Donning a mask, goggles, gloves and a raincoat, sophomore returns home to China


Photo courtesy of Allen Ning

Sophomore Allen Ning wore a mask, goggles, gloves, and raincoat for the entire duration of his flight from New York to Hong Kong. He is now quarantining in a hotel in Hong Kong for 14 days.

International sophomore Allen Ning details his plan to travel from New York back to China to be with his family amidst the coronavirus outbreak below. Ning’s home is located in Guangzhou, in Guangdong province. Ning’s family is currently in Meizhou, which is also in Guangdong province, where they have been staying since Chinese New Year due to coronavirus travel restrictions. Ning is currently quarantining in Hong Kong but plans to meet his family in Meizhou in the coming weeks.

Q: When and how are you returning home to China?

A: I’m going back by obviously plane, on March 20th.

Q: How are you feeling about trip over? 

A: Honestly, I feel like it’s risky somehow, but I feel like if I do every precaution right, I think I’m going to be fine. My uncle is a doctor so he does surgeries and stuff. I Facetimed him and he reminded me how to be careful on the plane, like the hygiene and changing gloves and stuff. I think if I do it right, it’s likely that I’ll be fine. It is kind of risky, somehow.

Q: What are the risks?

A: For example, if it’s too crowded and people are running into each other or something like that because it’s going to spread real quick if I’m not careful. I feel like it’s risky when it’s crowded during the security check and kind of risky on the plane. But with changing the air and stuff, if someone has it [coronavirus] on the plane, there must be some virus left. Wherever it’s crowded, the risk comes from there.

Q: What precautions are you planning on taking?

A: I got the raincoat, the mask, the goggles, and the gloves. I’m also using a plastic bag to cover my shoes and stuff. I’m wearing double gloves so whenever I change it, I always change the outer one, not the inner one. I’ll use wipes to sanitize the inner glove. And I’ll wear [the] mask and goggles all the time, throughout the whole plane ride. I talked to the Hong Kong government and I booked a hotel in Hong Kong. If I don’t have a fever, they are going to give me a wristband to trace where I am and I am just going to stay in the hotel for 14 days.

Q: I understand the flight you’ll be leaving on is after two previous flights to China were canceled. Why do you think these flights keep on getting canceled?

A: All the mainland companies are trying to restrict people from going back to the mainland because it’s still kind of stressful in mainland China. The government is trying to have fewer people coming back. Because in Hong Kong, they have their own government, they have their own policies, right? They decided to accept more people to try and have more Hong Kong residents to come back from overseas. The flight I’ll take on the 20th is a company from Hong Kong, so different policies, so they will not cancel the flights. Mainland companies might cancel because the government tells them to do so.

Q: What are you going to do in quarantine in Hong Kong?

A: All the overseas people coming to Hong Kong will be complicated, including mainland Chinese residents and Hong Kong residents. I have the Hong Kong visa so I can stay there for more than two weeks. If I don’t have a fever when I land there, they will give me a wristband and I’ll just go to my hotel. They can track where I am all the time, so if I ever leave my room they will know it. I will just stay in the room and call the hotel to bring food up to my door. I will probably just sleep and do some work, I guess. You know, just be on the phone because there’s nothing to do for 14 days.

Q: You’re not allowed to leave your hotel room?

A: Yeah. Most mainland residents only have the visa to stay for seven days but because of coronavirus, they have to be quarantined for two weeks. The Hong Kong government changed the policies.  Ever since March 19th, if mainland residents go to Hong Kong and they don’t have a flight to mainland cities, they cannot enter Hong Kong. 

Q: Why are you choosing to be quarantined in Hong Kong and not in your home city?

A: There are only a few cities I can fly to. I can fly to Beijing, I can fly to Shanghai, and I can fly to Guangzhou. Based on different areas, [flight] companies are different. In Guangzhou, it’s Southern China Airlines and the flights have been canceled a lot. I’m just afraid that flights will be canceled more so I’m going back as soon as possible. For now, if I fly to Hong Kong, there is no plane ticket from Hong Kong to Guangzhou right now, so I can’t go back directly. 

Q: After you quarantine in Hong Kong for 14 days, how are you planning on getting home from there?

A: Right now, my family’s living in Meizhou, which is a city in Guangdong province. They were there because it is kind of like my hometown. They went there because of Chinese New Year, and obviously it got worse so they’re kind of stuck. It’s kind of nice there so they just stay there. It is really close to Hong Kong. After I’m free, I will go to Shenzhen, because Shenzhen is right next to Hong Kong. My dad will probably find some people to drive to Shenzhen and pick me up and drive me back to my home. After I finish my quarantine time in Hong Kong, I’m just going to enter mainland through Shenzhen. 

Graphic designed by Michelle Wei. The original image by Croquant / CC BY ( was modified by adding red dotted lines and travel icons. Another image (Redheylin / Public domain) was also added into the corner, with a red dot added on top.
The map shows Ning’s travel route, first flying to Hong Kong, then driving into mainland China through Shenzhen, and then traveling to Meizhou, where Ning’s family is. Meizhou is indicated by the red dot in the smaller map of Guangdong province.
Photo courtesy of Allen Ning
Allen poses in his hotel room in Hong Kong, where he stayed until April 3 under official quarantine.

Q: How do you think coronavirus will affect your daily life after you get back?

A: Honestly, I’m not sure because in Meizhou, I think there are 13 cases total from the beginning to the end. Right now, there’s only one person who has coronavirus right now– the whole city only has one case, so everyone’s safe if they stay at home. And when I get back, I’ll just stay at home, too. 

Q: Are you going to return to Guangzhou soon or are you going to stay in Meizhou?

A: I don’t feel like we can go back to Guangzhou soon. I think the government has to say something so we can go back. But right now, my family is just chilling in Meizhou, so they’re not rushing back. Because now all the factories and all the companies have started again, a little bit. I’m not sure, but I think the train is moving again but I’m not sure though, because right now I’m not in China. I have to see after I go back. 

Q: What are you hoping the government will say that would move you back to Guangzhou?

A: I feel like it depends on how much better the situation gets. There’s still a few [of cases] left. Most of them are in Wuhan right now. I honestly don’t know because I’m not there but I feel like the government decides that the situation is not that severe, they’ll probably say “yes you can go back, but if only it’s necessary for you to travel.” I think they’ll say something like that. I’m pretty sure there will be stops to check if there will be a fever or not, but I’m not sure how it works though. It’ll start being normal once it gets less severe. 

Q: When do you think it will be less severe and more normal?

A: I think the schools right now are planning on going back to school at the end of April right now. I think around that time, in May. It’s really hard to tell, though, because it’s so contagious.

Q: Do you plan on coming back to the U.S. or learning remotely for the rest of the year?

A: Honestly, my parents haven’t talked about it that much because we’ve just been talking about how to get home safe. This will be the next step we discuss once I get back home or when I’m in Hong Kong. It really depends on any changes from The Masters School, just any updates it’ll be helpful. Honestly, it’s really unpredictable to see what the case will be like in Westchester in May. If we’re going to stay in the host family, I’m not sure if every parent [of the student who will be hosted] will be comfortable or will feel safe about that.*

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?

A: Stay home, wash your hands, just don’t go out.   I feel like you can joke about this, you can make memes out of this, but you must take it seriously when you have to, you know? I joke about this, but also, you know, I don’t want to get infected. I joke about it, but I also take precautions. That’s what I do, yeah.

*NOTE: Since this interview, Director of Global Studies and Civic Engagement Rob Fish has announced in an email that the school will no longer be able to search for host families for international students.