Coronavirus fears hit Birmingham as facemask-wearing patient is escorted into an ambulance

By | January 28, 2020

Coronavirus alert in Birmingham as medics in hazmat suits quarantine suspected victim after he was SENT HOME by GP – despite revealing he had just returned from Wuhan

  • Drew Bennett, 39, travelled home from Wuhan to Birmingham on December 31
  • Struck down with severe flu-like symptoms but was turned away by his doctor
  • Yesterday ambulance sent to take him to Birmingham hospital and isolate him
  • But paramedics spotted without any protective clothing – sparking safety fears 

This is the moment a suspected British coronavirus patient who had returned from Wuhan was loaded into an ambulance by a hazmat-clad paramedic. 

Drew Bennett, 39, is feared to have contracted the potentially deadly virus during a recent holiday to the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak and is currently in isolation at a Birmingham hospital.  

The sales worker returned from Wuhan on New Years’ Eve and quickly developed flu-like symptoms before becoming too unwell to leave his bed.

But he revealed today that when he visited his GP on Monday he was told to go home – despite fears the highly contagious virus is poised to claim its first British victim.

The advice given by his doctor contradicted official guidance issued by Public Health England last week which warned medics to ‘lock patients in a room alone and leave straight away’. 

Later that day an ambulance carrying medics in hazmat suits was sent to Mr Bennett’s address in Harborne, Birmingham, at 4.20pm, where he was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to have blood tests. He remains in isolation awaiting results.

Video captured by a neighbour showed one medic wearing a white hazmat suit, blue apron, gloves and a mask with a visor, escorting him into the ambulance.

But two West Midlands Ambulance Service crew could be seen without any protective clothing or masks – sparking fears British authorities are failing to take the threat of spreading the killer disease seriously. 

It comes despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock just yesterday warning around 2,000 Britons who are thought to have returned from Wuhan since the start of the outbreak to ‘self-isolate, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people’ in a significant ramping up of precautions.

Meanwhile in China, health workers have been hosing down streets, shops and public transport with disinfectant spray to try curb the spiralling epidemic.

Coronavirus has been deemed highly contagious and can spread via a simple cough or sneeze. It has killed more than 100 people in under a month.

A paramedic head-to-toe in protective gear directs Drew Bennett, 39, into an ambulance on a residential street in Harborne, Birmingham

A paramedic head-to-toe in protective gear directs Drew Bennett, 39, into an ambulance on a residential street in Harborne, Birmingham

Two other paramedics wearing no protective clothing appear in the video - one comes from behind the ambulance doors

Another stands beside the hazmat-clad woman (right)

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)

Mr Bennett travelled home from Wuhan - the outbreak's epicentre - to Harborne, Birmingham, on New Year's Eve and quickly became too unwell to leave his bed

Mr Bennett travelled home from Wuhan – the outbreak’s epicentre – to Harborne, Birmingham, on New Year’s Eve and quickly became too unwell to leave his bed

He is now in isolation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he is awaiting blood test results to see if he has the virus

He is now in isolation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he is awaiting blood test results to see if he has the virus

West Midlands Ambulance Service has refused to answer any questions about why some staff were not wearing protective clothing while collecting Mr Bennett. 

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

Speaking from his hospital bed, Mr Bennett told Birmingham Live: ‘Once I got back I was really ill with, what I thought, was a bad case of the flu. At that stage coronavirus hadn’t really been mentioned so I thought nothing of it.

‘However, when I went to the GP on Monday and he asked as a precaution if I had been to China, he seemed really concerned.

‘I was sent home and before I knew it, ambulances and people in hazmat suits had turned up. ‘I’m now in isolation at the QE [Queen Elizabeth] and just waiting to get my blood test results.’

Mr Bennett said he ‘did not feel particularly unwell’ now but admitted he has ‘not been 100 per cent’ since returning from China.

The salesman was sent home from his doctor practice on Monday despite admitting he was struck down with illness after visiting disease-ridden Wuhan last month. 

But just last week Public Health England told doctors to lock patients in a room and leave straight away if they suspect they have coronavirus.

The extraordinary guidance read: ‘If [the Wuhan coronavirus] is considered possible when a consultation is already in progress, withdraw from the room, close the door and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

‘Avoid physical examination of a suspected case. The patient should remain in the room with the door closed. Belongings and waste should remain in the room.

Separate footage taken in the early hours of Monday showed an ambulance worker in a white protective suit outside an address in Spitalfields, east London

Separate footage taken in the early hours of Monday showed an ambulance worker in a white protective suit outside an address in Spitalfields, east London

Details about the video are scarce and the London Ambulance Service Trust refused to comment

Details about the video are scarce and the London Ambulance Service Trust refused to comment

‘Advise others not to enter the room. If a clinical history still needs to be obtained or completed, do this by telephone.

‘The patient should not be allowed to use communal toilet facilities. Instruct them to not touch anything or anyone when walking to the toilet. Instruct the patient to wash their hands thoroughly after toileting.’  

Christian Diaz, 32, who lives across the hallway from Mr Bennett’s flat, said he is fearful for his own health.

He added: ‘I was absolutely terrified when I looked out of my window and saw people walking around in Hazmat suits. It looked like something out of a movie. 

Meanwhile in China, health workers have been hosing down streets, shops and public transport with disinfectant spray to try curb the spiralling epidemic. Pictured: A worker sprays an office building in Qingdao, Shandong Province

Meanwhile in China, health workers have been hosing down streets, shops and public transport with disinfectant spray to try curb the spiralling epidemic. Pictured: A worker sprays an office building in Qingdao, Shandong Province

A volunteer sprays disinfectant in Qingdao's residential West Coast area – Qingdao is a coastal city approximately 620miles (1,000km) away from Wuhan

A volunteer sprays disinfectant in Qingdao’s residential West Coast area – Qingdao is a coastal city approximately 620miles (1,000km) away from Wuhan

BRITISH TEACHER WHO LIVED NEXT TO THE SCANDAL-HIT SEAFOOD MARKET IN WUHAN FEARS HE IS SPREADING CORONAVIRUS IN THE UK

A British teacher who spent the last decade in Wuhan fears he may be spreading coronavirus throughout the UK after being turned away for tests by NHS 111.

Read More:  California couple with coronavirus were admitted to a hospital with worsening symptoms

David Marland, 34, lived just five minutes from the seafood market thought to be at the centre of the outbreak and walked through it nearly every day.

At least one person in his apartment block has tested positive for the deadly illness that has killed 81 people in less than a month.

Mr Marland, from Buckinghamshire, called the NHS helpline as soon as he stepped off a plan at Gatwick Airport from Dubai, via Hong Kong and the Chinese city of Shenzhen, last week. 

He expected to be hauled in immediately for tests, but was only asked if he had ‘the sniffles’. Mr Marland was told to only call back if he began to feel unwell. 

That was despite the recent discovery that patients can be infectious without showing any symptoms. 

‘An ambulance pulled up and then he was taken out wearing a mask. It seemed very serious. We are all very worried. Nobody has let us know what is going on. 

‘We don’t know whether the building will be put into quarantine if it turns out that he does have the infection. Obviously, we hope that he is OK, but it’s concerning for everyone.’

Separate footage taken in the early hours of Monday showed an ambulance worker in a white protective suit outside an address in Spitalfields, east London.

Details about the video are scarce and the London Ambulance Service Trust refused to comment, saying the Department of Health (DoH) was dealing with the incident. The DoH said it would not speak on individual cases.

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. 

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 2,000 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. 

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. 

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 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

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

A charter plane organised by the Japanese government to evacuate nationals from Wuhan. It is pictured leaving Tokyo's Haneda International Airport passenger terminal this evening

A charter plane organised by the Japanese government to evacuate nationals from Wuhan. It is pictured leaving Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport passenger terminal this evening

Japanese officials prepare to load various supplies such as face masks into a charter plane bound for Wuhan at Tokyo's Haneda airport. The flight is to evacuate Japanese nationals from the Chinese city that has been hit by the outbreak of a new deadly coronavirus

Japanese officials prepare to load various supplies such as face masks into a charter plane bound for Wuhan at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. The flight is to evacuate Japanese nationals from the Chinese city that has been hit by the outbreak of a new deadly coronavirus

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

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

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

WHERE HAS THE WUHAN CORONAVIRUS SPREAD TO? 

The vast majority of confirmed infections of the Wuhan coronavirus (4,515 out of 4,585, as at 11.40am GMT on January 28) have been diagnosed in China.

But 17 countries or territories outside of the mainland have also declared infections:  

  • Germany: One case confirmed, diagnosed January 27
  • Sri Lanka: One case, diagnosed January 27
  • Cambodia: One case, diagnosed January 27
  • Canada: Two cases confirmed, first case January 25
  • Australia: Five cases, first case January 25
  • Malaysia: Four cases, first case January 25
  • France: Three cases, first case January 24
  • Nepal: One case, first case January 24
  • Vietnam: Two cases, first case January 24
  • Singapore: Five cases, first case January 23
  • Macau: Five cases, first case January 22
  • Hong Kong: Eight cases, first case January 22 
  • Taiwan: Eight cases, first case January 21 
  • USA: Five cases, first case January 20
  • South Korea: Four cases, first case January 20
  • Japan: Five cases, first case January 16
  • Thailand: 14 cases, first case January 13

Meanwhile, hundreds of Britons trapped in the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak have been told to contact the embassy by 11am tomorrow if they want to come home as the Government’s landmark evacuation mission moved one step closer and will happen ‘within days’.  

Officials this afternoon claimed an airlift from Wuhan – which has been deserted because of an unprecedented lock down that has trapped millions of people – could happen ‘quickly and with short notice’. 

The UK is still thrashing out the details with Chinese officials but a chartered flight is expected later this week. 

Evacuees are likely to have health checks before they board any plane to the UK and they are expected to be held in quarantine for a fortnight when they return to stop the SARS-like infection – which has struck down more than 4,500 people and killed 106 – spreading on British soil. 

According to the Evening Standard, the British Embassy in Beijing said: ‘Due to the increasing travel restrictions and difficulty accessing medical assistance we are working to make an option available for British nationals to leave Hubei province. This may happen quickly and with short notice.’ 

US officials announced a similar plan for its landmark evacuation flight this morning. Japan organised a Boeing 767 to fly out and rescue residents from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, which has been battered by an onslaught of cases of the coronavirus.  

Read More:  Pfizer rolls out Retacrit, a biosim to Amgen and J&J anemia blockbusters, at a big discount

Claims yesterday surfaced that China was blocking the emergency airlift operation, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to insist the Government was doing ‘everything we can’.

Ex-pats stuck in Wuhan have already begged officials to ‘get us out of here’, with one furious Brit describing the situation as an ‘utter p***take’ and others accusing the Government – who revealed it was drawing up plans alongside the US and other international allies – of abandoning them. 

The development came after British ministers were accused of dithering in their response to rescuing the estimated 300 ex-pats stranded in Wuhan. 

Some British citizens stuck in China publicly condemned the British government for being slow to react to the crisis.  

Ian Thompson, a British-American dual national stranded in Wuhan, told Good Morning Britain that he would trapped if it hadn’t been for his dual citizenship because the UK had made no effort to contact or evacuate him. 

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

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

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

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

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

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  

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

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, 38, 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.   

The scientist, 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. 

Read More:  Can You Safely Give Birth at Home?

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.  

Medical workers in Guiyang, Guizhou, prepare to head into Wuhan to help with the response to the coronavirus outbreak

Medical workers in Guiyang, Guizhou, prepare to head into Wuhan to help with the response to the coronavirus outbreak

Six villages in Hebei – the province surrounding the capital Beijing, where dozens of cases have been confirmed – have taken matters into their own hands and are building brick walls around their street to protect it, Sky News reports

Six villages in Hebei – the province surrounding the capital Beijing, where dozens of cases have been confirmed – have taken matters into their own hands and are building brick walls around their street to protect it, Sky News reports

Paramedics wearing hazmat suits arrived in Broadbeach, Australia, to reports of a suspected coronavirus case on Tuesday – they are pictured escorting the male patient out to an ambulance

Paramedics wearing hazmat suits arrived in Broadbeach, Australia, to reports of a suspected coronavirus case on Tuesday – they are pictured escorting the male patient out to an ambulance

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning said the Government is ‘working on’ how to bring people home from the Chinese city. He told 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. 

‘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.’

It comes after the Chinese partners of US citizens were been banned from a rescue flight to evacuate Americans from Wuhan. A charter flight is scheduled to fly from the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to Alaska before landing in Ontario, California, where all of the evacuees will be quarantined for at least 72 hours. 

While the Foreign Office waits for a green-light to commence the repatriation, it has created a 24-hour helpline for anyone stuck in the coronavirus-ravaged Hubei province

WHAT ARE COUNTRIES DOING TO GET THEIR CITIZENS OUT OF CHINA? 

British ex-pats and tourists stuck in Wuhan have begged officials to ‘get us out of here’, venting their frustrations at the Government’s response so far. 

About 300 Britons who live in the city are growing increasingly anxious after the number of virus cases soared by 50 per cent in just 24 hours.

They accused the UK of dithering as it emerged the US, France, Spain, Australia, Japan, Thailand and Sri lanka had already organised evacuations for its citizens. 

France 

France’s health minister Agnes Buzyn said officials will put ‘hundreds’ of citizens on a direct flight to the country later in the week.

She said authorities were working on arranging a bus service to get the expats to the airport.

There are some 800 French citizens stranded in the Wuhan area.

She said French nationals will be held in quarantine for two weeks on arrival to stop the virus spreading on home soil. 

French car manufacturer Peugeot Citroen, which has a factory in Wuhan, said it was moving foreign employees and their families by bus to be quarantined in another city. 

The US 

The US State Department is organising a single flight out of Wuhan on Tuesday directly to San Francisco.

It said in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals ‘at greater risk from coronavirus’ – those already showing symptoms. 

Officials invited US citizens with a valid passport to contact the embassy in Beijing.

Private citizens are expected to later repay the travel costs, the notice said. 

It is reported that a Boeing 767 jet – that can carry around 230 passengers – will fly the citizens home.

There are roughly 1,000 Americans living in and around the Wuhan area.  

Germany

The German government said it was ‘considering a possible evacuation of all willing German citizens’ from Wuhan.

On Monday January 27 it advised all citizens to avoid travelling to China at all unless the trip was necessary. 

Japan 

Japan said it planned to evacuate all of its citizens using chartered flights. It claimed it was in final discussions about the logistics with Chinese authorities.

Some 430 Japanese nationals reside in or near Wuhan.

The government is also considering evacuation by road from Hubei Province, and have Japanese nationals take flights home from other places, according to Japanese media.

Spain 

Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez tweeted this morning that Spanish official are trying to evacuate 20 Spaniards stranded in Hubei province. 

She did not provide further details. 

Thailand  

The government is meeting today to discuss how to evacuate the 70 known expats living in Wuhan, most of whom are students.

Air force commander ACM Manat Wongwat said that up to four planes with medical staff are on stand-by to evacuate its citizens in the coming days. 

Sri Lanka 

Officials have applied for a chartered plane to be allowed to land at Wuhan airport and pick up 32 Sri Lankan students and their family members stranded in the outbreak’s epicentre. 

Its foreign office also said it was working to bring back all other citizens living in the wider Hubei province.  

There are about 860 Sri Lankan students are in China. 

Australia

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her government is ‘exploring all opportunities’ to help with evacuation of a number of Australians reportedly in Wuhan. 

There are thought to be a small number of citizens living in the central Chinese city.

India 

India has asked China if it can make arrangements for its expats to leave.

It is not clear how and when India plans to evacuate its citizens if approval is granted. Around 250 Indians are still in Wuhan.


Health News | Mail Online