Coronavirus fears hit UK as hazmat-clad medics treat man in face mask

Coronavirus fears hit Birmingham as facemask-wearing patient is escorted into an ambulance by a medic in a hazmat suit and two paramedics with NO protective clothing

  • Medic head-to-toe in protective gear loads mask-wearing man into ambulance 
  • Footage was filmed by neighbour on residential street in Harborne on Monday
  • Department of Health has refused to rule out possibility the patient has the virus 
  • Two paramedics also filmed without any gloves or masks – stoking safety fears

This is the moment a hazmat-clad paramedic loads a patient into the back of an ambulance amid fears coronavirus has spread to the UK.

Video circulating on social media shows a man wearing a face mask and a black hoodie being escorted out of a home on a residential street in Harborne, Birmingham.

A paramedic head-to-toe in protective gear, including a white hazmat suit, blue apron, gloves and a mask with a visor, then follows him into the ambulance.

Her isolation gown looked eerily similar to the ones worn by Chinese medics treating diseased patients in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Two paramedics were also filmed without any protective clothing, raising concern about whether stringent enough safety measures are in place in the UK to deal with the disease. 

It is not known whether the patient was tested for coronavirus but health bosses are being tight-lipped about the case.

MailOnline understands the only NHS body to know exactly what is going on in the video is the West Midlands Ambulance Service, which refused to answer any questions about it.

A spokesman for the ambulance service repeatedly told this website: ‘We can’t say a thing about the case.’   

A paramedic head-to-toe in protective gear directs a man wearing a face mask into an ambulance on a residential street in Harborne

Two other paramedics wearing no protective clothing appear in the video – one appears from behind the ambulance doors (left) and another stands beside the hazmat-clad woman (right)

But the Department of Health has not ruled out the possibility the patient was suspected of having coronavirus. 

Towards the end of the footage, two paramedics appear from behind the ambulance without and protective gear or gloves – raising safety concerns.

One user, Susan Bower, wrote: ‘So the ambulance drivers are not even wearing protective clothing yet do get rather close to the patient? Is the UK really prepared? I think not.’ 

Mia Lyons commented: ‘At the end of your video appears a person without mask. I don’t think they would let anybody near without protection?!’ 

A third person replied: ‘We are prepared are we not, Matt Hancock? No face mask & no gloves on either of the paramedics.’ 

Wuhan coronavirus is now confirmed to have infected at least 4,500 people in 18 different countries around the world and killed 106 in China.

Social media users questioned whether stringent enough safety measures were in place to deal with a coronavirus outbreak 

The US, Canada, Australia and France all confirmed cases last week while Germany, Sri Lanka and Cambodia yesterday became the latest countries to declare them overnight.

In a desperate attempt to prevent an outbreak on British soil, Mr Hancock begged travellers to stay indoors, avoid contact with anyone and ring NHS 111 if they have any symptoms. 

Officials are still desperately trying to hunt down the 1,500 people who are in the UK after landing from Wuhan in the past fortnight. 

Health chiefs revealed 73 people in the UK have already been tested for the never-before-seen virus – but all cases have so far come back as negative. 

Public Health England admitted that the first UK confirmed case is likely to come from somebody already in the country.

In a significant ramping up of the precautions in the UK around the virus, Mr Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons on Monday evening: ‘Coronaviruses do not usually spread if people don’t have symptoms – but we cannot be 100 per cent certain. 

Passengers arriving at Nanjing Railway Station in China have their temperatures checked by staff who are looking to see if anyone has a high fever, a sign of infection

Thai Airways employees are pictured disinfecting an empty plane cabin at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok today, January 28. Thailand has 14 confirmed coronavirus cases – the most outside of China

‘From today, we are therefore asking anyone in the UK who has returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days to self-isolate. Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people – and to contact NHS 111. If you are in Northern Ireland, you should phone your GP. 

‘If you develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of travel to the area, and are now in the UK, call your GP or ring 111 informing them of your symptoms and your recent travel to the city. Do not leave your home until you have been given advice by a clinician.’

Officials have not clarified exactly how patients will be taken to hospital if they complain of symptoms.

But it is thought they will be taken in an ambulance and whisked straight off to be isolated while doctors run tests. 

More than 2,000 people are thought to have jetted into Britain from Wuhan since cases first emerged last month. Mr Hancock’s advice applies to anyone who has entered Britain since January 10.  

The killer coronavirus outbreak has now killed 106 people and struck down more than 4,500. Cases have been spotted in Canada, US, France and Australia

Dual national Ian Thompson told Good Morning Britain that he would ‘stuck here’ if it hadn’t been for his US nationality, saying he is not aware of any attempts by the UK to lift some 300 British ex-pats stranded in Wuhan, described it as a ‘ghost town’ for its empty streets

Mr Hancock, who said there are four centres stood up and ready should there be a need – two in London, one in Liverpool and one in Newcastle, added: ‘Having eliminated those who we know have since left the country, there are 1,460 people we are seeking to locate.’

The British government has also come under immense pressure to rescue UK nationals trapped in Wuhan. 

A British dual national in the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak revealed today he is being airlifted to safety by the US because the UK government has abandoned him. 

Ian Thompson told Good Morning Britain that he would stranded if it hadn’t been for his dual citizenship, saying he is not aware of any attempts by the UK to lift some 300 British ex-pats stuck in Wuhan, described as a ‘ghost town’ for its empty streets.

He’ll be flown out of Wuhan on a California-bound chartered plane later today along with hundreds of Americans.

Graham Hubbard is one of a group of three British scientists confined to their hotel rooms in Wuhan. He blasted the Foreign Office for its ‘confusing’ advice, which came too late for them to plan their own escape

He is expected to be held in quarantine for a number of days when they land to stop the disease spreading on US soil.

As well as the US, Japan, South Korea, France and Spain have all announced similar rescue plans – but the dithering British government said it was still thrashing out options with Chinese officials to get the stranded ex-pats home ‘within the next few days’.  

While it waits for a green-light to commence the repatriation, the Foreign Office has created a 24-hour helpline for anyone stuck in Hubei province – which is now entirely on lockdown as part of a desperate attempt to contain the SARS-like infection by trapping tens of millions of people. 

Graham Hubbard is one of a group of three British scientists confined to their hotel rooms in Wuhan. He said the Foreign Office’s advice had been ‘confusing’ and came too late for them to plan their own escape.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK was struggling to work out how many ex-pats were in Wuhan, and how many wanted to return home. 

But questions have been raised about why this has taken so long when many other countries have managed it already.

Mr Shapps BBC Breakfast: ‘For anybody who is there, one of the issues we have, working with our partners internationally on this, is actually identifying how many British citizens there are in Wuhan.

The US is sending a chartered plane to Wuhan to take Americans stranded in the coronavirus-hit city to Alaska, before another plane diverts them to Ontario City in California

‘We don’t have a list of people in the region so we keep on putting the message out. One of the things we’re asking people to do is to contact the consulate there to make them aware. People have started to do that. We are working on arrangements as well.

He added: ‘If they actually contact the consulate where they are then that consulate is in fact gathering together all the information of the people who are there, in order to help repatriate where that’s appropriate.’ 

In his interview with Good Morning Britain today, the British-American dual national Ian Thompson said he was heading to the airport later today.

He added: ‘I have to go through two sets of testing. I have to go through the testing once I arrive at the airport through the Chinese authorities, and once I’ve bypassed that one I have to go and be checked by US officials before I board the plane.’ 

When quizzed about whether the UK had reached out to him he said: ‘There’s been no official attempts so far, as I’ve been aware or been told.

Coronavirus: What we know so far 

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can it kill?

Yes. Eighty-one people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere  

‘It’s extremely strange, and very scary too. The streets are completely empty, there’s no-one walking around. Everyone’s been told to stay in their houses – there’s no transportation anywhere. All the restaurants, bars and everything are all closed down.

‘If I move from my province to another province area in Wuhan I will automatically get held by police and put into quarantine for 14 days.’

Scientist Graham Hubbard, 39, from Wantage, Oxfordshire, was on a working trip with colleagues when the Chinese authorities blocked transport in and out of Wuhan.

His scheduled return flight home was due to take off an hour and a half after the city-wide quarantine came into force last Thursday.

Mr Hubbard and his colleagues, Richard Staunton-Lambert, 49, also from Wantage, and Victoria Sullivan, from Bracknell, Berkshire, are staying at the five-star Renaissance hotel.

He told The Times: ‘We are trapped in our hotel rooms, surrounded by a ghost town with no idea when we can go home to our families and no practical help from our own government, who are giving us contradictory advice.’

The initial advice from the Foreign Office was to stay put and not leave the city until after the travel ban was lifted. But at that time UK officials were not aware of the scale of the outbreak, Mr Hubbard said.

He added: ‘By then it was too late for us to do anything, the flights and trains were cancelled and we were trapped.

‘When I spoke with the Foreign Office today I was told “we can not guarantee anything”. It is very frustrating because we have been given contradictory advice.

‘The Foreign Office website was finally updated at 9am UK time. So nothing happens all weekend until they get back to work on Monday.’ 

Mr Hubbard had been woken up by his panicked wife at the crack of dawn last Thursday who told him about the travel restrictions.

He tried to catch the high-speed train to a city three hours away to fly via a different airport, but was refused a ticket.

The father then hired a taxi but the roads were so congested that by the time he got to the outskirts of the city roadblocks had been put up. 

Bosses in Wuhan have banned the use of cars, meaning the motorways and streets are eerily quiet. The hotel where the British scientists are staying have banned communal eating in the dining room because of the increasing risk of new infections.

Guests can collect takeaway meals to eat in their own rooms or order room service. Mr Hubbard’s wife Laura, 39, who is at home with their three children aged four, six and eight, had begged for the British government to help. 

Ministers have come under immense criticism after Japan said it would send a chartered flight to Wuhan on Tuesday night to evacuate its citizens, while the US government is also preparing an airlift this evening.  Both South Korea, France and Spain are also aiming to fly out citizens this week. 

The American flight will pick up 240 US citizens in Wuhan and make the 11-hour journey to Anchorage, Alaska, where it will stop over before transporting them to Ontario in California. 

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