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Frenchman in Shanghai worried about homeland

By XING YI in Shanghai | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-03-26 08:54

Carl Corbel

Editor's note: In this new series, we share stories and experiences showing how expats are dealing with the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.

Carl Corbel, a French expat in Shanghai, is now worried about the health of his family members back in France these days just as they were concerned about him a month ago amid the shifting epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In early February, Corbel was in Bangkok, Thailand, on holiday when the COVID-19 contagion began spreading quickly in China.

"I planned to go back to Shanghai for work, but my family said they wanted me to come back to France," said Corbel, operations manager at Shanghai Keolis Public Transport Operation Management Co.

"At the start, I didn't have much information, but things got clearer every day. I saw many official notices and regulations about the epidemic and on how to deal with it," he said.

After learning about measures such as the closing of shops, strict screening measures at airports, registration in local communities and quarantine of people from key areas, Corbel made the decision to return to Shanghai.

"I realized that the government is taking care of (the outbreak) instead of ignoring it, which is reassuring to me that the situation was quite OK in Shanghai," he said.

To ease the worries of his family back in France, Corbel shot a series of videos of himself from the day he flew back from Bangkok to Shanghai on Feb 12.

He filmed the COVID-19 notice and the health card given to him during his flight, the temperature checks and empty airport in his first clip. In the second, he filmed his self-observation procedures at home, which were then released online by media platform ShanghaiEye.

"I wanted to show them what the actual situation is in Shanghai, which is quite safe-contrary to rumors and fake news on the internet," he said. "I was quite surprised that people were interested in watching me cooking during the quarantine, and some joked 'your life is actually quite good'."

As the Shanghai government requires every inbound traveler who has been to epidemic stricken areas to undergo a 14-day quarantine, Corbel said he understands the policy because if everybody observes the measure, people out on street will all be safer and the epidemic can be managed.

"Every morning during my self-quarantine, I got up and took my temperature," he said. "I knew that as the days went by, the chances of me getting the disease were becoming lower and lower."

He also kept contact with his friends, family and colleagues. "Keeping contact with your friends and family is important, and it will make you happy," said Corbel, who has been living in Shanghai since 2012.

On Feb 27, Corbel finished his quarantine and returned to the company, which he joined six years ago after earning a graduate degree in engineering from Tongji University.

He now works in a team responsible for the operation of a tram system in Shanghai's suburban Songjiang district.

Corbel also filmed his first day of work and showed the preventive and control measures at his company and the ones put in place on the tram and stations.

Just as the virus has been largely brought under control in China, the worsening situation in Europe upsets Corbel.

He started to check official news about the epidemic development in France since early March, and urged his family members to practice social distancing and use protective clothing when they have to go out.

"I try to put some pressure on them because I found that my family and friends didn't realize the danger. I even got a bit angry at them," he said, adding that they started to understand the seriousness only a few days before the French government ordered the country's lockdown.

"People must not downplay the problem, and we must not say it's just a flu or a bad cold. The pandemic is very real and we have to acknowledge it," he said.

Despite the upheaval caused by the pandemic, Corbel remains optimistic about the world being able to contain the virus.

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