How is life like in China in the time of Coronavirus? How have the Chinese people been going about their everyday lives? What can we learn from the country which has already gone through it, as the coronavirus numbers increase in India?
The novel coronavirus emerged in China in the month of December and has now spread to 76 countries, infecting more than 95,000 people worldwide and causing 3286 deaths so far. China, especially its Hubei province has been the worst hit region. Two Chinese nationals talk to us about their time living through the Coronavirus: John, a banker working in the city of Hangzhou, and Sunny, a new mother living on the outskirts of Hangzhou (The English names of the Chinese nationals have been used).
For how long did you have to stay at home and couldn’t go out?
Sunny: For our residences in the city, we actually could go outside and roam freely as the epidemic went on. But the government and the medical community highly recommended that we should stay at home during the time. The news of the Coronavirus anyway happened to come out during our Spring festival, when we go and visit our family and relatives; so instead most people stayed home. In the most serious days, roads that link cities were closed in order to lower the risk of transferring the infection between cities. As I recall, this began from the 23rd of January, when people started to know about the seriousness of Coronavirus and we started to lock ourselves at home. Some people are still staying home while companies gradually start to reopen since the situation is getting better and better.
John: It depended on which city you are living in and the rules that were made for that particular community. The local governments of different cities appealed to people to stay at home because they don’t have the right to ban people’s activities. However, each community in a city may make their own rules- for example whether they want to allow people from other communities to get in, or that each family was allowed to send one member out every two days to buy food. The community gives a resident pass to manage the people who are going in or out. I was at home the entire Spring festival, the whole of January, and didn’t go out at all.
What were the conditions in your city? Was it totally empty?
Sunny: I live close to Hangzhou and it was quite empty during the most serious days. I could see some cars and people on the road, but it was very little compared to the normal days. Our temperature had to be taken for going in and out of every place, including our own home- there were some security guards stationed in front of the entrance gate of my community, holding the forehead thermometer.
John: In Hangzhou where I live, now we don’t have any new cases in the city, but people are still trying to limit activities that brings them outside. Businesses have reopened since March, but everyone who is outside wears a face mask. If you don’t wear a mask, no one wants to talk to you or provide you any service.
How else was daily life disrupted for you?
Sunny: For me it was fine actually because I had to just stay at home. We did feel bored at times, but all in all, we were fine staying inside as long as we were safe. For businesses that should have opened but could not, they would have lost a lot of money and important time.
John: Most companies in China allow their staff to work from home, so for staff like this, it was still okay, including me. But for businesses like restaurants, it was a big problem.
How often could you go out to buy groceries and important stuff? How was the experience like for you?
Sunny: In the most serious days (for a week, I think), some communities allowed residents to go out once in two days (and only one member from each family). But not all communities did that- my community didn’t do that, for example. Later, most communities and public places asked for a ‘Health QR Code’, which was automatically generated by AliPay, using big data. If the code shows green, it indicates that I am from a safe area and haven’t been in contact with suspicious people. It was very convenient as all you need to do is show them your smartphone with the code in the Alipay app.
Were people in panic? Did you have fake news/rumours circulating?
Sunny: Yes certainly, people were in panic for a long while. Everyday we would hear the news of the number of people that are infected, cured and under observation. And the shortage of masks was also a big issue. News about the shortage of masks came out and even the biggest hospital in Wuhan was apparently short of masks. There were all kinds of fake news and rumours going around, but later, as the news started to have a section that reported and verified the fake news. Even under these bad circumstances, we had to take care of these human made problems, as if the natural ones weren’t enough.
John: At the beginning we had a lot of fake news. Tencent news company provided a platform where people can search the news and see whether its true or fake. I don’t think people were in that much panic, because a lot of information was given out about it, and people knew how to take care of it.
What do you suggest for India as we have some fresh cases of the Coronavirus? What is some advice you can give?
Sunny: I think staying at home really works, because it blocks your contact with people in the best way. You should clean your hands thoroughly after coming back from outside. And if you think you are infected, call the hospital for professional advice before going to the hospital as the hospital is actually a very dangerous place and can cause cross-infections.
John: Wash your hands when you go home, and don’t let your hands touch your mouth, nose or eyes before you wash them.