China is building a fortress against coronavirus.
If you want to know just how seriously they are still taking coronavirus, cross its borders.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would ban all foreigners from entering in 24 hours’ time – we need to get to Beijing.
Our team was in Seoul and the screening process for COVID-19 started there.
At the check-in counter, our temperatures were taken – anything above 37C meant no boarding, and being locked out of our homes and workplace for weeks, maybe longer.
Each stage was more stringent. At the boarding gate, officials were wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) – suits, masks, goggles and splash guards.
There were four more temperature checks before we were allowed on the plane.
On board, all the Air China cabin crew were in full PPE too, their names written on the back of their suits and cartoons they had drawn. During the short flight, they took our temperature again.
We landed at Dalian, a seaside city about halfway between Beijing and Seoul.
The Chinese government is so anxious to avoid new COVID-19 cases in the capital that the quarantine process started there; the Citadel must be protected.
When we landed, customs officials boarded – again, they were suited up – and with thermometers once more in hand, before allowing us off the plane, row by row.
They were scenes that would be impossible to imagine two months ago and even now they feel other-worldly.
The arrival hall was even further in the realm of the unreal: more than 50 officials, customs and police, all in full suits and goggles, sitting at interview desks and manning checkpoints.
Every passenger was interviewed at length about their travel history and possible symptoms.
Then each of us was taken into a medical screening room for the COVID-19 test.
This was uncomfortable, a swab at the back of the throat, then at the back of the nose, enough to make the eyes water.
It was an extraordinary operation, late on a Friday night, and a stark contrast to European cities where people are allowed off flights with perhaps a temperature check at best.
That is what an authoritarian state with deep pockets can achieve.
But it was also remarkably efficient and even considerate – two words I never thought I would use to describe Chinese bureaucracy, or Chinese airports for that matter.
We made it through immigration about two hours after we landed, and only four hours before the ban came into effect.
We were in China but we would not be going to Beijing. A new policy.
We were driven in buses to a local hotel in Dalian requisitioned by the government, flanked by hazmat suits at every point, and checked into tired rooms where we will spend the next 14 days.
Everyone pays for their stay, 340 RMB (about £40) per night.
It includes meals, which are delivered three times a day, left outside the door; if you are quick you can see the hazmat suit that delivered the food scurry off to a safe distance.
Twice a day the phone rings and they ask to take our temperature – thermometers are provided.
Our COVID-19 tests came back negative. We will have another in 10 days’ time.
Inaction and cover-up marred China’s response to the outbreak inside its borders.
Now the virus is a foreign menace, they will go to every length to keep it at bay.