The hundreds of images of people in hazmat suits and videos of empty streets that have flooded the internet in recent weeks makes it almost impossible for people in other countries to know what life has really been like in China since late January. Is it really that extreme? Does it feel like a post apocalyptic wasteland without people?
While Wuhan – the unfortunate city at the center of this outbreak – has looked like something out of a movie, for many of us based in China’s major cities, things have carried on. Albeit in a very low key, mask wearing sort of way.
The streets are definitely quieter – many that traveled outside of the country over Chinese New Year have observed a 14 day quarantine just to be on the safe side, meaning they’ve avoided public (or at least semi crowded places) as much as possible, just heading out once in a while for groceries.
We’re all getting regular lessons in hand-washing (sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while you do it to make sure you’re cleaning them for long enough!) and trying extra hard to stay up to date with the most reliable local sources. The Beijinger has been fantastic for helping us stay sane, for example.
And if Instagram and WeChat Moments are anything to go by, those not in quarantine have been taking advantage of having the capital’s historic parks to themselves. Jingshan Park, the Temple of Heaven and The Summer Palace have all stayed open to those looking for a change of scene.
The thing that’s surprised and impressed us all the most? Just how respectful, optimistic and encouraging everyone in China has been. No panic buying, no yelling, no hysteria or doom mongering. Just calm resilience.
It’s been a privilege to witness. We really mean that. Now we just hope the rest of the world will follow its example.