A Covid Conversation: stuck in China during the outbreak

A Covid Conversation: stuck in China during the outbreak

    Dear you,

    This is a departure from my normal wacky self, but I feel I need to share this with you. A few months ago I had a conversation with a colleague and friend, Sara, who had recently returned from China. The first thing she said was how glad she was to be able to walk down the street freely. She’s a healthcare professional herself and had self-quarantined before venturing back into the public.  

    Back then, this virus was isolated to the PRC and was the butt of many jokes here in the Western hemisphere. I’m always up for a good laugh, but it was easy to tell that these jokes were made out of fear and lack of concrete knowledge. 

    Over coffee, Sara told me what it was like during her time in China. It was supposed to be a holiday centered around the Spring Festival, possibly their biggest national holiday of the year. It was supposed to be fun, friends, family, road trips and loads of good food. Let’s just say her holiday quickly turned into TOTAL lockdown. She was stuck with family for most of her trip (and I’m sure that many of us can relate).

    Luckily, she was nowhere near Wuhan city, the place that SARS Covid-19 is reported to have begun. She told me of the strict measures taken to prevent the spread. These measures came too late, but when they came, oooiee!, they were strict AF! Noone was allowed outside, and if you did venture out, there were police stationed at all the exits to every community. You had to declare your purpose for leaving and were granted permission only for essential reasons.

    Country-wide, those who were sick were quarantined. Everyone had to wear masks. 

    Side note: Masks are not just for people who are visibly ill. The sick people should be inside, so those outside are supposed to be healthy, right? But you never know who could be a carrier (a host for the virus who doesn't show symptoms). When everyone wears a mask at least they are preventing their own germs from escaping. 

    Also among the safety measures were the standard: wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, stay a safe distance from others, stay home as much as possible, etc, and hefty penalties for breaking any rules. Sara told me that these rules were quickly and continually dispersed to the population on all media. 

    She also said that each city in the Hubei Province (where Wuhan is located) was paired with a partner province in China. This way, the partner provinces could provide aid to ailing cities in a more focused and efficient way. 

    We all know that China is way ahead in terms of technology adoption. That means that way more people there use mobile technologies like smartphones and iPads. As such, the online market is huge and they have a gazillion services accessible over the internet. Delivery services skyrocketed. Food orders were left on the doorstep and the receipt showed the internal body temperature of the cook and delivery person. I mean, that is some next level ish right there.

    The tv networks came up with special programming to make sure that the families stuck at home would have loads of shows to watch. Some movies that were supposed to show in the cinemas were released online. That saved me, she said with a smile of relief. She never intended to spend 100% of her time home with family, but they made the most of it and grew even closer. In spite of the huge financial and psychological  toll, they knew they were lucky and were glad to be healthy.

    If only the government had listened to the health professionals earlier, she said. If only the safety measures were put in place before the Spring Festival, the biggest party in the country where billions travel to spend time with family and friends. If only they had prepared for a wide scale outbreak. If only.

    Ironically, we here on the other side of the world, we watched China struggle so we knew better. And still we let the sh*t hit the fan? Pardon my French, but FML. Now this virus is officially a pandemic. It’s pretty much global lockdown and nobody is laughing anymore.

    I really hope this allows us to value the things that really matter, like health, happiness, good relationships and the beautiful simplicity of life. More than that, I hope there is a global change in perspective so that governments and institutions value people over money. I’ve seen such selfless kindness and generosity in the face of this crisis...like companies donating to health services, or neighbors picking up groceries for each other, a small note of encouragement slipped under the door of the old man who lives alone. No act of kindness is small, even a tiny gesture can mean the world to someone.

    We are in this together, homies.

    Much love and stay safe   


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