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Lockdown Letters 'We're not allowed out of the hotel room - the door is unchained four times a day'

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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A man and a boy wearing facemasks amid concerns of coronavirus walk on a road towards the Olympic park in Beijing
(Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

A man and a boy wearing facemasks amid concerns of coronavirus walk on a road towards the Olympic park in Beijing (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

A man and a boy wearing facemasks amid concerns of coronavirus walk on a road towards the Olympic park in Beijing (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

We left China for our annual Chinese New Year vacation on January 18. The plan was to spend three weeks in Cambodia. As the virus started spreading and flights to China were cancelled, we knew it was only a matter of time before our own flight on February 7 was cancelled, which indeed it was.

We were worried, unsure of what to do, so we decided to book another flight to China but immediately regretted our decision as the country was put on lockdown. We felt it would be irresponsible and reckless to return to our home there at that point, so we opted to fly back to Ireland.

We arrived in cold, wet, stormy Ireland with two rucksacks full of shorts and t-shirts and very little else. It was great to see family and friends, but our unexpected visit was matched with uneasiness about our situation and a sense of foreboding.

To make matters worse, our Chinese residence visas were due to expire on March 16 so we resolved to return to China, to renew our visas and avoid even more complications in our lives.

We flew Dublin, Frankfurt, Bangkok and then Hangzhou, China, the city we live and work in. Our employers had liaised with our community and the authorities and it seemed we had been cleared to quarantine for 14 days in our own apartment.

However, on arrival at 10pm, it became increasing clear that things had changed and we were to be incarcerated in a hotel in the same district our apartment is in.

We were in the airport for seven hours waiting for our names to be called. It was freezing cold (we were wearing shorts and flip-flops) as the heating system had been turned off to avoid the spread of the virus. We eventually got on a freezing-cold bus (again no heating) and arrived at our designated hotel at 7am, 10 hours after we had arrived. We showered and got into bed shivering from the cold.

We’ve been here since Saturday, March 14 and are due for release on March 28. We are not permitted out of the room. The door is unchained four times a day, three for meals and one to collect our rubbish. We are not permitted care packages from friends but can order groceries online, but no alcohol. We cannot wash or dry clothes, and we only have one towel each. I could go on but let’s just say it’s pretty grim.

The whole situation is frustrating for a variety of reasons. If we had been aware of the change in policy, we would have made a decision based on fact.

We were very happy to come back to China and quarantine in our own apartment with the cooperation of our community. We would not have come back to China so soon if we thought we had to go to a hotel, and even if we had known and still decided to return, we would have been prepared.

It would be so much easier and stress-free for everyone involved if people were permitted to quarantine at home. Everyone in China lives in guarded gated communities, so it would be impossible for anyone to break quarantine. The entire situation is illogical and completely ridiculous.

On a more optimistic note, unlike most of the world now, China is slowly recovering, and things are starting to get back to normal here. It looks like schools may reopen by late April. We are looking forward to getting our lives back to normal, in the city we have called home for the past two years and the country we have called home for the past seven years.

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