UK delays evacuation flight from coronavirus epicenter in China

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has been forced to delay a planned evacuation of its citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak, because it has not yet got the correct permissions from Chinese authorities for a flight to leave.

Britain had planned to fly back its citizens to a military base but the flight is now unlikely to take off on Thursday. It is hoped that the flight may depart on Friday instead, according to British sources.

“We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

“A number of countries’ flights have been unable to take off as planned. We continue working urgently to organize a flight to the UK as soon as possible.”

Those returning to the United Kingdom will be quarantined for 14 days at a National Health Service facility once they return. Those already infected will not be allowed to leave Wuhan.

Countries have begun isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from Wuhan in an effort to stop the global spread of an epidemic that has killed 170, with South Korea calling for calm in the face of protests at a quarantine center.

Some British citizens have spoken of being told they are unable to bring family members with Chinese passports out of the city.

Natalie Francis, 31, an English teacher in Wuhan, said she was told by the Foreign Office that she could not bring her three-year-old son, Jamie, home because he has a Chinese passport even though he is a British citizen.

“They said anyone with Chinese nationality or other citizenship is not being allowed to go on,” Francis told The Sun newspaper.

“I’m like, ‘So yeah, you want me to just abandon my son in China, and go home?’”

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by James Davey