What is it like for expats in China?

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Published 2020-02-07 10:59

The disease outbreak has taken the world by storm. It started in China and is making its way through the countries around. But over and above the psychosis, the situation is changing the lives of locals and expats alike all over China. We spoke to a few of them to get an insight of what it is like…

“I live in a gated community. They check my temperature at the gate when I go out occasionally for necessities and I get screened at the entrance of shopping centers”. Amy is an American retiree and has been living in Zhongshan, in the province of Guangdong for a year now. Guangdong is found in south-east China, around 11 hours away from Wuhan, the center of the disease outbreak and is the most affected province after Hubei, the province where Wuhan is found.

Temperature checks, masks and regular sanitizing has become the norm all over the country. Most businesses are also closed until the 10th of February where the Chinese New Year holiday ends which means people are only leaving their place for absolute necessities. “I wonder how things will be when people get back to work”, asks Yan, a professional also living in the province of Guangdong. 

Amy explains that the supermarkets and markets that are open are also taking great precautions. Employees wear protective gear and they are constantly spraying each other with sanitizer and wiping the handles and shelves. “Lucky we are not in Wuhan”.

Room, a Malaysian expat living in Shanghai explains the situation is “not that bad”. In this region, although people try to only go out for absolute necessities, “everyone is practising good hygiene and taking their precautions”.

Are expats fleeing China? Yes. Indeed, with the virus being declared a worldwide emergency, several governments have urged their citizens to return home. Two cohorts of Canadian expats are reported to be on their way to Canada and should arrive on Friday the 7th. And evacuation flights should also be reaching the United States today. Around 300 American expats are going home aboard these flights. Arrangements have been made for all expats to be quarantined on arrival in their home country.

Further to that, other countries are resorting to dire measures to contain the epidemic. Saudi Arabia, for example, is preventing expats who have visited China from being on their territory.

As of today, almost 700 have died from the coronavirus in China while more than 31, 000 are confirmed infected in mainland China. There has also been a death related to the coronavirus in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.