Travelling from Wuhan to Beijing, a steady stream of obstacles

By Jesús Centeno

Wuhan/Beijing, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Traveling to Beijing from Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak, is not an easy task.

Places on the only train line authorised to operate are limited, and upon arrival in the capital, a vehicle waits to transfer travellers to the home or hotel where they will isolate for 14 days.

To purchase a ticket to travel from Wuhan to Beijing, prospective passengers have to present medical tests that prove they do not have coronavirus, which is done via a complex mobile phone application that connects the health care authorities in the two locations.

Once the person is authorised to travel they are put on a waiting list to purchase one of the thousand train tickets that are issued every day. A process that can take several days.

The medical test is valid for one week, so if tickets are not obtained in time a repeat test may be necessary.

More than 11,000 people have been waiting to return to Beijing since Wuhan lifted an 11 week lockdown on 8 April, the Beijing government recently reported.Once the mobile app approves a ticket, prospective travelers have to buy it to get the pass issued upon arrival at the train station, although this process may not be straightforward.

At the station, an official warns one person that, although the purchased ticket is correct, there is an error with the passport number that does not appear in the system and it is impossible to issue the pass.

“It is an application thing, I cannot do anything, I am not authorised,” she says, shrugging her shoulders.

Only certain authorities can issue special passes written by hand and stamped and resolve these glitches.

In some cases, the delay in finding a ticket can take weeks, as happened to Alice, a young Chinese woman who travelled from Yichang in the province of Hubei to Beijing after requesting a ticket more than 20 times.

To travel to Beijing the residents association of the complexes where people from Wuhan will stay must authorise the process on the mobile app, otherwise they cannot go.

“Beijing is very strict. Maybe they don’t trust Wuhan, the asymptomatic cases, or even the tests. The truth is, I don’t know, but at first I had problems with my community of neighbours here to return. I have been approved to travel now but there are other people who have lodged the request and had to wait a little longer,” she tells Efe over the phone.

As well as all these bureaucratic obstacles, passengers have to have their temperature checked before being allowed to travel.

Groups of medics in white suits and protective goggles wait at the entrances of train stations, where they screen passengers for a fever, one of the main symptoms of Covid-19.

During the journey, the security guards seem more relaxed but at Beijing West Station an entourage is waiting to accompany travellers to their final destinations, depending on the district of the city.

“You do not move from here, they will take you to the pavilion assigned to your district,” one of the workers directs.

After the final checks and more temperature controls, they give the green light so that newcomers can get on the bus that takes them to their neighbouring communities.

Once there, a community official accompanies the traveller to their door and asks them to sign documentation agreeing not to leave the house under any circumstances for the next two weeks.

Some neighbours are not happy about having a person quarantining in the community, and angrily let the president know, forcing him to call the police to calm down the situation.

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