A true story of a man who took a return journey from the United States to China highlighted how frustrated and frightened people were to travel to China during the pandemic under the Zero-Covid policy. 

On October 30, 2021, his journey started from SanFrancisco to Pudong International Airport. He was required to be quarantined for 14 days in the hotel and another 28 days at home after arrival. He took 6 PCR tests during that time and was finally free to join the community on November 28, 2021.

He planned to fly back to the U.S. from Shanghai on March 28. Due to a 24-hour negative PCR certificate requirement, he booked a high-speed train to Shanghai on March 27 for the test. 

A day later, the train was canceled because of the pandemic. Rebooking another train to Shanghai on March 26 didn’t work either. The train was canceled again. He finally got lucky with the train on March 22.

An authority announcement said, if one person in the area (around 1000 households and 3000 people) tests positive, the entire community would be locked down. All residents were required to take the test to avoid a yellow code prohibiting them from traveling to public places, including subways, hotels, markets, and airports. 

Under severe pressure that he might be blocked in Nanjing and won’t make it to the U.S., the man decided to go to Shanghai and stayed at the JI hotel to wait for his flight. 

Before getting on the train for Shanghai on the 24th, he needed to take the PCR test on the 23rd to get a negative result to allow him access to the station. He arrived at the JI hotel, which only provides breakfast but is very close to the airport. 

On the 25th, he booked prepaid appointments for a PCR test with two agencies to ensure he would get the test in time. He went to Pudong Boateng Medical Research Institute at 00:30 on 27th and joined a long queue for the test. Due to the request for a 48-hour negative result for traveling, residents had to take the test repeatedly. But, he said, “the benefits of doing nucleic acid have entered some interest groups’ pocket.” 

He did another test in Huashan Hospital at 8:00 a.m. that day, and again, it was crowded. The negative result came at 4:00 p.m. which is the most fundamental condition for his smooth boarding besides the air ticket. 

Two hours later, the announcement of the Shanghai Municipal Government suddenly appeared on his mobile phone. It was also scheduled to be announced on TV at 8 p.m. The content was: From 5:00 a.m. on the 28th, with the Huangpu River as the boundary, Pudong will be closed first, and the closing date will be until April 1; then Puxi will be closed from April 1 to April 5; for one goal, dynamic clearing; This is a hasty decision, but it is a state order and must be firmly implemented. 

The 25 million residents of Shanghai were caught off guard, and the whole of Shanghai was covered. No one knew what would happen in the future and what would happen next. The first reaction was to rush to the supermarket to grab food. 

After some chaos, the hotel managed to get a shuttle bus to the airport for guests at 4:30 a.m., half an hour before the lockdown. 

All domestic flights were canceled, and the airport was quiet, with no air conditioning and no shops or restaurants. There was only a small group of passengers who were about to take international flights. But, he said, “In case the flight is canceled, and the nucleic acid fails for 48 hours, it will be dead because it is blocked at Pudong Airport, there is no food or drink, and there is no nucleic acid to do, it is hard to imagine what the consequences will be!”

The man was among a small number of people that were lucky to leave China without any danger. The flights on the 29th, 30th, and 31st were all suspended. If he didn’t make it that day, he would have been locked in Pudong airport or returned to the hotel with a limited food supply. 

Even worse, he would have to join others who weren’t lucky enough that lie on roads and bridges without knowing when they would be able to go back.

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