chinese wife, who has a permanent residency visa for the UK.
As it stands, Mr Siddle’s wife is not travelling back to the UK with him. “I think there’s still negotiations to get that changed, but the official line is still that she can’t fly,” he said.
Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country as of Wednesday night.
Hundreds of foreign nationals are being evacuated from Wuhan, with Japan, the US and the EU among those repatriating their citizens.
The World Health Organization emergency committee is to decide later whether to declare an international public health emergency.
It has said the “whole world needs to be on alert” over the outbreak.
How deadly is coronavirus?
It is a basic question, but the answer is elusive.
It is far too simplistic to take the 170 deaths and the 7,711 cases and come up with a death rate of 2%.
We are in the middle of the outbreak and thousands of those patients are still being treated. We don’t know if they will live or die, so they can’t be used in these calculations.
We also don’t know how many mild and undetected cases are out there.
Also, the deadliness of the new virus is only one component of its threat.
Flu kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, not because it is super-deadly, but because it is able to infect so many people.
Learn more about the new virus
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