My school actually didn’t shut early, as we usually finish a week earlier than other boarding schools in the UK. That meant at that point, the coronavirus still didn’t seem like it would end up impacting me directly. Although my mother and father and little sister all came back to the UK from our house in Hong Kong in mid January just as schools in Hong Kong shut, the coronavirus still hadn’t changed anything significantly for me. I definitely knew more about the potential impacts of coronavirus much more than any of my friends at school, who didn’t think it was something that would affect Europe, and even if it did they thought the UK would be prepared to deal with it effectively.
The first time coronavirus significantly changed something in my life was when my GCSE’s were cancelled. I was in the middle of completing my GCSE art exam preparation when I got the news. In contrast to the rest of my friends, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to prove myself and put in the work to achieve the grades I wanted. I was ready to work hard and revise over Easter, but obviously that all changed really quickly, and I felt really at loss. I felt like I should have been working and wasn’t quite sure what I could do in this moment to make sure I got the grades I wanted.
By the time I went home with my family in the UK, my dad had already flown back to Hong Kong and so we were separated. He was alone, and me and my brother, two sisters and mother were all together. This wasn’t new to us, so perhaps it didn’t affect us as much as it has other families. However, it was nice when my dad decided to fly back to the UK to come visit us. He ended up staying with us for two and a half weeks.
Due to the lockdown, I hadn’t been able to see my girlfriend before she left to go back to Hong Kong, where she lives. This was really hard on both of us, as the time difference between the UK and Hong Kong is 7 hours— she was often asleep whenever I was free to call her, or vice versa. After 4 weeks of this, I decided that it would be practical to fly back to Hong Kong with my dad; to see her and to make sure my dad wasn’t alone in such uncertain times.
On the day of our flight, we went to the airport and everything was going smoothly. Just before we got on the plane, we had to have our temperatures taken as this airline was trying to follow all protocol to protect its passengers and staff. I have always had a higher-than-average temperature, but it never crossed my mind that this would be a problem.
When they first took my temperature it read as 37.5℃. I was separated from everyone else, including my dad, and was told to sit down and cool down as the limit to board the flight was 37.3℃. This made me more stressed, as I could overhear them saying that I wouldn’t be allowed to fly and that they should start to take my bags off the plane. So when they took my temperature for the second time, it had gone up to 37.7℃. My dad had been told to get on the plane, but he refused and came back to make sure I was okay. They took my temperature for a third time and it was still above the limit. Then I asked if they could please retake it using the other thermometer, and the temperature came out as 37.3℃, which supposedly meant that I was allowed to fly. The staff then had an argument between themselves, as some of them believed I should be allowed to fly now, while others insisted that it took 4th tries to get my temperature below the limit, that I shouldn’t. In the end, they decided I wouldn’t be allowed to fly and they gave my dad 5 minutes to decide whether he wanted to continue his flight to Hong Kong or to stay with me.
We came to the decision that it was best for him to continue to fly to Hong Kong. I then waited for about 45 minutes while they filled out paperwork, before being taken to collect my bag. Half an hour after this, my mum picked me up from the airport and we headed home.
The hardest part was once I arrived back at home, as it hadn't even occurred to me that I would be spending that night in the UK. By then, I had accepted I probably wouldn't be going to Hong Kong. But when we arrived home, my mum suggested that I should get on a flight tomorrow. Basically, at that moment, it was now or never. We debated over it for a while. In the end, my brother booked the flight for me.
The next day, my mum drove me to the airport. I was booked on a different airline to the one from the day before and this time, I was prepared for what might happen. Instead, they didn't even take my temperature and I simply boarded the plane.
It's crazy to think I went through this, but one month later, it seems like it occurred years ago. I’m just happy I made it to Hong Kong and have been able to spend this time with my dad and my girlfriend.
Written by: Abi Brooke