CULTURE Chinese returning home to quarantine receive warm welcome


Chinese returning home to quarantine receive warm welcome

Global Times

02:27, March 24, 2020


(Photo: Global Times)

Taking a provisional flight, which is probably the first large-scale assistance from China to its nationals in Europe, 125 people living in areas hit hardest by the coronavirous outbreak in Italy came back home and are currently quarantined in a hotel in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province.   

Taking a provisional flight, which is probably the first large-scale assistance from China to its nationals in Europe, 125 people living in areas hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy came back home and are currently quarantined in a hotel in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province.   

Two sources close to the Wenzhou government confirmed with the Global Times that they have undergone health checks and are under medical observation at the Wenzhou Binhai Grand Hotel. The hotel's website said that it is a wholly foreign owned luxurious five-star hotel with 469 rooms. 

Most of these passengers were born in Wenzhou and Lishui, major hometowns of overseas Chinese in Italy, with students, children and elderly people accounting for a large proportion. More flights might be arranged to take those in need back, sources said. 

Since March 15, a video clip showing a crew member wearing a protective suit and disinfecting a female passenger before boarding the plane has gone viral on Chinese social media platforms. 

The video clip was posted by one of the passengers on his Sina Weibo account and was largely welcomed by Chinese netizens. Many said that with full measures and checks, it is the right way to get some overseas Chinese back home. 

Another video clip post by the passenger shows some passengers sitting in the cabin wearing masks while an announcement says that "it is a great honor to accept the Party and the country's commission to welcome you home on behalf of the motherland."

Overseas Chinese have been always concerned about their country and families back home, and have donated money and materials for China's response to COVID-19. 

Now, the situation in China has come under control while overseas Chinese are facing danger. "Please believe: the motherland does not and will not forget you," the announcement also said. 

The Global Times contacted one passenger, Zhao Jianbin, who is chief editor of the website Chinatown in Italy, on March 18 and he shared his homecoming stories. To him, this was an unforgettable experience, in which he has felt the caring of his motherland and witnessed the differences of two countries in combating the epidemic.    

A decision in hours  

Zhao said he received a notice from a local overseas Chinese WeChat group on March 15 saying that a provisional flight would be arranged to take some in need back to China and those who have the willingness just need to register their information on a pre-booking system.  

The registration system said people at higher risk, such as seniors and pregnant women, along with overseas students and children are prioritized to get the tickets. It advised people without urgent need not to take the flight, in order to reduce the risk of infection during the journey. 

On March 15, he received a phone call from the airline and was told to pay the ticket price as the flight was scheduled to take off at around 6 pm. 

"It was around 9 am. I was buried in reports about the worsening epidemic situation in Italy. The number of infections and deaths continued to go up and breaking news kept popping out saying more places were out of control. When I received the phone call, I immediately realized it was an opportunity. I did not think for a minute, I just clicked the payment button," Zhao said. 

On his way to the airport, the city was like a deserted town as the country has announced a nationwide lockdown and the total number of coronavirus cases in Italy rose to 27,980 on Monday, including the dead and recovered.  

A flight without stewardesses 

After waiting for about three hours at the Milan airport, Zhao, with another 124 passengers, finally started their journey to China. 

According to Zhao, the airplane is designed to carry 400 passengers and was expected to bring just 200 passengers back to China due to infection concerns. But some who booked tickets did not make it because it was too late for those living outside Milan to catch the plane.  

"The moment I got on the airplane, I felt it was like two totally different worlds," Zhao said. Before boarding, passengers need to go through thorough health checks including disinfection and body temperature. There were no stewardesses in the plane, but crew members wearing protective suits and goggles. All the passengers in Zhao's cabin wore masks, with some wearing rain coats. There was no airplane meal, which Zhao said was in order to reduce infection risks. 

Only five people were in business class, with the tickets going for 3,625 euros ($3,957) for adults and 2,772 euros for children. Passengers in economy class also sat separately, with a price of 2,660 euros for adults and 2,027 euros for children, according to Zhao. 

After the 12-hour flight, the 125 passengers finally arrived at Wenzhou airport on March 15 afternoon and were welcomed by large numbers of epidemic prevention workers, shuttles and ambulances. They got off the plane in groups and received a thorough health check, Zhao recalled. After that, they were sent to the Wenzhou Binhai Grand Hotel for 14 days of collective quarantine. 

From panic to calm 

Zhao said they were asked to pay the bills by themselves which is 450 yuan per day for accommodation and 100 yuan for three meals. Those who are above 13 years old live separately and those below 13 can be accompanied by one adult. 

Apart from several passengers who were taken to hospital for further tests, the rest are in a stable mood, according to Zhao. On the first day back in China, Zhao said he felt a little nervous but now he has calmed down.

He said the only thing that troubled him was that he could not stay with his family, but this anxiety was later relieved because his child said "we are here to get quarantined, not to relax." 

"The flight was hasty. It seems my life has totally changed. Some people said I was buying misery, but I think it was worthwhile. I have witnessed how Italy reacted to the epidemic, and have heard a lot on how China spared no efforts in combating the virus and controlling the outbreak. Now I see that for myself through the country's first provisional flight. It was an experience that could never be bought," Zhao said. 

Thirteen flights have been sent to the worst-affected countries, of which seven provisional flights have been arranged to take back 1,101 Chinese nationals, Chinese officials said, adding that such flights will be arranged according to actual need.

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue