British nationals in China have been advised by the Foreign Office to leave if they are able to as the coronavirus crisis intensifies.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also recommends against “all but essential travel to mainland China”.
He added: “The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority.
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“As such, we now advise British nationals in China to leave the country if they can, to minimise their risk of exposure to
Commercial airline options for departing China remain throughout the country except in Hubei province.
However the Foreign Office is continuing to work on arrangements to evacuate any remaining Britons from the region.
The Chinese government continues to impose further restrictions on movement within the country in response to the crisis, such as provincial highways and inter-city high speed rail, as well as the entry and exit to villages and towns across the country.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have since suspended UK-China flights and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
In an update to its travel advice, the Foreign Office also said some staff and dependants from the British Embassy and consulates were bring withdrawn from China and that only essential staff would remain.
“The ability of the British embassy and consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China is limited, and would be even more limited in the event that the situation deteriorates further,” the statement added.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to 425, with the total number of cases now standing at 20,438, Chinese officials said on Tuesday.
The latest figures are up from 361 deaths and 17,205 confirmed cases on Monday.
The Department of Health said on Monday that 326 UK tests for coronavirus have concluded, with a total of two coming back positive.
The two infected people – a University of York student and one of their relatives – continue to be treated for coronavirus in the specialist infectious diseases unit at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.
British officials are still trying to track down 239 people who flew from the Chinese city of Wuhan to the UK before travel restrictions were imposed in the coronavirus crisis.
A total of 94 UK nationals and family members have been evacuated to Britain from Wuhan – the city in Hubei province at the epicentre of the breakout – on two flights which arrived on Friday and Saturday.
The UK evacuees are currently undergoing 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.
On Monday, the British embassy in Beijing announced the last flights from China to the UK for British nationals would be leaving this week.
It said flights would be run by “partner countries” and any British nationals and their immediate families, including those with non-UK passports, must make themselves known if they wish to travel.
The first confirmed fatality from coronavirus was in the Philippines – a 44-year-old Chinese man who appeared to have been infected before arriving in the country, according to the WHO.
Hong Kong also reported its first death linked to the virus on Monday, that of a 39-year-old man who had travelled to the territory from Wuhan.
While the Philippines, the US, Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed travel restrictions, the UK has no plans to introduce a travel ban on foreign nationals who had recently been in China from entering the country.
Countries with such restrictions have sparked criticism from China, with its government accusing the US of causing “panic” in its response instead of helping.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the virus would be around for several months yet.
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In a statement to the Commons on Monday, he said: “Currently the number of cases is doubling every five days and it’s likely that the virus will be with us for at least some months to come.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”