Chinese fleeing coronavirus pay £21K for a seat on charter planes

Chinese flee HOME to escape coronavirus pandemic: Rich ‘pay £21K for a seat’ on charter planes as videos show Beijing airport mobbed by passengers arriving from abroad

  • Worried Chinese flock back home as new infections and deaths soar in Europe
  • Social media footage show large crowds of people arriving in Beijing yesterday
  • Private jet firms are charging customers up to £21k for a ticket to fly to China
  • ‘I felt it was dangerous to stay in the UK,’ one overseas student told MailOnline
  • This comes as Beijing reported just one new domestic coronavirus case today  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Overseas Chinese are paying up to £21,000 for a seat on charter planes to fly home as China is now deemed to be a safe harbour during the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Beijing reported just one new domestic case today in comparison to 15,152 just five weeks ago while the number of deaths and infections in Europe continue to soar.

New social media footage shows the Beijing Capital Airport, the country’s major air hub, filled to the brim by passengers arriving from abroad yesterday after the global health crisis led dozens of countries to declare a state of emergency.

Overseas Chinese students said that they felt ‘scared’ and ‘helpless’ while staying in  Europe during the outbreak due to the inaction of authorities and the public. 

‘Being on the [Chinese] soil just made me feel safe,’ one such student who has returned to China told MailOnline.

While another one said: ”I felt it was dangerous to stay in the UK.’ 

Footage shows the Beijing Capital Airport filled to the brim by passengers arriving from abroad after the coronavirus crisis led dozens of countries to declare a state of emergency

A Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. G550 jet is parked near a Deer Jet Co. Ltd. hanger in Beijing

Deer Jet, a private jet charter firm, is offering to fly people from the UK to China, but at a costly price. 

The company is charging its customers £21,000 per head to board its 14-seat business plane. Deer Jet has confirmed the price with Chinese media. 

The luxurious flight was quickly overbooked and the firm is considering to add new journeys, a spokesperson told the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Private travel agencies are also providing flights with Gulfstream G550 private jets which can charge up to £16,000 per seat.

Prices for other economy flights have risen up to £3,500 per ticket, almost 10 times higher than the average price from the previous year. 

Economy tickets for direct flights from London to Beijing have been sold out till the end of April, according to Ctrip, a Chinese travel booking website.  

Overseas Chinese are being charged up to £21,000 for a seat on charter planes to fly home as China has emerged to be a safe harbour during the escalating coronavirus pandemic

Private Gulfstream G550 executive airplane with Rolls Royce Wraith luxury car are pictured being displayed together at Sheremetyevo International Airport

Worried oversea students have rushed to flee the coronavirus pandemic after schools across Europe closed campuses and moved classes online to contain the spread of the virus.

‘Europe now feels like China in the early stages of the outbreak,’ said Lin Tiantian, a student at a private music school in Vienna, Austria.

The 21-year-old Chinese student flew back to southern Chinese city Xiamen last Saturday. 

She told MailOnline that she was ‘frightened because no one was wearing face masks in Vienna.’   

A 22-year-old Iranian woman who fled China with her mother is now planning to head back to Beijing after Iran became the world’s third most infected country with nearly 15,000 cases and at least 853 deaths.

Fatemeh Pourani, who was born and studying in Beijing, left the country with her mother on February 3 while the virus was mainly spreading around China.

She said she was surprised to see how quickly COVID-19 had swept Iran soon after China.  

Fatemeh revealed that she plans to return to China in April when the situation becomes more stable.

‘I felt like coming home the moment my phone was connected when we landed. I didn’t need to be scared anymore.’ 

Another Chinese student studying at the University of Sheffield decided to return home when he felt ‘helpless as there was a lack of actions from the UK government.’

‘People in the UK weren’t paying much attention to the outbreak at the beginning. I felt like it was dangerous to stay in the UK,’ Yao, 23, told MailOnline.

‘I felt much safer once I got on the plane and saw everyone was wearing face masks and cleaning their hands.’   

Chiara, 20, had been studying in Milan before she headed back to Shanghai on March 3 after seeing the number of cases in Italy rapidly climbed up.

‘I was relieved when I landed in Shanghai. Being on the [Chinese] soil just made me feel safe,’ the design student said to MailOnline.

‘But now I feel quite anxious about the situation in Italy because I don’t know what would happen to my studies and my other Chinese friends who are still over there.’ 

One UK-based Chinese entrepreneur, who calls herself Lucy, said several proposals by UK authorities and Boris Johnson caused certain degrees of panic in the Chinese community in Britain.

‘For example, the contingency plans to open up a morgue in Hyde Park and the decision not to close schools or ban social gatherings,’ she told MailOnline.

‘Herd immunity, the new concept launched last week, caused even wider outrage. Many Chinese people accused the UK of thinking lightly of people’s lives and experimenting with people’s lives.’

A lone commuter wears a face mask as he crosses London Bridge (left) in the capital, while a student at University College London (right) also chooses to cover her mouth

A sparsely-filled District Line carriage on an Underground train in west London as many office staff in the capital opted to work from home

The news comes as China has reported just one domestic case of coronavirus today but found 20 more cases imported from abroad, threatening to spoil its progress.

The single case in Wuhan will boost China’s view that it has ‘basically curbed’ the spread of the pathogen which emerged in the city last December.

But the country is now concerned about an influx of cases from abroad, with an average of 20,000 people flying into China every day.

In a reversal of roles, Beijing is now requiring almost all international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

Medical staff celebrate after all patients were discharged at Wuchang Fangcang hospital, a temporary hospital set up at Hongshan gymnasium to treat people infected with the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, 10 March 2020

A woman wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus as she waits at Beijing Capital Airport in Beijing

China is now focusing on restarting factories and businesses hit by the containment policies, including the hard-hit airline industry. 

Local governments must do their utmost to ensure people return to work as soon as possible, the official China Daily said in an editorial.

Many businesses are still facing labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, it said. 

Meanwhile, Britain’s coronavirus shutdown could last for 18 months or more while scientists scramble to find a vaccine capable of stopping the disease, scientists warn.

UK authorities had confirmed 1,543 cases of the coronavirus and 55 deaths by yesterday. The true number of infected people is believed to be higher than 25,000

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that the UK was going to war with the coronavirus – people were urged to work from home, not to socialise and to self-isolate if anyone in their house becomes ill

Healthy people below the age of 70 have been urged to work from home if they can, to avoid socialising or going out and to stop all non-essential travel

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that people should stop socialising, work from home, avoid travelling and that whole households should stay in isolation if one person becomes ill.

And a report by leading scientists who are advising the Government said people may need to keep up the drastic lifestyle change for 18 months or more.

The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team predicted that 260,000 people could have died if the Government hadn’t changed tack yesterday and tightened its rules.

Now it could limit the fatalities to fewer than 20,000 by keeping people away from each other and slowing down the spread of the virus.


What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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