Life in China during the coronavirus

If you’re living in China, thinking about living in China, or in the process of putting together your visa documents, by now your mother has asked you if you are still really going to live there.  Everyone’s watching the news and it ranges from mundane to apocalyptic.  What is really happening?  I asked Shane Goulding to tell us what the day to day looked like in Shanghai, and what the process of getting back there after a vacation in Australia.  Here’s what he had to say:

“I have been living in China now for almost nine years and most of that time has been here in Shanghai. In recent years, for most of the longer holidays, I have travelled abroad. This Chinese New Year was no different.

I left to go back to Australia on January 25, the day after Chinese New Year started. The situation with the coronavirus started to become a little more severe when I was away. However, I still, like most people, watched the news carefully and saw the figures for the number infected and dead rise. I was more focused on just spending time with family and having a good time than what was happening in China.

I was due to return on February 6 and did not give it a lot of thought. Whenever I was asked if I was really going back to China, I just responded that I would make a decision on February 5 and then go from there. Shanghai is after all where I live, and I had two dogs and a cat to take care of.  I also spoke regularly to people in Shanghai and things did not seem so bad. Then, on February 5, after one last minute run to the supermarket I decided to just come back to Shanghai. I stocked up on antibacterial soap, wipes, surface spray, hand sanitizer and all the surgical masks I could find as I heard all these were almost impossible to find in China. I also bought vitamin C and immune booster pills. Then, early on February 6, I went to the airport and checked-in for my flight and after 10 hours and 30 minutes in the air, I was again in Shanghai.

The airport in Shanghai was a little confronting. Someone boarded to announce extra measures were in place. After departing the plane, people in full body biohazard suits were handing out health declaration forms before immigration. There was almost no line at immigration, and my luggage was already circling on the belt by the time I got there. There was no need for a final bag check before departing out into the arrival hall either so time wise, it was the quickest I had ever gotten out of the airport. There was another temperature check before entering the taxi stand but there was no line so it was straight into a taxi for me. Amazing! I was off the plane and in a taxi 15 minutes later. That never happens.

Once I arrived at my housing complex, there was another temperature check and I had to complete a form with my personal details and travel history including flight number. The security guards where very friendly and commented on my luggage and nice surgical mask and then I was inside the complex. I had to go through the same process when entering my building and told I was not allowed to leave the complex for seven days. There was a big sign listing the worst affected areas stating there was a 14-day quarantine period and seven days for all other areas. After completing the seven days, I received a card that now allows me to leave and re-enter my housing complex. I celebrated by going to the supermarket on the other side of the street. Before that, I was limited to getting delivery, which, I do most days so it was not that bad. Just a little inconvenient. However, as most cafes, restaurants, malls, gyms etc. were still closed, there really was nowhere to go anyway. So, as tough as it was, I was forced to catch up on some reading and TV, get my wine delivered and work from my dining room table instead of the office.

Now though, things are slowly getting back to normal. The basketball and tennis courts and exercise areas in my complex were closed off but now they are open again. The convenience store which had restricted hours from 6am – 10pm is now open 24 hours again. Slowly, things are getting back to normal. I went to the office twice this last week. The second time, a few more restaurants had opened along the street to the office.

Being here in China at this time has been an experience. To see whole streets of shops, restaurants and café’s closed and streets almost deserted was a little eerie at first. However, I quickly moved to appreciate everybody’s efforts to follow the strict rules and stay at home in efforts to quickly eradicate the virus. Luckily, with things being so convenient in China like food delivery, courier services, any impact somewhere like Shanghai has not been so bad. So, after a little inconvenience, people are steadily going back out to enjoy the beautiful blue early spring.”