A north-east musician living in China has spoken about the “horror movie” scenes he has seen since being quarantined due to the spread of coronavirus.
Richie Cormack, from Ellon, has been locked down in the city of Hefei for almost a month as the Chinese government tries to contain the potentially deadly disease.
He said only one member of each family is now allowed to leave their home twice a week to buy essentials.
Richie lives in Hefei with his Chinese wife Ting Ting and son Dylan, 4, and has spent the majority of the last 29 days trapped in his flat, with all businesses in the city shut down and men in hazmat suits patrolling the streets.
He runs a pub and an Italian restaurant in the city but everything has drawn to a standstill since the outbreak of the virus.
He said: “The quarantine came about so fast, it was almost like the beginning of a horror movie. The movie Groundhog Day comes to mind. It’s been 29 days, each day almost exactly the same.
“The day before Chinese New Year was when it all began, most people had already started to travel home.
“On my side I was preparing for a big party in the pub to celebrate. The government must have realised that this was going to spiral out of control if left unchecked because they put their foot down hard.
“They sent out a mass message to every business owner in the country to shut down, which we did. They completely locked down Wuhan city and then the entire province. Within days of this Hefei had the same lockdown in place.
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“That was 29 days ago. Since then it’s become stricter.
“In every home, one family member is allowed outside twice a week.
“My businesses have been shut, without news of reopening. I’ve heard rumours that this may last until April.
“The city is an absolute ghost town still, people are just not going outside. All social gatherings are illegal.”
Richie lives 300 miles away from Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started. He described how seriously the authorities are taking measures in the city where he stays.
He said: “The other day I went out to buy some veg – life has become a checklist of virus-stopping measures. Face mask, check. Hand sanitiser, check. Outdoor clothes, check.
“I got my temperature checked by the guard on my street corner, I got checked again entering the supermarket and I got it looked at again by the guard on my return.
“If at any time my temperature is too high, I would be detained and sent to a quarantine location to be checked for the virus.”
Richie, 35, moved to China in 2011 after graduating from Dundee University with a degree in fine art. Initially he wanted to teach English and do some travelling but decided to open a pub in Hefei called the Shipyard with his business partner.
He has never been tested for the virus because he has not shown signs of a high temperature although said his neighbour was suspected to have fallen ill with it.
Richie said: “I do know of a few people who have had it, my neighbour got it.
“I looked out the window one morning and there were a bunch a guys in white hazmat suits carrying a Chinese man into the back of a van.
“His entire block of flats was shut for two weeks after that, hazmat soldiers standing guard at the entrance.
“They have since been reopened and the man has returned from hospital.”
Richie believes the quarantine measures will be in place until April and until then, he is home schooling his son, which he believes has strengthened the bond between them.
Richie wrote and performed a song about the quarantine which can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4oQad1nMSc
Killer coronavirus spreads worldwide
The World Health Organisation was first alerted to reports of the previously unknown virus discovered in patients with pneumonia in Wuhan in December.
It is believed the first patients infected were working at a seafood market in the city where wild animals were being sold.
China has recorded 2,592 deaths from the Covid-19 outbreak and confirmed that there have been 77,345 cases on the mainland.
It has spread to at least 28 other countries.
Four cruise ship passengers flown to England this weekend have tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the UK to 13.
Scotland now preparing for the worst
A total of 393 people have tested negative for coronavirus in Scotland and no cases have been identified.
It has now been made a “notifiable disease” which means doctors are now required to share patient information with health boards if they suspect a patient is infected.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Although all Scottish tests have so far been negative, we are prepared for the high likelihood that we will also see a positive case.
Our NHS is well-equipped to cope with any suspected cases. We have well-rehearsed procedures in place for infections of this kind.”