On December 31, 2019, a pneumonia of unknown origin was reported to the World Health Organization’s Country Office in China. Over the following months, the pneumonia was identified as a coronavirus and renamed COVID-19 (or simply “the coronavirus”).
Since its arrival, COVID-19 has affected more than 125,000 people worldwide and resulted in over 4,600 deaths.
At this point, China has suffered the most from the outbreak, especially the metropolis of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei region.
Eleven million people have been quarantined in Wuhan with another 60 million quarantined in the Hubei province. Over 750 million Chinese citizens, nearly half of the country’s population, are under travel restrictions.
So, what is it like living in China during Coronavirus?
The team at Jungle Scout had the opportunity to connect with a number of Chinese citizens who are currently living and working in China during this pandemic.
Some citizens have not left their homes in 50 days or longer
“I haven’t left the house for 42 days, and I am isolated at home,” said one of the Chinese citizens we interviewed on March 4.
The man explained to us that during the Chinese New Year in late January 2020 he had visited his family in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus. Upon returning to his hometown, he was placed into quarantine and hasn’t left since.
There are similar reports of this happening to others who went into the Hubei region or came into contact with others infected by COVID-19. Sometimes citizens are being quarantined in locations away from their own homes.
“I want to go outside,” he told us.
Fortunately, his case of living in China during Coronavirus is an outlier. Others in his city are able to leave their homes, albeit with certain precautions.
“Yes, I went out every day last week,” said one respondent. “But only for throwing trash [away] or [buying] some basic food and life stuff.”
“I can go anywhere as long as I can provide a QR code on my phone,” said another Chinese citizen. “The QR code means that I’ve reported my location/transportation/health status to the government.”
A QR code (“quick-response” code) is a square-shaped barcode that can be scanned by a mobile device.
They are used for pulling up information on the internet quickly, making payments by phone, and in this case, lending tracking information to the Chinese government during the COVID-19 outbreak.
When people leave their homes, there are extreme measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus
According to one of the people we interviewed, a single pass is given to a family. This pass is used to leave one’s building, and only one person in the family can leave at a time.
Before the individual can leave the building, their temperature must be measured by a social worker to ensure that they are not running a fever, which is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
To prevent people from leaving their homes, delivery workers have become a major part of the quarantined people’s lives.
Delivery workers put themselves at risk of exposure as they deliver food and medical supplies, while their companies are having trouble keeping up with the demand.
In a single day, the province of Hubei alone receives 1,337 tons of delivered necessities.
In one case Jungle Scout learned about, a Chinese citizen was out of their home when a drone approached them and escorted them back to their home.
Chinese businesses have been, and continue to be, greatly impacted
Many of China’s businesses remained closed following the Chinese New Year holiday in late January 2020.
Everything from large manufacturers and factories to smaller stores and restaurants have been closed for as long as six weeks. This includes American businesses like Apple, Tesla, and Google.
Although a few businesses in China’s cities are starting to reopen after being closed for weeks, many workers continue to work remotely from home and extreme precautions continue:
- Security guards check temperatures at the entrances into buildings and passes are issued to those who enter.
- Everyone is required to wear a surgical mask and each business within a building must have enough surgical masks for every employee to wear at least two per day.
- Office workers are told to eat meals separately.
- Workers must sanitize their hands regularly and the buildings are disinfected once every two hours.
- Everyone must report their location with a QR code.
Travel in China during the outbreak has also become difficult.
“Commuting is hard on the subway,” one Chinese worker told us. “However, the government is educating the passengers to register via WeChat about their travelling route so that they can trace back the source.” (WeChat is China’s largest social media platform.)
But many businesses haven’t been able to survive the quarantines and required safety measures.
“Shops and companies have closed down and employees [are losing] their jobs.”
The Chinese people remain optimistic
Overall, despite living in China during Coronavirus, the Chinese people we interviewed are maintaining a positive outlook.
“Every city [is] on the highest alert to defend the [spread of the virus. This is], the worst situation that I’ve [ever] seen before. But I believe China will overcome this difficult [time].”
“From the epidemic, we [have seen] lots of impressive stories from medical workers. They’re brave, responsible and persistent, rushing to save patients from death.”
Some even believe that a few positives have come out of the outbreak.
“This epidemic pushes companies to learn how to work remotely. What’s more, teachers and students [have learned] how to use [the] Internet for their lessons since [schools will be closed] until the epidemic [ends.]”
Though COVID-19 is an official pandemic — with reported cases on the rise in Italy and Japan — China’s outbreak appears to be stabilizing. So things look like they will “go back to normal” in the near future.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese respiratory expert told reporters at a press conference in late February 2020 that the epidemic will be under control by the end of April.
“That indicates people will be able to return to their normal work and companies resume normal operations and production by the end of April,” said Zhong.