Scottish teacher and family living on lockdown in coronavirus-ravaged Chengdu in China

Andy Nesbit has told of rising panic in the city as the death toll mounts.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 8:14 am

A teacher from Edinburgh who is living in a virus-ravaged province of China has told how he and his wife and kids are living on lockdown in a "zombie apocalypse."

Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Andy Nesbit said he and Chinese wife Miaomiao Nesbit along with their two young children, are virtual prisoners in their apartment in the city of Chengdu, surrounded by rising panic as authorities struggle to combat the spread of the killer coronavirus.

As the number of confirmed cases jumped above 6,000 Wednesday - surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 - and countries began evacuating their citizens, Mr Nesbit said he was considering evacuating his family to a nearby country or even back to Scotland.

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At the time of writing, there are currently 46 confirmed cases in Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan Province in southwestern China.

And Mr Nesbit, who is originally from Leith, said that it seems to be getting gradually worse each day.

The 36-year-old said: "At first, people weren't taking it that seriously until we went to a friend's birthday party on January 22 and that seemed to be the only thing people were talking about.

Andy is only leaving his flat for essentials and his children have stayed inside for the last six days.

"People use Wechat, which is like China's Whatsapp, to share information and you can definitely sense panic starting to kick in as the days pass.

"Chengdu airport is still open but some main motorways out of the City have been closed but I think one or two people have died in Chengdu, and some people think the numbers could be far greater.

“When we went to the supermarket the other day the roads were so quiet and on that short trip we saw a total of five ambulances screaming by with sirens on - you can't help but feel a bit freaked out by it - it is a bit like a zombie apocalypse.”

Lockdown

The couple married just a few months after they met.

On the precautions they have had to take, Mr Nesbit said they only ever leave the house to pick up food or essentials and that his two children, eight-year-old Alan and four-year-old Jack, had not left the flat for six days.

He added: "Every city is different but in Chengdu you have to wear a mask if you enter any public place. I saw a video yesterday of a big fight between two women because one had refused to wear a mask on the subway. Most people are not getting food delivered as they are worried the driver may be infected.

"In most housing complexes they will only allow people that live there to enter at the main gate and everyone is having their temperature taken on arrival. Even going into the supermarket you have your temperature taken. All public gatherings have been banned until further notice and all schools will be closed until they decide on an opening date.”

On reports of other nationalities repatriating their citizens but not Chinese partners, he said: “How can governments split up families? I would be absolutely livid if this was a move taken by the British government and would of course stay with my family.”

Keeping occupied

Mr Nesbit explored the option of teaching English abroad after his business, Benny’s sandwich shop in Corstorphine, struggled after the financial crash of 2008. He was motivated by hearing of a friend who made a successful life for themselves in South Korea teaching English.

He met his wife at a birthday party after being in the country for only three weeks and married her on Hogmany just months later. The couple say that they absolutely love their life in China with their two children.

Mr Nesbit teaches English and is head of foreign teachers at a school that he stays just five minutes walk from. He said that his schedule of teaching just 19 40 minute classes a week gives him plenty of spare time to spend with friends and family as well as to run his teaching channel on YouTube: Andy -The ESL Guy!

As well as using his VPN to get regular updates from the BBC and western social media, the family are also keeping themselves occupied during the lockdown. He said: “There has been a lot of eating, drinking, sleeping and binge-watching TV shows. When the boys are not watching TV or the iPad has been banned by the missus we've been making a lot of forts, building stuff with Lego and playing hide and seek. Other than that we have found ourselves watching a lot of films and documentaries about contagious viruses and constantly checking the news for updates.”

He added: “We are hoping that by staying at home and following the guidelines that we will all be okay. To all my friends and family back home, try not to worry too much, if anything an extended holiday ain't that bad."