Provided by Samer Khouri, Head of SSIS Suzhou on August 25, 2020.

Background
We most recently have just moved to China from Italy. We left on Tuesday 18th August and arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday 19th.  We are a family of four, our two boys are 11 and 6 years old.  This is our first time in China ever.  Our final destination is Suzhou in Jiangsu region.  We arrived at Pudong International Airport.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Executive Director of ACAMIS www.acamis.org contacted me just after arrival to welcome us to China. He suggested I keep a record of our experience as a family to help others who follow. We found that to be so thoughtful so I readily agreed.

The purpose of this is to give some information for those arriving to China, what to expect in quarantine and at a later section, what to expect at the airport and the transfer to our final destination. The purpose of the quarantine is to ensure that COVID-19 does not re-enter China from travellers from abroad and there are a few asymtomatic cases on many flights that are then detected and treated during quarantine.

Pre-travel:
We were fortunate before we left to China to be in contact with a family from our school who has already done the trip with a child. We also were in touch with a colleague traveling on his own and he was one week ahead of us. Both gave us excellent amount of information to base our decisions on. Now that we are in the second half of our quarantine and looking back, we are happy with how we did most of our organization and there are a few things we would do differently. We knew ahead of time that as a family of four we will be in two separate rooms. The same will apply if you are a family of three.

Arrival and Accommodation:
All the way from the moment we landed at the airport to getting us into our quarantine, the Chinese authorities have been outstanding, immaculate organization, thorough, efficient and extremely helpful. There was no chance of getting lost or not knowing what to do. Everyone is helpful and kind. Trust the system and things will work out well. However, this will take time. It took us almost 6 hours and 30 minutes to be at the hotel after we got off the plane.

We arrived at the airport and were off the plane at 14:15 and we arrived at our hotel at 20:45. This included a 45-minute drive to the assigned hotel. We were heading to Suzhou which means based on the new rules, we get to do 7 days of quarantine in Shanghai and then 7 days of quarantine in Suzhou. Those who are heading to Beijing and land in Shanghai must do the 14 days in Shanghai. Your school or organization should be able to help you with this information.

The Hotel:
NOTE:
Passengers who arrive on a flight to the city in which they will live usually remain in the same hotel for 14 days. Those like us who arrive in one city, but work and live in another usually serve one week in a quarantine hotel in the arrival city and then move on to the city of work and residence for a second week in a quarantine hotel.

Quarantine hotels are assigned and they may all be somewhat different, usually a two to four-star Chinese equivalent hotel. Ours is basic, which we knew in advance. Clean but basic, there is a kettle for cooking water in the room and a very small fridge that barely cools. The room only fits two people, so we were separated, my wife and our youngest in one room, while myself and our eldest in a different room. We also knew this in advance which dictated our shopping needs in preparation for the trip. We were assigned a hotel to the west of Shanghai on the way to Suzhou. Once you enter the hotel room, you cannot leave at any time.

What to bring:
This is divided into electronics, books and entertainment, food and cleaning supplies and medicines.

Electronics:

  • Universal converter one for each room. One is enough per room if you buy a Multi extension plug as in photo
  • Charger cables for your devices. Ensure you have extra cables and decide ahead of time who is staying in which room and split your luggage accordingly.

  • If you child uses Xbox or PS or switch or any other device that I have not heard of, bring it with you in your luggage as they will need it.

  • HDMI cable/s

  • Download your kids’ videos, check and double check that they work without internet. If you are downloading from iTunes make sure you have done the permissions for all your computers. Our downloaded movies from iTunes on an external drive did not work with quick time player even though they are m4v extension. I tested them before leaving but not sure why they are not working now. This may have nothing to do with China but rather my ability to do this, which up to this point I thought was good. Check and double check without an internet connection and make sure you are not using two different machines unless you have permissions.

  • Ensure that your Sim card from your home country works, as you may need access to the internet and get a package that takes into consideration that you will be in China.

  • You can also get a SIM card at the airport in China; it is as easy as that. Between collecting your luggage and going to the waiting area there are a couple of kiosks where you can get a Chinese SIM card. I would advise you to get it.

  • Make sure you have VPN on all your machines to access g-mail, Facebook, etc.

  • Connect with WeChat before you leave to China.

  • There is a TV in the room, it is all in Mandarin. It was actually fun to check but unless you know the language you will not use it for long. Some of the dramas are still interesting to watch. With luck, in some hotels there may be a CCTV channel in English.

Books and Entertainment:

  • Bring a few books reading for pleasure

  • Magazines

  • Download an app to learn Mandarin

  • Colouring books

  • Playing Cards, UNO

  • Family Games

This is all dependent on the age of your children.

 

Food and Cleaning Supplies:
Food:
This depends on what you enjoy and how your kids adapt to the food. The food in the first period of quarantine was basic, rice, vegetables and meat served in a plastic container. Nothing wrong with the food but if the children are not used to it, then you need to bring some supplies.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Sandwich bread

  • Peanut Butter

  • Tuna cans

  • Canned food that your children like, hotdogs, corn.

  • Packets of Jam or a Jam jar

  • Ramen noodles, soups, anything you can make with boiled water with the kettle only.

  • Crackers

  • Instant coffee

  • Tea

  • Small packets of sugars

  • Salt

  • Fruit cups if you have little ones

  • Packets of lemonade or fruits juice

  • Aluminium foil

  • Mayonnaise

  • Ketchup packets

  • Soya Sauce as you will have lots of white rice

  • Cereal or cereal bars

  • We were able to order milk, water and juice (the juice is very sweet)

  • We also got hard boiled eggs with our breakfast and asked to have that daily.

  • Look for cheese that is well wrapped that may last without a fridge

  • Chips/crisps

  • Sweet treats if your children like that.

  • It is worth it to bring enough forks and spoons either disposable or better still,one set per person, that you will be able to wash and keep using

  • Disposable plates, reusable plastic cups (The first hotel only had a few disposable plastic water cups, no mugs or glasses)

  • A couple of plastic containers in case you need to mix the food.

It may help you to think about this situation in terms of meals Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or in terms of protein, snacks, and some sweet treats.

As you will most likely be in two rooms and unable to be together (usually two people to a room), pack accordingly marking the luggage of what goes to which room.

Cleaning Supplies:
Buy as much as you need for two weeks’ worth of cleaning wipes. Everything we brought with us was in wipes, however, if you cannot find wipes you will need to get supplies in containers as you find in the supermarkets

  • floor cleaning wet wipes

  • toilet cleaning wet wipes

  • Disinfectant wipes

  • A small bottle of dish washing liquid

  • Shampoo

  • Soap

  • A small amount of clothing detergent

When you are in quarantine, the food will be delivered to your room and that is it. You are in charge of your own room and cleaning it. You can leave your trash in a plastic bag outside the door and it will be collected once a day.

 

Medicines:

  • After bite for mosquitos in case you need it

  • Mosquito spray (for some hotels) (best to check the room and hunt them down)

  • Paracetamols (acetaminophen, tylenol)

  • First aid kit

  • Any medical supplies you need

 

Airport and Transfer:
We flew in with KLM, which was outstanding, but KLM did not offer any hot food service nor offer drinks other than water.
Upon arrival at the airport, the authorities will ask you to disembark by order. Rest assured that the authorities know what they are doing. Just follow the instructions. Everyone is very helpful and accommodating.

Make sure you have a photo of:

  • Your passport/s and passport number

  • Your flight number and seat assignments

  • Seat assignment must be accurate

  • Your health codes and QR before you board the flight. The health QR expires in 36 hours so fill the forms only on the day you depart. If you have trouble with this, someone will help you when you land. They are very patient and helpful.

Make sure you have:

  • The address of where you will be staying after quarantine and the name and phone number of someone in China. In our case it was the HR person at our school.

  • You will be asked to fill forms between 5-8 times.

Follow the lines and signs, and if there is no sign, there is someone to help. The authorities have got it down to a fine art.

 

Procedure at Airport:
After disembarking we followed the procedure below:

Station One: fill some forms show your QR health code

Station Two: register for the covid testing and receive the tubes with your names on them

Station Three: do the testing. Kids under a certain age only do the throat swaps. Our 6 years old only did the throat swap, our 11-year-old, like us, did both the nose and throat swaps.

Next is passport control as normal. Fill in arrival card as per normal and they are available at stands at the airport before you que to stamp your passport.

After passport control, you can find a money exchange office and a phone/ internet kiosk Collect luggage. Luggage was not checked as clearly this is not a priority.
Follow instructions, you will be asked about the region of your final destination in China and directed accordingly.

As you exit the airport you will be directed to the region of your final destination and another from to fill with the same information as above.
You wait for about 45 minutes until your bus is ready. You will be responsible for taking care of your own luggage.

At first hotel: (Note: in some arrival cities you will remain for two full weeks)

  • Everyone you will meet up to and including the hotel will be in PPE.
  • Your language will be sprayed with disinfectant, you will be assigned your rooms and escorted to your rooms. Door closed.

  • Meals will be delivered at 7:00 am, 11:00 am and 17:00.

  • Your temperature will be checked at 8:00 am and at 13:00.

  • You will be tested again for COVID on the 5th day of quarantine.

  • We did not have towels, but we asked the hotel and they were happy to provide.

  • We were not allowed to order food from outside or have any deliveries. Rules may differ from one hotel to the next but at our hotel we also were informed that there is no smoking or drinking allowed. (If you have contracted the virus enroute, smoking and drinking will cause more harmful effects)

 

Transfer and Week two:
The transfer was again immaculate, this process will only apply based on region and the rules. As per our region we had one week in Shanghai and one week in Suzhou.

  • Leave room at 8:00 am

  • Register and get on bus

  • Transfer by bus to a transfer hub. The bus and the hub were air conditioned, fully staffed, extremely well organized and everyone was amazing.

  • We had a 45 minutes wait but we were back together as a family so it went very fast

  • Next bus to the next hotel in Suzhou. Still in quarantine but it is much more relaxed as when you come into the hotel you register as normal and no one is in PPE but in masks.

  • You go to your room, in the second hotel in Suzhou we could all be in the same room

  • Meals are served three times a day at your room

  • You are responsible to measure and submit your temperature before 12:00 noon.  Thermometers were provided by the hotel.

  • Hope that this is helpful, if you need any further information please ask ACAMIS for my email address.

 

From arrival till end of first week everyone we met was in full PPE including some of the passengers. We only had masks and it is fine. The authorities here expect that everyone has a medical mask like you find in pharmacies not cotton masks.

 

 

One of the rooms. Our room was smaller without the sofa and chair with less space. Door to our room fully covered in plastic

 

Some of what we packed for food. We needed more tuna and less Oreos.

 

Other food ideas.

 

Breakfast: there is always soya milk and a boiled egg

 

Sample of lunch at first hotel. It is good but may not be what some kids like.

 

Another sample of lunch or dinner. There will always be rice vegetable and meat. I enjoyed every meal and was introduced to new things which I do not know what they are at this point.

 

At the first hotel, measures were very strict or high. Everything is wrapped in plastic and disinfected. The blue stool is where your meals will be delivered and placed and leftovers are collected.

 

Samer Khouri, School Head
Suzhou Singapore International School