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Co Antrim man living in Shanghai insists 'life just goes on' despite coronavirus lockdown

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Stephen Graham, his wife Christina Wu and their sons Patrick and Clark

Stephen Graham, his wife Christina Wu and their sons Patrick and Clark

Stephen Graham, his wife Christina Wu and their sons Patrick and Clark

A Co Antrim man living in Shanghai has said that life "hasn't ground to a halt" despite living under tight lockdown as China battles the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Stephen Graham (58) from Lisburn moved to China to teach English in 1996 and has been living in the country's largest city since 2001.

Along with his wife Christina Wu from Shanghai and their sons Patrick (15) and Clark (11), Mr Graham has been living under tight regulations since the outbreak of the deadly virus.

So far in mainland China, there have been 78,000 cases of the coronavirus with 2,715 deaths. However, in Shanghai, which is over 1,000 kilometres away from the Hubei province where the virus broke out, there have been 350 cases and a "couple of deaths", according to Mr Graham.

Describing the strict regulations imposed over the past four weeks, Mr Graham said Shanghai is on "lockdown". However, its 24 million citizens aren't confined to their homes.

"Everyone lives in what's called a compound area in Shanghai and in every area the gates are locked," he said. "There's only one or two gates that people can go in and out of but anyone from outside our area isn't allowed in.

"My wife can go online and order food, drink and different things, and they're delivered to the gate and we can pick them up. China is very much well geared for this type of thing.

"We had to go and get a card from the local management committee and it allows us to go outside the area and go for a walk.

"We don't really want to go too far because you could go out, pick up the virus and bring it back to the family so we're just careful and we just stay indoors most of the time.

"Sadly a couple of people have died but the Shanghai area is probably as big as Northern Ireland and all of the areas are locked down."

As part of his role as head of a group called 'Friends of Northern Ireland in China', the English teacher has been keeping members updated on the spread of the virus.

He added: "We're living, we're surviving and we're doing well. On sunny days we might go for a walk and some of my friends are still going to bars and restaurants that are still open.

"For most people life just goes on."

Meanwhile, an Ulster Rugby fan who had travelled to Italy for Saturday's game against Benetton has revealed how the outbreak there has left her almost £800 out of pocket.

Tashe Breen, who lives in Edinburgh, had travelled to Italy for the PRO14 game in Treviso with her parents.

However, she had to return home early after the game was cancelled on Monday due to the spread of the virus.

"I was coming over for the Treviso game but decided to make a holiday of it," she said yesterday.

However, the plan was thrown into disarray when friends and family started texting to inform the family of the outbreak in the north of the country, which eventually led to Tashe deciding not to travel there.

"My mum and my dad are in their 70s and they're fit and healthy but we didn't want to risk it. This morning they cancelled the train up north towards Bologna," she said yesterday.

As a result, Breen had to book an early flight home from Rome which, along with her non-refundable internal travel and hotels, has not only cut her trip severely short but has also cost her around £780.

"This has ruined our trip. Now they've called off the Ireland-Italy game as well, but if it's safe to travel then why are they calling off that game?" she asked.

Belfast Telegraph