Former Vancouver Island man stuck in Thailand after fleeing China to avoid coronavirus

Mark Conway unsure when he can return to teaching job at Chinese university

Former Qualicum Beach resident Mark Conway finds himself stuck in Thailand, after recently catching a last-minute plane to the country following news reports about the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The illness caused by the virus has a name as of Tuesday — COVID-19. The epidemic has now taken approximately 1,100 lives.

Conway was a server at the Beach Club restaurant in Parksville for five years and moved to China to teach at a university seven years ago. His classes have been canceled until further notice. He said he loves living in China and can’t wait to get back – all his best friends live in the country, most of whom are still there.

“They’re scared and lonely,” said Conway, over a sometimes glitchy Skype connection from his Bangkok hotel. “I talk to them every day.”

READ MORE: B.C. coronavirus testing continues, still only one confirmed case

READ MORE: Renowned Canadian epidemiologist to lead coronavirus study team: WHO

READ MORE: New coronavirus has infected more than 20,600 globally

A recent message from Conway’s best friend described the scene in China — he said a drone flew over him and told him to put on a mask, or else it would drop one on him.

Conway said he knew he had to leave his home in Zhenjiang after a couple days of staying indoors. The Chinese government told everyone to not leave their homes, and Conway compiled for as long as he could before riding his e-bike to the store.

“7-Eleven stayed open,” he said, adding a few other stores did the same. “There weren’t any fruits or vegetables, not even an onion.”

He was critical of how the coronavirus situation is being handled – in his eyes, everyone is scrambling, unsure of what’s going on and how to handle it.

He said getting the initial news was strange – no one really knew what to think. It was the first day of Chinese New Year, the spring festival, and people had just started their holidays.

“It’s like Christmas in Canada, everyone is with their families,” said Conway.

Conway was at his friend’s house for Chinese New Year. She’s a nurse, and came up and checked his temperature with a laser pointer thermometer before he walked in the door, confirming “he’s good.” He said they were all able to enjoy dinner, that the reality of the virus hadn’t really set in for everyone yet – they were even making jokes.

When the hysteria started to increase, Conway decided to try and get out of China. He said he threw a few things in a bag and was able to catch a flight out within the day, getting him to Thailand. He said the airport was “completely surreal”.

Conway lived in Thailand before he lived in China, so he said he’s doing fine. He has friends there and is safe, but is having to spend the equivalent to $70 Canadian per day on living expenses while he’s there.

“I can’t afford to live in a hotel forever,” he said.

Although his parents want him to come home to Qualicum Beach, Conway says he’ll only do that if the university cancels classes for the rest of the semester.

The school recently announced that they would start up online classes in March, but there hasn’t been word on when physical classes will startup. For now, he’s playing a waiting game for things to get back to normal, so he can get back to his job and life in China.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

ChinaCoronavirusParksvillequalicum beachThailand

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Fraser Valley crafters are busy sewing cotton masks for health-care workers and others

One Chilliwack woman has made 125 masks so far, and is still going strong

Chilliwack teen donating stem cells for brother’s second fight with cancer

Chilliwack’s Fleming family appealing to the public to look into stem cell donation

Chilliwack couple ‘amazed’ by the Community Cares initiative

CCFC project Community Cares has ‘neighbours in need’ matched with volunteer ‘helper neighbours’

Stairs used for exercise in Chilliwack designated one-way only

The Jinkerson stairs were so crowded over the weekend that city officials had to do something

Chilliwack companies offer free meals, discount on gas for health-care workers and first responders

Sangam restaurant handing out 50 lunches a day, Chevron offers $10 off gas

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Most Read