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What We Talk about When We Talk About the Coronavirus
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Author:  Lamma-Gung [ Sun Feb 23, 2020 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  What We Talk about When We Talk About the Coronavirus

Pak Kok Village resident David Xu has just released himself from a strict self-imposed 14-day quarantine since returning to Lamma Island after the CNY holidays. He tells his story here:

"What We Talk about When We Talk About the Coronavirus

by David Xu, (edited by L-G)

Wars and disasters make people think like philosophers because they start rethinking the eternity of things that all beings will face in the end: Death.

This year's Spring Festival holidays should have been the most special and unforgettable one of my life, similar to the SARS Corona virus period in 2003. I was working hard on my National Universities Entrance Examination, a life-changing opportunity for every young person in China. The peroxide smell, pictures of people who were wearing full medical protective suits and masks, and the many doctors and nurses who were sacrificed to the fight are the three things left clearly in my memory about that virus war. We didn't feel any fear during SARS, living in a small town in China, we all believed SARS could only happen far away from us in big cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, or even the US. I checked back on the 2003 statistics of the SARS epidemic - my hometown province had zero infections. For the Covid-19 outbreak, so far there are 360 proved infections, 8 confirmed deaths (by Feb 11th, 12:51 pm, from Chinese Real-Time Dynamic NCP Report), and even two infected cases in my small hometown.

I had booked my flight back to Beijing quite early for the Spring Festival this year, the most important time for all Chinese people all over the world. Known as the world’s biggest migration, 2020 was expected to have over 3 billion journeys made during CNY time.
I started to notice news of the Wuhan Coronavirus from around January 12th, although reports indicated some localized infections in Hubei province. But it generally indicated that there was no need to panic since the scientists were still researching it. Lots of people seemed to think it would probably end up being similar to other newly found viruses like bird flu - which always sounded serious, but never seemed to cause any big epidemic issues, and once again it was far away from us.

I arrived back in Beijing on the evening of Jan 16th, and except for a bit of air pollution nothing felt any different. Life before the CNY celebrations commenced as normal with family gatherings, hanging out with friends, visiting places that had always been planned, some work meetings with clients. All normal until the date of Jan 20th when the chief member of the Central Medical Experts Group announced that the infection of the new virus was proven to be between person to person through airborne or droplet transmission.

The same day Beijing announced two confirmed infections, and Shenzhen one. All 30 mainland provinces then started a daily epidemic reporting system about the virus, and a Real-Time Dynamic Coronavirus monitoring on-line, too. People were then able to closely monitor the live up-to-date suspected, infected, recovery, death cases of each province/country via their phones or check via social media like WeChat any time. I got a feeling then that this might soon become another virus war, like SARS, especially as it was happening during the biggest migration in the country, and this might be not an easy fight.

I started to ask my parents to be more alert to the risks, to wear a face mask, prepare some sanitisers like medical use alcohol, wash hands more carefully and for longer, and to go out less, especially to public places. At the same time, I started to rethink the holidays' plan, as I only had a one-way ticket to Beijing, so that I may stay a bit longer time with my family and have a long relaxing stay in the capital.

January 24th is Chinese New Year Eve, and following the tradition in mainland China, people celebrate from the morning of that day, with families gathering as from 8am until the early hours of the next day, the first date of the Lunar New Year. People celebrate with drinking, cooking, playing Mahjong, having several meals together throughout the day and night. All the family gathering planning is made several months beforehand with relatives who are living in Beijing, or from my hometown province, joining together at my parents' place. For our family this would be 16-18 people of four generations. Since we have a big family, and my one nephew and niece each got a new baby born last year, I have became a ‘grandpa’ in my 30s, LOL.

Having confirmed that nobody had been to Wuhan or was suffering with a flu recently, the family gathering was on as planned. Although a little unusual from tradition, we asked everyone to wash their hand as the first thing they did after arriving at my parents' house but, we didn’t require them to wear a mask that day, LOL.

As news of the virus and infections in the country spread, we canceled most of the visiting and gatherings that we had planned for after the CNY Eve. I suggested to my parents that this year should be a very quiet holiday, so as to lower the chance of possibly getting infected. I saw on social media that lots of my friends were complaining about how difficult it was to convince their parents to wear a face mask because they thought it was not that serious and necessary at all. All masks sold out all over China in the same week after people noticed the infections and death numbers were steadily increasing. I began to notice some people starting to fear for the worst.

I changed my plan, and decided to come back to Hong Kong earlier in case the border would be shut down between the mainland and the SAR, and managed to book a flight of 03:30am on January 31st. I thought I was clever to choose a flight at such an ungodly hour that fewer people would be taking it and that few people would be in the airport as well. However, I was naïve, the plane was fully booked as well as by people who would transit onward from Hong Kong.

I made the decision to prepare for a period of isolation in HK at the same time as I booked the flight ticket even though there was no official requirement released yet in HK and Beijing was not part of an epidemic area. I could not guarantee that I would not be infected with the Coronavirus during the journey and my concern was for the many kids living in and around my home on Lamma Island. I shared my thought with my parents and they fully supported my decision.
'A person should be responsible to the community he is living in', my mom often says. I shared my decision to enter a period of quarantine through the Pak Kok village WhatsApp group and received their full support too. I explained the reasons why I would do this, and how the situation in Beijing was by time I left to ease any potential concerns. People could easily become anxious in a close community; it's part of our nature and I understand it.

Two weeks isolation is not that long and boring as I had expected! I could still work from home, keep an exercise routine, read, watch films and series, re-think of those things that I had put to the back of my mind.

I got a lot of support and help from my neighbors, they brought me vegetables, fruits, and bread back from their shopping trips. Once a neighbor got some food from the market in Hong Kong Island and brought it over. I told her just to leave on the steps, but she asked
'Is it because you don't want to open the door to take it from me directly?' I told her 'If it is a quarantine let's follow the rules seriously, just in case right?' We both laughed and said good night on each side of the closed door. Our village store's owner sent over the things I listed every other night after he closed the shop. He kept saying 'No worries about having to pay, just let me know what you need, and I will try to supply everything I can get, and you can pay me altogether after this is all over.' Such a kind heart.

I strongly believe this outbreak will be gone soon, but my concern is how big a sacrifice we are we all going to make. Are we all going to learn anything from this? The virus doesn't care about your ideology, country, skin color, social status. Are we going to fight together for this outbreak as one people? What about the next virus wars?"

David was free from his 14-day self-imposed quarantine on Friday, Feb 14, just in time for Valentine's Day.

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