Calgary man who spent time in Wuhan lockdown warns it’s too soon to ease Alberta COVID-19 restrictions

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Calgary man who spent month in Wuhan lockdown warns it’s too soon to ease Alberta COVID-19 restrictions
A Calgary man who was stuck in Wuhan last year has a warning for Albertans as the province looks to ease restrictions. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Jan 31, 2021

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Zhang was in lockdown in China as well as quarantine in Canada over a period of a month.

Memories of his time in lockdown in Wuhan are still vivid for Bin Zhang.

The Calgary man, his wife and young children were visiting his parents in China last January when spread of the coronavirus led to a lockdown in the city.

“It was spreading, and we didn’t know the extent of how much so we were worried about catching the virus,” Zhang said on Sunday.

“At the time, our biggest fear was that we weren’t able to come home to Canada.”

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Zhang, his wife and their children were stuck indoors in Wuhan for an extended period of time before getting on a flight organized by the Canadian government.

“We certainly take it more seriously, even living in Calgary where the restrictions are not as severe as back in January in Wuhan. Just because of what we went through, we certainly respect it more, and we treat it more cautiously,” Zhang said.

His parents were cooped up for nearly 100 days, despite the official lockdown in the city of 11 million people lasting 76 days.

“[My parents] are doing great. Not a lot of people know this but people in Wuhan have been enjoying pre-COVID lifestyle since April,” Zhang said.

The severe lockdown resulted in trauma and economic hardship for many in Wuhan, but the knowledge of his parents’ lives being back to normal in Wuhan is partly what drives Zhang’s support of new strict Canadian travel rules.

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He thinks we’d be better off now had the federal travel measures been taken earlier and the government of Alberta cracked down harder.

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“If we could have taken these types of measures a few months earlier, I think we would be in a much better place and those businesses would be much better off now,” Zhang said.

He admits it is a tough topic and he feels sympathy for business owners. In fact, Zhang is still a part-owner of a restaurant in Wuhan.

“But to ease those restrictions [in Alberta] now, I think we’re just taking our foot off the gas a little too soon. We are just seeing numbers come down and that’s a great trend but I’m just afraid that we’re doing it too soon,” Zhang said.

Zhang moved to Canada from China 16 years ago in part because he believes in individual freedoms. But having experienced how two different societies handled the pandemic makes him think Canada could use more of a group mentality.

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“You need to have that team spirit to basically handle it. That’s when people put aside their individual needs for the greater good of the public, and I just feel that we might be a little low in that kind of spirit here,” Zhang said.

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