An Irish man is preparing for a return to China as the country lifts most of its strict Covid rules.
Patrick Quinn is set to travel to Beijing next month to resume his role as an ‘international principal’ at an English/Chinese primary school.
The role involves managing foreign teachers who teach mainly-Chinese students in both English and Mandarin.
Patrick, 40, was previously a principal in another school in a small village outside Shanghai and returned to Northern Ireland last July after nearly five years.
His plans to return to China come days after the country reopened its borders after three years of Covid travel restrictions, marking a dramatic U-turn on its previous ‘zero Covid policy.’
China also has removed quarantine requirements for inbound travellers, meaning when Patrick arrives he will not be required to self-isolate.
The Newtownabbey teacher previously described living in China at the height of the Covid pandemic, saying it was like “not being able to live life”.
Speaking ahead of his return, Patrick says he is treating it as if he is travelling to China “for the first time again”.
He said: “I didn’t actually plan to renew my contract to work in China again, it was only a few months ago I made the decision to move there again. I don’t want to judge China just on my time there during the virus, I really enjoy the job.
“The last time I was there, I was always thinking if I leave, I’ll lose my visa (due to Covid restrictions) but now it’s on my terms.”
Despite calling China home for years, Patrick doesn’t shy away from referring to the country’s reaction as “extreme”.
He continued: “I’m not going to think ‘oh this is the way to do’ because I’ve been through it, I lived there when you needed to be tested every day. I couldn’t go to the supermarket or live a normal life. I understand they want to have an approach to it.
Patrick will now join millions of travellers heading back or out of China, with experts predicting over two billion trips will take place in the next 40 days due to Chinese New Year celebrations.
However, there are fears the relaxing of border restrictions may lead to new Covid variants becoming more widespread.
Patrick says he hopes to return to a time like the “first two years” he was based in China, admitting “it was a great time”.
He added: “I always bring my mind back to that time, and stay positive.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.
“I’ve been speaking to people in Beijing, and they have said things are normal at the moment, they’re working away compared to the last time I was in China when I was off for about 17 weeks.
“They’re comparing it to pre-Covid, which has made me feel comfortable about going back.”