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Teacher from Forres describes his experience of five-week coronavirus lockdown


By Garry McCartney

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Suzhou has a population of four million but looked like a ghost town for five weeks.
Suzhou has a population of four million but looked like a ghost town for five weeks.

A TEACHER from Forres hopes the British government has not left it too late in its bid to slow down the coronavirus outbreak.

Kevin McQuillan has experienced first-hand the drastic measures taken to try and halt the infectious disease that has swept across the world.

Living and working in China for the past 14 years, Mr McQuillan has just finished self-isolating from the coronavirus with his family at their home in the country where the virus emanated.

Mr McQuillan, his wife Zhang Xia and their son Connor (9) live in Suzhou, the Jiangsu Province on the east coast of China.

The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December – 500 miles away from Suzhou.

But once locals began to get infected, the government moved quickly to try and halt the virus. People were not allowed to leave their homes for anything other than essentials. Everything else was shut down.

The measures, however, were successful. From a total of 87 recorded cases in that part of China, 87 recovered and there were no deaths.

Having witnessed such a swift response, Mr McQuillan, who grew up in Ferryhill, is hoping a similar lockdown implemented by the British government on Monday evening has come in time to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“It looks like the British Prime Minister took his time with his strategy there. I hope he didn’t leave it too long,” said Mr McQuillan.

“Here in China, their whole thing is test, test, test.

“Everything other than essential businesses were shut and people were asked to stay home.

“Wherever you went your temperature was taken. It’s all about catching the virus and isolating it.”

Suzhou, with its population of six million, became a ghost town.

“We could leave home to go to the supermarket, take a walk, ride a bike etc but nothing else was open,” Mr McQuillan said.

“We just had to stay home as much as possible and not interact with others.”

Kevin helping Connor with home learning during five weeks of self-isolation.
Kevin helping Connor with home learning during five weeks of self-isolation.
Connor enjoyed cycling on Suzhou's deserted streets when he could.
Connor enjoyed cycling on Suzhou's deserted streets when he could.

Having experienced SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002, the local government was quick to contain virus.

Stage one was to stop it spreading within Suzhou. Stage two was to stop people who were infected returning to the city after the new year holiday. And the ongoing final stage is to stop people coming back from abroad with coronavirus.

“It was a tough five weeks but the sharp shock seemed to work,” explained Mr McQuillan.

“Panic buying wasn’t a major issue. People were worried so didn’t leave their house unless they had to because they knew it was for the good of society.

“Restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas are all starting to open again. Schools still aren’t open but should be in a few weeks.”


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