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1x member Yan Zhang evacuated from Wuhan by Australian government

by Yvette Depaepe in collaboration with Editor Yan Zhang 
Published: 13th of March 2020

Australian 1x member and editor Yan Zhang  went to China to visit his family and celebrate the Chinese New Year when he got trapped in Wuhan due to the outbreak of Coronavirus.  He was evacuated to Christmas Island by the Australian government where he completed his quarantine and is save and well back home in Sydney.

While in quarantine, photography helped him get through this difficult period, forced to leave family and friends behind. Frustrated and depressed by seeing the suffering of Wuhan's people, he processed these image taken a few months earlier, revised it to BW and titled it 'Hope' as an homage to them, expressing his deepest wish for his Wuhan family and Wuhan people to overcome the coronavirus crisis very soon and to get their lives back to normal.




This is his story published in the Australian newspapers and some photos he took during his quarantine.


Evacuees Hospital in Christmas Island
Yan Zhang, March 2020


Camera Sony A6600, lens 16-70mm F4 AZ OSS, ISO 100, 10 seconds, f/11, focal length 16mm (in 35mm: 24mm)


On 7 January 2020, I arrived in Wuhan, started my academic development program (sabbatical leave). I was involved in research collaboration with Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and was scheduled to return home to Sydney on 29 January, after spending Chinese New Year with my parents in Wuhan.

In mid January, a local friend mentioned to me that there were rumours of an anticipated virus outbreak. Some hospitals were preparing to significantly increase the number of patient beds in the vicinity.

I didn’t pay much attention to this rumour, as everything appeared normal. People went to work, and shops and restaurants were operating as usual. I travelled to HUST every day via the newly built Wuhan Subway network. It was always crowded during the peak hours. No one wore protective facemask.

On 23 January 2020, when the city lockdown came into effect, I finally accepted the coronavirus situation: it was completely out of control. Locking down an entire city was the last line of defence for the government to fight the deadly contagion.

Since then, I stayed at home with my parents. As each day passed, we received more depressing information about Wuhan citizens suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.

At the end of January, the Australian government announced its Wuhan evacuation plan. Having much consideration, I decided to apply for it.

After nearly 40 hours on the road, on 4 February, I finally arrived in the Detention Centre at Christmas Island, and started two weeks quarantine there.

In the centre, I had my own room, it was small but contained everything one would need: a bathroom, a single bunk bed, a desk with a small colour TV on it, a fixed chair, a small refrigerator and a narrow cabinet. Our activities were restricted within a limited but big enough space – the Oval ground which was about the size of 2 football grounds.

During my two weeks quarantine in Christmas Island, the Oval became a place where I went two or three times a day. I observed that the Oval was an incredibly interesting place, full of photographic features. In these thirteen days, I searched every corner of this place, and shot hundreds of photos and time lapses at different times and from different angles. Each time I could always discovered something fresh – amazing sunrise/sunset lights shone on the ground, beautiful Chinese red lanterns hung on the trees, an eye-catching red crab crawled on the road, etc..

I took this photo in a drizzling and misty morning. Behind these trees, there was the temporary hospital set up for evacuees. The hospital consisted of two big tents – the right one was used for outpatients, where the green colour pergola next to it was the patient waiting area; the left tent, on the other hand, was the ward including four patient beds; and in the middle of between two tents there was a mini SUV used by AUSMAT staff to transport patients if necessary.

“We brought four tents to Christmas Island, but eventually only two were needed”, an AUSMAT staff said to me.

During the two weeks quarantine in Christmas Island, all 243 evacuees were well looked after. The centre staff not only closely monitored everyone’s health conditions, but also provided all kinds of supplies for our everyday needs. I would like to thank the Australian government to make Wuhan evacuation successful and brought us back to Australia safely.















What a unusual life adventure, great article!
Very interesting story and also interesting to hear how photography can help you pass time and handle a very tough situation. Your story brings a glimpse of hope in this dark time. My thoughts are with the people of Wuhan and everyone else suffering from this horrible crisis. Glad you made it out Yan and take care.
Thanks Ralf for your kind comments.
A great story that can be a wonderful example of resistance and resilience to us all; let us not underestimate this worldwide threat. Greetings, Yvette, and all the best to Yan!
Solidarity was never so essential than in these dark days, Jorge! Take care, my friend!
the world underestimates the risk. I hope that what is happening in Italy, which has clearly stated the real situation immediately, will not be repeated in other countries. Three days ago, exceptional measures were finally taken on the whole national territory and I hope that they will give some results in a few days. We live in a surreal situation, all or almost all closed in our homes. The health service is almost collapsing, masks, disinfectants are missing and especially the places for intensive care are running out. Help comes from China which we thank very much !
Thanks for your comment in depth, Alessandro! We have to go through this together! Be safe and stay healthy ....
Dear Alessandro, I am now in Sydney, I watch out this world crisis especially in Italy everyday. I hope we all can get through these dark days soon. Be safe and healthy!
good news in bad times! see-u Sepp
I'm so glad you're safe1 There was such a kerfuffle over the evacuation, taking you all to Christmas Island instead of an Australian based hospital. At least you're home again, and well.
Thanks Mel for your warm words. The crisis is now worldwide, I hope we all can get through this soon.
much interesting article at our actual situation worldwide. Thanks to Yan and Yvette
Thanks for your concerns, Hans-Wolfgang! The world is holding its breath in fear... We may not give up!
This is grat news in these bad times. I also do not know when I can return home from Malaysia. All the best to Yang and thanks for interesting photo report. By the way I was in Wuhan on business trip in March 1986, that time it was very quiet city with one major hotel suitable for foriners, a quiet cityand vithout virus. Greetings to all Miro.
Good to hear some better news in these dark times affecting the whole world, Miro! Yesterday evening Belgium governement took drastic measures to encounter as much as possible the Coronavirus, taking Japan as example. Stay healthy you all, please...
Thanks Miro for your warm words. Hope you can return home soon. Glad to know you were in Wuhan in 1986 - I just finished my Master study in that year. All the best!