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Travel in China during this period

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Old 03-02-2020, 10:43 AM   #1
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Travel in China during this period

Having just returned from China on Saturday, I am into my 14-day quarantine mandated by MOH advisory. Suffice to say it has not been a pleasant 2-week stay in China. I am unable to report on the situation in the other parts of China. In the north where I stayed, over 1500km from Wuhan, the crisis escalation was swift from the 23rd, when entertainment outlets in the nearest were told not to open the following day. It was at this time that Wuhan was declared to be closed.

In the rural area where I was, residents began to block village access points with their vehicles from the 27th, as rumours began to spread about who has come home from Wuhan, and which local government officials have been fired for letting suspected cases slip away. Visiting for CNY became difficult as a result of village roads being blocked. There were highway road-blocks as well, as residents with non-local ICs would not be allowed into cities. At this point too, local bus services were suspended.

On the 29th, I was informed that my flight on the 31st from the airport nearby to the city of Lanzhou was cancelled. My original plan was to proceed from Lanzhou to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia on the same night. I scrambled and with the help of relatives, elected to go by train to Lanzhou. This meant an earlier departure on the 30th by the sleeper to Lanzhou. I was confident that the Air Asia flight would not be cancelled as its status was confirmed.

Getting to the train station in the nearest city on the 30th was quite an experience. There were many phone calls made to relatives and anybody who might know which roads were still open. Information was sketchy and a lot was hearsay. Finally, a relative who knew the roads well opted to drive me to the train station via the G6 Beijing-Tibet Expressway which runs behind the village. I advocated that we would talk our way through checkpoints, using my passport and proof of onward travel like tickets. As it stood, my 15-day visa-free window would expire on the next day, and I absolutely had to depart China on Friday. We have only gotten past the toll-booths (unmanned anyway because of the free access for CNY) when we joined the tail end of a a vehicle queue that stretched at least a kilometre. All kinds of vehicles were in the queue, from those trying to enter the city or simply to make their way further west (this is the G6 after all- the western terminus is in Tibet).
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Old 03-02-2020, 11:31 AM   #2
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Taking the road shoulder to get to the head of the queue, we saw that the local health and police authorities had just set up a checkpoint on the G6, maybe 2 hours ago. A tent was newly put up, and a camper truck had been parked by the side, the kind that serves as mobile dormitory or office for road construction teams all over China. This one came from a re-location company. Furniture and stationery were still being moved into the tent. For the bitter cold at this time in northern China, a coal heater had been put in place so the people at the counters had some comfort. At this point, everybody had their face masks on. Surprisingly, everything was under control. Nobody was shouting despite the long wait in the cold. We made our case to the senior officer on the site and were advised that I could get an exemption but had to proceed by myself to the city after clearing the temperature checks and filling a rough form. My companions would have to turn back. The policemen assured us that there would be no other road-blocks going into the city. However, could we persuade anyone to take me to the train station? We checked with a few drivers at the head of the queue and nobody would take me, understandably so. There were taxis in the queue that would take me for a fare, but at the rate the queue was going, the first taxi might only be cleared an hour or 2 later. I suppose if the policemen demanded, a driver might be persuaded. This was when my driver, who is a cousin, suggested that the police hold his ID card so that he could drive me to the train station and return within an hour for his ID. The police officers agreed.

Thus I was driven on the empty G6 and sent to the train station with 8 hours to spare.
Enroute, not only was the G6 void of vehicle traffic, the prefecture-level city was deserted too. There were people on the streets, but no commercial activity was seen. Supermarkets seemed open, as they were allowed to, but there were temperature checks and only a few people were allowed in at one time. The only public transportation seen were taxis. A pharmacy was open, but indicated that masks and alcohol were sold out. No food establishments were open, so thankfully I had brought some bread, water and chocolate from the village supermarket.

Tough entry controls were in operation at the train station. Access was granted solely to ticket holders and only after temperature was taken. Anyone who had his or her masks off were reminded by vigilant station staff to put them back on immediately. The waiting hall was fairly deserted and notices were up, saying that some services have been cancelled due to low traffic.A shabbily-dressed family was taken away by policemen, I suppose they were fairly poor and did not have their masks. I stayed on to wait 8 hours for my overnight train to Lanzhou. Actually I was thankful I was early, in case the official policy changed with new development, and the city was sealed off completely. A case had been confirmed in the prefecture that morning.

Last edited by beanstalk6; 03-02-2020 at 11:34 AM..
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Old 03-02-2020, 04:50 PM   #3
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Thanks for write up. It is quite a revealing information.

My question - the 'prefecture level city' from which you departed on train towards Lanzhou - was is officially under restriction/semi-quarantine? If not, why in this case no public transport?

There were people on the streets, but no commercial activity was seen. Supermarkets seemed open, as they were allowed to, but there were temperature checks and only a few people were allowed in at one time. The only public transportation seen were taxis. A pharmacy was open, but indicated that masks and alcohol were sold out. No food establishments were open
Was the same situation at Lanzhou as well? Do you think that it is in other cities in China too? Blocked roads, no public transport except trains/MRT, no open food places within cities and reduced level of inter-city trains/flights?

Last edited by invisible999; 04-02-2020 at 02:48 AM..
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Old 04-02-2020, 08:46 AM   #4
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Thanks for write up. It is quite a revealing information.

My question - the 'prefecture level city' from which you departed on train towards Lanzhou - was is officially under restriction/semi-quarantine? If not, why in this case no public transport?


Was the same situation at Lanzhou as well? Do you think that it is in other cities in China too? Blocked roads, no public transport except trains/MRT, no open food places within cities and reduced level of inter-city trains/flights?
Roads in villages or residential areas were blocked by residents in an unofficial capacity. In fact the Chinese government made it clear that this was illegal. The city I visited was under restriction and when the crisis escalated with confirmed cases in the province, public transportation was suspended. I reached Lanzhou last Friday as confirmed cases were declared, so businesses were closed. However some buses still operated. Inter-city trains and flights were reduced by operators, I understand, in response to the lower traffic volume. This was nation-wide. All entertainment venues (cinemas, bath-houses, karaoke) were shuttered nation-wide as early as CNY eve, upon order by the central government.
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:24 AM   #5
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The 12-hour train journey to Lanzhou was uneventful. However everyone on the train was wearing face masks. I was reminded by a train attendant who caught me without one along the passage. "Put your mask on, or stay in your cabin!" Towns along the route appeared to be deserted. It struck me that this would not be normal the case even on a winter morning during the CNY holidays.

As the train pulled into Lanzhou, I saw that the elderly folk on their morning walks had masks on too. Walking out to the square before Lanzhou station, it was apparent that businesses have been ordered not to open. KFC and McDonalds put up new posters that stated they had been ordered not to open by the government. I imagined that this would be the busiest square in the city otherwise. Anxious for a bath or perhaps a short hotel stay, I walked a few blocks. None of the hotels in the area operated. Confused travellers were caught unaware and not a few touts were out, asking people if they would like accommodation. As there was no warm food to be found, nor any bath-houses open, I decided to head back into the station to get onto the airport express.

It was back to the routine of temperature and security checks for the ticketing hall and main station. I reached Lanzhou airport sometime around noon. The airport express was really a HSR connection between the city and the airport 60km away. The food court and McDonald's were open. I wolfed down a burger meal before searching for a hotel. The airport hotels were full, but I found that massage parlours allowed one to stay on hourly rates or if a massage package was purchased. I settled into one but was informed that massage would not be possible given the current situation. Nevertheless, I made myself comfortable in a room for the 10 hours before my flight out of China.

The 2350h Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur was 75% full, of Pakistani students, some Malaysians and mainland Chinese. People shared news that Singapore was going to deny entry to non-pass holders from China the next day. Boarding for the flight was late. I could not see why, but disembarking passengers were released from the aircraft in batches. There were medical staff processing the arrivals at the aerobridge, I suppose. Boarding completed at 0130h and all passengers were given a photocopied Malaysian health advisory by the flight attendants. All passengers and the flight attendants had their face masks on.

I did not get to sleep properly before the arrival at KLIA2. KLIA2 was a hive of activity even at 6 in the morning. Maybe only 10% of people here had their masks on. Most of the airline counter staff did so, I observed. I had a very quick meal after checking in for the 0800h KUL-SIN puddle hopper. The flight attendants for this flight did not have their face masks on. In fact there was hardly any temperature screening at KLIA2. Arriving at Singapore, everything seemed routine other than posters to have new arrivals declare if they came from China. I informed the ICA staff checking my passport. He asked if I visited Hubei and assured me that no follow-up was necessary as I did not visit Hubei.

Last edited by beanstalk6; 04-02-2020 at 11:37 AM..
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Old 04-02-2020, 11:21 AM   #6
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Roads in villages or residential areas were blocked by residents in an unofficial capacity. In fact the Chinese government made it clear that this was illegal. The city I visited was under restriction and when the crisis escalated with confirmed cases in the province, public transportation was suspended. I reached Lanzhou last Friday as confirmed cases were declared, so businesses were closed. However some buses still operated. Inter-city trains and flights were reduced by operators, I understand, in response to the lower traffic volume. This was nation-wide. All entertainment venues (cinemas, bath-houses, karaoke) were shuttered nation-wide as early as CNY eve, upon order by the central government.
Was reading your last post. Quite an ordeal and I'm glad you managed to get out. If this thing is not brought under control in upcoming weeks, I'd expect that all flights to/from China will be suspended.
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Old 04-02-2020, 11:41 AM   #7
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My suggestion is to postpone all visits to China for the time being. Even in the large cities, you will be hard put to find places to eat or do anything worthwhile. I suppose only large international hotels and their food establishments are open. If you are visiting the countryside, it may be a problem getting there in the first place- domestic transportation is severely disrupted.
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Old 05-02-2020, 08:16 PM   #8
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Thanks for the detailed update !
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Old 19-03-2020, 09:25 AM   #9
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Anyone in Shanghai or Beijing now? What is the situation like

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Old 31-03-2020, 05:00 PM   #10
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Changes to China-Singapore flight schedules from 29 March 2020:

All airlines are currently allowed to operate only one route between China and each foreign country and no more than one flight per week. These are the direct flights between China and Singapore at this time:
· Chongqing/Singapore: Silkair MI971/972, every Monday
· Guangzhou/Singapore: China Southern CZ3039/3040, every Tuesday
· Shanghai Pudong/Singapore:
- Singapore Airlines SQ833/830, every Monday
- Air China CA807/808, every Monday
- China Eastern MU567/568, every Monday
- Juneyao Air HO1605/1606, every Wednesday
· Xiamen/Singapore: Xiamen MF851/852, every Tuesday
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