Catch-22 in China

The experience of a Chinese-born US citizen who happened to be sitting 3 rows behind someone on the plane who had the H1N1 virus and was quarantined makes me shudder:

I am now sitting by myself in a room, in a building full of other "suspected" H1N1 patient. I can use the internet, the phone and watch TV but there is a lock on the front door and I'm not allowed to leave my room or talk to the other "guests" ...

The funniest part about all of this? I don't have H1N1. Although the people here refuse to answer most of my questions, I was given an English document from the government describing proper procedure for the quarantine. I quote, from the section "When will you be free to leave"

"The time to lift the medical observation depends on the diagnosis of the passenger with fever symptoms. If the diagnosis rules out the possibility of A H1N1 infection, you will be free to leave immediately...However, if the test report shows anything suspicious or needs another diagnosis, your time of staying here will have to be extended according to official notice..."

That is what the official government notice says. "I will be free to leave immediately," yet when I asked the workers here about that statement, they claimed that I was misinterpreting the text. Clearly, my English skills have regressed rapidly. When I asked for a blood test, the official way to confirm whether or not I carry the virus, I was denied, "We only test people who look sick. You don't look sick. If you develop a fever, we will test you."

So I am still here in my hotel room, healthy but treated as if I have the plague. Counting down the days. One down, six more to go.

It's a regular Catch-22. We'll only test you for H1N1 if you look sick. But we'll release you only if your test comes back negative. Since you don't look sick, we can't test you. And since we can't test you, we can't release you.

There's a conference in China I was planning to attend in August. Now that the WHO has upgraded H1N1 to a pandemic (even while emphasizing that symptoms are mild and that people who get infected do not need medical treatment), I think the Chinese reaction to H1N1 is going to get even crazier.

So, this may be the year we don't go to China. Oh well.

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