My two children and I have returned to Beijing after two months in Finland, narrowly escaping the travel ban on foreigners returning to China because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Though our return journey was difficult, we were lucky to return at all, as disease control measures and travel restrictions have tightened in both Asia and Europe.
We made it back to Beijing on March 21 and began a mandatory 14-day quarantine, which has been stable and comfortable compared to our journey home.
Our scheduled flight from Helsinki to Tokyo was cancelled at the last minute, as Japan's capital suddenly decided it would no longer allow international transfers. We were diverted through Osaka, and then on to Beijing.
As we prepared for boarding in Helsinki, nearly everyone was wearing a mask, and about a quarter of the passengers wore extra protective clothing, including some in white full-body suits.
The airports and flights were all nearly empty, though the health check measures were extremely strict. Before our flight from Osaka to Beijing, we had three separate temperature checks before boarding. My children slept on benches while I filled in health declaration forms.
Upon landing in Beijing, we began a five-hour sorting process, which was the last and most difficult leg of the trip.
The plane remained parked at the gate for nearly an hour and a half, as we were all instructed to use applications in WeChat or Alipay to fill in our health information. After getting off the plane, we stood in line after line, passing through multiple checkpoints and temperature checks.
My 13-year-old daughter very nearly became one of the many minors forced into isolation alone. Quarantine rules dictate that only children under the age of 14 must remain in the care of an adult. Staff at the New China International Exhibition Centre stopped our family to verify our ages before allowing us to pass.
My younger daughter, who just turned three, was not the only little one crying from exhaustion and confusion in the expo centre. In the end, the white-suited health workers who nearly took my elder child handed us bags of food, drinks and sanitary equipment. They handed me a pen and paper to sign off on my care package, though I used my own pen - safety first.
Overall, beyond all the frustration, there was a strange atmosphere of camaraderie between the staff and travellers. Everyone seemed to cooperate, knowing that in nearly every case, we were all in circumstances beyond our control.
During the journey, I noticed that most of the coughs and signs of fatigue came from the airport workers, flight staff and health workers we saw, rather than the passengers.
Food is delivered to our door while in quarantine, while I wonder how my neighbours in Helsinki are coping. The government there announced on Wednesday that the southern province of Uusimaa, which also contains the capital Helsinki, would be on lockdown until the middle of April. Schools began online classes last week, just as we were preparing to leave for Beijing.
China announced on Thursday that with effect from Saturday no foreigners, even those with residence permits, like myself, would be allowed to enter China.
We were lucky to make it back. The weather has begun to warm up in Beijing, and it looks beautiful outside, though it will be another week, assuming all goes well, before we can enjoy it.
Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.Artikel Asli