Passengers arriving at Heathrow tonight on what could be the last plane out of virus-hit Wuhan in China said that very little had been done to screen them when they arrived in the UK.
Despite some saying that there were doctors on-hand to screen passengers, it seems that many exited the plane without being tested.
Many only left the flight with a leaflet listing symptoms and as one passenger pointed out, because it was in English, most of the Chinese people on the flight would not be able to understand it.
The government had announced that people arriving from Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, would be ushered through an isolated part of the airport and immediately evaluated by health workers.
However people on the plane said that, despite promises from the Department of Health, the flight seemed more or less like any other.
Those travelling on the plane were given leaflets by Public Health England urging anyone exhibiting symptoms of the virus – including fever, difficulty breathing and coughing – to contact a healthcare professional.
The measures, announced by the Department of Health this morning, were put in place as Public Health England upgraded the risk to the UK from “very low” to “low”.
Thomas Crosby, 31, lives in Wuhan and works for Birmingham City University.
As he walked through the main arrivals gate at Heathrow’s Terminal 4, he said: “Basically nothing happened.
“At Wuhan we got checked on the forehead with a little device at the train station, just because we had taken a train randomly before.
“In the airport, apart from the fact that 90% of people are wearing masks, you wouldn’t know there was any crisis at all.
“We weren’t screened at all at the airport in Wuhan.
“On arrival here we got a leaflet and that was it – and it’s not in Chinese either, so I don’t know if that really helps Chinese passengers.
“When we landed there was an English girl next to me, and she found out what was going on from the news on her phone.
“To be honest, nothing happened. Not even any real checks at passport control.
“Nobody around us was being siphoned off and tested. I could have been on a normal flight for all I knew, apart from that leaflet.
“They’re all leaving for Chinese New Year anyway, so you wouldn’t know of the exodus out of Wuhan was for that or because of the virus.
“We have had to cancel a few courses and things like that at the university.”
His brother, 33-year-old security guard Robert Crosby – who was visiting Thomas in Wuhan – said: “The leaflets were given to every passenger.
“There were lots of people wearing face masks on the flight, more so than usual. There was an English girl near us wearing a face mask as well.
“There weren’t many Brits on the flights. I think there was only us and another British couple.
“I didn’t see anyone being screened at Heathrow.
“I was aware of rumours about it before I set off. My mother was worried about it, and like all mothers they get very concerned about these sort of things.”
Eileen, 21, who wouldn’t give her surname is from Wuhan – and is in her second year studying Media at Leeds University.
She said: “I just heard something about it on the news, but everything is unknown.
“No doctor came and spoke to us after the plane.
“At the airport in Wuhan there were some doctors checking if people had a fever and handing out leaflets, but nothing, absolutely nothing at Heathrow.
“I just came off the plane normally, like any other flight.
“I was in Wuhan for a month, and I just stayed at home the whole time because of the virus.
“I’m alright, because I always wash my hands.
“More should have been done at this end to stop it spreading. I didn’t see anyone being checked at all.”
Wuhan resident Zhang Xuemyang, in the UK to visit his student son – who translated for him – added: “They tested our temperature, everyone’s temperature, and then gave us a leaflet.
“As far as we know, we didn’t see any guards or anyone like that. Nobody got hold of us.”
Another woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, had traveled to the UK to spend Chinese New Year with her son said that very little screening had taken place at Heathrow.
She said: “There was someone speaking on the plane saying there would be doctors to provide medical services.
“We waited on the plane for about 20 minutes. The doctor didn’t test everyone, and didn’t test me.”
Chinese state media has confirmed that 17 people have already died after contracting the disease.
As passengers were arriving on the China Southern Airlines flight, reports emerged that the Chinese government had halted all travel coming in and out of Wuhan – a city with 8.9 million residents.