A British man trapped in Wuhan has today told of his heartbreak of having to leave his Chinese wife behind in the deserted city – because Beijing won't allow her on tomorrow's British evacuation flight.
Jeff Siddle, his wife Sindy and their nine-year-old daughter Jasmine chose to fly to the Hubei province – which has been crippled by the coronavirus epidemic – to spend time with his partner's family and celebrate the Chinese New Year.
But in a cruel twist of events, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has revealed Sindy - who has had a visa for permanent residency in the UK since 2008 - will not be allowed to board a plane evacuating British nationals from Wuhan, set to fly tomorrow.
Some 132 people have now died across China and 6,000 around the world have caught the highly infectious pneumonia-like infection, with cases having risen dramatically in the past week.
Talking to BBC Radio 4 Today's programme from Wuhan, Mr Siddle said: 'My wife's a Chinese citizen, although she's got a permanent residency visa for the UK as a spouse (in 2008).
'But what the foreign office is saying is they are going to be doing an airlift, possibly tomorrow, but it's only [for] British citizens. Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave.
Jeff Siddle, his wife Sindy and their nine-year-old daughter Jasmine will be torn apart because Beijing won't allow his Chinese wife on tomorrow's British evacuation flight
The killer coronavirus outbreak has now killed 131 people and struck down more than 6,000. Cases have been spotted in Canada, US, France and Australia
'I was put in the position to make a decision to either leave my wife here in China, or the three of us stay here (in Wuhan).'
Mr Siddle, 54, from Prudhoe in Northumberland, added: 'We have to basically have a nine-year-old child separated from their mother. Who knows how long that is going to be for?
'The way things are going that could be a prolonged period before my Sindy could leave China. My daughter's obviously been in flood of tears. She's absolutely devastated.'
The IT software developer added that Sindy was trying to 'keep strong' but has been left 'absolutely distraught' at Chinese authorities tearing their family apart. He added: 'It was an awful decision.'
Mr Siddle told the Guardian there were no health warnings in place when they flew out on January 15. He told the newspaper: 'My head is spinning. It's just horrendous.
'This ordeal just turned into our worst nightmare. How can they put a family in this position? Having to leave Sindy in China would be the worst thing that anyone could be put through. How am I going to tell Jasmine that her mum has to stay behind?'
British PE teacher Kharn Lambert - who is stuck in Wuhan with his visiting 81-year-old grandmother Veronica Theobald and last week begged the Foreign Office to 'come and get them' - revealed he has been in contact with the British embassy in Beijing for the first time
Mr Lambert, 31, told Sky News this morning the Foreign Office had given him assurances the evacuation will take place tomorrow, but there was no set time yet
Mr Siddle told the BBC that the Foreign Office has said they have to make their own way to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, where the US and Japan have flown residents out of the city from.
But he added that he is a three-hour drive away from the airport, warning that all the roads are on lockdown.
Mr Siddle said: 'We've called the local Chinese office to get some details but they're saying the only way we can get a car through is if we have a special diplomatic note, so I've phoned the Foreign Office and asked for that but they said they can't do it. So that's put another stress on top of everything.'
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 appears from behind the ambulance doors (left) and another stands beside the hazmat-clad woman (right)
The US launched an emergency mission to repatriate 240 citizens yesterday, with a flight out of Wuhan Tianhe International Airport.
On board the flight, which left before dawn local time, was diplomats from the US Consulate as well as other American citizens. One British dual national also boarded the flight. It is unclear whether any medics were on board to monitor passengers for signs of infection.
It made a refueling stop in Alaska and was due to fly on to Ontario, California – but it has since been diverted to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, where it is expected to land in the next few hours.
Passengers were screened before initially boarding in Wuhan, and then went through follow-up checks at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska. The will be screened again once they arrive in California. It is thought they will be quarantined for at least 72 hours.
The Chinese partners of US citizens were banned from the rescue flight, reportedly at the demand of Beijing.
Japanese officials also chartered a flight from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to rescue 206 citizens stuck in the coronavirus-hit city.
The plane landed back at Haneda Airport in Tokyo this morning at around 9am local time after flying to Wuhan overnight.
The flight was carrying emergency relief supplies including 15,000 masks, 50,000 pairs of gloves and 8,000 protective glasses for medics in Wuhan. Around four medical officials were also on board to monitor returning passengers.
Officials confirmed passengers would be tested for the coronavirus strain. Japan Times the evacuees would be asked to remain at home and isolate themselves to prevent the potential spread.
France's health minister Agnes Buzyn confirmed a plane will be sent for its stranded citizens on Thursday, to return home on Friday or Saturday. No further details have been given.
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.
The European Union meanwhile said it would co-fund an airlift effort at France's request, so that more than 100 nationals from other EU nations could be repatriated along with French citizens.
Australia is planning to evacuate its citizens from the epicentre of the deadly virus outbreak in China and quarantine them on an island used to detain asylum seekers.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
No confirmed details have been given, with officials still thrashing out details with Chinese officials. But it is thought Australia will work with New Zealand on the operation and would seek to help Pacific nations evacuate their citizens where possible.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would be held in quarantine for 14 days on Christmas Island, known for its notorious immigration detention centre used to detain asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat.
Morrison said 'vulnerable' Australians - including children and the elderly - and short-term visitors to Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province would be prioritised in extraction efforts.
WHO ELSE IS PLANNING ON EVACUATING RESIDENTS FROM WUHAN?
India Local media reported the Indian government will request clearance from Beijing to take more than 250 citizens out of Wuhan and that a Boeing 747 in Mumbai is on