A Family From Wuhan is Trapped in Hong Kong, Desperate to Go Home

Tommy Walker

Causing severe lung diseases such as pneumonia, the Coronavirus normally begins with symptoms such as a dry cough and fever, followed by shortness of breath. At the time of writing, the number of confirmed cases is nearing 3,000, with over 100 dead.

The virus is thought to originate from illegal wildlife trading at the Huanan Seafood Market in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province. The virus broke out in late December 2019, and drastic measures have been taken to contain the virus by the Chinese government. Transport out of Hubei has been locked down, and returning residents are prohibited to leave.

This has been amplified because of the timing of the outbreak, with Lunar New Year being a time when millions of Chinese residents travel in and out of China, and across the world to celebrate with friends and family.

One of those is the Kang family, who has been in Wuhan for the past nine months. They left home on 22nd January for a Chinese New Year vacation to Lamma Island in Hong Kong—a place they used to call home.


Connie, 28, is from Hubei province, and is a Director of a local Kindergarten. Her husband Emmanuel, 42, is from Geneva, Switzerland, and is a stay-at-home father. They have two young children: Nikola, 8, and Nikita, 8-months-old.

Both sat down with me to discuss their experience as the Coronavirus crisis accelerates.

“The first case of the virus was found on the 31st December and very quickly, one or two days after we were told they had identified where. A market that sold wildlife—bats, foxes, and rats—was the reason”, Connie told me.

How do you think the Chinese government has handled the outbreak?

 

“The Xi government has said it’s ‘strictly forbidden’ to hide any information from the public. There have been news apps that have been updating every few hours, telling us how many are affect[ed] and have died”, Connie stated.

“Most companies in some ways are linked to the government, so information will be passed down to staff and employees”, Emmanuel added.

I was curious about their thoughts on the precautions needed for living in Wuhan, since the outbreak. At the time I interviewed them, neither were wearing masks nor seemed concerned about getting sick or transmitting to others.

“For me, I stay home. You can always order things online, like food and vegetables”, Emmanuel said.

“We almost don’t go out, we have no social relations in Wuhan. My work is less than five minutes’ walk from our home”, Connie added.

Chinese medical officials have stated the incubation period is between 10-14 days. Even with no symptoms present, the virus can be passed human-to-human.

Would you be worried about coming to Hong Kong—even without any symptoms—and passing on the virus?

 

“As we left our home, we were definitely NOT a carrier of the virus. The biggest risk for us would have been the train stations and the train coming to Hong Kong. We sat in our seat, we didn’t let people come close and were careful with what we touched.”

The family had taken two trains to enter, from Wuhan to Shenzhen before going onwards to the West Kowloon Station, Hong Kong. Connie was adamant that no one on their train was visibly sick, but according to a report she read, admitted that on the same route the next day, a man was diagnosed with the virus.

When you leave Wuhan and get on the train do you need to complete a medical survey?

 

“No, we got tested one by one, with our temperature taken.”

“We booked our trip months ago, not just to escape Wuhan. Fortunately, we left the city before it got shutdown. For ninety-nine percent of my colleague in Wuhan, they’ve had to cancel their trip”, Connie said.

The Kangs have been essentially stranded arriving in Hong Kong since their return flights to Xiangyang Airport have been cancelled due to the Chinese government’s decision to lockdown Hubei province. They’d originally planned a trip to visit Connie’s parent, but are unsure if that will be possible.

Both had been unsure about returning to Wuhan because they won’t be able to leave again. With a growing number of infections in the city, the risk of them contracting the virus is high.

Later, Connie sent me a message confirming their plans.

“On the 28th January, we will try to take a train which is passing Wuhan Station to see whether we can get off there. It’s a gamble, but we don’t have any other choices. Now, hotels all around the country are rejecting people from Hubei. People from Hubei are now like rats.”

“We are hoping to make it back home in Wuhan and we have bought supplies so we don’t need to leave the house. I don’t have any backup plans. Nobody can help, it’s quite a desperate situation we are facing now.”

Are you worried about going home?

 

“I am a bit concerned. I think the virus is worse than SARs.”


Do you know anyone who’s trying to make their way back to Wuhan? Let us know at community@ricemedia.co. 

In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates on Connie and Emmanuel’s situation. 


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