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Category: United Kingdom

The early stages of the COVID-19 crisis: China and the UK

It was mid-January 2020, and news began filtering out from China of a type of Coronavirus, at first appearing similar to SARS, largely affecting the city of Wuhan and wider Hubei province of China.

With a planned return to the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian to celebrate Lunar New Year, we were closely monitoring the situation. At that stage, the north of the country had very few cases, with the outbreak largely contained to Hubei province. As we were travelling to a city that hadn’t registered any cases that we could see reports of, 1400 kilometers from the centre of the outbreak, we decided it was safe to travel. Certainly, if we were due to visit Wuhan or the wider Hubei province, we would have called our plans off.

Now back in London, my experience enables me to compare the early stages of the outbreak in northern China with the same in the UK.

On 23rd January, we flew to Dalian with KLM via Amsterdam and Beijing, arriving the following day. On the day we arrived – 24th January – China was reporting 550 cases, but the vast majority of these cases were in Hubei province. With so many cases, this is when Hubei authorites began to impose restrictions on residents leaving home, and travel to and from the province was also suspended. At a time reserved for important family gatherings, this was a huge deal – many people were forced to celebrate Lunar New Year without their family, some even by themselves.

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Travel and Kexit: what the UK’s exit from the EU may mean for travellers

Presently, as I write this from China, I feel distant from the politics of the UK. But even with all the websites that are blocked by the Great Fire Wall, including the BBC’s, it is difficult to not get drawn into everything surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, which for some reason has been given a strange name, a very unimaginative amalgamation consisting of the first two letters of Britain and the word exit.

I don’t know who devised this word, but it is of the type that someone would think of without much thought, half-drunk, over a beer, on a Friday night in some bar somewhere in the UK. Whoever was responsible for this word, must never have imagined that it would eventually be entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.

This is without reference to its etymology being incorrect. That’s right, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that it is not even so accurate a word, if we take into account the fact that it is not only Great Britain’s exit from the European Union that is on the cards, rather that of the United Kingdom.

UK passport

A 2017 issued United Kingdom passport

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Stop making nice places famous.

“Shit, busy would be an understatement. But the article said it was pristine and peaceful.” Every traveller has muttered words to that effect. Should it not occur to us that we went there, because of the guidebook, or that travel site we stumbled upon. AND so did all the others.

The LP effect. This often useful publication has been known for the influence it exerts on certain businesses and particular destinations. Recommend one cafe in Goa, and that cafe becomes the place to go for the average visitor. Suggest one beach over another, and that becomes the preferred beach for the masses, no matter if just over the headland there is an even more picturesque, and of course quieter stretch. Travel in India, and see that if a cafe has been recommended by the LP, you’ll see signs all over the business exterior shouting about it. You may also find that other enterprises have opened up with the same name, knowing full well that any recommendation in the LP would boost their takings hugely. Such is the influence travel writers can have.

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