Tue. May 26th, 2020

Coronavirus: What life is like for a SA expat under quarantine

Teacher Jordan Hill has been living under quarantine in China for weeks since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

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A South African expat living in China amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak says that the South African community there are scared and unsure of what lies ahead. 

Jordan Hill, 30, who works as an English teacher in the Jiangsu province — just four hours away from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak — has been under quarantine since late January.

He had decided to remain in China during the school holidays, and the virus broke out shortly thereafter. 

“I chose not to travel this holiday. And it was a decision I regret making. Within days, the roads were beginning to close. Public transport was shut down as needed. Security checks and medical checkpoints across the city, province and even the country, and as we have seen, even flights in and out of China have been cancelled.

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This file photo, taken on 28 January 2020, shows a staff member wearing protective clothing cleaning the ground at a medical waste treatment plant in Yangzhou in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, following the virus outbreak in Hubei’s city of Wuhan. Photo: STR/ AFP) / China OUT

Living under quarantine 

Speaking to TheSouthAfrican, Hill said that he has been holed up in his apartment for weeks, and when he leaves, he is subjected to having his temperature checked almost everywhere he goes. 

“I have isolated myself from pretty much all human contact. I stay away from public places and don’t leave my apartment unless absolutely necessary. If I do, I wear a mask, gloves and take precautions as necessary to reduce the risk of infection. 

SA Expat Jordan Hill.

“I wash my hands on a regular basis — so much so that they are actually drying out. I also keep myself updated with all the current affairs and situation of the virus in my city and China as a whole.”

Hill said that the school where he teaches has called off classes, and many of his students are also living under quarantine. 

“I am not working. There is the possibility that we will continue to work from home at some stage via online classes. I am, however, still waiting to confirm this, and this may well vary between different schools,” he said. 

“I miss my little students and I just hope that they are all safe during this time.”

He said he is becoming used to the isolation, and has ensured that he is stocked up on provisions. 

“There is certainly not a food shortage from what I have experienced. People are scared, expats have evacuated and left their lives behind here for the time being. This is a decision that they have made based on their situation. I, however, have everything I need and I am going to wait this thing out. Netflix, PS4, food. Sorted.”

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This 2 February 2020 file photo shows sculptures wearing protective face masks at a park in Huaian in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. Photo: STR / AFP) / China OUT

SA remains coronavirus-free

The Coronavirus broke out in January, and has at time of writing claimed the lives of 636 people, with 31 161 under observation with infection. 

Despite several scares, no cases of the virus have been reported in South Africa. 

A flight from China landed in Cape Town last week, much to the horror of South Africans. Experts have warned that an outbreak on local soil would “cripple the healthcare system”.

“The South African expat community in China are indeed scared,” he said. 

Hill, who is a British citizen with South African residency having lived here for most of his life, said that while the British embassy have promised to send help should the situation escalate, their South African counterparts have been less supportive. 

“From what I hear, the South African embassy has not been as supportive. I am part of a South African WeChat group in China, and from their posts it is clear that they are scared and desire support from their South African embassy.”

China’s response ‘tremendous’

Hill said the response of the Chinese government and it’s civil servants has been impressive. 

“China has done an incredible job building 1 000 bed hospitals in just 10 days, limiting public transport across regional networks. From what I can see from my apartment block, the public servants of China have put in tremendous efforts to help resolve this pandemic. They deserve our support and positive wishes.”

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