Motherwell man in China sees Coronavirus crisis first-hand

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An English language teacher from Motherwell, who lives in China, has been talking about the special measures in place in regard to the Coronavirus.

Gordon Hunter (65), who hails from the timber houses at the top of Muirhouse, has worked in China since 2003 and is currently based in Nantong, which is two hours west of Shanghai.

Crucially, it is 403 miles from the epicentre of the virus, which originated in Wuhan and had killed 106 people at time of going to press.

The death total in Nantong is two.

Gordon, who works for the private EF Education First company, has just heard that colleagues on holiday have been told not to return to China but stresses that he has no plans to leave himself “as yet.”

The former Dalziel High School pupil is now conducting his lessons online.

He admitted: “It’s getting edgy now.”

Yet crucially, he insists that a contrast in public policy exists with the SARS virus, which was an issue when he first came to China 17 years ago.

Gordon explained: “I travelled the day after the advised travel ban had been lifted and when I got to Shanghai Airport there was an obligatory scanning of all passengers, incoming and outgoing. It was a quick procedure carried out by uniformed and masked army personnel.

“On the streets of China people were wearing skimpy little paper masks and I wondered why they believed they were useful.

“The difference between the outbreak of SARS and the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus is the Chinese Government’s attitude to communicating the facts to the wider world. With SARS vital information was hidden.

“This time the Chinese Government lost no time in reporting the problem and, for me, that shows China has at last come to a more mature understanding of its inevitable, yet still emerging position as the next superpower and the need for diplomacy.

“As each day passes the cities round about Wuhan are closing down and there are all sorts of preventive measures being put into place, public events are cancelled, you can’t enter a public space without a face mask.

“Travel is restricted if not stopped altogether and there’s nobody on the streets.

“The effects can be felt everywhere. Each day the statistics show the spread of the virus and there’s more and more detail.

“Middle aged men with pre-existing medical problems are being hit hardest and they say most deaths till now have been in that group. My former student, YuanYuan, is a weekend DJ and was working with a mask on till the ban on public events.

“My oldest friend, QiangQiang, went abroad for Chinese New Year for the first time and he is bracing himself to delay his return and his family will be glad for that to happen.

“Despite all this, if you ask people on the streets what they make of all this they will say they have faith in the willingness and readiness of the government to fix this problem promptly.

“And, indeed, although we often do not understand things the same way as the Chinese, if there’s one thing they are good at, it’s dealing with a crisis.”

At time of going to press it was stated that the first confirmed case of the virus in Europe had been made – in Germany. The patient had not visited China but caught the virus from a colleague who had.

The Government says it was “looking at all the options” in regard to airlifting Britons from the affected province.

This morning (Wednesday) it was confirmed that British Airways is stopping all direct flights to mainland China.