More than 80 Britons flown in from China over the coronavirus outbreak have arrived at their accommodation that was today kitted out with bedding, games consoles and Barbies ahead of their 14 days in quarantine.
They were driven into NHS staff accommodation blocks at the side of Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral just after 7.15pm after travelling 180 miles from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
It comes as the first cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed in the UK, with two people from the same family being treated at a specialist centre.
The pair, believed to be Chinese nationals, had been staying at a budget hotel in York and are currently being treated by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in its specialist Airborne High Consequences Infectious Disease Centre (HCID).
The coronavirus, which has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed 213, is known to spread easily through coughs and sneezes and close contact, and people may be contagious even if they feel well.
More than 80 Britons flown in from China over the coronavirus outbreak have arrived at their accommodation that was today kitted out with bedding, games consoles and Barbies ahead of their 14 days in quarantine. Pictured: Buses carrying the British nationals arrive
The five coaches - carrying the 83 Britons who were on board the Wamos Air Boeing 747 today - were escorted into the Merseyside hospital by five police officers on motorbikes
A convoy of coaches carrying British nationals evacuated from Wuhan in China was escorted by a police car as it arrived in the hospital
Buses carrying the British nationals drove along the M1 to the Wirral ahead of their two weeks of quarantine
The buses carrying British nationals who flew in from the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China, travelled down the M6 to their accommodation
A staff member gazing out of a window at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside as the British nationals arrived
Today, trolleys containing PlayStations, Xboxes and children's toys such as Barbie doll sets were seen being wheeled into their quarantined area today
Some of the toys were aged one to three years, suggesting families with small children may be kept in isolation. Pictured: The trolleys being taken in
It is understood that those quarantined will be given fully-furnished rooms, food and laundry facilities, while kitchens are available if people wish to self cater. Pictured: Food packages are brought into the NHS accommodation at Arrowe Park Hospital today
Any families will be able to stay together and there will be no charge for the accommodation. Pictured: A cot being moved outside the accommodation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside today
The view inside one of the rooms that will be used to quarantine some 83 Britons at Arrowe Park Hospital
The bus carrying the passengers on the way to Arrowe Park Hospital. A team of medical staff, who will wear protective suits, will closely monitor their condition when they arrive
Anyone with suspicious symptoms will be taken to the nearby Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, which has a high-level infectious diseases unit. Pictured: Members of medical staff wearing masks as the buses arrive
The five coaches - carrying the 83 Britons who were on board the Wamos Air Boeing 747 today - were escorted into the Merseyside hospital by five police officers on motorbikes.
Three ambulances were also in the convoy as well as two police cars.
They were taken by drivers without protective masks, raising fears for their safety.
Coach drivers who took those evacuated from Wuhan to their quarantine location on the Wirral will also spend 14 days in isolation themselves.
They were asked to drive those brought back from China without any masks or specialist clothing – and will now take a period of paid leave away from others.
A spokesman for Horseman Coaches said their staff had been reassured by Government officials that they did not need to wear masks for the 180-mile journey because passengers had been quarantined for eight days in China and only allowed on the flight because they were clear of any symptoms.
However, the Department of Health rubbished the eight-day claim and said no protective gear was required because the risk to drivers was ‘very low.’
Reading coach firm, Horseman, has sent at least seven buses to RAF Brize Norton to pick up the evacuated passengers from China.
The coaches are being driven by drivers employed by the company, all of whom agreed to do the job.
The company refused to say whether the drivers would be quarantined afterwards, but said the buses would be 'deep cleaned'.
The Horseman Coaches spokesman told the PA news agency: 'The Department for Health have procedures in place for the vehicles to be deep cleaned.
'That is part of the process of this undertaking, which will happen as soon as the vehicles are clear. I can give everybody assurance that everything will be cleansed sufficiently.'
The spokesman declined to comment on whether or not the drivers – staff members of Horseman Coaches – would also have to be put in isolation.
'I can't comment any further on that I'm afraid,' he said.
Horseman Coaches is a private coach hire company operating throughout Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Slough, West Berkshire and across the south east carrying more than 9,000 passengers each day, according to the company's website.
Their vehicles will also be deep-cleaned before being allowed back into service in a fortnight.
The plane will later fly on to Spain carrying the remaining 27 passengers - all non-UK nationals.
The British passengers on the evacuation flight - who have mainly been in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province - had to sign a contract agreeing to isolation before they could board the flight, and underwent temperature checks.
The Mail understands that the pilot and crew on the flight from Wuhan province were also not instructed to wear masks and it was unclear whether they had also been told to self-quarantine.
The Ministry of Defence insisted that all Government employees and military personnel who had come into close contact with passengers would be put into supported isolation.
The Department of Health also explained that each of the seven coaches had one medic – dressed in specialist protective gear – onboard in the unlikely event any passengers developed symptoms during the journey.
Passengers on the flight revealed crew had tried to keep them at least 6ft from each other to avoid cross-contamination.
But some evacuees were seen shaking hands with staff on the tarmac at Brize Norton.
Today, trolleys containing PlayStations, Xboxes and children's toys such as Barbie doll sets were seen being wheeled into their quarantined area.
Some of the toys were aged one to three years, suggesting families with small children may be kept in isolation.
It is understood that those quarantined will be given fully-furnished rooms, food and laundry facilities, while kitchens are available if people wish to self cater.
Any families will be able to stay together and there will be no charge for the accommodation.
A team of medical staff, who will wear protective suits, will closely monitor their condition.
Anyone with suspicious symptoms will be taken to the nearby Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, which has a high-level infectious diseases unit.
The quarantine period will give medics time to see if any of the group develop symptoms or test positive for the virus. Pictured: A member of medical staff wearing a full hazmat suit on the bus with the passengers who landed from Wuhan
Large cardboard boxes filled with items including heaters are removed from the accommodation blocks on the Wirral today
A member of staff at Arrowe Park Hospital works today before the passengers arrive later. White bags are carried on trolleys
A trolley stacked high with telephone devices arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital as they prepared for the passengers today
Barriers are put up at Arrowe Park Hospital today as water bottles are brought in. Large flasks for hot drinks and packets of milk are also seen
They are being isolated for two weeks because this is the maximum time it is thought to take for symptoms to emerge if a person has been infected.
There has been speculation over whether the virus can be transmitted by people showing no symptoms.
Patrick Graham, who was onboard the flight that arrived today, shared footage of the plane touching down and joked with his social media followers: ‘The infected are coming.’ He also shared a screenshot of a report detailing confirmation of the UK’s first two cases of the virus and wrote: ‘Please don’t blame us … we have only just landed.’
Passengers on the flight were served chicken tikka masala.
Matt Raw made the flight at short notice, after initially being told that his Chinese wife, Ying, who has a visitor visa for the UK, would not be allowed to travel.
When the Chinese authorities eased the restrictions, Mr Raw was able to travel with his wife and 75-year-old mother, Hazel. He said the trip was like any normal plane journey.
He said: ‘It’s maybe not the best quality aeroplane food that I’ve had, but certainly this is probably one of the best meals of my life – we’re on our way home.’
Speaking to ITV before take-off, he said: ‘It is proving to be a really, really taxing job to get all the passengers on board. They are struggling with… we don’t have names, we have numbers. So they are trying to correspond the names to the numbers, the ticket numbers, to get everybody on board and in the right seat.’
Other passengers described the chaos of getting to the airport at short notice and being forced to leave loved ones behind.
Speaking to the BBC after the flight touched down, newlywed Ben Williams, whose Chinese wife had stayed behind, said: ‘We are just happy to get on a coach to our final destination for an extended vacation.’
Referring to the 14-day quarantine, he added: ‘I think I’ll be all right. As long as I can get some exercise. It’s good to be back, but I also miss China as well. Sadly we came to the decision for her [my new wife] to stay behind because of the short notice they gave us for the flight. They did tell us very much last-minute that she would be allowed on the flight but by the time they told us, we had nothing arranged.
‘Hopefully, it’s less than a few months [before I see her again] but we’ve been in a long distance relationship from the UK to Brazil for the last two years so a couple of months is nothing.’
He continued: ‘Everyone is trying their best to keep clean and ensure the wellbeing of everyone around them. I was in self-isolation in China. With a Chinese family, enjoying Chinese New Year indoors, watching TV. Enjoying sunshine on the roof of the apartment.
Some people living on the Wirral took to social media to express their concerns at the move, calling it a 'bizarre' move and an 'absolute joke'.
It comes after doctors and nurses were given two days' notice to move from the accommodation block to make way for the quarantined Britons. The staff were seen packing bedding, clothes and pots and pans in cars and vans.
Hospital workers said today they were 'scared' over the Britons from China being quarantined at the hospital. One nurse told MailOnline: 'This was just dumped on us.
'We haven't been fitted for masks - I'm not even sure how many we have. Everyone's a bit scared especially as there's now been cases in Britain.
'They are asking us to put ourselves in harm's way. The hospital couldn't cope if there was an outbreak. We are creaking as it is.'
David, 54, a plumber who was helping prepare the building and works for North West Engineering, said: 'We have been sent up here to prepare some rooms.
'We are preparing so to make sure that the rooms have hot and cold water. We are doing the plumbing. I didn't know I had to be here until today. It's all a bit lastminute.com.'
A woman carrying bedding is seen heading into the accommodation at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside today
Items are removed from the accommodation ahead of the Britons arriving today. Staff were given two days' notice ahead of the Britons' arrival
Workers install privacy screens at the accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital today ahead of the arrival of British