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Coronavirus outbreak: Britain tells its citizens to leave China after airlines suspend flights

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LONDON: Britain told its citizens on Tuesday (Feb 4) to leave China if they could, saying the suspension of airline flights and restrictions on movement will make it harder to leave over coming weeks.

"The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

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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 the virus. Where there are still British nationals in Hubei Province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this."

READ: China's airlines told not to axe global flights as thousands cut

READ: Air transit hub UAE to suspend China flights, excluding Beijing

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have already cancelled flights to and from China.

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In an update to its travel advice, the Foreign Office also said some staff and dependents from the British Embassy and consulates were being withdrawn from China. Essential staff, such as those providing consular assistance, 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.

More than 25,000 flights to, from or within China will be cancelled this week, OAG Aviation Worldwide said on Tuesday.

The coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 400 people in China, has resulted in bans or restrictions on travel to and from China imposed by countries

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