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AFP
February 2, 2020

UK govt pulls staff, families from China as virus spreads

AFP
February 2, 2020

LONDON: Britain on Saturday said it was temporarily withdrawing some staff and their families from its diplomatic sites in China, as Beijing struggles to contain the nationwide new coronavirus epidemic.

The decision, which follows a similar move by the United States this week, came as the death toll from the outbreak soared to 259 and the total number of cases neared 12,000 within China.

The SARS-like virus has also begun to spread around the world, with more than 100 infections reported in more than 20 countries.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our staff and their families,” a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said.

“We are therefore temporarily withdrawing some UK staff, and their dependents from our embassy and consulates in China.”

He added that Britain´s ambassador in Beijing and staff needed to continue critical work will remain, and that British nationals in China would still have access to constant consular assistance.

The United States, which on Friday temporarily banned the entry of foreign nationals who had travelled to China over the past two weeks, has also made similar changes.

On Wednesday, it authorised the departure of non-emergency government employees and their family members from its offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang.

And on Friday, it ordered all relatives of staff members under the age of 21 to leave China immediately.