Coronavirus: Shropshire couple worried for family in Chinese city at heart of killer virus

The outbreak of coronavirus in China may seem a world away to most people in Shropshire. But for Robert Strange and his wife Mia Xu it is worryingly real.

Robert and Mia with his family
Robert and Mia with his family

The couple moved from Mia's home city, Wuhan, to Robert's family home near Ellesmere in September.

Robert lived in Wuhan for seven years and had come to see it as his home.

"I got to see the city develop really fast," he said.

Mia and Robert on their wedding day

Today they are worried for family and friends who are holed up in their homes amid the lock-down that has brought the province to a standstill.

Footage of thousands of people taking part in a mass shouting of encouragement to each from their windows this week had them both in tears.

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Mia said she talked to her parents every day and they were reassuring her that they were fine and finding things to do to pass the time because they couldn't get out.

She said they, like others, had stocked up on food as soon as news of the outbreak of the virus broke.

The source of the virus is believed to have been meat from an infected animal sold in a Wuhan market, possibly a bat.

Robert's shot of Wuhan from a high vantage point

Mia said: "I want to stress that most people in Wuhan do not eat weird animals. We eat ordinary food. In a city of more than 10 million people there is only one market selling this kind of meat."

"Everyone in Wuhan works so hard, then suddenly the city is shut down."

Robert said his wife was probably more worried than her family in Wuhan as she felt helpless and unable to help them.

"They are all holed up in the house but everyone is in good spirits. It is comforting to see how well they are coping with it. There is a sense of togetherness they have to fight this virus, not just for China but for the world.

Mia and Robert by East Lake in Wuhan, the biggest urban lake in China

"The real heroes are the doctors and the delivery workers and the people working in the supermarkets."

He said China had responded well to the outbreak.

"The Government seems to have learnt from mistakes made during the Sars outbreak. It has extended the national holiday and I guess schools won't be going back for a good few weeks. Two new hospitals are now being built in the city. Once China puts its mind to something it can do it extremely quickly, it has the manpower and the determination."

The city divided by the Yangtze river

A former Shropshire county golf player, Robert first went to Wuhan to teach English.

"I learnt Mandarin, which I now speak fluently, and started to coach golf to both adults and children. It is a rising sport in China," he said.

Mia is a professional singer and actress, and Robert even found himself being asked to take part in filming.

Robert said: "Last year we decided that we would move to the UK to settle down and make a life for ourselves here. The city of Wuhan is amazing, geared towards fast, convenient living. But it was always lovely to come back to Shropshire and enjoy more simple living, enjoy the fresh air and see the stars in the sky."

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