In the end of December 2019, as everyone else, I heard about the unknown viral pneumonia in Wuhan from the news. But I also heard rumors that the virus is quite similar to SARS. I shrugged it off since Wuhan was too far away from my city, Beijing, to impact my personal life, until Jan 20, 2020, when the central government and the mainstream media started to warn the danger of the virus – later named as SARS-CoV-2. Suddenly I started feeling the epidemic was real.
It was my last working day before the Chinese New Year. I planned a family vacation to Malaysia on Jan 21 and was full of joy. While packing for the trip, I dug out some face masks from the closet and asked all my family members to wear them when heading out. On the way to the airport, I bought a couple of hand sanitizers. Those were all my personal protection for the coming epidemic.
Shutdown of Wuhan and panic purchase of face masks nationwide
To some extent, I felt very lucky to fly away from China at the first week of the epidemic. My family and I didn’t need to experience the anxiety and panic over the terrible situation: the shut-down of Wuhan, panic purchase of face masks nationwide, and strict quarantines everywhere in China. Many of my fellow citizens, haunted by the rising death toll and COVID-19 cases, couldn’t stop worrying about the virus.
While in Malaysia, we kept a close eye on the epidemic in China and started to hunt for face masks in every drugstore we passed by. Thanks for the strong demand, almost all face masks have been bought up by Chinese visitors or by ethnic Chinese residents in Malaysia. Luckily, I purchased some face masks in a small drugstore in Sabah, which comforted me a lot on my returning trip.
At the same time, my friends and neighbors in Beijing stayed at home voluntarily. They did all grocery shopping on their cell phones and read every piece of news or hearsay about the epidemic, experiencing the quietest Chinese New Year in the modern history.
When we arrived in Beijing airport in the early hours of Jan 28, I first saw the “alien-like” staff fully equipped with protective gowns, goggles and face masks. All taxi drivers were wearing face masks. The gatekeeper of our community checked everyone’s body temperature before allowing them to enter.
Beijing: a new routine of life
Beijing was in a half-shutdown status. Residents were getting used to the new routine of life. Traffic jam disappeared; all shops and restaurants were closed except grocery and drugstores; each community only allowed in residents.
I was pretty worried initially, especially about groceries and transportation in Beijing. Luckily I was much relieved the next day, when I could still drive around the city, shop in the grocery stores full of supplies, and order food delivery when we are tired of cooking. I decided to embrace the self-quarantine actively.
The life in my family is anything but boring. The quarantine measures made my husband and I spend more time with our 7-year-old daughter, as we no longer have to work in the office late at night or take business trips. I started cooking, reading and playing games with my daughter. We all enjoyed the precious family time.
The quiet life gradually calmed me down. Since the coronavirus is a common challenge to the whole country and to the whole world, since China adopted the most aggressive strategy to contain the virus outbreak, what I can do myself is to be optimistic, and to follow the health guideline to keep myself and my family safe and healthy.
Let’s try to see the positive side
If you are in an optimistic mood, you could easily spot the positive side. While the epidemic disrupted our normal life, it is bringing us new opportunities. For instance, Chinese are paying more attention to bio-security and enforcing laws against the illegal trade of wild animals. The epidemic forces us to take more activities online, benefiting the environment. My daughter is taking classes online. More and more marketing events are organized through “cloud”. As people couldn’t go out, they crave to read and watch good content. More and more companies take content marketing as one of their strategic approaches. At the special timing, EuroEyes has been offering tons of good stories on public health and spread them widely through social media channels.
Covid-19 has become a pandemic in the whole world. But even a tragic event has a silver lining. So I choose to see the hopeful side. China’s efforts against the virus are bearing fruits. Most cities have essentially won the battle, with no new domestic cases. In contrast, the epidemic outside China just started.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy against COVID-19. Different nations choose different strategies, from “aggressive containment” to “herd immunity”, based on their own social, economic and cultural background. Although my life in China is only slowly back to normal, I am happy to see that spring is coming, with hope.