A Newtownbutler woman has spoken of her relief after returning to Fermanagh from China, which is currently gripped by the coronavirus, earlier this week.

Speaking from her home yesterday (Wednesday), Becky He (nee Crudden) described her family’s experiences as people fell ill and died.

The coronavirus has infected thousands in China since the outbreak with almost 500 people dying as a result.

In January, Becky and her husband Tony and four children Olly (seven), Nina (four), Noah (three) and Jack (two) had travelled to China to visit Tony’s family in Fuqing, Fujian 900km from Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.

It is a trip they have made every year for the last six years but when they booked their flights in November they had not heard anything about the virus.

“After a few days things got worse and the Chinese government made announcements to take extra sanitary precautions, wearing masks, washing hands and avoid public areas.

“There were loudspeakers announcing this advice around the clock, telling anyone travelling from Wuhan, the epicentre for the virus, that they must register with police, and be quarantined for 14 days,” explained Becky.

When it was declared a health emergency Becky started to look for ways to return to Fermanagh with her family but it was proving difficult.

“When the global health emergency was declared I was very worried.

“My son Noah had sepsis as a newborn and I was worried in case he caught the virus. I then tried to reschedule my tickets home but AirChina wouldn’t respond to any phone calls.”

Becky contacted Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew who was a “massive help” in getting her flights rebooked.

Rebooking flights was costing on average £4,000 for the family of six but after getting in contact with AirChina over Twitter, Becky and her family eventually got a flight on February 3.

With flights out of China being cut and some airlines stopping flying in and out of the country it was a relief for Becky, but at the same time an arduous journey for her and Tony with four young children.

“We were waiting in Frankfurt airport for 12 hours for our connecting flight to Dublin, we were just after a 10 hour flight arriving from Beijing. We were told there were no beds for us to sleep on, so the kids and I slept on airports chairs.

“Beijing and Fuzhou airport did temperature checks and gave out health declaration forms on arrival in which we had to declare where we were coming from and where we were going to.”

But eventually they made it back to Fermanagh and Newtownbutler on Tuesday (February 4).

Although not being told to, Becky says she and her family are currently following the online recommendation of staying at home for 14 days.

She also thanked those in her hometown for the support they have given to the family and to the people who have been sending medical supplies to Tony’s family as face masks and hand sanitisers became harder and harder to acquire.

“I’m relieved to have my family home safely,” she told The Impartial Reporter.