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'Like students getting recess': relief for WHO Wuhan team leaving quarantine

Thea Fischer, a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), waves as they leave their quarantine hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter.

(Reuters) - Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19 described long workdays during two weeks of quarantine, and relief at finally being able to leave their hotel in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“The only thing I could see for 14 days from the hotel room has been concrete,” Thea Fischer, a Danish member of the team, told Reuters by phone from Wuhan.

“Getting fresh air and a view, and seeing something green - it is just as if one has landed from the moon,” she said from the team’s new hotel.

She said the time had passed quickly, with long days of online meetings, including with Chinese counterparts. Other team members also tweeted about long workdays and relief at leaving quarantine.

“I imagined getting a lot of time to reflect, and perhaps getting a little wiser about life - but that has not been the case,” Fischer said.

Her only human contact was a visit twice a day from a worker in full protective gear checking her temperature and blood oxygen saturation.

“I lived opposite two of the others in the team, so it was my hope that every time they knocked on the door, that the other two also went out and had their temperature measured, so you could at least exchange a few words and see a human being. But we were always asked kindly but firmly, like some naughty children, to go back to our rooms,” she said.

Spirits were high as the team left the hotel.

“When we were called down earlier today to pay, it was like ... a bunch of students getting recess,” she said.

Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Gabriel Crossley in Wuhan; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Giles Elgood