Page last updated at 06:15 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 07:15 UK

UK pupils glad as quarantine ends

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Students describe their experiences

British school pupils were eager to be released after spending seven days in quarantine in a hotel in China.

Wearing face masks, some of them gathered outside the Beijing hotel even before the authorities agreed to let them out.

"It's really boring," shouted one of them as they waited with their luggage outside the three-star Yanxiang Hotel.

But most pupils praised the Chinese authorities for treating them well - they were even sent food from McDonald's and given laptop computers.

Going home?

A total of 20 students and three teachers, all from the UK, were released from quarantine on Tuesday. More then 80 remained inside the hotel.

They were put in isolation after some members of their group contracted swine flu.

Pupil George Edge, 14, said: "It was quite scary. You see all the people in big suits around you so it makes you feel contaminated."

The pupils are part of a group on a cultural tour organised by the UK's Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and the British Council.

The Chinese cultural organisation Hanban was also involved in arranging the trip.

Two people leaving quarantine in Beijing
China has put hundreds of people into quarantine to fight swine flu

It was not immediately clear whether the youngsters will extend their visit or return to the UK as scheduled.

Hanban officials will have talks with the British organisers before deciding what to do.

But for those released on Tuesday, there was just relief to be out.

"The first day we were in tears, but then the day after it was OK because we were allowed out to play volleyball," said one 14-year-old girl, who would only give her first name, Hatty.

The pupils filled their time by watching TV and playing games. Laptop computers were loaned to them on Monday.

"We learned to relax," said Ian Tyrrell, one of the two teachers to be released.

The food available at the hotel seems to have been the main problem.

"We had coke and rice for breakfast," said Hatty. Another complained about the soggy chips.

The Chinese organisers of the tour said they had done their best to deliver genuine Western food to the pupils, including meals from McDonald's.

"The hotel does have Western food, but it's probably not cooked like the students like it," said Guo Lifen, an official at Hanban who escorted the pupils to their new hotel on the other side of the city.

The British students were not the only ones released from quarantine at the Yanxiang Hotel on Tuesday.

A 33-year-old Spanish woman was also allowed to leave. "They have been treating us very nicely," said Maria Souto as she left the hotel with another man.

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