CORONAVIRUS: OUR UPDATE FROM THE EAST
With the Coronavirus outbreak spreading to Europe, NDM Founding Director Glan Clayton sends us his update from China.
Still ongoing but, as far as I can tell, I am still alive.
The situation nationally is that the total lockdown of Wuhan City and Hubei province continues. I feel so sorry for the people who are stuck in Wuhan, all 11 million of them, as they are confined to their apartments and have been for two months now (some of these flats won’t be very big either).
Only one person is allowed out every 3 days to buy food and in some parts food is delivered as they are not allowed out at all. There are other pockets of quarantine throughout the country, including Zhejiang province, where I live, and Guangzhou province down South, plus some other pockets too.
THE ‘DIVORCE VIRUS?’
Incidentally, they are calling the virus the “divorce virus” because the intensive living together is causing lots of family arguments. Several couples have already vowed to split up and one couple we know have already decided to divorce.
Nationally things seem to be improving lately with infections and deaths both tailing off. President Xi has vowed that China will not stop until the virus has been completely beaten so I guess people in Wuhan have at least another month, maybe two, to go. The authorities say they have developed a three-minute test for the virus which, if true, will help a lot as many infected people do not show any symptoms. When SARS was rife everyone who got it immediately developed a fever but only one in five carriers of this virus get a temperature and then only a few days after being infected. The authorities claim they are testing a vaccine on animals now and expect to have it ready by April. This seems unrealistically quick to me?
CONTINUED NATIONAL DISRUPTION
A lot of factories are slowly coming back to work but travel restrictions mean that most migrant workers can’t get back yet. It is estimated nationally that China is operating between 60-80% capacity but I doubt that as well. Many roads are blocked and train journeys not allowed from certain areas so we are some way off normality. The government has prioritized transport of goods and the production of food stuffs so we will not starve.
Locally, our area, known as “Rome City”, along with all other similar gated communities, has been sealed off since the start of the month. There are about 2,000 people in our place and, whilst you could get out you had to have your temperature checked and wear a face mask. You could only get back in with a pink slip you got on the way out, so no visitors allowed. There was only one exit, which was 500 yards from our building, so it was a right pain. I hate wearing a mask as well. Nothing is open apart from supermarkets and pharmacies so, apart from the weekly shop, there’s nothing to go out for anyway!
The Impact on My Family
We have a treadmill at home so I could get my exercise here but it’s not the same as walking in the fresh air. I didn’t want to go out on my own in case the temperature machine showed I was over the limit and I finished up in a Chinese hospital – not the place you want to be when there is a virus about!
My son has had to stay at home, all schools closed, but is doing online classes each day with his teachers and still gets (to his intense disgust) lots of homework. There is some talk about them going back to school in March but this is still undecided yet.
Having made it back from Las Vegas on the last United Airlines flight before they shut down the route, my wife had to self-quarantine for 14 days, so she was allowed out on 17th February. On that date most of the staff at our factory were allowed back to work but we maybe only had 50% of the workforce. Getting raw materials is very difficult and delivery of our products is also very difficult.
Things have got a tad easier in the last few days though. They have re-opened our usual exit and are not testing for temperature so I have managed a morning walk for the last few days. Still need a mask when there are people about but out in the fresh air you can take it off. The factory is maybe up to 70% workforce now.
Everything in our city is still closed but, if the improvement in numbers of cases continues, I am hopeful they will allow shops and restaurants to open very soon. My wife thinks that if they do then restaurant owners have a responsibility to check where their customers have been over the last month and report to the authorities. This is not quite as onerous as it seems as all citizens have a smartphone app that tracks their whereabouts and allows them to purchase tickets (or not, as the case may be). It has a barcode which, if green, can be shown at checkpoints, stations, airports etc. If it is red you can’t get through.
So, hopefully, these measures will get things under control. We seem to have exported the virus to several countries, in particular South Korea and Italy, where there are big outbreaks. I have a horrible feeling we might get it back again from Korea but we shall see. The Italians won’t be able to cope so maybe all of Europe will be affected?
I still say that with a death rate of 2% against normal flu 1%, no child deaths and most deaths with the over 80’s and those who already have medical conditions, it may have been better just to treat the sick and let everyone get on with their lives. The virus will peak (maybe it already has in China) and then fade. I am prepared to take that chance and I am missing my favourite restaurants! No massage either as the girls can’t get back and are not allowed to open yet.
My fingers are crossed.