A Briton who was evacuated from Wuhan following the initial Covid outbreak – and shouted ‘we’re free’ as he left UK quarantine – says he wishes he had stayed in the Chinese city.
Matt Raw, 39, from Cheshire, says he wishes he ‘never got on the flight’ back to the UK from Wuhan – where the virus was first identified more than a year ago.
Despite being the city being the epicentre of the world pandemic, life for its residents has since returned to normal.
He told Good Morning Britain: ‘The situation changed for us two weeks when we came out of Arrowe Park (quarantine).
Matt Raw (pictured), 39, from Cheshire, says he wishes he ‘never got on the flight’ back to the UK from Wuhan – where the virus was first identified more than a year ago
Despite being the city being the epicentre of the world pandemic, life for its residents has since returned to normal. Pictured: People in Wuhan enjoy a huge party in August last year
Wuhan was plunged into an ultra-strict lockdown in January after the discovery of Covid. Pictured: The streets of Wuhan during the lockdown
‘That was the point where I said ‘hang on wait a minute, we aren’t doing anything in this country’.
‘That was when we realised, we should have never got on that flight.’
Along with his wife, Ying, 39, and his 75-year-old mother, Hazel, who has dementia, Mr Raw, was among 83 people evacuated by the British Government from the Chinese city on January 31 last year.
The plane landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and he was later taken to quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.
He shouted ‘we’re free’ as he walked out of quarantine two weeks later. But Mr Raw said he soon became fearful of a lack of action by the UK Government.
He said: ‘(By then) it had already arrived in England, so we thought ‘why aren’t we doing anything?’.
‘And that was from mid-February through to March – there was no talk of lockdown, closing ports, stopping people coming in and out of the country.
‘That was the point we realised we should have stayed.’
He added: ‘If we had stayed in Wuhan it would have been two or three months of pretty strict lockdown but then life returns to normal.’
Matt Raw, 38, arrived in Britain from Wuhan, China, on January 31 with his wife, Ying (pictured), 38, and his 75-year-old mother, Hazel, who has dementia
Mr Raw was one of 83 Britons evacuated from Wuhan and brought to Arrowe Park Hospital. When he left quarantine, he shouted ‘we’re free’ (pictured)
The first two cases of Covid-19 in the UK were confirmed on January 31 last year.
The UK was plunged into lockdown almost two months later, on March 24, after infection numbers began spiralling and the death toll reached 335 people.
UK vs China’s Covid response: A timeline
December 2019: Scientists discover a cluster of unusual ‘pneumonia’ cases in Wuhan
January 2020: Scientists share the sequence of a novel coronavirus – SARS-Cov-2
Late January 2020: Wuhan is plunged into a strict lockdown
March 2020: The UK is plunged into a strict lockdown
April 2020: Lockdown measures in Wuhan are lifted. State-owned media say there have been 50,000 cases and 3,869 deaths in Wuhan.
June 2020: Lockdown measures are eased in the UK. After a brief period of low case numbers, infections begin to rise.
August 2020: Pictures emerge from Wuhan of thousands partying at a huge music festival
October 2020: England is plunged into a second national lockdown – this time for four weeks
December 2020: With a more transmissible new variant identified in England, large areas of the country are put under tougher measures as part of a regional Tier system
December 2020: While much of the UK is essentially in lockdown, under Tier 4 restrictions, wild parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations go ahead in Wuhan, with thousands seen lining the streets of the city
January: A third national lockdown is announced amid spiralling infection figures. Measures will last until at least March 8 and are expected to be lifted in stages
Initially the strict lockdown measures included shutting all non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants.
Britons were only allowed out for essential trips for food, medicine, or to continue essential work, while people were allowed out once a a day – for a maximum of one hour – for exercise.
Months earlier, in China, a cluster of unknown ‘pneumonia’ cases began appearing in Wuhan in December 2019.
Scientists shared the sequence of a novel coronavirus – SARS-Cov-2 – on January 12 last year.
Wuhan, which has a population of nine-million, was plunged into lockdown 12 days later, on January 23.
City officials prohibited all transport in and out of the city, while residents were only allowed to leave their home if they had permission from authorities.
All residents’ movements were highly monitored and only one member per household was allowed to go out for grocery shopping.
Lockdown was ended in Wuhan on April 8, with 50,340 confirmed cases and 3,869 deaths, according to official state run media outlet Xinhuanet.
Back in England, lockdown measures were eased in July. But cases again spiralled and at the end of October, the country was again plunged back into a four week lockdown.
Measures were eased again in December, switching to a Tier system which allowed tighter measures in Tier 4 areas and looser ones in others under Tier 2 or 3.
Tier rules were planned to be temporarily lifted over Christmas, but the suspension period was dramatically cut after the identification of a new and more transmissible strain of Covid in the UK.
England was plunged into its third national lockdown after Christmas, with measures set to continue now until at least March 8 – when the Government may begin to lift restrictions in stages.
In Wuhan however, wild parties have been allowed to go ahead as the country continues to keep Covid under control.
The streets of Wuhan were packed on New Year’s Eve as residents welcomed in the new year.
Though disputed by some academics, China, which is home to 1.4billion people, has rarely more than 100 new cases nationwide in a day since March.
Commenting on Mr Raw’s claims, a Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office spokesperson said: ‘The extraordinary efforts of our staff has brought Brits home safely from every corner of the world during an unprecedented global pandemic.
‘Most of the 300 British nationals we flew home from Wuhan on special flights were content with our efforts, which involved sending repatriation teams to the city at the height of the initial outbreak.’
WHO team investigating China’s Covid outbreak say they have been given data ‘no-one has seen before’ and are NOT ruling out that the virus escaped from a lab
Dr Peter Daszak, a British zoologist on the WHO team, said last night that China was being open with them and allowing them to explore wherever the evidence leads.
But there are doubts over whether the UN agency which parroted Beijing’s false claims earlier in the pandemic has the capacity to uncover the truth more than a year on.
The Communist Party is supposed to have granted the WHO scope to explore how
Dr Daszak and his colleagues were seen driving into the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology shrouded in mist this morning.
The investigators also met with ‘bat woman’, Dr Shi Zhengli, a virologist who was one of the first people in the world to identify the novel coronavirus.
Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease on Wednesday
Journalists approach Peter Daszak, a British zoologist who is president of the US-based EcoHealth Alliance, as the WHO team arrive at the lab on Wednesday. He said last night: ‘They are sharing data with us that we have not seen before – that no one has seen before. They are talking with us openly about every possible pathway. We really are getting somewhere and I think every member of the team would say that.’
Peter Daszak and Thea Fischer arriving on Wednesday. Fischer is a virologist and epidemiologist at University of Copenhagen and Nordsjaelland Hospital, who previously worked at Denmark’s State Serum Institute
Peter Daszak, who is president of the US-based EcoHealth Alliance, speaks on the phone this morning in Wuhan ahead of the visit to the lab
He said in a tweet investigators had met with ‘bat woman’, Dr Shi Zhengli, a virologist who was one of the first people in the world to identify the novel coronavirus
‘They are talking with us openly about every possible pathway. We really are getting somewhere and I think every member of the team would say that.’
Arriving at the laboratory this morning he told reporters outside that his team was ‘looking forward to a very productive day and to asking all the questions that we know need to be asked’.
Most scientists believe Covid – which has killed more than two million people worldwide – originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal.
In Washington, the Trump administration repeatedly demanded that the laboratory be probed and last month then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo released new intelligence about the facility.
Among the dossiers, were claims that researchers at the lab fell ill in the fall of 2019 with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, that scientists there were working with a bat coronavirus that is 96.2 percent similar genetically to the virus that causes Covid, and that the lab has secret links to the Chinese military.
Experts have repeatedly dismissed the idea that the virus was manufactured, and Mr Pompeo did not suggest that Covid was intentionally engineered or released on purpose.
Instead, he raised the possibility that it was a natural virus that had accidentally escaped from the lab through sloppy safety protocols.
‘Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one,’ the State Department said in a briefing document.
The most shocking revelation in Pompeo’s release was intelligence suggesting that workers at the Wuhan lab fell ill with ‘symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses’ in the fall of 2019, months before the wider outbreak in Wuhan.
The WHO experts stayed inside the institute for nearly four hours on Wednesday, before driving away without stopping to talk to media waiting outside.
Police in black uniforms and face masks lined the road to separate the crowds of reporters from the cars.
According to the state-run Global Times, the team also visited the P4 lab – Asia’s first maximum-security lab equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) such as Ebola.
There was speculation early in the pandemic that the virus could have accidentally leaked from the biosafety lab in Wuhan, although there was little evidence to back up that theory.
China has faced criticism at home and abroad for covering up the initial outbreak and concealing information when it first emerged in Wuhan in December 2019.
Journalists are held back by security guards outside the entrance to the lab on Wednesday
Vladimir G. Dedkov (L), Peter Ben Embarek (C-back), Peter Daszak (R) and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team
Security personnel gather near the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the WHO
Journalists at a fence looking into the P4 Lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virology today
But Dr Daszak told journalists on Tuesday the mission was proceeding ‘very well’, as the group was driven into an animal disease control centre.
The Briton told Sky: ‘If there are data that point towards any hypothesis, we’ll follow the data, we’ll follow the evidence where it leads us. If it leads us to a seafood market and a cold chain, we’ll follow it there.
‘If it leads us to a wildlife farm or a wildlife market we’ll go there. If it leads us to a lab we’ll go there. Everything’s on the table and we’re keeping an open mind.’
He said they had visited the Huanan seafood market, where the fist cases of coronavirus emerged, and that they were ‘seeing new information and it’s good, it’s very valuable stuff.’
Chinese scientists and officials have been keen to point the finger of blame outside their own borders – variously suggesting that the virus could have originated in Bangladesh, the US, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia
Multiple countries have uncovered evidence that the virus was circulating months earlier than originally thought. While Beijing has tried to insist this proves the virus originated elsewhere, most scientists still think China was the origin – raising the prospect that communist officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
Dr Daszak told the broadcaster: ‘We are in the market looking around on our own and asking questions, we are meeting with market managers, with vendors who worked there and people from the community and asking them questions.
‘We are talking to people who collected samples from the floor of the market that then tested positive. That’s the sort of information we are getting with the person that really matters.’
China is also determined to put the focus on its recovery from the outbreak, and the WHO team toured a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s recovery from the pandemic in Wuhan on Saturday.
On Sunday the team went to the market where one of the first reported clusters of infections emerged over a year ago, which Dr Daszak tweeted was a ‘critical’ stop.
Other stops include the hospital which treated some of the first coronavirus cases.
Researchers in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province in February 2017
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is seen above. China’s ruling Communist Party keeps a tight hold on information and is particularly concerned about revelations about its handling of the virus
The head of the WHO Tedros Adhanom (above) has expressed impatience with how long China took to make necessary arrangements for the expert team’s visit
Shi Zhengli, one of China’s leading experts on bat coronaviruses and deputy director of the Wuhan lab, raised some eyebrows in a June 2020 interview with Scientific American magazine in which she said she was initially anxious over whether the virus had leaked from the facility.
But subsequent checks revealed that none of the gene sequences matched the viruses held by the lab, Shi said, adding: ‘I had not slept a wink for days.’
She later said she would ‘bet her life that (the new coronavirus) had nothing to do with the lab’, according to Chinese state media.
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