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Lockdown Letters 'The once-bustling metro stations were eerily quiet, like nothing I had ever seen in China'

In this special series, ‘Lockdown Letters' gives our readers at home and across the globe an opportunity to share their stories about how the Coronavirus and the measures to tackle its spread are impacting their lives in these unprecedented times.

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Kiana McKenna, originally from Co Monaghan, has been teaching in China

Kiana McKenna, originally from Co Monaghan, has been teaching in China

Kiana McKenna, originally from Co Monaghan, has been teaching in China

I am an English teacher living in Guangzhou, southeast of China. Originally from the Farney County of Monaghan, I made the move here last August after finishing my degree at University College Dublin.

January 22 was my last day of work before a week off for Chinese New Year. I had planned to spend the weekend in Hong Kong, but that soon changed when news of the outbreak in Wuhan had spread nationwide and across the globe.

Within days, supermarkets had run out of face masks and hand sanitizer. Truth be told, I was anxious and scared.

A city of 17 million turned into a ghost town. The once-bustling metro stations were eerily quiet, like nothing I had ever seen in China. It wasn’t long before temperature checks were being made in every public place. Stores and restaurants pulled down their shutters for the foreseeable future. Luckily, enough major supermarkets remained stocked and open.

I began teaching my classes online and tried not to focus on the news articles that reported the ever-rising numbers and statistics.

It was strange to see everyone so cautious of each other. Some residential areas had been closed off, while sanitation of streets and public transport became a regular occurrence. People wore masks, gloves, shower caps, shoe covers, visors – anything to protect themselves.

However, despite the public’s worry, what struck me most was the sense of community that emerged. Supermarket staff rallied together to serve the needs of the locals, staff in my apartment block took to sanitizing all public areas of the 18 floors twice a day. These people were working for the people.

I never imagined that this virus would reach Europe, let alone my own country. As I watched Leo Varadkar’s live announcement about the closure of all schools, it didn’t feel real. It felt like I was watching a movie that I was in no way a part of.

I worried for Ireland as I watched the fear and panic set in amongst my family and friends. Where it was once my mother calling me to check in, it is now me who is more concerned about how things are at home.

As life slowly returns to normal here, Ireland is only beginning its shift. The most important thing is a positive outlook and, like China, for the Irish people to unite to fight this virus.

We are living history. The challenges posed by Covid 19 are similar the world over but everybody’s experience of this emergency will be different. In this special series, ‘Lockdown Letters' gives our readers at home and across the globe an opportunity to share their stories about how the Coronavirus and the measures to tackle its spread are impacting their lives in these unprecedented times.

Please email your submission (400 words max.) to stories@independent.ie along with a photograph. We will publish as many letters as possible on Independent.ie and a selection in print every week.

Online Editors