Coronavirus forces delayed China experience for Bahamian teacher

Alicia Cartwright, 28, was supposed to travel to China in late January under a contract to teach English for one year.

But as the world scrambled in response to the novel coronavirus – which originated in Wuhan, China, in December – and fears grew worldwide, Cartwright made the challenging decision to postpone her flight.

Just a week later, on January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global health emergency.

“I made the decision to postpone because things were just too unpredictable,” Cartwright said in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian.

She added, “I’m technically still under contract and what I’m doing right now is temporary, as in I asked my previous boss to continue working for the time being.

“Then, my apartment is on hold until I figure out what’s going on. I’m just waiting to see what happens… because I literally canceled my flight two days before I was supposed to be starting my journey.

“I was going to go to Canada, stay for two days and then go to China.”

Cartwright said she later found out that her originally scheduled flight with Air Canada ended up being canceled, as major airlines began halting services to China.

“Because I decided to cancel beforehand I didn’t get that notification. I just found out later that they put out an announcement that they’re discontinuing flights to China for the time being,” she said.

“But at that time I had already canceled my flight. It’s just one of those things you see after the fact that even if I intended to try to go, there wasn’t going to be a flight anyway.”

The assistant electrical engineer said the Chinese agency she is under contract with to teach English also issued a statement advising employees to “stay put”.

“They did release a statement,” Cartwright said.

“Basically the statement said if you’re in China, stay put, quarantine yourself. If you feel sick, contact the agency, they will organize a trip to the hospital for you. If you’re still in your home country, stay put until further notice.”

But she also added that, “On top of waiting for them I’m also following overall news and Chinese news.” She added that whether she would still proceed with plans to teach in China would depend “on the overall circumstance”.

She said that she kept in contact with a few Bahamian friends in China, one of whom “would just rather be home” even though that person would be placed in quarantine under the government’s new travel ban.

On January 30, local health officials announced a new travel ban on all non-residents of The Bahamas who have visited China in the past 20 days.

Under the new ban, Bahamian residents who have visited China in the past 20 days are permitted to return, but will have to be quarantined for 14 days.

Cartwright said she’s not really concerned about the virus impacting The Bahamas.

“As long as we take proper measures it should be okay,” she said.

“They really do need to be quarantined though and treated if they get sick. And if they do, if they are sick, they need to make sure they are isolated from everybody else so they don’t get sick.”

As she expressed her hope that a vaccine for the virus is found soon, Cartwright said that for the time being: “I’m trying to find some normalcy in life.”

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