Question Time member suggests leaving Brits stuck in coronavirus-hit China

A Question Time audience member has suggested Brits stuck in Wuhan at risk of the coronavirus should be left there.

One hundred and fifty Brits were due to leave the locked down Chinese city, where the virus originated, last night and will be taken to a quarantine facility for two weeks in the Wirral.

It comes as the first person-to-person spread of coronavirus in the United States has been confirmed in Illinois.

On Thursday's edition of BBC One programme Question Time, audience member Jennifer Murphy asked whether it was safe to fly people back to the UK due to the "severity" of the virus.

Asked by host Fiona Bruce if she'd prefer we "left them there", Ms Murphy said: "Yeah, I think I would.


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"I think they should be quarantined there," she continued.

"I don't think, given it's like a plague, I don't know the severity or the mortality rate, and does it kill everybody who is infected? I don't know. I think they should stay there."

Her suggestion was initally met with silence by the rest of the studio audience and the panel.

Ms Bruce informed her it is "not killing everyone infected" – with numbers of those with the virus currently standing at over 7,000.

Another audience member said she felt the information coming out from official bodies in the UK was confusing.

"First of all we are told there's going to be self-isolation, secondly we are told there's quarantine, then we are told they are going to come back together on a plane and go in a military building to which they are going to be together until there's a symptom that appears," she said.

"Also, what's going to happen in the aeroplane, with the air conditioning for 200 people coming back together? I'm just a bit concerned about these people coming back." 

She said if one person has got the virus they could infect the other Brits who may not have been infected yet.  

"Also, apparently since January there's 1,500 that have actually come back [to the UK] from China and only a few have been trackable. So, where are these people and are the public at risk?" she added.

Panelist Sacha Lord, Manchester's Night Time Economy advisor, said he felt the British government "did a really poor job when the news first broke" – telling Brits in Wuhan to "get out of the area".

"When somewhere's on lockdown and there's no public transport and you can't drive and you've got people watching on the news, panicking for their lives… how are you supposed to get out?" he said.

Referring to the people now being flown back and other measures being introduced, he worried it's "too little too late… we should have followed examples of other countries."

A qualified doctor in the audience said that in fact the government has done a "good job" in regards to releasing information, and instead blasted the press as the "problem". 

"I think they are scaremongering, I don't think they give the correct information," she continued, going on to describe coronavirus as an "incredibly contagious form of a flu virus".

She added: "What nobody talks about [is] the medical staff and the military staff, they are likely to be carriers and infect people but where are they going?"

Sarah Jones, Labour's Shadow Housing Minister, praised China for being "more open" than usual about the virus since it broke.

Taking an opportunity to bring up today's Brexit, she said when Britain leaves the EU it's important that this sort of "cross government, cross country" sense of working together must continue, as crisis like this has "no borders".

She said, however, it would be better for the government to give the people an idea of what the plan is if the virus escalates any further.

James Cleverly, Conservative Party Chairman, said it is "absolutely right that we bring these people home".

The former Brexit minister said Britain has "genuine world class experts in disease management" who can "We disseminate information to medical practitioners so they know what to expect".

"They know the parameters and the isolation we are putting people into will be designed specifically to make sure that before people are allowed back into wider communities they are no longer a medical risk."

He admitted "this is incredibly scary, I completely understand that and it's legitimate that people are worried".

"But we are global experts in dealing with this kind of thing and the fact the Chinese have been very open, that they have communicated with the international community, that they are sharing information I think is to their credit and has helped the global medical community dealing with a very concerning situation," he added.

One audience member said Britain needed to "pressurise China into closing down" the wet markets with a theory suggesting the coronavirus spread from a bat to a domestic animal in such a market.

They sell fresh meat, fish and produce, including bats.

The flight bringing Brits home from Wuhan will land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where UK nationals will disembark.

Fifty foreigners – mainly from EU countries and thought to be Spanish – will also be on the evacuation flight which will head to Spain afterwards.

The death toll from the virus has hit 170 and the outbreak has spread to 15 other countries – with 7,711 cases as it is declared an international crisis.

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