When Bella Tang (pictured second from right) boarded the high speed rail to return her hometown in Yichang, Hubei on 17 January 2020, little did she know that her family Lunar New Year celebration would soon turn into two and a half months of staying at home.

The Staff Nurse from Shanghai Jin Qiao Medical and Dental Center was one of our two China colleagues counted among the 57 million people affected by the sudden lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei, which lasted 76 days from 23 January to 8 April 2020.

“After Wuhan was locked down on 23 January, my manager called me late night on the 24th urging me to quickly return to Shanghai as the COVID-19 situation was getting serious. By 10am the next day, I was at the train station with my luggage in tow trying to make my way back despite knowing I would be quarantined for 14 days once I reached Shanghai. To my shock, all transport lines had closed as Yichang too came under lockdown.”

As she witnessed the number of COVID-19 cases rise exponentially in what was the epicentre of the outbreak, Bella’s fears and anxiety were abated somewhat by all the well-wishes and encouragement she received from her colleagues, even though they were more than 1,000km apart.

“We kept in regular contact through WeChat and they constantly reminded me to take care and keep safe. When my landlord in Shanghai ended my lease, my colleague helped me pack up my stuff and safekept them for me until I eventually returned.”

By the time the COVID-19 situation came under control, Bella’s fears morphed into guilt, knowing that her fellow colleagues were performing their duties at the front line while she could do nothing to help from home.

On 2 April, after a lot of help from her HR colleagues to get her health documentation verified, Bella finally reunited with her colleagues and resumed her duties. Donned in full PPE for the first time, she was all ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with her team mates to take on any challenges that come their way.