Winnipegger shares experience under Chinese quarantine

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg man is speaking about his quarantine experience in China as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Henderson has worked for the past three years as a high school teacher in Shibai, located 638 kilometres east of Wuhan. His last teaching day was on January 17, when he went on holiday for five weeks.

He said as he went on holiday, he heard about a “problem” in Hubei province, but it didn’t immediately register to him.

“It didn’t seem that big, and it wasn’t affecting us,” he said.

By early February, Henderson’s employer was telling staff to be prepared to teach online, and then to stay away from China. Henderson, however, returned to China on February 18.

“They didn’t know how long it would be. It could be three weeks, it could be three months,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to stay indefinitely on holiday.”

When he returned to China, he was ordered to quarantine in his apartment for two weeks.

“It was not a pleasant prospect, but I decided I could make it through,” he said.

Henderson described the quarantine as an unusual experience.

“The idea of being cooped up, and not being able to go outside, leave my own apartment building for three weeks, was pretty strange,” he said. “I got to day 13, and I thought ‘okay, I’m through this,’ and that’s the day they told me I had to spend another week in quarantine.

“The next three or four days got very difficult. I was in a difficult space then.”

While in his apartment, Henderson spoke with friends online, cleaned his apartment, read and worked on lesson plans. His quarantine ended two weeks ago.

Henderson says his experience can serve as a lesson for residents of other countries.

“If they’re telling people stay in, people should stay in,” he said.

Henderson says things have started to return to normal this week, with shops and restaurants opening up again. He says residents are still encouraged to wear masks, but there has not been a new case of COVID-19 in at least four weeks in his province.

Henderson is now waiting for his school to reopen.

-with files from CTV’s Jeremie Charron.