More than 80 people evacuated to the UK from the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak have celebrated the end of two weeks in quarantine.
“We’re free,” shouted one man, Matt Raw, as he left isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral, Merseyside, on Thursday.
The 38-year-old was among the first group of people to be flown out of Wuhan by the Foreign Office.
As he walked out of the gates surrounding the apartment block where he had been staying in isolation for the past week, he raised his fist and said: ”We’re free! ... And the sun’s shining.”
Mr Raw praised the “wonderful, wonderful” NHS staff who he said had made him and his mother Hazel, 75, and his wife Ying, 38, feel as though they were “just on holiday for a couple of weeks”.
“They have really done their very best to make us as comfortable as possible,” he said. “We’re not prisoners. They’re trying to make us feel like, if anything, we’re just on holiday for a couple of weeks, maybe without the swimming pool.”
Members of the public donated books and board games to the facility to keep internees entertained during their fortnight stay.
Mr Raw said he now planned to return to his home in Knutsford, Cheshire, put the heating on and feed the goldfish.
He added: ”It is absolutely lovely to be out and I’ll no doubt be going out for a pint a little bit later.”
Mr Raw said his mother, who has dementia, was one of the first to leave on Thursday and had gone to stay in a care home for a couple of weeks.
He said: “She’s not really totally aware of where she is and what’s happening but she’s certainly enjoying all of the attention to a degree.”
Two buses carrying people who had been in isolation left the hospital on Thursday afternoon.
One guest wrote a message of thanks to the staff on a window using a marker pen.
First guests due to leave Arrowe Park today following their repatriation from Wuhan. We’d like to thank them for their patience & support & thank staff from the range of organisations & the wider Wirral community who looked after them so well. Guests left this message of thanks: pic.twitter.com/c29k5yhzSr
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk)
A small number of people, who arrived from China on a later flight, remain at the hospital and are due to go home at the weekend.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said those in isolation had “set an important example” for the “many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus’s spread”
He paid tribute to “the highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical way they have played their part in keeping both themselves and others safe”.
Dr William Welfare, interim deputy director for health protection at Public Health England North West, said: “We would like to thank all of those who have been staying at Arrowe Park for their patience and support over the last two weeks.
“All the test results from flight one have come back negative so we can be very clear that all of those leaving today do not pose risk to the wider public.
“We’re delighted they’re leaving and they’ll be able to continue with their normal lives.”
Dr Kieran Murphy, deputy medical director for NHS England in the North West, said: “I think it’s been great to see how everyone across Wirral has stepped up to the plate to help our guests from Wuhan and China.”
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, thanked Arrowe Park Hospital’s “guests” for “the highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical way they have played their part in keeping both themselves and others safe”.
“They have set an important example, recognising that over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus’s spread,” he added.