AN Oxford man who is set to return home from China this Friday says he is ‘not worried’ about potentially bringing the deadly coronavirus that has killed almost 90 people into the UK.

South Central Ambulance Service worker Robert Simmonds, from Cowley, arrived in Hong Kong last Thursday with his 32-year-old partner Sean Yang, before crossing the border to mainland China in time for new year celebrations last Friday.

They are now in Zhanjiang visiting relatives, and say there are people there from Wuhan, Hubei – where the virus emerged – who escaped the blockade and are also in the province.

Also read: Chinese New Year celebration in Oxford cancelled due to coronavirus concerns

Local news outlets have confirmed that there are five cases of coronavirus in Zhanjiang and 44 people are being tested.

Oxford Mail:

The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and there is currently no specific cure or vaccine. Almost 3,000 people are confirmed ill.

Mr Simmonds, who is an emergency care assistant, described the roads in Zhanjiang as ‘deserted’ and said most of the lunar new year celebrations are cancelled, with people only going out in public if necessary.

Despite that, the 49 year-old said: “We are not worried as we are taking every precaution possible.

"We wear surgical face masks full time when out in public or outside accommodation and ensure our hands are clean by washing at all times with antibacterial hand gel as well.

“We don’t rub our eyes, ears or mouths just to ensure the chances of spreading the coronavirus or being infected are minimised.

"I just can't wait to get back to the UK.”

Mr Simmonds does not know if Zhanjiang is going to be locked down like Wuhan, but family are advising to escape the province before travel is stopped.

Also read: Oxford on standby after China Coronavirus outbreak

The couple have struggled to find out official information about travel restrictions as the Chinese government does not allow the use of search engines and foreign social media such as Facebook.

He said: “It’s a bit scary as efforts are disjointed and misinformation is rife; there is little evidence of anything being done on the ground and Chinese state television doesn’t say much except the normal drivel put out by the Chinese government on how well they are doing.

“There is no advice from British or Chinese government, and we are left in the dark as to what to do and how our travel back is affected.

“Hong Kong borders have monitoring in place already and seem more proactive and have full checks including anti-bacterial sprays in the air conditioning, face masks and temperature checks on the border.”

Mr Simmonds described the procedure of crossing the mainland border from Hong Kong where he had to have his temperature checked.

Oxford Mail:

He said: “When we came through the border check point, we were made to put our face masks down to be identified but had to keep them down for five minutes.

“The border points had a person in a white coat with a temperature device but she did not scan one of the people on our plane.”

Mr Simmonds says not everyone is wearing face masks due to a severe shortage in supply.

The couple are due to travel back to Hong Kong tomorrow for a one-night layover before returning to the UK on Friday at Heathrow Airport as their flights are already booked with China Airways.

As far as they know, they will not be stopped from flying.

Public Health England has introduced advanced monitoring at airports with direct flights from China.

Also read: Oxfordshire parish councillor stuck in Philippines after volcano eruption

A team of public health experts have been established in Heathrow to support anyone travelling in from China who feels unwell.

Mr Simmonds added: “My forlorn hope is that both the UK government and public health authorities and NHS England engage proactively with the Chinese/Asian community in the UK and encourage them to come forward and report the slightest cough or cold if they or their family have just returned from travelling to China or the Asian continent.

“Hopefully this will halt the spread of the virus in the UK as our Chinese communities are quite insular and keep themselves to themselves.”

A total of 73 people in the UK have been tested for the coronavirus, all of which were confirmed negative.

PHE advises that anyone who has visited Wuhan and develops a fever, difficulty breathing or a cough within 14 days, should seek medical attention either in China or on their return to the UK.

Mr Simmonds said that despite a lack of communication and information about the situation in China, locals are ‘friendly and positive’.