Since the appearance of COVID-19, Taiwanese expats living in the United Kingdom have had to face their share of adverse situations.
Racism was the first thing to rear its ugly head, as the new virus has been closely associated with China, and East Asia as a whole, in the collective imagination.
“I was wearing a face mask on my way to do my grocery shopping when a man approached me quietly and shouted ‘virus’ in my face. I was too scared to fight back, so I asked him to leave me alone and hurried to reach my destination. Since then, I have been avoiding going shopping in off-peak times and I do not dare wear a mask when I am alone on the street,” said Liang Min-hsuan (梁敏萱), who is living in London.
Even finding a face mask of a good standard has nonetheless proven to be difficult in the UK, and scams are plentiful.
“I could find face masks online, but for an expensive price,” said Yu Chi-yi (余治儀), a student at King’s College in London. “I paid ￡62 (NT$ 2,314) for 10 masks that seemed standard but were actually substandard.”
Since then, she has decided to order face masks directly from Taiwan, despite the cost and delay for the delivery.
Similarly, it has become more and more complicated to purchase Taiwanese food in the UK. Liang noticed at the beginning of the lockdown that people were panic buying instant noodles and frozen food in Asian supermarkets in London, so that they were running out of stock.
Yu told the Taipei Times that online Asian shops had also run out of stock, and that delivery times were often very long.
However, some, like Tsai Yun-jui (蔡昀叡), a music teacher in Durham in the north east of England, has been skipping Taiwanese food altogether.
Because he does not have the necessary material at home, Tsai also had to stop offering online lectures at the beginning of the lockdown, and has been furloughed, along with 4 million other workers in the UK.
IMPACT ON STUDENTS
Students have been particularly affected by the spread of the pandemic, as universities in the UK have decided to move their courses online, but Taiwanese students are trying to stay positive nonetheless.
“A substantial amount of the learning material was already online,” said Tsai Zhi-wei (蔡至維), an architecture student. “However, the tutors are overworked as they also need to deal with house chores or to look after their children.”
“Learning at home is a bit awkward and you cannot talk with your classmates, but it also saves time as I do not need to commute everyday anymore,” said Lee Chiung-hsien (李炯憲), a student at Newcastle University.
With more than 161,000 cases and over 21,000 deaths as of press time, the UK is the globe’s fifth most impacted country by the coronavirus.
“I think the UK sprung into action too late. It took the government too long to decide whether to enforce a lockdown or not. It is precisely because of this delay that we have reached the situation where we are now — where COVID is no longer containable,” said Tsai Ting-Yu (蔡亭玉), a Taiwanese doctor in Norwich in the east of England.
A consequence of this delay is that hospitals have been overwhelmed and quickly have run out of supplies, so that the priority has been given to the most serious cases.
“I am worried that if I catch the disease, I won’t be able to get proper treatment in the UK, because they only treat the most severe cases. But it’s too late to fly back to Taiwan anyway,” said Tsai Zhi-wei.
In spite of everything, the situation in the UK is slowly improving. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that there are “real signs that we are passing through the peak,” as hospitals are seeing fewer admissions and fewer COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
“I am glad to see that everything is starting to become more stable and to see people helping each other during this tough time,” said Hsu Chia-yuan (許嘉元), a resident of Colchester in Essex.
With increasing signs that the lockdown will be easing in the near future, these expats hope that their home away from home will soon return to normal.
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