MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 29th February, 2020) After having a long distance relationship for three years, Sun Sheng decided to move to Moscow, Russia in November last year to be with his girlfriend Lilia Li, a Chinese graduate student who was completing her second Master's degree in the country.
Sun signed up for a preparation program in Russian language that would help him to be ready to enter a local university this year, as the young couple planned to build a future together in Russia. Unfortunately, their plan could be in jeopardy after Sun violated the requirement from local authorities in Moscow to self-isolate for at least 14 days after returning from a recent trip to China.
"During the raids, 88 people who violated the quarantine regime were identified. These are foreign citizens who are subject to deportation," Rakova said.
As part of the city's efforts to contain the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus that has killed over 2,800 people and infected more than 83,000 globally, local authorities in Moscow began to require all passengers arriving from China to self-isolate for at least 14 days. To enforce this new regulation, police officers in Moscow began to conduct checks throughout the city for possible violations.
DIFFICULTIES UNDER SELF-ISOLATION
Despite knowing China was the country where almost 95 percent of the global coronavirus infection took place, Sun decided to travel back to Chinese capital city of Beijing on Feb 18 because he had to complete some paperwork related to his previous job in the country.
Knowing how serious the ongoing epidemic was, the young couple tried to adhere to strict self-isolation rule as much as they could and never left their rented apartment in Moscow for more than five days.
"We didn't leave our home for a couple of days as classes at our universities were suspended. We tried to order food as much as we could. But we're also human beings. We had other needs in life. For example, we had to take out the trash after eating the food we ordered right?" Li told Sputnik during a phone interview.
Li said they couldn't receive any assistance for daily life necessities during the self-isolation period because they didn't live on campus.
"That's why we decided to take out the trash together around 4pm in the afternoon on Feb 23. After that, we went to a convenient store within walking distance from our home for some basic life supplies. My boyfriend went with me because he wanted to help me carry the heavy bags as we tried to buy a lot of food to stay at home longer," she said, adding that they were outside for less than 30 minutes.
"The officers asked whether we went outside during the day, we said 'Yes' because we didn't want to lie. I asked them how they knew. They said they had surveillance videos of us being outside," Li said.
The officers took the young Chinese couple back to their police station and called an ambulance for doctors to check their health conditions. After the doctors came and made sure both of them were healthy, the police said Li could go home because she never left Russia for four months, but her boyfriend had to be sent to a special quarantine facility in Moscow because he broke the 14-day self-isolation rule.
Worried that her boyfriend could not speak Russian fluently after taking classes for a few months, Li asked the officers to allow her to go with her boyfriend. Doctors at the quarantine center told Li that her boyfriend would only be required to complete the 14-day quarantine based on his date of entry from China, which meant he would be allowed to leave the facility by March 4.
As police officers carried out inspections in the city's public transportation systems, the Chinese Embassy in Moscow sent a letter to the mayor's office expressing concerns that Chinese nationals were being exclusively targeted.
In a written response, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin defended the city's measures as necessary to contain the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus and stressed that there was no discrimination against Chinese nationals as all passengers returning from China were required to self-isolate for at least 14 days regardless of their nationalities.
Li said that four Chinese nationals who completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine on Wednesday were given a verdict through a remote court hearing, where the judge said that they violated Russia's migration regulations and would be deported from the country and barred from entry for five years.
"The doctors told us my boyfriend could leave when he finish the 14-day quarantine. We understand that we made the mistake of breaking the rules and we're willing to be punished for it. Paying fines and even deportation are all acceptable to us. But how to continue our life if my boyfriend is barred from entering Russia for the next five years?" Li said.
Li first came to Russia to obtain a bachelor's degree in 2006 and has been living in Russia since then. Li said she planned to get married with her boyfriend soon and build a future with him in a country that she viewed as her second home.
"It's really difficult for me to accept this kind of disaster emotionally. I've been living here for so long. Most of my classmates, teachers and friends are all Russians. My feelings about Russians are almost as strong as I feel about Chinese. Russia is like my second home. At this age, the next five years are a critical period in our lives," she said.
In order to move to Russia to be with Li, Sun quit his job in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and hoped to adapt to his new life in the country by learning to speak Russian fluently and obtain a degree at a university in Moscow.
"We're all healthy. We did not pose any threat to the public health in Russia. We also didn't have any intention to break the self-isolation rule by running around the city on purpose. Please give us a chance for the sake of the strong friendship between the two countries," she said.
Sam Yan, a 29-year-old Chinese graduate student, was also being quarantined at the same medical facility in Moscow. He was caught by police officers after driving to his friend's home to deliver a document he brought from China.
Yan admitted he made the mistake of breaking the self-isolation rule and was ready to face the consequences. But he also expressed hopes that Russian authorities would not bar him from entry for the next five years, which would make it impossible for him to complete his Master's degree after studying in Russia for more than eight years.
Both Sun and Yan have not completed their 14-day quarantine at the designated medical facility in Moscow. They both hoped that they would be allowed to continue their lives in Russia, while being punished in other forms for the quarantine violations.