Medical staff transfer patients to Wuhan's Jinyintan hospital on January 17, 2020.

  • An emergency flight out of Wuhan, China, meant to ferry stranded 200 UK nationals back home on Thursday was abruptly cancelled.
  • The UK government had chartered a flight to fly the Britons and their families back to the UK, away from the rapidly-spreading coronavirus that originated in the city.
  • The flight was due to leave Wuhan at 10:30 a.m. local time and fly to RAF Brize Norton, a Royal Air Force station near London.
  • But the flight couldn't leave because Chinese officials have not yet given permission, the BBC reported.
  • The UK Foreign Office said it was "working urgently" to organise a flight to the UK "as soon as possible," the BBC said.
  • Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for mores stories.

An emergency flight chartered by the UK government to get Britons out of Wuhan has been abruptly canceled, leaving 200 people stranded in the Chinese city that's been quarantined to stop the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

The flight was due to take off at 10:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, and land at a Royal Air Force base in Brize Norton, near London, on Thursday night, the BBC and The Times of London reported.

But the flight couldn't leave because Chinese officials had not yet given it permission to fly, according to the BBC.

The coronavirus outbreak, that originated in Wuhan in early December, has killed 170 people, infected more than 7,700, and spread to at least 18 other countries.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was "working urgently" to organise a flight to the UK "as soon as possible," according to the BBC.

"There are some difficult issues that are being negotiated at very senior levels between the British government and Chinese government," Nick Gibb, the UK minister for schools, told Sky News.

"Our priority is to ensure the safety and welfare of British nationals in Wuhan and ensure they do return to the UK as soon as possible."

If the passengers return to the UK they will be sent to a National Health Service hospital to start a 14-day "supported isolation," the BBC reported, quoting a Downing Street spokesman.

The UK is yet to register a case of the virus. Gibb told Sky News that if any UK nationals in China showed any signs of the virus they would have to remain in China for treatment.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday UK time, a total of 130 people had been screened, the Department of Health and Social Care said. All were confirmed negative for the coronavirus, it added.

British Airways suspended all flights to and from mainland China on Tuesday. An airline representative told Business Insider's Rosie Perper the airline was canceling flights for two days "while we assess the situation."

Since then, at least 16 airlines have canceled flights to China, with Beijing and Shanghai among the most affected cities. Some airlines have even cut service to semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has itself suspended trains, ferries, and flights from traveling to and from mainland China.

Nearly 200 US citizens evacuated from Wuhan landed in Riverside, California, on Wednesday. None showed any symptoms of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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