Coronavirus: British teacher in Wuhan now thankful he didn’t return to UK

After spending 76 days in lockdown in China, a British teacher living in the coronavirus epicentre Wuhan says he is now relieved to have opted against returning to the UK as it battles with its own mass outbreak.

Chris Hill, a foreign language teacher originally from Washington in Tyne and Wear, lives with his wife and four-year-old daughter around 10 minutes from the market where the global pandemic is thought to have originated.

In January, as the city began to shut down, Mr Hill had toyed with the prospect of returning on one of several repatriation flights to the UK, but opted not to do so after uncertainty over whether his family would be able to join him.

“Wuhan has been under lockdown for around two-and-a-half months. If I was in England, I would just be going into lockdown, (making it) five, six, seven months in total,” he told the PA news agency.

“I’d take the three months over seven any day.”

Virus Outbreak China Lockdown Lifted
A medical worker from China’s Jilin Province, in red, embraces a colleague from Wuhan as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (Ng Han Guan/AP)

While some restrictions have now been lifted to allow people to travel in and out of the city, residents are still only permitted to leave the home for two hours at a time.

“People who do live in Wuhan that were outside of the city when the lockdown took place, it allows them back in,” Mr Hill, 38, told PA.

“But the restrictions that I have of going out for two hours per day, those are still in place until the end of the month and then they’re going to reassess.”

Coronavirus
Chris Hill with his four-year-old daughter Renee Gao (Handout/PA)

“Most of the businesses are still closed because with the two-hour time limit, there’s no point in businesses opening for most of the day. So everyone just stays at home.”

Mr Hill said he expected to be entirely free to leave his home by the middle of May – almost four months on from the January 23 start of the city’s lockdown.

He added that carrying on with his teaching online had been hard, saying: “My wife still works, my daughter is being a hyperactive four-year-old who wants to go out but can’t.”

Coronavirus
Mr Hill’s wife Caitlyn Gao with their four-year-old daughter Renee Gao (Family handout/PA)

Mr Hill said he was in regular contact with friends and family back home, who are “going crazy” just two weeks into the UK’s own restrictive measures.

Having experienced it for two-and-a-half months himself, Mr Hill advised those struggling with the experience of being stuck at home: “What you like doing as a hobby – do it as much as you can.”

“Well, not drinking. That’s just stupid,” he added.

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