2020: A COVID Quarantine Odyssey

When a new COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Hong Kong a month ago, I feared that the quarantine requirement from Hong Kong to mainland China would never be lifted. So I decided to go to China anyway—accepting the mandated 14 days quarantine—so I could visit my parents in Qingdao.

The direct flight from Hong Kong to Qingdao had been canceled due to the epidemic, so I booked a flight to Shanghai. In order to qualify for boarding, I did a nucleic acid test in Hong Kong beforehand. From the moment I started filling in my detailed personal information to receive a “health code,” I smelt the air of quarantine. But that was just the first of many forms to come on this trip.

The Hong Kong International Airport was almost empty the day I took off. Not unexpected, but still shocking. On board and before take-off, a flight attendant taught us how to apply for another QR code for the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. We were also told that upon arrival, we would be required to take additional coronavirus tests immediately at the airport. The three options for testing are throat swab, nasal swab, and serologic test. Depending on where your flight originates, Shanghai's local health administration decides which test you need to take. One flight attendant told us that he been tested for 25 times over the last 30 days.

The Pudong International Airport looked crowded compared to Hong Kong Airport. After landing, we were told that passengers from Hong Kong need to take two tests: the throat swab and the nasal swab, the latter of which turned out to be particularly painful. The long cotton swabs felt like two ferocious crab's claws piercing through my nose all the way to the back of my head. It hurt so much I kept pushing them away, which only made the “claws” more determined.