Brit teacher hosts ‘coronavirus-themed’ dinner date in lockdown sparking debate

A teacher's coronavirus-themed dinner date after she was quarantined in China has attracted a mixture of scorn and praise.

Max Hemingway, from Dartford, Kent, and his wife Loraine drank Corona beer, dined on coronation chicken, played the board game Pandemic and watched Contagion to help stem their creeping cabin fever.

The married English teachers, both 27, and their 10-month-old golden retriever Jojo have lived under lockdown since the health crisis spread from its Wuhan epicentre to their far eastern city of Weihai in January.

About three weeks ago, Loraine claims authorities placed barriers around their neighbourhood and stationed clipboard-clutching guards at the gates to monitor traffic in and out of the community.

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Their building manager handed out special passes that residents have to present every time they want to leave the barricade, and only one person per apartment can leave at a time.

Even if they were allowed to go out together, Max claims it would be pointless as all the bars, restaurants and malls are closed.

So the couple decided to have a romantic night in 'Coronavirus-style'.

Their selfies of the event went viral, amassing over 90,000 likes on Reddit with many viewing the stunt as 'hilarious'.

The feedback wasn't all positive however, as many accused the couple of not taking the situation seriously and branded their joke 'tasteless'.

Not everyone thought it was appropriate to make jokes about the virus, which has killed more than 2,700 worldwide so far.

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One commenter said: "People out here dying of [this] disease and these guys [are] making a night of it."

Another added: "This isn't funny. People are dying left and right over there from that disease on both ends patients and doctors. Please grow the f*** up."

But others were quick to defend the couple's use of humour to deal with the distressing situation.

One supporter said: "These people are in far more danger of contracting the disease than you are, yet you're telling them how they should be coping with it. Dumb AF."

Another added: "Get over yourselves. Sometimes the only way to get through a terrifying situation is to find the comedy in it. Did you miss the part where they said that they're currently living in China?

"These two are at significantly greater risk of getting infected by coronavirus than 99.99% of the commenters here."

Max, from Dartford, Kent, explained why they posted the photos.

"We were trying to laugh at the virus," he said.

"Not at the people who are suffering, but at the circumstance we find ourselves in."

Loraine, who comes from California, said: "At the end of the day they don't know the situation.

"They're commenting from afar. From a place of luxury I think at this point.

"They don't know what it feels like to be cooped up at home, to have that fear if you go out or come into contact with something [that could be] contaminated.

"I think we know how much we have contributed, to help out in this situation that we're in. I think if anyone has a comment to say against it then that's their opinion.

"We took the picture for ourselves.

"They saw a snapshot but they don't know anything else. They don't know what we've done, how we feel."

Everyone in the community they live in is required to wear a mask and their temperatures are checked every time they go to the supermarket.

The couple has tried to make a positive contribution in their province of Shandong, which the World Health Organisation said had 506 confirmed cases as of February 13.

Over the past few weeks they've solicited donations for medical supplies from the UK and America and volunteered with the Weihai Health Bureau designing awareness posters and doing translation work.

Recently, they tried to visit a friend's apartment but were turned away by security.

Even the self-described 'homebodies' have had enough of what they described as the 'love lockdown'.

Loraine said: "For us coronavirus is an hourly thought.

"Especially because of [our dog] Jojo. We take him out for walks, and every time we go outside we think, OK, be careful of what we touch.

"[We] don't even touch the elevator button. So it's constantly in the back of our head how to stay safe, how to protect each other.

"I'm just very grateful to be in this situation with someone I love."

Max and Loraine's whirlwind international romance began just before Christmas in 2016 when they hit it off at a party aimed at foreigners in Weihai.

Nine months later they were married.

Loraine said she did seriously consider leaving China when Coronavirus first hit.

The couple had been visiting her family in the Philippine, and Max flew back a week early to take care of the dog.

It was Jojo, Loraine said, who ultimately convinced them to stay.

Without the option of a direct flight to the UK or US, it would be extremely difficult to leave with their beloved pup, who is also looking forward to the barricades coming down.

Loraine said: "I'd love to take Jojo on a walk along the beach. His normal routes.

"We've been trapped in the confines of the apartment complex and I miss the sea.

"[But] this is where [Max and I] met and this city is where we fell in love.

"China is everything about our whole marriage. We've lived our whole married life here, we've had all of our milestones here."

"We love it here. We love our city."

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