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Life under Beijing’s Coronavirus lockdown

12 Mar, 2020

It’s now been over six weeks since the coronavirus epidemic spread nationwide and emergency measures were implemented around China. The capital hasn’t been as hard hit as some other regions, especially Hubei province, racking up just over 400 cases so far, three-quarters of whom have recovered so far.

"When we enter a building, be it local shop, an office block or a mall, we roll our sleeves up right away to get our temperature taken and jot down our names and phone numbers."

Living in Beijing at this unusual time, one of the most unusual things is how quickly we’ve all adapted to our new routines. Leaving the house, we check if we’ve got our keys, phones, face masks and our other “keys,” the recently issued paper passes that many neighborhoods now require their residents to carry to enter. When we enter a building, be it local shop, an office block or a mall, we roll our sleeves up right away to get our temperature taken and jot down our names and phone numbers. We squirt ourselves with hand sanitizer a few times on every errand, and wash our hands thoroughly every time we return home.

We put off social occasions not only because meeting others carries a certain risk, but because plenty of people who have been returning to the city in recent weeks are still under a mandatory 2-week home quarantine, unable to leave their communities.

But despite all these extraordinary measures, and the gigantic economic disruption they’ve caused, most people in the city are just getting on with it and waiting for the all-clear.

"But despite all these extraordinary measures, and the gigantic economic disruption they’ve caused, most people in the city are just getting on with it and waiting for the all-clear."

One thing that’s been very striking is how little panic there seems to have been in Beijing, which has been a huge relief – panic can be as dangerous as the crisis that causes it after all. Apart from masks and disinfectant, early on in the outbreak, there hasn’t been a widespread rush to empty shelves of cooking oil, toilet paper or fresh veg. Though I wonder if that might not have simply been about the fact that many people just get their daily supplies from e-commerce sites, who then spaced out the deliveries to avoid a supply crunch.

Indeed, in a society in which shopping has already been extremely online for quite a few years now, more and more things are being done on the computer as people avoid meeting. Millions of more people have meeting colleagues, having dinner parties and even attending concerts online.

As so much is closed, or has been tightly regulated to the point of boredom for our safety, we’ve all had plenty of time to stew at home and get into the hobbies that normally get pushed to the side. Our house has been the site of culinary experiments ranging from endless rounds of Welsh cakes, to super spicy Sichuanese chicken and rich fish stews.

Hopefully the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic won’t be as bad back in Wales. Take common sense precautions, don’t panic, and get used to being at home for a little while longer.

"Hopefully the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic won’t be as bad back in Wales. Take common sense precautions, don’t panic, and get used to being at home for a little while longer."

Josh, originally from Port Talbot, is a journalist who has been living and working in Beijing for over 6 years.

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