Coronavirus outbreak: Edinburgh Uni law student held under quarantine in China shares account of ‘inescapable nightmare’

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‘It’s just you and your anxious speculations (an exam season mood to be honest)’

Lucy Wong (image credit: Lucy Wong via The Tab)

An Edinburgh University law student, currently on a year-long “interruption of studies” in Beijing, China, has written a detailed account of what it’s like being held under quarantine amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Lucy Wong, who is living in the Chinese capital, or “ghost town” as she puts it, tells readers how she misses the “outside world” having not stepped out of her front door in just over three weeks. “I can tell you the novelty of being inside all day everyday wears off in about five,” she laments. “I was very much looking forward to taking some time off university, the outbreak of the coronavirus has led what was meant to be a quiet and relaxing break into the complete opposite — an inescapable nightmare.”

The coronavirus is an illness transmitted by animals and humans that is said to have originated in Wuhan, China, towards the end of last year. It is a novel strain that has not been previously identified in humans and can result in death — which may go someway to explain the global outcry and widespread media coverage the virus has received. There is insufficient data to say definitively how deadly the virus is but reported deaths are almost at the 500-mark, with the number of cases continually rising. It is highly infectious hence why Chinese officials have ordered the lockdown of citizens across several cities.

Many international law firms with bases across China have adopted special measures in response to the outbreak. Quinn Emanuel is reportedly reimbursing taxi fares for its Shanghai staff to avoid them having to use public transport, and encouraging the use of masks in the office. Dentons’ regional arm, Dacheng, is the only major international law firm with a presence in the city of Wuhan.

Wong, who has family in neighbouring Hong Kong, continues:

“Quarantine to begin with felt like a bit of a joke, nothing too serious — so the first few days of staying completely inside the house were quite fun. But the severity of the situation soon hit, it’s quite an odd feeling to be simultaneously alarmed and bored at the same time. There are only so many times you can check the news for more depressing updates or stressfully pace around the sitting room… It’s just you and your anxious speculations (an exam season mood to be honest).”

She goes on to reveal that law student leisure pursuits YouTube and Netflix have been blocked, along with Facebook and Instagram. Television for that matter is supposedly “filled to the brim with Communist Party propaganda and undertones over-glorifying the Chinese Communist Revolution”, whilst the 7pm news centres around the coronavirus.

She explains in her The Tab article that neighbourhood committees are repeatedly blasting ‘advice’ from speakers, driving up and down the streets for everyone in their homes to hear. Plus they’re furiously “pounding” on front doors to ask whether residents have been infected.

She concludes by writing: “Life in China right now is extremely difficult. Days spent waiting and wondering when life will resume as normal feels endless. But I’ll continue to long for the day I can walk freely outside again. There’s not much else left to do at this point.”

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