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Left: Xi Lu traveled to Wuhan from London in January to spend Lunar New Year with his parents, having not shared the holiday with them in over 7 years. Lin Yang, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, traveled to Wuhan to visit her parents for the Lunar New Year. And then … they couldn’t get back home because of the quarantine.
Xi Lu/ Lin Yang
Xi Lu/ Lin Yang
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When it was clear to him that his parents would be safe in Wuhan, he made the choice to return to the U.K. He was worried about his wife. And he got a new job there as an infectious disease researcher. When he arrived, the country had the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus deaths globally after the U.S. — and was in the midst of lifting a nationwide lockdown. For Xi, it felt like he was charging into the pandemic a second time — and again, for family.
Xi says living through the Wuhan quarantine helped him clarify his priorities. «It made me aware that I wanted to focus on the people I really care about,» he says.
Since he left, Xi says his parents worry about him all the time, even though «I keep telling them that I’m basically working from home the whole day.» He misses them, but his new job and house-hunting keep him busy. «Life has to move on,» he says.
Yang and her family were able to return to Hong Kong on a repatriation flight in early April, just as the Wuhan quarantine ended. «My parents were relieved when we left,» she says. «They were so worried about us, and [if lockdown measures were reimposed] they didn’t want us to be trapped there again.»
Now the situation is reversed. «It’s like they’re back to normal life again,» she says of her parents, who are free to travel around China — «to go anywhere they want to go.» But Hong Kongers still face restrictions. They’re are strongly encouraged to stay at home. Yang works remotely in her cramped flat.
Still, Yang is happy to be home. Hong Kong’s social distancing rules are strict, but not as strict as Wuhan’s at the peak of the outbreak. «You can still feel free to go out when you feel the risk is low,» she says. It’s a contrast from the lockdown in Wuhan, when residents were barred from taking outdoor walks without government permission. «That was more stressful.»
She appreciates that surviving the surreal experience brought the family closer together.
But her children, ages 10 and 12, have told her that they will never, ever go to Wuhan again. «I hope someday they forget about this,» she says, but right now the memories are fresh: «It was just too much for the kids.»
- Lunar New Year
- Hong Kong