More Families Arriving in Shanghai Amid Pandemic

Source: HangzhouTube, China Daily

Nicholas Oettinger, an Australian businessman, takes a nucleic acid test for the coronavirus after arriving in Shanghai from abroad on March 21, 2020. 

All inbound travelers to be investigated, must take nucleic acid tests, city says.

A rising number of inbound travelers, both Chinese and expats, have been arriving together with their families at Shanghai's airports as the novel coronavirus pandemic hits many parts of the world, frontline workers said.

"Over the past week, we've seen a rising number of people arriving together with their spouses, partners, children under 10 years old and even babies in arms," said Ji Guanzhong, a worker at a testing venue near Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, adding that around half the travelers were Chinese, mainly those studying abroad, while the rest were expats returning to work in China.

That contrasted starkly with the situation early this month, when most people flying to Shanghai were traveling on their own, Ji said.

Japanese citizen Ryoko Kubota arrived in Shanghai from Tokyo with her 17-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son on Saturday. The family moved to Shanghai in April as a result of her husband's job relocation. She emphasized that the family's return to Japan in late January was because her daughter had to take a test, not because of the outbreak.

"We chose to come back to Shanghai at the moment as we feared there might be border restrictions if the situation in Japan continues to deteriorate," Kubota said. "We need to renew our rental contract for the apartment in Shanghai by the end of this month."

The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak a pandemic on March 11.

Measures implemented by Shanghai to curb the virus' spread from overseas started on March 6, when travelers from four countries were subject to epidemiological investigation and quarantine. The scope expanded gradually, covering travelers from 24 countries by last Friday.

Last Sunday, the city announced all inbound travelers will be subject to investigation and have to take nucleic acid tests. Those from the 24 countries will be escorted to homes or hotels to undergo a 14-day quarantine if they test negative for the virus.

After customs checks and epidemiological investigations by local centers of disease control and prevention at the airports, travelers will be transported to designated venues scattered in Shanghai's 16 districts to undergo nucleic acid testing, which requires a swab from the back of the throat.

"As it takes six to eight hours before the test result is obtained, we provide them with simple meals, biscuits, bottled water, and deck chairs. Elderly travelers and those with babies and young children will be put in a separate room to rest," said Ji, from the Changning district civil affairs bureau.

Although the whole quarantine procedure can last for more than 10 hours, travelers have shown increasing cooperation, with most knowing what to expect from Shanghai's immigration information online or friends who had returned previously, front-line workers said.

Away from residential communities, the testing venue in Changning district was a new park not yet put into use, and such places in the open air with good ventilation were preferred to keep travelers and workers safe, Ji said.

Through the whole journey on the bus and at the testing venues, travelers were requested to keep their distance from each other to stay safe, he added.