‘You can’t laugh this off’: N.S. teacher in China urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

HALIFAX —
Kevin O’Brien lives in Guangzhou, China but his heart and his thoughts are with the Maritimes.

The Pictou County, N.S., native has been watching the situation in Canada unfold from across the globe and now he’s speaking out in an effort to help Canadians understand the gravity of COVID-19.

“I see that some of the provinces in the Maritimes are starting to force places to close. I’m gonna tell ya, that is the only way to stop this,” warns O’Brien in a video on his Facebook page.

“I’m glad to see the government is laying the boom.”

O’Brien has lived in China for nearly four years and is the principal of a local elementary school.

He has experienced the severity of the coronavirus firsthand in his current homeland, where more than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 – including more than 3,100 deaths — have been reported.

“You can’t laugh this off,” he tells CTV News. “The biggest cohorts, the biggest age groups in Canada are us — baby boomers — and we’re the ones that are going to get it first. We’re the ones that are going to get it and have dire symptoms.”

O’Brien says he applauds all levels of Canadian government for enforcing restrictions and closures to help flatten the curve.

“If you don’t have to be out, stay the frig home,” he is urging Canadians. “There isn’t a government anywhere that’s closing things fast enough, but ours was pretty good. I think New Brunswick, from what I see on the news, was a little quicker to the punch, and that’s what it’s going it take.”

The former Nova Scotia teacher says life is slowly returning to normal in Guangzhou — a city of 12 million people.

Restaurants once closed are reopening, but he says there are still rules — only two to a table at a time, and you cannot sit next to a stranger.

“Stores are starting to open again, you’re able to go into stores,” he explains. “Your temperature is taken before you go in, and they make sure you have a mask on.”

Even with those measures, the Pictou County native says Chinese officials are worried about a second wave of COVID-19.

He says there are strict procedures in place once people arrive home from a country where the virus is currently spreading quickly, like the United States.

“You are put in your apartment, there’s going to be an alarm put on the door and a camera put outside of the door,” he says. “They’ll show up and take your temperature numerous times – and this is working.”

For these reasons, he’s urging everyone in Canada to play it safe, as he continues to watch Canadian coverage on the coronavirus from the other side of the world.

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