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Quarantined happy to be back home

QUARANTINED passengers from AeroMexico flight AM098, which carried a Mexican passenger infected with swine flu, were released and sent home yesterday morning after seven days holed up in a hotel and passing health checks.

Among those released was 29-year-old Gao Jinyi, who returned home to her mother, Hu Meiyun, and 88-year-old grandmother, Bi Yuying, who were also celebrating the end of their home-observation period. Gao was also met by a friend, her puppy and her favorite foods.

Gao - who had spent about two months with her Mexican boyfriend in the state of Queretaro - and the other AeroMexico passengers were sent to stay at the hotel on Saturday, two days after they arrived in Shanghai. She was sent to the hotel by ambulance on early Saturday morning and only had enough time to pack some books and her laptop.

"When I first heard about the quarantine, I was really afraid," she said. "I didn't know anything about it. I thought they would put us in an awful hospital. But it was a relief when I got there. To my great surprise, we were being put up in a four-star hotel and everyone was given a suite.

"I enjoyed my quarantine. It was like a holiday."

Gao said the first day was a little bit boring but she got used to the life. Over the next few days, she got up early and practiced qigong (a type of breathing exercise) on the balcony.

After breakfast, she telephoned friends, conducted business over the Internet, read books, watched TV and sometimes visited her hotel neighbors. Among those quarantined were Chinese, Mexicans and Panamanians.

"Everything went well," she said. "We were served eight dishes at every meal and could ask the hotel staff to bring the other things we needed, like coffee."

Because Gao had been home and in contact with her family in Shanghai, her family were put under home observation for a week.

Gao's mother and grandma phoned their relatives and friends to tell them not to visit. They also arranged to have ample food in their fridge so they didn't have to leave the house or bother the staff at their residential community to go out and buy provisions for them.

They got the all-clear after five days, and yesterday all three generations proposed a toast around a table filled with food and bunches of flowers.

"I went out at midnight last night to walk the dog in order to celebrate the end of my quarantine, and I went to the market this morning to prepare a meal for my girl's homecoming," said Hu.


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