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‘It was scary, like a ghost country with empty streets’: Scots teenagers on escape from coronavirus-hit China

Jodi Carr and mum Alison wear masks on the train from Tianjin to Shanghai
Jodi Carr and mum Alison wear masks on the train from Tianjin to Shanghai

Schoolgirls who won scholarships to study at university in China have told how they had to return to Scotland to escape the coronavirus.

Jodi Carr and Maya Hemphill, both 18 and pupils at Lochend High School in Easterhouse, Glasgow, won the coveted £5,000 scholarships after passing an exam in Mandarin.

Jodi had been joined by her mum Alison, 47, an accounts worker, for a two-week holiday when her brother phoned to warn them about the virus.

“Gary was calling to urge us to take care of ourselves,” Jodi said. “From then on we both wore face masks. We had to search for them in shops. They were selling out fast.

“You go into hyper-vigilant mode and clean everything you or anyone else has touched.

“My mum had brought Dettol wipes and if anyone used your phone to scan a ticket, it was wiped straight away. The streets were usually thronged with people but were emptying as more and more people confined themselves to their homes.”

Maya and Jodi say their last few weeks in China were ‘scary’

On January 23 her Chinese teachers called and asked her to return to Tianjin, in the northeastern of the country, immediately and stay within the university accommodation.

Alison returned to Beijing and mum and daughter flew home from their separate destinations.

Maya said: “It was scary. In my last days in China, it was like a ghost country with empty streets. Everywhere we went in China, our temperature was taken with a scanner or hand-held thermometer. We felt lucky to have got out safe but every cough makes you wonder.”