Locked in and wearing masks: York mum describes conditions inside UK coronavirus quarantine

A member of medical staff wears mask, as buses carrying British nationals from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
1 Feb 2020 @ 7.13 pm
| News

A York mother who is among the British nationals evacuated from the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak has shed light on the conditions they face in quarantine in the UK.

Natalie Francis and her son Jamie are in the group of 83 people facing two weeks of isolation inside Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral after arriving on Friday (31 January).

She was originally told that Jamie wouldn’t be allowed to travel but the Foreign Office got them both on the flight back to Britain.

Writing on Facebook on Saturday (1 February), Ms Francis described some of the measures in place at the hospital where the evacuees are “locked” inside:

  • We are based in a facility where the entrance is locked and can only be opened from the inside.

    We have a small courtyard that is fenced in that we can go play or get some fresh air but we aren’t free to just wander around as we please.

    Even in the common room downstairs where we go and get our supplies, we still wear our masks and use protective measures.

Left with almost nothing

Natalie Francis with her son
Ms Francis said she and her son were forced to leave the city of Wuhan with “virtually nothing but the clothes on our back”.

“Jamie had his backpack with toy cars and I had a small back pack with snacks, Jamie’s spare clothes and our documents,” she said.

Praising hospital staff, Ms Francis said evacuees had been given everyday items such as “food, clothes, toiletries, toys and medicines”.

Two blocks at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside. Photograph:

“Nobody is asking for or receiving stupid stuff,” she said.

  • While it is also true these have so far been donated to us – I and many other people have been offering to pay or order our own stuff.

    They do have a lockdown on receiving parcels at the minute so this is the only way we can get the items we need.

Ms Francis, an English teacher in Wuhan, said she and her son faced a last-minute “midnight dash” to make the evacuation flight to the UK, with others unable to reach the meeting point.

‘Spaced out’

Buses carrying British nationals from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China, arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
She said the group of 83 “constantly” wore masks, had their temperatures checked and signed health documents before boarding the plane.

On board passengers were “spaced out”, with Ms Francis and her son given a row to themselves.

She explained people of other nationalities were heading onwards to Spain, where the air crew were also due to disembark.

Upon landing in the UK she acknowledged that the group were met by people “who weren’t wearing masks” and led to buses.

“However the only people we got physically close to was the doctors and scientists wearing hazmat,” she added.

“This virus spreads through physical touch and droplets. Jamie and I did not touch anyone, nobody touched the driver and we were two meters distance away of contact with him.”

Ms Francis thanked people for their support and concern through what had been a “terrifying” and “life-changingly awful” experience.