How you need to win the lottery to leave Wuhan

It took nine days and two Covid-19 tests for me to get a ticket to return to Beijing.

On the day Wuhan lifted its lockdown I was one of hundreds of thousands of people who entered a "lottery" for permission to get home to the capital.

We had to enter our passport details, our home address and a requested date of return into a mini program on our phones.

That was then linked to the same information supplied at the hospital where we were tested for Covid-19.

The results are only valid for seven days, so if, like me you hadn’t won the ticket lottery within the first week of applying, then you have to get tested again.

You know you’ve won when you received a text message from 12306.

It provides you with a link to buy a ticket on a specified date, at a set price and in a designated seat and carriage.

  • Debi Edward's return from Wuhan to Beijing

My two colleagues had managed to get tickets a few days ahead of me so I embarked on the journey from Wuhan to Beijing on my own.

At the station I was required to produce my passport, ticket, Covid-19 test results and show them the mobile phone app which showed my status for travel as "approved".

During the six hours train journey I had my temperature checked twice (36.3C both times).

Everyone on the train wore a mask at all times, some wore face goggles, some plastic gloves and several passengers were in full PPE.

My otherwise uneventful time on the train was interrupted by two phone calls from the local police in Beijing.

They wanted to check exactly when I would arrive back and asked for details on why and when I had gone to Wuhan in the first place.

All of that they must have known, but seemingly had to hear directly from me.

They rang a second time for me to confirm that I lived alone and would comply with the quarantine conditions of my residential compound.

Workers in protective clothing process passengers from Wuhan after they arrive on a high speed train in Beijing. Credit: AP

In Beijing, the train was met by an army of volunteers in hazmat suits.

It was like something from a movie.

Juggling my suitcase, two rucksacks of equipment and a handbag I entered into a reception hall where I’d been told to look out for signs to Chaoyang, my district in Beijing.

Inevitably I failed to spot those characters on the many signs being waved in front of me so I just followed the crowd.

Again, I was asked to produce my passport, ticket and Covid-19 test results.

Only as I was about to be led onto a bus with families bound for Haidian in the north, did I spot the sign for Chaoyang, in the east.

With my poor Chinese I pointed out my error to the nearest helper in a hazmat suit.

I was soon surrounded by a gang of these PPE-clad volunteers and led to where I was meant to be and my name was duly located on a list for bus 14.

The bus took me to a processing area in my district where again I produced my passport, ticket and Covid-19 test and signed a document agreeing to be quarantined for two weeks.

Finally, another bus took me back to my own compound where I am now confined to my apartment for 14 days and will be under observation for a total of 21 days.

A worker in protective clothing waits to guide passengers from Wuhan. Credit: AP

There’s a sticker on my door so my neighbours know I’m in quarantine and that they should report me if they see me go out.

There’s also a sensor which would alert the guards if I were to cross the threshold of my door.

Food and groceries can be delivered to me by the security guards.

My rubbish I have to leave on the mat and ask to be taken away.

Twice a day I need to submit my temperature on a group chat with the compound management and at the end of the day they also ask me to declare that I have no other symptoms of the virus.

Another test for Covid-19 (my third) will be taken on day 10 of my quarantine.

This is how seriously China is taking the virus.

These are the lengths they are going to, to make sure they prevent a the second wave of infections they so fear.

I hope it works.

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