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Northern Ireland teacher looks forward to carvery dinner after two-week coronavirus quarantine


Ben Pinkerton in China

Ben Pinkerton in China

Leaving by coach yesterday

Leaving by coach yesterday

AFP via Getty Images

Ben Pinkerton in China

A teacher from Northern Ireland who has been in coronavirus quarantine for the past fortnight has said he feels relieved to have his freedom back.

Ben Pinkerton was among more than 80 UK nationals evacuated from Wuhan last month.

Those evacuated spent two weeks in the nursing accommodation blocks at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral, in quarantine for fear of spreading the virus.

Last night Mr Pinkerton (23), from Dungannon, said he was most looking forward to "enjoying a carvery".

"The last 14 days have gone really well," he said. "I just kind of got on with it. I'm back at a relative's home in Chester now.

"I didn't really have any problems during the quarantine and everything we needed we got."

Mr Pinkerton, an English teacher, had been living in the Hankou district of Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak, for the past year.

On Thursday China reported a spike in the number of cases.

It said there were 254 deaths on Wednesday from the strain of coronavirus, officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation, as the number of new cases jumped by 15,152.

Mr Pinkerton's group were the first to be flown out of Wuhan by the Foreign Office and back to the UK last month. Their 14-day quarantine period ended on Thursday.

Despite some rumours on social media of a last-night celebration inside the hospital, Mr Pinkerton confirmed that no such party happened in his accommodation area.

And he said he witnessed nothing to back up claims of escape attempts by those in quarantine and allegations of staff members being taken hostage.

Although content with life inside, Mr Pinkerton admitted that getting back home and into normal routine was a relief.

"As good as it was in there treatment-wise, we obviously wanted to go back home. Now we have been able to do that, we are much happier to be here than we could be anywhere else," he added.

"The coach didn't take me directly to Chester, the coach took us to a friend and family centre six miles away where we met our families and they came to meet us.

"My family are relieved. They were relived when we got back to England to be honest. Ultimately they are happy and I updated them during the time plenty.

"They didn't make too big a fuss to be honest.

"In terms of readjusting to normality, it really depends on the person. For me, personally, I don't think it will take very long.

"People on the coaches today were just happy that they were getting a chance to get home and see family so it was a relieved and happy mood really.

"We were just back from the shops after arriving home. It was good just to get out and stretch the legs even though it was comfortable enough inside Arrowe Park."

Asked what his next steps would be in getting back to normal life, he said looking for a job in England would be the priority.

He is not thinking of permanently returning to Northern Ireland or China in the immediate future.

He did, however, advise that a visit to see family and friends at home was on the cards in the "next week or two".

"I didn't really predict any of this situation to happen at all. It was definitely a new one for me," he added.

"My message to the staff is just to thank them very much for looking after us. They did a very good job and I believe to be just put in that situation, they performed above and beyond."

Also leaving Arrowe Park on Thursday was Matt Raw (38).

He raised his fist as he was let out through locked gates surrounding the apartment block where he has been staying and said: "We're free ... and the sun's shining."

He said he was "ecstatic" that he, his mother Hazel (75), his wife Ying (38) and all of the others who had been on the evacuation flight to Britain with them tested negative for the virus.

He said: "It is absolutely lovely to be out and I'll no doubt be going out for a pint a little bit later."

He said he planned to return to his home in Knutsford, Cheshire, put the heating on and feed the goldfish. Mr Raw said books and board games had been donated by members of the public to keep them entertained during their fortnight stay.

Dr William Welfare, interim deputy director for health protection at Public Health England, said: "We would like to thank all of those who have been staying at Arrowe Park for their patience and support. All the test results from flight one have come back negative so we can be very clear that all of those leaving do not pose risk to the wider public."

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