Last week, the British Government repatriated 83 British citizens from China to try and help them avoid getting the highly contagious coronavirus which has so far taken nearly 300 lives.
The ex-pats arrived in the UK (via a military airbase) and were whisked off to a specialist medical centre in several coaches where they will be held for the next 14 days to make sure they don’t have the virus.
But social media went into meltdown when pictures emerged of a coach driver (who was tasked with transporting the ex-pats) without any personal protective equipment.
He was affectionately called ‘Dave’ by the hundreds of thousands of people who were concerned about his welfare.
Social media users were quick to point out that the coach driver seemed not to be afforded any protection from catching the virus, despite potentially being exposed to people who could be carrying in.
In response to concerns about the welfare of the coach drivers who took part in the quarantine convoy, Susan Hopkins, Incident Director Public Health England, said:
“Public Health England experts are well-trained at assessing and mitigating risk.
“In managing the current situation, they are drawing on a wealth of experience and implementing strategies that we have used in a number of emerging infections to reduce the risk to the public.
“This means our work focuses on identifying the areas where there is deemed to be a risk and putting measures in place to mitigate that risk.
“In this case, all passengers from the flight were checked by medical staff on arrival into the UK, and none displayed any symptoms of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
“The medics accompanying the groups travelled wearing PPE as a precaution in case anyone was taken ill on the journey; to enable them to respond immediately without having to put on PPE while in transit.
“No passengers became unwell on the journey.
“As an additional precaution, seating arrangements ensured that the drivers were not in close contact with the passengers on the journey, which meant they were not at risk and did not require PPE.
“Close contact means being within two metres of an infected person for at least fifteen minutes.
“The measures we put in place to address this were to block off five rows at the front and boarding the drivers last.
“The drivers do not pose a risk to public health as a result of driving these passengers to their accommodation and should go about their daily lives as normal.
“No passengers developed any symptoms during the journey, which means that no special measures are required in terms of cleaning of the coaches.
“The coach company (Horseman Coaches) should use the cleaning protocol agreed with PHE before putting the coach back into action, and people should have no concerns about using these vehicles”.
Horseman Coaches have also said that, for extra safety, the coach drivers who took part in the convoy will get to spend the next 14 days at home (on full pay) as part of a voluntary ‘self-quarantine’ measure.
So all is fine with the drivers of the Horseman Coaches quarantine convoy…