Bermudian teenager flees China health crisis

  • Worrying images: a worker wearing a hazardous materials suit takes the temperature of a passenger at the entrance to a subway station in Beijing (Photograph by Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

    Worrying images: a worker wearing a hazardous materials suit takes the temperature of a passenger at the entrance to a subway station in Beijing (Photograph by Mark Schiefelbein/AP)


A Bermudian teenager at an international school in China was told this weekend he could not return to Changshu, about 390 miles from Wuhan, because of the outbreak of a potential killer virus.

Now Sebastian Lee will have to catch a flight from an airport elsewhere in the country and stay with school friends from Bangladesh until the deadly coronavirus crisis is over.

Mr Lee said that the past few days had been “surreal”.

He added: “I wasn’t really expecting that news this morning — so it’s just been me coming to terms with the fact that in a few hours I won’t be in China, which is where I have been for the past eight months.”

Mr Lee was speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday from the airport in Kunming, in South China, about 800 miles from Wuhan in central China, the epicentre of the outbreak and the region’s major city.

The 18-year-old is a pupil at United World College Changshu.

Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million that has been put into quarantine, with transport services shut down and only essential travel allowed outside its limits. At least 80 people had died from the virus by last night with as many as 1,000 new cases possible in Wuhan.

Five cases had been confirmed in the United States and dozens more around the world.

Mr Lee and other pupils from the school have been on holiday since Wednesday for the Chinese new year.

The break was expected to last until February 4.

Mr Lee and a group of friends had left the school last week with travel plans that included some time in Hong Kong.

But he added that an urgent message from the school had changed his plans.

Mr Lee said: “I got an e-mail saying that it’s highly recommended that we all leave China, so we had to book flights today.”

He said that the e-mail had panicked some of his friends who are international students.

Mr Lee explained: “A lot of people have been very stressed about trying to find flights back home or flights out of China.

“Flights are expensive if you’re booking on such short notice, and a lot of people don’t have the financial means to make that happen.”

Mr Lee said that everyone at Kunming airport was wearing face masks — but that the mood was calm.

He added: “In general, it doesn’t seem like anyone is panicked.”

Mr Lee said that he would fly to Bangladesh to stay with friends and that he planned to make the best of the bad situation.

He added: “I’m really excited. It is a new country and a new culture that I’ll get to explore and see.”

The pupil said that his schoolmates were likewise excited for the chance to show him around their home country.

Mr Lee added: “Tomorrow, apparently, I’m going to be attending a Bengali wedding.

“The culture is very hospitable in general, so they’re really excited for me to come.”

Jack Lee, Sebastian’s father, said that he and Fabienne, his wife, had received the e-mail from their son’s school on Saturday night and that they had messaged their son.

Mr Lee said: “We just basically told him he needs to get to the airport and get out.

“In the end, we just thought he could stay with his friends and go to Bangladesh, where they are from.”

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Published Jan 27, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 8:08 am)

Bermudian teenager flees China health crisis

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