by Cathal Kelly
The son of Peter and Margaret Kelly from Brackernagh, Cathal moved to Wuxi China in November 2017 to teach. Having submitted an article in our March edition detailing his experiences in the first country to go into complete lockdown, he updates us with his present situation.
Wuxi came out of lockdown in March and thankfully no new cases arose in my city since then. Locals here and across China took the lockdown extremely seriously during the entire month of February. Practically zero movement and deserted streets curtailed the spread.
It’s worth noting that the people took this policy upon themselves. No police or army stood present on the streets at any time to enforce shutdown. Communities simply regulated themselves as people only journeyed out in small numbers for essentials before returning directly home. I only had one minor incident when a local resident unaware I lived in the community prohibited me from entering the complex. The episode was all very cordial and light and once a security guard recognized me, he instructed the person to let me enter.
During that time I had my friends here but we could only communicate online and as I live alone, the feeling of confinement created a sense of isolation. Working from home is also not for me and I found this period extremely frustrating. However I was fortunate that my company EF moved all teachers on line and we still received a full wage. I heard confirmed stories of other training centers slashing teachers wages by over sixty percent.
In hindsight I can say that from chatting with home and reading world news, the general feeling in February appeared to be that this was just a Chinese problem for China.
March arrived and slowly businesses reopened with restricted hours or numbers of patrons allowed to enter. China is a high tech country where your mobile phone is used for everything from hopping on a bus, paying for goods, utilities or settling your restaurant bill.
A special QR code was issued whereby once you registered this would give you a “green light” to allow you to move within the city. All businesses required you to sign your name, provide your phone number, take a temperature check and scan your code. The logic been that should a case emerge, authorities could quickly localize the area, contact those who were present in an effort to limit any further spread.
This approach seems highly effective. China enjoyed a 56 day clean run however on October 12th a case emerged in Qingdao north east of China resulting in a total number of 19 patients with thankfully no fatalities. Due to the swift action, as of November 12th the number of cases has dropped back to zero. Beijing and Shanghai have also detected the virus and acted accordingly. Ironically the majority of new cases are brought in from people returning to China, so essentially, the virus is doing the rounds!
In mid-March our centre reopened much to my relief. Class sizes were restricted and only the larger rooms utilized. Social distancing was observed as best as possible and people wore masks. Thankfully now in November the centre is one hundred percent back to normal.
In June, I travelled to Shanghai with some friends for a small Fleadh Cheoil . Travelling through the train station was the equivalent of a science fiction movie scene. Hoards of workers in white overalls with temperature machines placed to scan your body which showed up on a large TV screen followed by temperature check upon temperature check. Thankfully our group passed through easily and I was delighted that my local friends enjoyed the music as they had never heard Irish music before. However I’ve decided to stay put for the winter. It’s too much hassle to move between cities. Some hotels have even refused to accept foreign guests, even foreigners who have not left China during the last year.
My friends are very much aware that there exists to an extent a global resentment towards China and how the officials in Wuhan originally mismanaged the situation. In reality all people and businesses here also suffered greatly. However having experienced a full and proper lockdown, I can only conclude that, a full lockdown works, social distancing and wearing the mask curtails the spread. I live in a city with over six million people all compacted together and we’ve had zero cases for months now.
Christmas is coming and it’s difficult not knowing when I can return home. Although I mostly only hang out in Chinese bars or with my Chinese friends, I do know quite a lot of ex-pats too. At Christmas The Red Lion bar ran by an Australian man Stewart and his son Les invite all their best customers for a Christmas dinner and they put on quite a spread. Definitely something to look forward too.
I also adopted a dog, I renamed him Fintan, from a local shelter (that’s a whole other story) who has now completely taken over my apartment but it’s great to have his company as the winter sets in.
I truly hope that everyone at home has a Happy Christmas with their families and friends. Here’s to 2021!
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