Former Vancouver Island man stuck in Thailand after fleeing China to avoid coronavirus

Mark Conway unsure when he can return to teaching job at Chinese university

Former Qualicum Beach resident Mark Conway finds himself stuck in Thailand, after recently catching a last-minute plane to the country following news reports about the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The illness caused by the virus has a name as of Tuesday — COVID-19. The epidemic has now taken approximately 1,100 lives.

Conway was a server at the Beach Club restaurant in Parksville for five years and moved to China to teach at a university seven years ago. His classes have been canceled until further notice. He said he loves living in China and can’t wait to get back – all his best friends live in the country, most of whom are still there.

“They’re scared and lonely,” said Conway, over a sometimes glitchy Skype connection from his Bangkok hotel. “I talk to them every day.”

READ MORE: B.C. coronavirus testing continues, still only one confirmed case

READ MORE: Renowned Canadian epidemiologist to lead coronavirus study team: WHO

READ MORE: New coronavirus has infected more than 20,600 globally

A recent message from Conway’s best friend described the scene in China — he said a drone flew over him and told him to put on a mask, or else it would drop one on him.

Conway said he knew he had to leave his home in Zhenjiang after a couple days of staying indoors. The Chinese government told everyone to not leave their homes, and Conway compiled for as long as he could before riding his e-bike to the store.

“7-Eleven stayed open,” he said, adding a few other stores did the same. “There weren’t any fruits or vegetables, not even an onion.”

He was critical of how the coronavirus situation is being handled – in his eyes, everyone is scrambling, unsure of what’s going on and how to handle it.

He said getting the initial news was strange – no one really knew what to think. It was the first day of Chinese New Year, the spring festival, and people had just started their holidays.

“It’s like Christmas in Canada, everyone is with their families,” said Conway.

Conway was at his friend’s house for Chinese New Year. She’s a nurse, and came up and checked his temperature with a laser pointer thermometer before he walked in the door, confirming “he’s good.” He said they were all able to enjoy dinner, that the reality of the virus hadn’t really set in for everyone yet – they were even making jokes.

When the hysteria started to increase, Conway decided to try and get out of China. He said he threw a few things in a bag and was able to catch a flight out within the day, getting him to Thailand. He said the airport was “completely surreal”.

Conway lived in Thailand before he lived in China, so he said he’s doing fine. He has friends there and is safe, but is having to spend the equivalent to $70 Canadian per day on living expenses while he’s there.

“I can’t afford to live in a hotel forever,” he said.

Although his parents want him to come home to Qualicum Beach, Conway says he’ll only do that if the university cancels classes for the rest of the semester.

The school recently announced that they would start up online classes in March, but there hasn’t been word on when physical classes will startup. For now, he’s playing a waiting game for things to get back to normal, so he can get back to his job and life in China.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

ChinaCoronavirusParksvillequalicum beachThailand

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: A message from Mission’s mayor

Pam Alexis asks residents to support local businesses, stay strong during COVID-19 pandemic

Mission developers donate $10,ooo, challenge others to donate as well

Gary Toor and Jason Tiegen gve the money to Mission Community Services, hope to raise $20,000

You can design a new banner for Mission’s downtown area

Mission Downtown Business Association is presenting its second annual banner design competition

One woman arrested in Abbotsford on Sunday after stabbing

25-year-old man sent to hospital with serious injuries following incident

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

Most Read