AN IRISH couple currently quarantined in a Chinese hotel have opened up on the prison-like lifestyle they've had to endure.
Lisa Belmour, from Newmarker-on-Fergus in Co. Clare, spoke to TheJournal.ie about how she and her husband had been cooped up in hotel room and were unable to leave.
The couple, who live in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, had taken a recent trip to Cambodia, but while they were gone, the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, and China hiked up precautionary measures on anyone coming into the country, whether they live there or not.
They decided to briefly visit Ireland before returning home to China, and had planned to quarantine themselves for two weeks in their apartment, but they quickly realised this wouldn't be possible.
Belmour said: "We made the decision to return to China due to our permits being up. We flew from Dublin to Frankfurt, then on to Bangkok and then into China.
"It was all planned that someone would collect us from the airport and we would be able to go to our apartment and be quarantined there.
"We were in the airport for seven hours waiting for our names to be called. It was
freezing cold, we were wearing shorts and flip-flops, as the heating system had been turned off to avoid the spread of the virus. We eventually got on a freezing cold bus and arrived at our designated hotel at 7am, 10 hours after we had arrived. We showered and got into bed shivering from the cold."
Belmour describes how the couple have no cleaning supplies, have tiny meals brought to them three times a day on plastic trays, and are unable to leave their room, adding that they're being treated worse than others because they're foreign.
"The hotel we are in is a couple of kilometres from our apartment. They tested us there for the virus. We also had to sign a form saying 'you are hereby stating you have broken the laws of People’s Republic of China by quarantining together and may be assisting in the spread of the disease'. They wanted to put us in separate rooms.
"They are afraid of their lives that we’re dirty diseased foreigners. They have nailed a chain to the door so it can’t open fully. We’re in a prison. It’s insane. We are being treated like animals. The door is opened four times a day – but only slightly because of the chain. They take our rubbish but that’s it.
"It’s a shock and a slap in the face for us. We are prisoners in here and they’re making up the rules as they go along. I wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemies.
"The whole situation is frustrating for a number of reasons, if we had been aware of the change in policy we would have had the luxury to make a decision based on fact. We were very happy to come back to China and quarantine in our own apartment with the cooperation of our community.
"We would not have come back to China so soon if we thought we had to go to a hotel and even if we had known and still decided to return we would have been prepared. It would be so much easier and stress free for everyone involved if people were permitted to quarantine at home. The entire state of affairs is illogical and completely ridiculous."