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British Citizens Imprisoned Overseas and Coronavirus

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 5:02 pm, 2nd March 2020

With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will respond to this urgent question on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, who is travelling in the middle east.

Protecting British citizens at home and abroad is a top priority for the Government, and amid the outbreak of coronavirus, known as covid-19, the UK is leading the response. First, we are providing support to British citizens abroad, which includes travellers and their families in countries around the world. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is closely monitoring coronavirus throughout the world, through its diplomatic network. We are providing travel advice to British nationals, so that they can be sure of the facts before deciding whether to travel, and sure about what to do if they are affected by an outbreak of covid-19 while travelling.

The UK has introduced measures to ensure that travellers returning from abroad do not spread the virus further. We have put in place enhanced monitoring measures at UK airports, and health information is available at all international airports, ports, and train stations. We have established a supported isolation facility at Heathrow to cater for international passengers who are tested, and to maximise infection control and free-up NHS resources.

For British nationals caught up in the initial outbreaks of the virus, we have co-ordinated repatriation for those impacted in Wuhan, and passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. We are working with the Spanish authorities and tour operators to support the return of British nationals affected by the situation in Tenerife.

We also continue to assist our British nationals who are detained in countries such as Iran, which has seen reports of a high number of cases of coronavirus. France, Germany and the United Kingdom have expressed their full solidarity with those impacted by covid-19 in Iran. We are offering Iran a comprehensive package of both material and financial support to stem the rapid spread of the disease. Today, a plane departed the UK with vital materials, such as equipment for laboratory tests, as well as other equipment including protective body suits and gloves.[This section has been corrected on 4 March 2020, column 8MC — read correction] The E3, namely the UK, France and Germany, has also committed to providing urgent additional financial support close to €5 million to fight the covid-19 epidemic affecting Iran. This will be through the World Health Organisation or other UN agencies.

We will continue to support global efforts to combat the outbreak of covid-19. Our support is directed to help the most vulnerable across the globe and to strengthen the global health system to protect our own nationals. We have provided £40 million investment into vaccine and virus research, and £5 million to the World Health Organisation. We will continue to do all we can to help to keep British nationals safe and healthy around the world.