Farewell poor people: How the rich are fleeing London – as millionaires offer up to £50,000-a-month to rent rural retreats

  • Wealthy families are desperate to escape urban living for rural sanctuaries 
  • They are said to be offering tens of thousands of pounds to escape London
  • Aristocrats are avoiding the city by staying at their gorgeous countryside homes
  • Boris Johnson hinted at new restrictions on London amid coronavirus crisis fears
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor? 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Wealthy families desperate to escape the coronavirus crisis in London are fleeing the infested city for the country – with some offering up to £50,000-a-month for a rural sanctuary. 

British estate agents have been flooded with requests from the super-rich searching for mansions with bunkers, Cotswolds manor houses and uninhabited Caribbean islands to buy.

And aristocrats, heiresses and society models are avoiding busy cities like London by staying at their gorgeous countryside homes – including the likes of Emma, Viscountess Weymouth and Lady Mary Charteris.

It comes as London faces plunging deeper into lockdown within days – and potentially with just 12 hours notice – amid fears the ‘superspreader city’ is driving the UK’s Covid-19 crisis.

Fresh air: Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, is the wife of Ceawlin, Viscount Weymouth, and shared a video from her walk the family’s Longleat estate as she seemingly avoids busy cities

Unlike many families, the Weymouths don’t have to worry about getting on top of each other during this period of self-isolation as they have the run of the sprawling Longleat estate, near Warminster. Pictured: Emma in London, where she was often spotted before the outbreak

The Longleat estate (above), near Warminster in Wiltshire, has nearly 1,000 acres of parkland

Baking up a storm! Lady Mary Charteris (pictured left) shared her recipe for courgette and quinoa bread as she self-isolates in the UK

Her family estate is Stanway House (pictured), in Gloucestershire, although she also spends a significant amount of time in London

Owners of countryside properties around Britain have reportedly been offered up to £50,000 a month to help worried billionaires escape the capital – with some claiming they’ll pay a year’s rent up front.

Jamie Jamieson, who owns a property search company, told The Times: ‘I have had calls from six families looking for homes in Suffolk and two for Norfolk in the last two days. 

‘They want homes with more space than they have in London, preferably with a garden where the kids can play. They don’t mind what it costs.’

Similarly, celebrities and aristocrats with the luxury of a second home outside the capital have been taking advantage of the chance to get away. 

Budding fashion designer Talita von Furstenberg, granddaughter of designer Diane, is holed up in a cosy cottage doing puzzles. It is unclear where in the world she is.

Elsewhere, model and DJ Lady Mary Charteris, daughter of James Charteris, 13th Earl of Wemyss and 9th Earl of March and Catherine Ingrid Guinness, tried her hand at baking in the countryside. 

While Lady Mary and her husband Robbie Furze own a property in LA, it is thought they are in self-isolation in the UK. Her family estate is Stanway House, in Gloucestershire, although she also spends a significant amount of time in London. 

Talita von Furstenburg (above), granddaughter of fashion designer Diane, is most often seen gallivanting around the world with her society pals. But for now Talita, 20, is keeping a low profile away from cities such as London, although it is not known where in the world she is

Simple pleasures: Talita has swapped fashion front rows for nights in the fire in a woodland cottage (pictured)

Meanwhile, Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, who is often spotted around the capital, has been staying in her Longleat estate, near Warminster in Wiltshire. 

Penny Musgrove, chief executive of top people’s property services specialist, Quintessentially Estates, told the Evening Standard that she has had calls from affluent families searching for Cotswolds manor houses with moats, uninhabited Caribbean islands to buy and superyachts for a long charter.

‘We are receiving requests from parents taking their children out of school for home tuition,’ added Ms Musgrove. ‘And we have seen a big demand for places in UK boarding schools. Expat parents are locking up their daughters.’

Eloise Duckworth, 55, who lives in a seven-bedroom house in the Cotswolds, revealed she had multiple offers from families willing to pay up to £30,000 a month to rent her home, on Tuesday afternoon.

Yet Ms Duckworth, who has three children, refused the offers as she was worried about becoming ill, according to The Times.

‘These families were desperate to get out of London as quickly as possible’, she explained to the publication.

Lady Eliza Manners and Lady Violet Manners (pictured with their sister Lady Alice Manners  in June 2019) appear have returned home to their Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, from their London flats

Violet shared a photograph of her home to her Instagram account two days ago and revealed she would be returning to the property

The English socialite, daughter to the UK’s 11th Duke of Rutland, captioned the image with the above, revealing she was getting ‘re-aquatinted with her family’

Lady Eliza Manners posted this Instagram story of her cooking for her family as she has also returned home from London

The Manners live in Belvoir Castle (pictured) in Leicestershire. It is a Grade I listed building

Henrietta Harwood-Smith, cofounder of the PR agency Maison, is one of the people struggling to find a place to rent outside of London.

The mother-of-one is looking to be nearer her parents in Gloucestershire, but only secured a two-week holiday let.

Yet the idea of Londoners fleeing the capital for the countryside has not been popular with those living in the idyllic areas.

Second home and caravan owners were yesterday urged to stay away from a picturesque area of Wales in their bid to escape the coronavirus.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said : ‘I appeal to those thinking of travelling down to their second home or caravan to self-isolate to consider the potential impact on local health services here in Gwynedd. Please heed the concerns of local GPs and remain at your primary residence.’

A local GP said practices had been inundated by second home owners seeking care.

Social media users took to Twitter today to describe the busy scenes they’d witnessed as people rushed to leave London

Dr Eilir Hughes called on the Welsh Government to class travelling to second homes and caravans as ‘non-essential travel’.

Dr Hughes, a GP and leader of the Dwyfor Primary Care Cluster, told BBC Wales: ‘Services expect seasonal spikes during school holidays.

‘We try our best to prepare our services for this increased demand but are currently seeing a surge in demand for medical advice and assessment.

‘We have seen several patients coming to use their second homes to self-isolate and using primary care services where they are not registered. It really does place a great strain on our infrastructure and our services.’

He added : ‘People are travelling from outside the area, and increasing the viral load in the community.

‘We have evidence that a significant amount of people who own holiday homes and static caravans have decided to travel down under the impression they’d be safer here.

‘We must also remember that the people travelling into the area are often retired, meaning they are likely to be of an age at a greater risk of Covid-19.’

Meanwhile, London faces plunging deeper into lockdown within days – and potentially with just 12 hours’ notice – amid fears the ‘superspreader city’ is driving the UK’s coronavirus outbreak.

After the daily death rate doubled to 33 yesterday, residents in the capital are set for tighter restrictions on their movements – with signs the government will urge people to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential.

Plans are believed to be in place for police to guard shops and helicopters to airdrop food, although sources insisted that is not happening at this stage in the unfolding crisis.

Speculation has been raging about the fate of London after Boris Johnson vowed he would not hesitate to go ‘further and faster’ to control the spread of the deadly virus.


What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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