As most people know I arrived in China at the beginning of January, ready to spend a year teaching English, travelling, eating lots of noodles and soaking up Chinese culture. Cut to one month later and it isn’t exactly going as planned.
What was supposed to be a week’s joyous holiday for Chinese New Year quickly became living hell for the people of Hubei Province. Within a few days, the numbers of infected and dead were rising and the city of Wuhan was placed on lockdown, which it still is almost two weeks later. The city is struggling mainly due to the lack of hospital beds and not enough doctors and nurses to deal with the sick, and in response to this the government commissioned two new hospitals be built in Wuhan. They were built in just 10 days, and the whole country was able to watch a live stream of drone footage during the construction process.
Luckily I am in Guangdong Province, much further south, where healthcare is far better and there are more than enough hospital staff to attend to the sick. The medical facilities here and elsewhere in China are apparently much better equipped to 1. Cure those who are already infected, and 2. Prevent further spread of the virus.
Keeping up with the news back home in the UK is the scary part. I’ve been inundated with messages asking if I’ve seen headlines about the ‘pandemic’ and if I will be returning home immediately to be quarantined and, by the sounds of it, be brutally disinfected like that poor monster with a sock on its back in Monsters Inc.
Of course I don’t speak for everyone else here and I’m no expert in medicine or governmental affairs, but in my opinion the worldwide media has been over exaggerating the severity of the situation and basically just fear mongering.
I am not scared of catching the coronavirus, as I am a healthy and sensible human being. The demographic of those who have died have largely been elderly citizens or those with pre-existing medical (specifically respiratory) conditions. The advice given to prevent catching the illness is to wear a mask in public places, eat healthily and wash your hands often. Besides the mask advice, this seems pretty common sense to leading a healthy and clean lifestyle anyway. For people reminding me to wash my hands after I’ve been to the toilet and not lick my fingers after shaking someone’s hand, what kind of animal do you think I am?!
That’s not to say I’m going about business as usual and ignoring what’s going on around me. It would be hard to – there have been days when the supermarket shelves are empty, and most restaurants, shops and tourist spots (even some parks) are closed, so the streets feel very empty and I have little choice but to sit in my apartment all day. It is still worrying and of course I’m heartbroken that people are suffering and dying. But mostly I’m just bored out of my mind.
I also read an article the other day which really helped put my mind at rest. It explained a few statistics relating to the coronavirus, as well as a few other similar flu-like viruses that have been around in recent years (eg. SARS and swine flu). With the coronavirus, only 0.000018% of the Chinese population has been affected in some way.
The most surprising statistic is that the regular, every day kind of flu that anyone can catch back in the UK or anywhere else in the developed world, killed 40,000 Americans in 2019, and 80,000 the year before. That is a huge number but no one ever mentions it, because it is just. The. Flu.
Work-wise, my job has been great about the situation and has been keeping us all updated every day, and has even provided masks and online training in an attempt to keep us safe, focused and busy. Some teachers have gone to neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam and made a holiday out of it – something I wish I was able to do but unfortunately can’t as my visa has not been fully processed yet and I can’t leave the country (or rather, if I leave I can’t come back. Very tempting but I’m powering through).
I’m not really sure there’s much else I can say on the matter. As I said before, I’m no expert, I’m just trying my best to keep up to date with all of the information being released by the Chinese government each day and hoping this doesn’t turn into a zombie apocalypse movie (although if Brad Pitt shows up I’m game).
Please rest assured that I’m okay and staying safe and healthy. Thanks to anyone who has reached out and don’t hesitate to DM me on Instagram or comment below if you have any questions!