January 31, 2020
A British man who chose to stay with his Chinese family in coronavirus-hit Wuhan has spoken of the eerie atmosphere in the quarantined city – but says reports in the west have been “highly exaggerated”.
Coronavirus: Brit In Wuhan Turns Down Place On Evacuation Flight To Stay With Chinese Family
Originally from Washington in Tyne and Wear, Chris Hill – a language coach – moved to Wuhan in 2008, and still lives in the city with his wife Caitlyn and four-year-old daughter Renee, both Chinese nationals. 
Earlier in the week he was offered a place on the evacuation flight out of Wuhan – but declined after being told over the phone that it wasn’t guaranteed his wife and daughter would be able to come with him.
“I told them if they can’t go I’m not going either,” he told HuffPost UK.
Eighty-three Britons arrived in the UK on Friday and have been quarantined for two weeks, after leaving Wuhan at around 9am local time. 
When it came to the prospect of attempting to travel through Wuhan, which remains under stringent lockdown, Chris explained that the possibility of being turned away just wasn’t worth the risk. 
“There are no cars, no buses, no trains – it wasn’t clear how I would have got to the airport as travel is nigh on impossible at the moment,” he said. 
“I wasn’t willing to risk bringing my family to the airport and then having to leave them, which I wouldn’t have done anyway, with no clear way of getting home.”
When it comes to the communication between the Foreign Office and British nationals in Wuhan, Chris said that he had seen little evidence of the “close contact” promised by Dominic Raab.
The foreign secretary said in a statement on Thursday: “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. But Chris said he had heard very little. 
“I saw a report that had Dominic Raab saying he was in ‘constant contact’, but I don’t seem to be one of those people,” he said.
“They haven’t contacted me at all – I’ve had to call the embassy in Beijing and it’s basically been down to us to sort out.
“We’ve heard: ’Oh, yes, we’re doing everything that we can, we’re doing everything in our power to get our people home.′ But that’s not what we’ve seen.”
Even if a second evacuation flight became available, and the family could head to the UK together, Chris said it would be a difficult decision. 
“My wife is a nurse in a children’s hospital, so she doesn’t want to leave at the moment,” he explained. “She’s doing her job, it’s incredibly busy, and she feels as though she needs to be here. 
“It would be a big decision for us to get on that plane – especially as we then aren’t sure when we could come back.” 
Wuhan’s 11m citizens have now been under lockdown for a week, with most people forced to stay in their homes as the rate of infections and deaths increased. 
Chris said: “When Wuhan first went into lockdown it was very, very strange. There was panic buying and people were driving their cars with extra jerry cans so they could stock up on petrol, things like that. It was crazy. 
“Now it’s been like this for a week I think people are getting more used to it as a reality. I’ve not been at work and might not be for a long time, and my daughter’s kindergarten is closed.
“She sometimes asks us if we can go outside, and we just have to tell her that people are sick and it’s dangerous at the moment. She’s only four, so she just kind of shrugs and says ‘OK’.” 
With family still in the UK, Chris said he had been constantly receiving messages from home checking they were alright. 
“I’ve been reading the reports [in the UK media], and all I can say is that if the people who were writing the articles were here, they wouldn’t be writing them in that way.
“Obviously it’s a serious situation, but I do think the reports have been highly exaggerated – and that’s what family and friends at home are seeing.
“We’ve been getting messages every day. Obviously my family are worried, but they know what kind of person I am.
“And they know if I couldn’t leave with my family, I wouldn’t go at all.”  Related... Two Cases Of Coronavirus Confirmed In UK The Coronavirus Travel Advice, Explained: What To Do And Pack If You Have To Fly Bat Soup, A Secret Vaccine, Thousands Dead? The Coronavirus Myths We Need To Shut Down How Bad Is Coronavirus? We Compare The Latest Outbreak To Other Global Viruses
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