Husband's harrowing decision to leave wife behind to escape coronavirus epicentre

A man stranded in the Chinese epicentre of coronavirus will be forced to leave his wife behind as the British government sends in a plane to evacuate its citizens.

Jeff Siddle, from Northumberland, has described the heart-wrenching decision he faces as he decides whether to break up his family and leave with his nine-year-old daughter or stay in the city which is ground zero for a global health threat.

Wuhan is effectively in lockdown and Chinese authorities have shut down travel to and from the city, and barred residents from leaving.

Mr Siddle and his family travelled to Wuhan to spend Chinese New Year with relatives before the outbreak began. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he explained the difficult situation now facing his family.

“My wife's a Chinese citizen although she's got a permanent residency visa for the UK as a spouse,” he said.

“The Foreign Office are saying they're going to be doing an airlift possibly tomorrow but it's only British citizens.”

Like Australia, the UK is planning to send in a specially charted flight to retrieve British citizens stuck in Wuhan which could happen as early as Thursday.

It comes after British Airways announced Wednesday afternoon, AEST, it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China. The US government has told airlines it is also considering ordering the suspension of flights from China to the US.

Jeff Siddle pictured with his daughter and Chinese wife. Source: BBC
Mr Siddle says his daughter and wife are distraught at having to leave one another behind. Source: BBC

“My wife is distraught,” Mr Siddle said. “The Chinese authorities are not allowing any Chinese residents to leave.”

“I had to make a decision where it's either my nine-year-old daughter, who's got a British passport, and myself to leave ... or the three of us stay.

“We'd hate to have a nine-year-old child separated from her mother. Who knows how long that could be for?

“My daughter's obviously been in floods of tears. She's absolutely devastated.”

Australians in China wait for flight out

There are about 600 Australians in China who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade seeking help as the Australian government plans its own flight to extricate citizens from Wuhan.

In a joint press conference and corresponding statement issued Wednesday by the prime minister, the federal minister for health and minister for foreign affairs, the government said it was in contact with Australians on the ground and said its priority was vulnerable and isolated citizens.

“The Australian Embassy in Beijing is now seeking formal approval from the Chinese Government to send a plane to Wuhan to assist the departure of Australians from Hubei Province,” the statement said.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne give a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP
Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne give an update on the coronavirus in Canberra on Wednesday. Source: AAP

“Australians departing on any flight arranged by the Australian Government will be flown to Christmas Island to undertake a period of quarantine of up to 14 days based on current medical advice, as a condition of their assisted departure.

“They will also be required to commit to making a contribution to the cost, consistent with normal arrangements in these circumstances.”

It is unclear if Australians currently stranded in Wuhan with non-citizen partners will be forced to leave their loved ones behind, but it’s possible Australians in this situation will face a similar scenario.

Yahoo News Australia contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who declined to comment on the specific scenario.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.