SHANGHAI: After waiting out two months of lockdown, I am finally home in Singapore, joining about a dozen Shanghai-based Singaporean friends who have made that same five-and-a-half-hour flight in the past weeks.
However, I was not the typical lockdown evacuee looking to temporarily escape and to return when things improve.
I had the one-way ticket from Shanghai to Singapore booked since early February, when my partner and I decided on our relocation to Ireland in August.
Wrapping up four years in China with all the attendant life admin is troublesome enough. A city-wide lockdown complicates matters immensely.
This is my account of what it takes for a foreign resident to exit a locked-down city of 25 million.
In order to leave my residential compound – with its front gate locked and watched 24/7 by security guards who have not gone home in months – I have to apply for an exit permit from the residential committee, the grassroots officials in charge.
In late April, I alerted the residential committee manager, Ms Chen, about my impending flight in late May.
To secure an exit permit, one needed to provide an e-ticket for a departing flight, an airport transfer booking, a green health code, a 48-hour negative PCR test, a 24-hour negative antigen test, and a form with personal and travel details.
As the city was still locked down at the time of our leaving, some roads were blocked off and many roads at district borders featured checkpoints.
The exit permit is meant to guarantee a smooth path to the airport, as it allows the checkpoint guards to identify those with a legitimate reason to be out and about.
Apart from the exit permit and the PCR test, securing transportation to the airport was another major worry.
With the suspension of public transport, including regular private-hire cars, we could only rely on word-of-mouth to find drivers with the correct permit to ferry us from our home in Puxi in the western part of Shanghai across the river to Pudong airport. Due to the fluidity of the situation, this could only be done closer to our date of departure.