Coronavirus: SA man describes life in quarantine

Daneel Joubert and his family. (Photo: Supplied)
Daneel Joubert and his family. (Photo: Supplied)

A South African living in the city of Xi’an in China’s Shaanxi province can only leave his apartment every few days because of the dreaded coronavirus outbreak.

Shaanxi province borders Hubei province, where the coronavirus first broke out in the city of Wuhan.

There have been more than 40 000 cases of the virus reported worldwide and more than 900 people have died, CNN reports. In Wuhan, more than 30 000 cases have been reported.

Daneel Joubert (31) and his wife, Danelle (27), have been living in China for the past six years. They have a four-year-old daughter, Mia.

“We’ve considered leaving. At first, we were worried but there were no flights available. It’s also very expensive and then you’re in a crowd, so the chance of infection is actually higher,” Daneel tells YOU.

But Daneel, originally from Barberton in Mpumalanga, says they feel things are under control and that the Chinese government is handling the situation well.

“The Chinese government doesn’t waste time. They immediately started trying to get the situation under control, and it’s not easy simply closing the borders of a place like Wuhan,” he says.

Daneel owns a business that trains teachers to teach English in overseas schools and universities. He says companies have been ordered to let their employees stay at home.

“They’ve ordered business to keep paying their employees or face enormous fines. Everyone travelling in China is screened for signs of the virus. When a plane lands anywhere in China, passengers are kept on board for two hours on the runway to make sure the virus doesn’t spread. Everything is very orderly and one feels officials are in charge of the situation.

“We feel a lot calmer now but we wear masks whenever we go out. If you don’t wear one, you could be arrested on the spot. The public are very aware of it – you don’t go anywhere without a medical mask,” he explains.

Daneel still goes out every few days to get groceries, but his wife and daughter stay inside.

“The streets are deserted because no one wants the virus to spread. I make sure to keep up to date with the news. I can read basic Chinese, so that helps. They’re making sure we have enough food and especially fresh fruit and veggies in our city. They spray all the produce [with chemicals to keep the virus from spreading] before you can buy it. They [the government] are really doing everything they can to keep this thing in check,” he says.

He says since Friday every household in the city has been getting a note at the door to say when it’s their turn to do shopping.

“We can go out every second day, but only one of us may [go out]. They’re so organised. But it means only one person in a household of, say, five people can get out of the house.”

Daneel believes they’re facing at least another month in quarantine but it could be longer if the spread of the virus isn’t halted.

“We’ll only be sending Mia back to school after at least two months. We foreigners are very well informed – they’re making sure we get all the information in English too. We’re grateful for their good communication,” he says.

Daneel Joubert

But he acknowledges it’s challenging to keep their little girl busy inside their apartment.

“We have a tiny garden so we can go outside for a bit. Thankfully, there’s electricity and that means Wi-Fi. And trust me, our home is squeaky clean because we have so much time on our hands,” he says.

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