Diary of a coronavirus evacuee: ‘Everyone’s trying to avoid contact with each other’ | Daniel Ou Yang | World news


At 2.52pm, we arrived at Wuhan Tianjin airport.

The drive here was smooth, all the big wide roads with no cars on them. We made it through the checkpoints and arrived within an hour.

I said my goodbyes to my grandparents at the house, they were holding back tears. My dad sent me into the airport. After he sat around for a few minutes I told him to go home, and I’ll look after myself from there on.

There were a lot of us evacuating, with two orthree other countries including us. Everyone’s wearing masks, and it was nerve-racking being around so many people in such close proximity. Hearing about a lot of evacuations with confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the flight, it was definitely not ideal to be around so many people at the airport.

Air New Zealand flight NZ1942 touches down at Auckland International Airport after departing from Wuhan, China on 5 February.



Air New Zealand flight NZ1942 touches down at Auckland International Airport after departing from Wuhan, China on 5 February. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

I found myself a quiet spot, and talked to my family and friends on my phone until we started lining up to get our boarding pass.

At 4.30pm they told us after getting our boarding pass to wait for the security clearance to be opened, but to line up first because they’ll be a lot of different countries evacuating at once all through one entrance.

A long wait

It wasn’t until around 9.30pm that they started processing everyone. Our flight was due to leave at 11pm.

I originally lined up behind everyone, again nervous of the close proximity. As it reached 10pm, I saw a lot of Chinese rushing to the front, and I was encouraged to join them, so I did. They were all going on the same Auckland flight as me, so we were allowed to cut the queue to be processed first.

Staff wearing protective clothing on board the Air Zealand flight from Wuhan, China to Auckland, New Zealand. home.



Staff wearing protective clothing on board the Air Zealand flight from Wuhan, China to Auckland, New Zealand. Photograph: Daniel Ou Yang/Supplied

I felt a bit guilty, all these foreigners looking at us cutting the line, maybe they will think that we are getting special treatment because we are Chinese.

There was this lady with her two young kids also evacuating and they were running late. I waited for them to bring them with me through the security. From there everyone was wearing full hazmat suits.

Rush for the gate

It took us an hour to finally get through to immigration and the last security check point before our flight gate 334. It was already 11.10pm.

I got through but the lady was stopped because she had ice skating shoes in the carry on which weren’t allowed. I told her to just leave them, but she was unwilling to. In the end, it was 11.20pm and I said I needed to go make the flight and I’ll tell them to wait for her and her kids.

It was a huge rush and I thought I missed it because there was no one at the gate. But I made it just in time. I was on the phone to the embassy letting them know about the lady and kids. I hope they made it on.

On board

The flight itself wasn’t too bad, but we were delayed so didn’t leave until 1am.

After having a really late dinner (or early breakfast) I fell asleep very quickly. Luckily there was a spare seat next to me so I sat next to the window and a girl sat on the other end, leaving plenty of space for each other.

Passengers aboard an Air New Zealand flight out of Wuhan.



Passengers aboard an Air New Zealand flight out of Wuhan. Photograph: Daniel Ou Yang/The GuardianThe Guardian

We were supplied with masks and hand sanitisers along with the normal flight care package. I woke up at 10 and went to the bathroom. We were encouraged to leave our seat as little as possible so I was hesitant.

Used a lot of hand sanitisers throughout the flight along with everyone else. Everyone is just trying to avoid contact with each other as much as possible and constantly using hand sanitisers.

12 hours later

We’ve arrived at New Zealand now. I have to prepare myself for another long flight back to Christmas Island, a huge detour. I’m nervous about being there.

The route take by Air New Zealand flight 1942 from Wuhan to Auckland.

The route take by Air New Zealand flight 1942 from Wuhan to Auckland. Photograph: Flightradar

I heard from others there’s barely any wifi and no reception. There is nothing to do. Hopefully the facility is clean, and I can be out of there smoothly. I will want to try and keep everyone updated, but with the lack of reception and wifi, I think it’ll be very limited.

I just want to get back home.