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Irish teacher reveals China's emergence from lockdown


Raymond Ferguson spent 10 weeks quarantined in the port city of Guangzhou

An Irish teacher living in China has described how the country is beginning to emerge from the grip of Covid-19.

Raymond Ferguson, 48, said life was slowly returning to normal after an unprecedented 10-week lockdown.

He said homes and businesses that had closed for two-and-a-half months were again opening their doors.

But he urged residents of other countries still in the grip of the pandemic to “get serious”, warning the public not to take unnecessary risks.

“People need to wise up,” he told The National. “Isolation is for the betterment of everyone – if you don’t have to go out then don’t.

“For the past month it has been completely dead here as people stayed at home in self-isolation.

“We’re by no means back to full-throttle. People are really afraid there will be a second wave [of infection].”

Mr Ferguson, who teaches English, moved to the port city of Guangzhou with his wife and two sons in 2010.

The sprawling metropolis lies slightly north of Hong Kong and about 1,000 kilometres south of Wuhan, now recognised as the centre of the outbreak.

Since late December, when the Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organisation about a strange cluster of pneumonia cases, more than 81,000 people have become infected in the country.

Globally, more than 366,000 have contracted the virus, resulting in more than 16,000 deaths. About 102,000 people are understood to have recovered.

Mr Ferguson, from County Tyrone, said he and his family watched Guangzhou change from a bustling city to a ghost town almost overnight.

He described how its 14 million inhabitants were banned from leaving their homes except to carry out essential tasks.

Today, however, the restrictions are easing, with the local authorities allowing some residents to return to work.

Bars and restaurants are beginning to open, but with social distancing rules still in force.

On Tuesday, officials announced a lifting of outbound travel restrictions from Wuhan from April 8.

Other cities in Hubei province will resume transport services from March 25.

“What happened was unprecedented, but China learned a lot from the Sars outbreak and quickly enforced stringent conditions,” Mr Ferguson said.

“I live with my family in a gated community and the security guards would take the temperature of everyone who was coming in at the gates.

“If you had a high temperature you would be immediately taken away for tests and put into isolation.

“Most of the people infected now are foreigners arriving in the country and those who are coming back after being overseas.

“Compared with two or three weeks ago, there are a lot more businesses starting to open again and you see more people on the streets.”

Italy, the United States, Spain and Germany have also been hit hard by the outbreak.

Iran, too, has witnessed a noticeable spike in cases, with France not far behind.

Mr Ferguson said it was becoming clear that isolating the public was the right approach.

He recognised that lockdowns presented new challenges and required self-discipline, but emphasised their importance.

“For me, the biggest thing was staying in,” he said. “Some days you would be up and others you would be down.

“I would only go to the supermarkets to get the basics, and even then there would be nobody in them.

“My neighbour came back from the US recently and has been forced to self-isolate.

“The authorities have installed a buzzer and a scanner on the door. If she opens it, an alarm goes off and security is alerted that she has left her apartment.”



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