EXCLUSIVE

By Michelle Crean

 

A Killarney man has amazingly managed to avoid the brunt of not one – but two – major COVID-19 outbreaks in two different countries 5,000 miles apart.

In February, Mike Keogh (27) of O’Sullivan’s Place Killarney came home from Shanghai – which is about 700km from Wuhan in China – just as the outbreak began there.

And, just as the health crisis was beginning to take hold in Ireland, Mike returned to China as they began preparations to go back to normal after the heath crisis began to subside – unbelievably avoiding two major lockdowns.

This week he says he was lucky to leave both countries just as they were each on the brink of the worst part of the global pandemic taking hold.

“I was the last out of Shanghai, I left a week before they locked down the city,” Mike told the Killarney Advertiser.

“It was a little scary but the people in control of Shanghai’s response were quick and efficient and it is probably the reason a city with 35 million people never got into the thousands for active cases. But arriving in Europe at both airports, there was no temperature check, I was never asked my travel history in regards have I been to Wuhan, and got stared at when I kept my mask on because I still had that fear. When I returned home I self-quarantined for a few days.”

Before the Irish lockdown, the English teacher, who had been teaching his classes online, left Ireland on March 9 as China expected schools to reopen.

“On March 11, China banned flights from France where I just connected from. The plane was very surreal as it was mostly Chinese with masks, some with hazmat suits. Arriving in Shanghai was a little nerve racking. They disinfected the flight and asked anyone from Italy to get off first where they checked them to make sure they were illness free or had any symptoms. Then we proceeded to use either the WeChat or Alipay Apps to show where we had been the last couple of weeks and at this point Ireland was on the OK list – until two days later.”

He said that he was asked where he had been, to declare if he had been in contact with anyone with the disease, and they took his phone number to contact him if anyone else showed symptoms.

“I had my temperature checked four times in the airport and was given the all green to go back to my apartment and I self-quarantined for two weeks.”

He said he feels Ireland needs to step up its preventative measures especially going forward as it begins phasing in the reopening of businesses.

“The introduction of automated hand sanitisers in major public areas are a great feature in supermarkets and shopping centres. Every bar and restaurant here, the servers, bartenders, cooks and managers, are all wearing masks the entire time. We need to look at the countries getting out of this and see what is working.”