Among the estimated 300 British citizens under lockdown in the Hubei province is 54-year-old Jeff Siddle and his family. After immense criticism, repatriation of British citizens will begin from January 30. However, Jeff and his family face a number of obstacles before they can head back home. Jeff would have to leave behind his Chinese passport holder wife behind, separating her from their distraught nine-year-old daughter. They also need to find a way to get to Wuhan airport while the roads remain closed.

Jeff had flown with his wife, Sindy, and daughter, Jasmine, to Hubei district to spend the Chinese New Year with Sindy's family. Leaving their home in Prudhoe, Northumberland, the family went to Sindy's family home in Hongtu village. The village is a three-hour drive away from the coronavirus ground-zero, Wuhan.

On January 15, when Jeff and his family flew to China, there were no health warnings. The family was scheduled to take a flight back from China to the United Kingdom on February 1. However, most airlines have stopped flights to and from the country. This includes the airline the Siddle family had booked their flight with. The Hubei province is also under lockdown, so the family would not be able to leave the village.

Graphic on the different evacuation plans for foreigners in China Photo: AFP / Robin BJALON

The UK Foreign Office has finally announced its repatriation plan. British citizens have to reach the Wuhan airport on January 30 five to six hours ahead of the flight. They will be screened at the airport before being boarded. After they reach the UK, the passengers will be quarantined for a 14-day period.

Jeff and Jasmine are being forced to leave Sindy behind. Sindy, being a Chinese citizen, is not eligible for the repatriation. The Sun pointed out that Sindy has had a visa for permanent residency in the UK since 2008. The family has to make the tough call to stay together or ensure the safety of Jasmine.

Jeff also pointed out that even if they choose to abandon Sindy, getting to Wuhan might be impossible. The Foreign Office informed Jeff that they have to get to the Wuhan airport on their own. With the roads in Hubei blocked, only those with a special diplomatic note will be allowed to enter Wuhan by road. The Foreign Office has refused to give Jeff any such document. It remains unclear how the family will manage to be at the airport in time for the flight.