Chloe was trapped in Wuhan and separated from her parents for eight months.
Supplied: Xu Yi
At this time last year, Wuhan entered an unprecedented state of lockdown to control the spread of the new crown epidemic.The parents of the Australian Chinese baby Chloe realized that they and their six-month-old child will be separated for much longer than previously expected.
This unprecedented closure of the city interrupted the Lunar New Year celebrations of the citizens of Wuhan, and traffic in and out of this city with more than 1100 million residents was instantly suspended.
This sudden lockdown shattered Chloe's father Xu Yi's plan to return to China during the Spring Festival and take her back to Australia.At that time, following the cancellation of the flight from Melbourne to Wuhan, 37-year-old Xu Yi regretted leaving her baby girl with her grandmother two months ago.
According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in January last year, there were more than 1 Australian children trapped in Wuhan at the time, and Chloe was the youngest of them.
Since then, the Australian government has sent two special planes to Wuhan to help evacuate the relatives of more than 600 Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded there.However, Chloe and 19 other children were not allowed to board the plane because they were not accompanied by a legal guardian.
At that time, Chloe was supposed to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae for six months.However, Xu Yi finally decided not to vaccinate him in the local hospital because he was worried that his child might be exposed to COVID-19 infection in the hospital.
After nearly eight months of separation and 14 days of hotel quarantine, Chloe was finally reunited with her parents after turning one year old in June last year.
A few days later, as Melbourne tightened restrictions in early July, Chloe was once again forced to live in lockdown.
"Frankly, I am not so worried about the epidemic in China [after Wuhan's ban]... But I think the company of my parents is very important," Xu Yi said.
"As long as we are together, we are very happy."
Long way home
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Chloe's father talked about the tortuous experience of welcoming his daughter back to Australia.
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Chloe's father talked about the tortuous experience of welcoming his daughter back to Australia. (
Recalling Chloe's return to Australia, Xu Yi said that 2020 was a "crazy year" for his family.
Chloe and her grandmother live in a community just a few kilometers away from the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, where it is reported that the first batch of patients appeared in the early stages of the outbreak.
The Baibuting community where they live is also notorious for hosting the "Ten Thousand Family Banquet" on the eve of the closure of the city. The home cooking banquet involving more than XNUMX families was held at the time the new crown virus was spreading rapidly in the local community.
The blockade suddenly prevented Xu Yi from returning to Wuhan from Australia.Since they don't have accurate information about the virus or how the virus spreads, he and his wife have great concerns about the health of Chloe and grandma.
He tried to seek help by sharing his plight to some Chinese media, but he said he was told that those reports could not be published and there was no reason.
Therefore, he decided to seek help through WeChat, and asked relatives and friends to share his appeal, so as to bring together those Australians who were also trapped in Wuhan.
Soon, more than 200 people joined the WeChat group, including Australian citizens, permanent residents and Chinese students trapped in Wuhan. They all planned to return to Australia after the Spring Festival, but this plan seemed unrealistic at the time. .
Xu Yi took the lead to seek help from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and ABC and other media, but the final answer was that minors like Chloe who were not accompanied by an Australian guardian could not participate in the evacuation.
"We are very sad. We don't understand why everyone can come back, but we can't," Xu Yi said.
"We are very guilty for not being able to be with our daughter, especially my wife, who is very sad.
"She said the only thing she can do is buy Chloe all kinds of daily necessities and gifts. We have a large room full of things she buys for the children."
In April of this year, Xu Yi was still applying to the Australian government to take Chloe home until after Wuhan lifted the lockdown.
In the following two months, he issued multiple applications for the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to pass its waiver request to allow grandma with a temporary visa to take Chloe back to Australia as the legal guardian of Chloe.
After the first two applications were rejected, his third application for travel exemption in June was finally approved, citing sympathy for his family status.
"I imagined that we would cry when we saw her [after their hotel quarantine], but the reality is that all of us are very happy," he said.
"She is much older than last year... I am very surprised that she did not treat us as strangers."
"The elderly should be given priority care"
Ellie Yi, a senior e-commerce consultant born in Wuhan, is also one of hundreds of Australian citizens who joined Xu Yi's WeChat group.
I was expecting to return to Wuhan for the first time in 10 years to celebrate the Lunar New Year in my hometown, but within a few days of arrival, he began a long life in lockdown.
At the beginning of the lockdown in Wuhan, when millions of panicked residents were anxiously looking for the few epidemic information, Ellie learned that there were six confirmed cases in the nursing home where her grandmother lived.
She said that the 86-year-old grandmother had Alzheimer's disease, and the old man living in the same room with her was a confirmed patient.Due to the strict lockdown of the nursing home, the Ellie family felt very helpless.
Without other effective channels to express her concerns, she posted a post on the social platform Weibo, exposing the epidemic situation in the nursing home, and calling on netizens to seek help for her grandmother and other high-risk elderly people.
"This nursing home was seriously under-resourced, which was very dangerous for the more than 400 elderly people in it," Ellie wrote. "The elderly should be given priority care."
This post was viewed more than 170 million times in the next few hours, and attracted the close attention of Chinese journalists, Weibo users and some volunteers.
"I was very surprised to get a response so quickly," Ellie told ABC.
She said that in the next two weeks, the local government added additional medical resources and volunteers to the nursing home, and improved the food and sanitation conditions of the elderly.
"Fortunately, my grandmother did not contract the new crown, although she was a close contact of a confirmed elderly person," she said.
Ellie did not join the Australian government's evacuation operation in Wuhan last February because she believes that opportunities should be given priority to families who need to return home more urgently.She said that she felt obligated to stay in Wuhan to take care of her family and did not return to Sydney until June.
"I can't leave them in this crisis and return to Australia alone."
Just after the local government in Wuhan lifted the blockade, Ellie's parents took her grandma from the nursing home to live together.
Ellie's mother is a retired doctor who has participated in the battle against SARS.Recalling the "darkest moment" during the lockdown, she told ABC that she was very happy that her life in Wuhan had returned to normal.
But just after Sydney recently experienced an outbreak on the northern beaches, she was worried about her daughter's safety.
"During the most difficult four months, I was really grateful for my daughter's company," she said. "I only hope that she will be safe in Australia. After the epidemic is over, we can see each other."
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