Can China Offer Us Lockdown Hope?

Crystal Reid reports from Shanghai.

China spring 2020

by Crystal Reid |
Updated on

Back in January, Crystal Reid wrote a dispatch for Grazia from Wuhan during lockdown – the very situation we now find ourselves in. Now she reports from a country that coronavirus has changed – and has some positive news for our future.

'We are healthy, we are happy, and we are humbled.’ It was with these words that an anonymous teacher in China raised the spirits of British people facing an uncertain future under lockdown. The letter, which last week circulated on social media, considers what it has been like living under lockdown for more than two months.

‘As we watch the rest of the world begin their time inside, here are some of my reflections,’ she writes. These include, ‘Accept that you have no control over the situation.’ And, ‘Appreciate this enforced downtime. When do you ever have time like this? I will miss it when we go back to the fast-paced speed of the “real world”.’

Since Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the Chinese outbreak, was forcibly quarantined on 23 January, people across the country have faced extreme limitations, with millions finding themselves confined to their homes for weeks on end, unable to go out even for groceries or to take a walk. More than 12 weeks later, China’s domestic infection rate has slowed to almost zero.

While Wuhan remains under partial lockdown, in other parts of the country normal life is slowly resuming, with people able to walk in the parks again and see the cherry blossoms officially welcome spring. And, as they slowly emerge into a brave new world, Chinese residents have some words of wisdom for Brits starting down the same unsettling road.

In Shanghai, the lockdown of one and a half months has been lifted. Although some residents, such as Blaze Xi, remain under quarantine – she has recently travelled abroad to the States for a business trip. Last week, Blaze celebrated her 33rd birthday inside her home. While she was unable to go out brunching with her buddies, her husband, also in quarantine, cooked pancakes for breakfast.

I found focusing on others really stopped me feeling down.

Later, a cake shaped like a loo roll, emblazoned with the epithet ‘Shit Happens’, arrived from her best friend. ‘If anything, it was one of the most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had,’ laughs Blaze. She admits that she is finding her quarantine surprisingly relaxing after years of gruelling work and travel. Her tip for getting through this period is to devote your time to other people – she has been cooking her husband elaborate meals, for instance. ‘I found focusing on others really stopped me feeling down,’ she says.

Meanwhile, sales assistant Lily Guo, 29, remains under lockdown in Wuhan, until at least 8 April, the provisional date the government has given for removing all restrictions. Lily hasn’t been able to leave her apartment for two months now. ‘Everyone is in the same boat, so you’re not missing out,’ she says. To keep herself sane, Lily has been rearranging her wardrobe, having personal pampering sessions, taking online tutorials, meditating and cooking herself extravagant meals. However, she says she particularly values the time she’s had to connect with friends around the world. ‘It’s made me realise that this is bigger than me in my apartment. This is something affecting the whole world, and for almost all of us, it could always be worse.’

I have also spent several weeks in lockdown in Shanghai, and found the thought of being cut off worse than the reality. I ended up relishing all the homecooked dinners, boxset binges and the opportunity to finally get to grips with niggling household chores I’d been procrastinating over for months. And one unexpected and particularly joyful upside of being locked in was that, after a year of trying, my husband and I finally managed to conceive. Apparently, spending weeks in close quarters with no one but your significant other is very good for baby-making.

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