...your back up plan could include a second passport as your ticket to freedom."
Cities are in lockdown. There were videos of people collapsing in the street, people in hospital corridors having febrile convulsions and hospital staff overwhelmed with cases. Later, leaked videos show stacked yellow body bags. Videos show suspected infected citizens being forcibly quarantined, and citizens wailing from the deaths of whole families. Finally are undercover videos of the Chinese police warning citizens not to share information online or they may be jailed.
China is in the grip of a coronavirus epidemic. It is no ordinary virus. It is a calamity unfolding in no ordinary country. Over a billion people live in city centres across hundreds of Chinese cities. In signs that the outbreak is worsening, millions of Chinese people in several cities cannot leave and cannot return. Streets are quiet because of the official instructions to stay at home.
China’s economic boom comes as animal and human diseases threaten China’s prosperity. First, it was African Swine Fever killing over 440 million China’s pigs, a quarter of the world’s pig population. Then, the novel coronavirus took hold, first appearing at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The size of China in absolute terms, its billion people, its vast presence spanning Eurasia, its interconnectedness and the dominance of a central government could make an epidemic, not just novel coronavirus difficult, if not impossible to contain.
A totalitarian government like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hide how severe this situation is. It will not admit that it is unable to control the outbreak. It will lie about how many people are dying and how many people have been infected. It will also attempt to change the narrative. SinoInsider reckons that the CCP, feeling under pressure, could ‘weaponise’ the coronavirus. There’s precedent for such biowarfare: in the 1346 Siege of Caffa, the Mongols catapulted plague-ridden cadavers over the walls of the besieged Crimea, bringing the Black Death to Europe. In sum, there is no surety in a nation as large as China for citizens and foreigners alike.
Sometimes, in times of crisis, having a second passport is a ticket out.
Nicholas Schneider was a 21-year-old studying at Wuhan University. At first, he thought little of a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. He started to worry when China ordered Wuhan be locked down on January 23, 2020. First, Nicholas called the U.S. embassy. The U.S. government offered Nicholas a $1,100 charter flight from Wuhan. He was told that he’d need to find his way to Wuhan Airport some 30 miles away (48 kilometres). This was impossible in a city where public transport options were limited in a lockdown.
However, not only did Nicholas have a US passport, he had a German passport too. This time he called the German embassy. Germany offered the 21-year old geodesy student, not just a bus but a flight out of Wuhan. Nicholas was lucky to have dual citizenship, and two current passports ready to use, just in case. Without dual citizenship, Nicholas may still be stuck in Wuhan.
In 2018, I wrote here that a major influenza pandemic could cripple nations, shutter major facilities and cause anarchy. This is happening in China. In 2020 this novel coronavirus has shut down roads and airports. Entire Chinese cities are locked down. International reactions have been swift and brutal. People from Singapore to Hong Kong are panic buying food, water and cleaning products. Nobody really knows whether infected people, even those without symptoms are increasing the chances of widespread coronavirus infection.
In times of international crisis, a second passport can be a lifesaver. It can also help you manage travel and immigration controls. While it’s hard to predict the actions and timing of governments, we have witnessed countries respond to the coronavirus and issue travel warnings, impose quarantine and cancel visas. Nobody knows when these travel, immigration and quarantine controls will end, nor does anyone know when the coronavirus will end or ramp up.
In times like this, we are reminded of the need to remain alert and prepared. And just like Nicholas, your back up plan could include a second passport as your ticket to freedom.