Brit quarantined by coronavirus fears ‘felt like ET’ during surreal experience

A British art teacher says he 'felt like ET' as he was quarantined amid fears he'd contracted the deadly coronavirus.

Michael Hope began to feel unwell after returning to the UK from Wuhan in China and within four days he was struggling to breathe and continuously coughing.

After phoning his GP, he said the experience which followed was surreal.

The 45-year-old ended up being quarantined for 48 hours, kept in a sealed room and being tested by medics in "spaceman suits".

Mr Hope said he felt like the film character ET while he was treated by the masked medics.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: "I felt like ET, to be honest. It was totally, totally surreal."

He described: "At first the GP told me to come to the surgery and said we could both wear masks and I could stand outside the door – but then things quickly changed and I was told to stay at home, not to leave, and I would be visited instead."

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Mr Hope was contacted by Public Health England and Newcastle’s infectious diseases unit in the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) telling him to stay indoors.

"They told me that they were preparing a room for me in isolation and an ambulance would soon be at the house – they said not to be frightened of the people and that they would be wearing masks."

Mr Hope was discharged last night after test results confirmed he had the flu and not coronavirus.

He has spoken out as hundreds of workers are racing to build a brand new 1,000-bed hospital in just five days in the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak began.


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When he'd returned to Newcastle from China and felt unwell, Mr Hope initially thought he had jet lag.

He arrived back on Sunday having been ill since January 4.

After telling his GP in a telephone clinic about his recent return from Wuhan where he was teaching, he was rushed to the city's Royal Victoria Infirmary and put in isolation.

During the isolation period, staff wore protective suits and they tested his blood, urine and took throat swabs.

It took his nurse several minutes to get into all the protective gear just to deliver him a banana for breakfast, and he was grateful for the delivery of a nicotine patch which was passed under his door.

Mr Hope said: "The care was exceptional.

"It was scary being there but they made me feel quite relaxed. They were very human even though they looked like spacemen.

"I was impressed with the speed with which they dealt with it. They would come in through one sealed door and leave through another.

"Every time they left they had to dispose of their clothing."

He said the care plan was evidently well-planned and he realised his treatment was not just about his personal health, but the wider public's.

His thoughts were also with colleagues in China who were supposed to be celebrating New Year.

"I feel so sad for them, I was lucky to get out," he said.

Hospitals in Wuhan have been overwhelmed by the crisis, with hundreds of patients arriving every day to be tested.

At least 26 people have been killed so far and more than 800 others have been infected, according to China's official figures, but the toll could be much higher.

Some hospitals have run out of beds – forcing them to set up tents in car parks to treat new patients – and most are running out of supplies, including masks, goggles and suits, as medics are run off their feet.

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