Family shunned on return to Norfolk after China holiday amid coronavirus 'hysteria'
PUBLISHED: 08:28 01 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:55 01 February 2020
A father has said he experienced more prejudice in the 24 hours after arriving home from China than in his entire life as fears over the spread of coronavirus grip the public.
Daniel Smith from Brundall was in Neijiang in China for 13 days to celebrate Chinese New Year with family.
But since his return to Norfolk on Thursday, the 32-year-old said he has been blanked by people he knows over fears of catching the deadly virus.
Mr Smith and his wife, who travelled with their two daughters so they could spend time with grandparents, stayed more than 600 miles away from Wuhan where the virus broke out.
"We were nowhere near the virus," he said. "And we had no contact with anyone who had the virus and had no symptoms. While we were still in China we followed health advice such as wearing a face mask and using hand sanitiser.
"Even when we landed at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam we went through a body scanner and our temperatures were normal. At English border control, we walked straight through as we were of no risk."
Despite this, Mr Smith, a director at JaeVee in Norwich, said the family had been the subject of rumours relating to the respiratory virus.
He said: "They claim they are concerned for our well-being but are just spreading untrue gossip. It feels like people are walking on the other side of the street to avoid any contact and are talking about us. I can understand why people are worried, but they aren't actually researching the illness."
Mr Smith was also told by Brundall Primary School in an email that his six-year-old daughter could not go in the following day.
Headteacher Rick Stuart-Sheppard said this measure was taken until the school had received advice from the NHS, adding she will return on Monday.
Mr Smith said he wants to put an end to the 'hysteria' around coronavirus and address misinformation.
He added: "In China it is nowhere near as hysterical as it is in the UK. It was impressive really and people there were just getting on with their lives."
Chinese health officials said on Friday that the death toll in the country from the virus had risen to 213, with the number of known cases rising from 7,711 to 9,962.
No deaths have occurred outside China, although cases have been confirmed across at least 23 countries.