Families living near the Merseyside hospital being used to quarantine potential coronavirus cases have said they are concerned and confused as dozens of evacuated Britons were taken to the NHS facility.
The 83 British passengers on the chartered flight from Wuhan to RAF Brize Norton were expected to arrive on Friday evening at Arrowe Park hospital in Wirral, where they will stay in staff accommodation and be monitored around the clock for 14 days.
Public Health England said there was no risk to wider members of the public, including to other patients at the hospital.
None of the people in quarantine have tested positive for coronavirus, but any who display symptoms will be taken to the nearby Royal Liverpool University hospital, which has a high-level infectious diseases unit.
However, some residents expressed concern about the proximity of the quarantine site to their homes and questioned whether the busy hospital would be able to cope with the additional pressure.
Del Willden, 53, said he had nothing but praise for hospital staff and was pleased the evacuees had returned safely from China. But he added: “My concern is for the hospital. This is my local hospital and I know and have experienced the struggles they suffer on a daily basis.
“Although we have been told there will be no disruption to the medical staff at the hospital, how can they guarantee that should there be an outbreak? It could prove catastrophic for the staff and patients.”
Willden questioned why the patients were not accommodated nearer to RAF Brize Norton, 170 miles away in Oxfordshire, where their Foreign Office-chartered flight landed on Friday lunchtime.
One family in Archers Court, one of the closest residential streets to Arrowe Park, said they were leaving home for two weeks due to their concerns about the quarantine facility. “We’re trying to move to London because of this,” said one resident, carrying his eight-month-old baby while packing belongings into a car.
“The main concern is we don’t know how the quarantine will work,” said the man, who did not wish to be named. “We are concerned because we’ve got families here. If we received precautions and a mask we wouldn’t move [but now] even going outside might be a risk. The only time we received any news was on television last night – it was short notice for us.”
His partner, who also did not wish to be named, said she had tried to buy protective masks from the hospital pharmacy but they had sold out. A member of staff confirmed they had had an “influx of demand” and stock was not expected until next week.
Margaret Greenwood, the Labour MP for Wirral West, said constituents had written to her expressing concerns but that she had been assured by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, that it was unlikely any of those being held in quarantine carried the virus.
“People are concerned,” she said. “Arrowe Park hospital is a very big employer; a lot of people work there. There’s people coming in and out of all the time. Obviously people are concerned because of what they’ve seen on their television.”
Trolleys containing PlayStations, Xboxes and children’s toys such as Barbie dolls were seen being wheeled into the premises on Friday afternoon. Some of the toys were aged one to three years, suggesting families with small children may be kept in isolation.
Staff who live in the blocks were seen carrying belongings into removal vans while specialist cleaners and fire safety officers entered the accommodation. Fencing with tarpaulin was erected behind the building, which backs onto a country park and golf course.
It is understood that those quarantined will be given fully furnished rooms, food and laundry facilities, and kitchens are available. Families will be able to stay together and there will be no charge for the accommodation.