14 Apr 2020

Family back from Wuhan: 'Everyone is trying to help us'

11:26 am on 14 April 2020

New Zealanders stranded in Wuhan are looking at their options now that people are finally allowed to leave the Chinese city after 76 days of Covid-19 lockdown.

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Aucklander Oliver Ren in full PPE prepares to fly home from Wuhan in China. Photo: Supplied / Oliver Ren

The lockdown notice was lifted last week.

Some New Zealanders stuck there have booked the first available flights back home while others are still waiting to see how the outbreak continues to unfold both in China and here.

Auckland man Oliver Ren booked the first available flight back home for his family of four when the outbound traffic ban was lifted in Wuhan on 8 April.

They had gone back to their hometown for the Chinese New Year and never thought they would be stuck there for three months.

"The children really want to get back home. We were stuck in Wuhan for such a long time and they missed their friends. Eventually, we would go back so no doubt just go back," Ren said.

The family did lots of preparation for the 18-hour journey home to reduce any chance of infection before they flew out on 10 April.

"We've prepared the whole PPE, something like the mask, the gloves, the protective clothing and also the eye protection, everything," he said.

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The family leaves for the airport dressed in their PPE. Photo: Supplied / Oliver Ren

Ren said it felt good to be back and was looking forward to returning to their own home after finishing the government-arranged isolation in a hotel.

He said they were well-looked after when they arrived.

"The process was very smooth and also the people are very friendly. The policemen and the navy are very friendly and also very friendly employees in the hotel. Everyone is trying to help us."

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Auckland International Airport was virtually deserted when Oliver Ren and his family arrived there on a flight from China. Photo: Supplied / Oliver Ren

Another Auckland man in Wuhan, Jacky Zeng, went out for a breakfast immediately after the lockdown was lifted.

What he craved most was the hot and dry noodles, which feature sesame paste and pickled radish and is the signature food for a city famous for its breakfast.

Zeng said he almost burst into tears with a bowl of the noodles in hand.

"That's really exciting. I went out for shopping from the supermarket. I bought some food from the restaurant like the breakfast. It was over three months that I haven't eaten breakfast outside."

Zeng has a business in Auckland to look after and planned to buy a ticket home though it costs five times the normal price and when he checked the only available flights were in May.

Zeng said the whole experience was like a nightmare and as Covid-19 spreads around the world, the future is uncertain.

"I was just going to come back to China for a short time for my business, but I stayed here for over three months, nearly four months. Even now, I still can't make sure I can go back to New Zealand safely," he said.

Auckland mum Wu has an eight-year-old son visiting his grandparents in Wuhan.

Though she hasn't seen him since Christmas, she said the family will wait until May to decide whether to bring her son back.

"It's less important whether I miss him or not. It's most important that he stays safe. We think it's necessary for him to stay there at least until the end of this month. Plus, the Wuhan government also asks people not to go out unless necessary," she said.

Wu said she also worried her son will be caught up in the outbreak in New Zealand.

"Because people are less cautious here. It's hard to predict how things would go. I'm really worried about this."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday there was no end date yet for easing the strict border controls.

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