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Forres teacher in China sees life returning to normal thanks to health code app

By Garry McCartney

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Kevin at his son Connor's 10th birthday party in a Suzhou park on Sunday. They were joined by around 12 children and eight adults.
Kevin at his son Connor's 10th birthday party in a Suzhou park on Sunday. They were joined by around 12 children and eight adults.

A TEACHER from Forres who has lived in China for the last 14 years says life there is almost back to normal as the threat of coronavirus subsides.

Kevin McQuillan suffered the country's lockdown with his wife Zhang Xia and their son Connor (9) at home in Suzhou in the Jiangsu Province on the east coast for around six weeks, then, after celebrating his 42nd birthday in Thailand, had to be quarantined for another two weeks in their apartment.

The former Forres Academy pupil said: "As China started to get better other countries started to see their cases rising. Because of this, anyone coming in from abroad was subject to a strict quarantine period and you couldn't leave until after you tested negative.

"I was lucky I got in just in time. The day after I arrived they sent everyone to hotels dotted around the city. You just had to stay in your room and entertain yourself with your family or alone. Food was delivered to the door three times-a-day."

There are 23 provinces in the vast nation of China with a total population of nearly 1.4billion people. The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, last December, 500 miles away from Suzhou.

Suzhou is a major economic centre, a focal point of trade and commerce, and the second largest city in the Jiangsu province with a population of nearly 11million.

"After a month with no new local cases, the city lowered their alert level," said Kevin. "Shops, restaurants, bars, hairdressers and so on started opening up. It was quiet for a while though as people were a bit wary of going out."

He added: "Other provinces are much stricter. In fact, one in the far north has gone under lockdown again because of a second surge in cases.

"Pre mid-January there was a definite cover up of the seriousness of the virus, mostly from the local government in Wuhan. Back then, no-one really knew how serious this thing was going to be but if the Wuhan government had of been more honest, we could have saved valuable time."

Kevin's green mobile health code allows him to move around relatively freely.
Kevin's green mobile health code allows him to move around relatively freely.

After lockdown ended, Suzhou's inhabitants installed a health code app on their mobiles requiring details of where the owners have been over the previous two weeks.

"The authorities cross check and if everything is fine you are given a green code," said Kevin. "This allows you to travel freely wherever you like. It's great system."

Anyone who has been to a virus hotspot or in contact with someone who has had the virus in the previous 14 days is given a red code, meaning they have to go to a fever clinic. After receiving the all-clear, they must self-isolate for another fortnight then get re-tested.

Kevin said: "Whenever you go anywhere like a restaurant or bar, someone checks your temperature. If you have a fever you are allowed in - even to your own housing compound!

"In addition, you provide your details as a way of tracking so they can contact you if it turns out that someone with the virus was in the same place at the same time."

Schools were the last institutions to open and Kevin's son Connor went back to school last week after 11 weeks of online learning.

"Schools are a little different, but hopefully they will normalise after a few weeks," said Kevin. "The response to the coronavirus in China has been scarily efficient, especially when you consider how out of control it has become in other countries. They put a lid on things quickly and effectively.

"Due to the density of people here, social distancing is pretty much impossible to observe. However, because they have tested so many people, and the fact they have these extra checks, precautions and tracking systems in place, it is hoped we will avoid the dreaded second wave."

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