HomeChinese AmericanMemories of being quarantined in China resurrected by coronavirus crisis

Memories of being quarantined in China resurrected by coronavirus crisis

Doctors and nurses greet my family at a hotel in 2009 where we would be quarantined for a week

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

It was more than a decade ago in June 2009 when the H1N1 pandemic caused widespread fear throughout the world similar to what we’re seeing today with the coronavirus. Otherwise known as the swine flu, H1N1 originated in Mexico and spread to the US.

Also in June 2009, I accompanied my mom, wife, son and daughter to China for a family vacation.

As American visitors, the Chinese government greeted us with caution. We landed in Beijing, departed the plane and groggily made our way toward the terminal’s exit.

My family followed me out of the gate, or at least I thought they did.

“Where is she,” my wife said as the rest of the family scanned the airport looking for signs of my daughter.

We eventually spotted her behind the opened door of the airport’s medical office being examined by health personnel.

Unbeknownst to us, a temperature gauge had scanned our body temperatures as we walked by. They measured my daughter’s temperature at 0.5 degrees Celsius above normal. Authorities had pulled my daughter aside for further examination.

Doctors informed us that she would have to be quarantined. We discussed who would go with my daughter and decided I would stay to care for my aging mom. My wife would accompany my daughter to the hospital.

There they were both kept in isolation and everyone assigned to them wore haz mat suits. Food would be passed to them through a small sliding glass door to avoid direct contact.

Staff at the hospital passed meals to my daughter and wife through a sliding glass door while they were kept in quarantine

My wife tried to find out how long they would be kept, but could not get any answers. The next day, the rest of us joined our tour group for a visit to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. At the Square, I thought of the courageous young man who stood before a row of tanks and refused to let them pass during a demonstration against the government.

I also thought what happened to my wife and daughter could only happen in a communist country like China. I now know I was wrong. Currently, anyone who has visited China or Iran in the last 14 days is banned from traveling to the US. Americans returning from those countries are ordered to self-quarantine.

After Tiananmen, we got back on the bus and were told we would have to return to our hotel. No explanation was given.

There we were greeted by more people with hazmat suits and told we too would have to be quarantined because we had come in contact with our daughter. I was allowed to go to my room and retrieve my luggage. There I called the American Embassy to inform them of where I would be taken. I also called my employer to let them know as well. I asked that they call Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and talk to a friend of mine who worked as an aide to the senior senator from California. Not knowing the intentions of the Chinese government, I wanted people to know where we were in case we disappeared.

We weren’t taken to the hospital. Instead we were driven to another hotel filled with foreign tourists who also had been quarantined for similar reasons. Armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the hotel and barricades surrounded us. People with haz mat suits also walked around. The unmistakable message to us-don’t even think of sneaking out.

Unlike my wife and daughter, we were not kept in isolation. We were allowed to roam the hotel which included a nice Chinese garden. However, there was no swimming pool. We were told this hotel was once the premier hotel for tourists in China. However, due to its age, it had lost in prominence.

There was little to do there except to sleep and eat. We did participate in an occasional tai chi class, but that’s about it. I called the American Embassy and asked if they could send over some games. They said they could not. We were in China and this was China’s show.

We went day by day. Each day we were briefly examined. All they did was take our temperature which was consistently normal. We anxiously awaited word that we would be released as did my wife and daughter. However, little was said about our departure date. Information was hard to come by.

Interestingly, China has not always been forthcoming about the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China. In fact, the Chinese government detained the Chinese scientist, Dr. Li Wenliang, who informed the world about the virus. China accused him of spreading rumors. He would later die of the virus.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration has imposed a gag order on all government workers. All statements about coronavirus must be approved by the White House. This as President Trump continues to spread misinformation about the virus in attempt to downplay it out of fears it will hurt his reelection chances.

As for my quarantine, on day 7 we got word we would be released that day. The same day my wife and daughter received word they would be released. At the hotel, they even gave us a good bye ceremony-handing us a dozen roses. The staff even took the time to pose for pictures with us.

We boarded the bus and they took us to the local hospital where my daughter and wife were waiting. I handed them the roses, which brought huge smiles to their faces. From there, we continued our tour from where we left off.

We got through the H1N1 pandemic, as did the world. Most Americans likely don’t even remember it. COVID-19 will come and go as well. Take the precautions that have been repeated numerously and we’ll get through this.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our  Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading