Chinese ambassador to UK warns against ‘panic’ over coronavirus

The Chinese ambassador to the UK has warned against “rumours and panic” over coronavirus after concerns were raised that Boris Johnson has not offered a personal message of support to China’s leaders.

Speaking to reporters in London, Liu Xiaoming called on the UK Government to support China in its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, but insisted that relations between Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and the UK Prime Minister were good.

He said: “It is of hope that governments of all countries, including the UK, should understand and support China’s efforts, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic, and ensure normal co-operation and exchanges between countries.”

Earlier, Mr Liu tweeted that the UK should respect the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has warned against travel and trade restrictions on China.

The Foreign Office in the UK has advised Britons in China to leave if they are able to.

Mr Liu’s tweet said: “WHO has reiterated that it disapproves of and is even against overreaction to the epidemic, including travel and trade restrictions on China.

“We hope the UK will respect the professional advice of WHO and ensure the normal co-operation and exchanges between China and the UK.”

It comes after it emerged that Prime Minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, sent an email saying Mr Liu was unhappy that the Prime Minister had not sent a personal message to officials in China.

Mr Johnson Snr accidentally included someone at the BBC in the list of officials he sent an email to after meeting the Chinese ambassador to discuss environmental matters.

The BBC reported that Mr Johnson Snr wrote: “Re the outbreak of coronavirus, Mr Liu obviously was concerned that there had not yet – so he asserted – been direct contact between the PM and Chinese head of state or government in terms of a personal message or telephone call.”

Mr Johnson Snr said the BBC’s account of the contents of the email was correct.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson Snr is a private citizen and was not acting for the Government in any official or unofficial capacity.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said they were continuing to work “constructively” with the Chinese authorities on the issue.

In other developments, more than 80 UK citizens and family members who were the first to be quarantined at Arrow Park Hospital on the Wirral have been told they can leave next Thursday.

Th group are spending 14 days in isolation but will be released next week as long as they remain symptom-free.

Meanwhile, a British man who is among 3,700 people being quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan has voiced concerns over ongoing monitoring for the disease on board and what his fate will be when he returns to the UK.


David Abel, of Northamptonshire, praised cruise line Princess Cruises for its handling of the situation so far, but said fears remain about efforts to fight the disease on the ship.

Health workers in the port city of Yokohama said on Thursday that 10 more people on the Diamond Princess had tested positive for the disease, in addition to 10 others on Wednesday when the ship was ordered to be isolated.

As those 20 people received treatment at nearby hospitals and the remaining passengers were confined to their cabins, Mr Abel said medical examinations aimed at detecting new cases on board had seemed to have stopped over the past few days.

Mr Abel, who is on board with his wife, added: “And what happens at the end of this quarantine period? There’s no guarantee it’s going to be 14 days now. It could be longer.

“And what happens when we finally get back to the UK? Are we going to be put in quarantine yet again for another 14 days?

“These are questions I need answered. I’m going to be contacting the UK Government … to find out.”

Sources have told the PA news agency that the Foreign Office has no plans to fly anyone off the ship and back to the UK at the moment.

The ship is being quarantined for 14 days and Foreign Office officials are understood to be in touch with local authorities.

Meanwhile, the global death toll from coronavirus rose to 565 on Thursday, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 28,273. Some 260 cases have been recorded outside China.