My Isolation Experience in China

Amy tells us about her isolation experience in China.

After Boris’ announcement last night, we wanted to know what isolation is really like and how best to deal with it. We spoke to Amy, an English girl who has been living in China for the past 6 months, teaching in a Kindergarten. Amy tells us about her 6 week experience and how she feels China have dealt with the outbreak.


Why were you in China and how long had you been there?

I am currently living in China, teaching English in a Kindergarten. I arrived in China in late August so have been here for 6 months so far.


How long were you in isolation for?

Cities in China were put into lockdown in late January, where everything closed, and we could not leave our apartment. This strict isolation went on for about 6 weeks and then it was lifted when we could start to leave the apartment and things started opening again. Although now it is somewhat back to normal, there are still strict measures in place- such as wearing a mask and temperature checks when entering any building, such as gyms, restaurants etc.


City Tower Block

Where were you isolating?

I was isolating in an apartment in the city of Suzhou, near Shanghai


What was the atmosphere like at the beginning of the outbreak amongst the population?

I think there was a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the outbreak as it was completely new so no one knew the extent of what could happen. The authorities were very quick to lockdown cities which, although seemed dramatic and scary at the time, prevented the spread and was the best thing to do. The population seemed very understanding and obedient, every single person was wearing a mask, and everyone stayed in their houses. The streets were deserted for weeks as people respected the lockdown situation.


What were your expectations of the coming months at the beginning?

When I first heard about the virus there were only 2 cases(!) and so I was not worried at all. But as cases started increasing and places became less and less busy, I started to think this may be more serious. When cities started going into lockdown, I had no idea what was going to happen or how long it would last, but realised it was a serious situation and would go on for a while. I debated coming home but thought I would rather wait it out as I hoped it would only last a couple of months. At the beginning I definitely did not expect it turn into a global pandemic and affect the amount of people it has.


How did you feel during isolation?

Everyday felt different. To start with I felt worried and uncertain of what was going on, especially being away from home. At one point I thought I would have to come home, which I didn’t want to do, as I still had a contract to complete here. I was sad as I had to cancel plans to travel and visit other cities. But, as time went on, I started to feel less worried as case numbers started to drop. Some days I felt a bit down as I was so bored and felt like I had no purpose or motivation, especially as I didn’t know how long it would go on for.


What did you do with your time in isolation?

I read books, watched Netflix, did lots of cooking/baking and made sure I did workouts from YouTube most days, which makes you feel so much better. As our school was closed, I had to start teaching online, where I would send teaching videos and songs to all my kids.


What was the country like during this time? Were there people in the streets? Were restaurants open? Etc.

At the start, when all cities were on lockdown and the number of cases was increasing every day, it was so quiet. Everything was closed, apart from essentials such as supermarkets and pharmacies. All shops, bars, restaurants, gyms, schools etc. were closed for several weeks. My gym has only opened again within the last week and some restaurants are still closed now. There were barely any cars around and very few people on the streets. You were allowed to go for a walk, so there were some people on the streets but mostly everyone was inside. The whole country was basically on standstill for 6 weeks.


What were the Chinese government doing that you were aware of to stop the spread of the virus?

I think the Chinese government handled the situation very well. As soon as the cases were announced in Wuhan, the city was put into lockdown immediately and shortly after that all other cities were put into lockdown. People had to stay in their houses apart from leaving for essentials. Transport between cities was stopped, so no one could leave or enter. Many trains, and both international and domestic flights were cancelled. The metro in my city was still running but with a limited service and masks and temperature checks were mandatory. All schools were shut to prevent the spread, and my school is still shut for at least another 2 weeks. Wearing masks was mandatory, if you were seen not wearing a mask you could be fined. Also, if you were entering a supermarket or pharmacy your temperature was taken and you had to sanitise your hands, workers also wore full protective suits. Much of this is still continuing now.

As there are so many apartment blocks and complexes, each one had security guards out the front. To enter, your temperature was taken, and you had to show a pass which said you lived there. This meant you could not enter any other apartment block apart than your own and prevented anyone from outside getting in. It was very strict and only people living in that block could enter.


How do you feel now that things are starting to get better?

It is very strange because I feel relieved and happy that China have managed to stabilise the virus and that life is starting to get back to normal but now it has spread across the world, I feel anxious. Most businesses in China are open again and the city is back to its normal business, with cars and people everywhere. I am so happy to see life resume and people getting back to normal. However, now it’s at home, I am worried about all my friends and family, knowing they are going through what I have experienced.

I think China’s quick and effective response should be the example set to the rest of the world and shows that it will get better and life will eventually get back to normal (as long as people stay inside and follow advice given!!!!).




Amy is a Biology graduate from the University of Bristol. She recently moved to China for a year to teach English to Kindergarten children