28 Days in Isolation: A FJORD Staff Member’s Journey Home to China

Passengers line up at the Toronto Lester B. Pearson Airport on April 1. Photo by Ziang Li.

Due to the increasing numbers of people infected by the COVID-19 virus, returning home in March or early April became the best choice for international students. I was one of these students. I am from Hei Long Jiang in China, and I have been living in Canada for four years, studying at WCI.

On April 1st, Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport was nearly empty, and there were only “tens” of people in the queue for a flight to China at 5:00 pm, most of them Chinese international students. The airport workers ordered us to keep two meters from each other. Many people used excellent methods for protection, such as wearing protective clothing and medical masks. The surprising thing was that there were just a few airport staff wearing masks, but they were all wearing gloves.

Once we boarded, the airplane was really full, and I could not see any empty spots on the airplane. Flight attendants did not send any beverages or meals to us. Instead, they just gave us two bottles of water and some snacks at the beginning of this journey. We were all wearing medical masks.

After landing in Shanxi province, we had to go through a complex inspection procedure that they set-up for people coming into the country from overseas. At first, we had to have a Nucleic Acid Test at the airport to test whether we had the Coronavirus or not. They used two very long cotton swabs and inserted them into our nostrils and throat to get some mucus.

Doctors at the international airport in Xian administered nucleic acid tests to passengers arriving from outside of China. Photo by Ziang Li.

Next, we had to be isolated in a hotel for 14 days in Shanxi province instead of going on to our home cities, which is a new policy for the Chinese Government against COVID-19.


My hotel room in Xian. Photo by Ziang Li.

In the hotel, we could not go out to walk around or call for take-out food. All meals were prepared by hotel staff, and they were enough for everyone. They included fruits, milk and snacks during the day. You could take your meal when you heard the doorbell ring. Each meal was prepared in disposable containers.

My dinner in the hotel. Photo by Ziang Li

Every morning a medical worker would measure everyone’s body temperature, moving door by door down each hallway. At the same time, the updated temperatures would be recorded on my online ID. 

After 14 days, a QR code on my online ID showed my current health status and my travel situation. With this code I could take a taxi, train or plane to continue on the rest of my journey home. I took another flight back to my hometown. During this flight, the attendants made me sit at the back of the plane and gave me a private washroom that others could not use.

When I finally arrived at home, I had to do another 14-days of self-isolation immediately. I still could not go outside. I even could not open my door. During these 14 days, the community did give me any necessary help, such as buying food, or providing other daily necessities, and if I needed any help, I could call them, and they would come as soon as possible. Community members recorded my temperature and asked about my health status every day.

I have recently finished a total of 28 days of isolation. And I feel that the work done to monitor COVID-19 in China is really rigorous but very effective in stopping the spread of the pandemic. Through this journey, I received lots of help and service, so much so that my safety felt almost guaranteed.