Coronavirus: British grandmother with respiratory disease trapped in Wuhan city

The 81-year-old has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has not left the house where she is staying in over a week for fear of falling ill.

Philippines China Outbreak
Philippines China Outbreak

A British grandmother is trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan and unable to return home following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Veronica Theobald, 81, from Lancaster, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has not left the house where she is staying in over a week for fear of falling ill.

She was visiting her grandson, Kharn Lambert, who has lived in the city for five years, and was due to fly back to England on Monday.

However, her return was cancelled after the city was placed on lockdown.

Mr Lambert, a PE teacher in Wuhan, told the PA news agency: “There is no knowing how long she will have to stay here, and I’m worried about her running out of the medication she needs for her health so I’m in constant contact with the British embassy.

“I do worry if I have to go out for whatever reason that I will bring something back into the house and she will become infected and fall ill.

“She only brought enough medication for her time here plus and an extra week in case of any flight delays etc. But nothing can prepare you for this.

“My family at home are extremely concerned about her, but I’m trying hard to reassure them that I am taking the best care of her as I can.”

Teacher Kharn Lambert said he is worried for his 81-year-old grandmother who was visiting him when the city was placed on lockdown. (Kharn Lambert / PA)

Mr Lambert said the embassy had put them in touch with a doctor who will be following up on his grandmother’s health after the weekend.

He said the mood in Wuhan has changed in the last 24 hours, due to the short amount of time residents were given to prepare for the lockdown.

“People are starting to realise the seriousness off the situation.

“Due to the hysteria caused by the lockdown yesterday, it was difficult to get food and any food that was available had been increased in price. However, I went to the supermarket today and the shelves had been restocked.”

China Outbreak
Chinese paramilitary police stand guard outside the closed Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. (Chinatopix via AP)

Mustafa Siddiqui, 36, a Londoner who has lived in Wuhan for 14 years, said: “This is the first time in a decade I’ve seen the city this quiet. It’s very eerie outside, people are taking precautions, they are wearing masks, they are wearing surgical gloves.

“In my opinion the message did go out a little slow, but you have to put this in a context that this is Chinese New Year time and the authorities do not want to create panic.”

Two British teachers working in the city also told PA they were unable to return while it remains on lockdown.

Chris Raymond, 28 from Reading, is on holiday in the UK and has been in contact with friends back in Wuhan, where he has lived for three years.

He said: “There is a sense of keep calm and carry on over there at the moment.

“I’m due back on February 14 so I’m hoping that it all blows over by then or at least the airports are open.”

Teacher Chris Raymond is unsure when he'll be able to return to Wuhan (Chris Raymond/PA)
Teacher Chris Raymond is unsure when he’ll be able to return to Wuhan (Chris Raymond/PA)

Another teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said he could be forced to return to the UK if the travel ban is not lifted.

“I plan on continuing to travel past my planned return date by a couple of weeks and then if the place is still a no go, go back to the UK and return when I can. It’s a pain as all my stuff is in my flat and I’m really sad as I love my job and hope to be back as soon as possible,” he said.

“If I hadn’t been out the country when I heard about the lockdown — a few hours before it happened — I would have got out the city with all my stuff and come back to the UK.”

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