Wuhan under lockdown: Life in the center of the Corona pandemic
21.04.2020 I Vera Schmies
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus imposed massive restrictions on our daily life. Countries around the globe are struggling with overwhelmed healthcare systems and in many places, life came to a halt. Our colleague Qi Liao, found herself at the forefront of the pandemic in Wuhan, China.
While the world was looking anxiously at China, observing the developments in the country, others already faced the pandemic. One of them was Qi Liao, who was in Wuhan at the time of the coronavirus outbreak. How did she experience the first weeks of the health crisis? And what did she learn during the city’s lockdown?
In the eye of the storm: the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan
Qi Liao from the Internal Audit Department of thyssenkrupp China was in Wuhan at the time of the outbreak. “I was returning from Shanghai to Wuhan on the high-speed train on January 21th . On the previous day, Professor Zhong Nanshan, respiratory disease expert and former president of the Chinese Medical Association, confirmed that the coronavirus could be transmitted from person to person and everyone was very nervous,” Liao remembers.
Although the celebrations of the Chinese New Year were only days ahead, Liao recalls that there were few people on the streets when she went to the mall across the road the next day. “There were not many people in the mall and there was no New Year’s atmosphere. We were not aware of the seriousness of the situation initially.” Until the 23rd of January – when the city of Wuhan imposed a strict lockdown. “Then we became vigilant. We would still go out occasionally to get some fresh air, however, we reduced the number of times outside,” the Internal Auditor tells us. At that time, drug stores, fruit shops, and supermarkets were still open in Wuhan, but citizens were no longer allowed to leave the city in order to contain the pandemic.
Life under lockdown: Mopping floors and wrapping dumplings
A couple of days later, the neighborhood where Qi Liao lives eventually closed and she stopped going out at all. “The biggest change was to rely on the food offered by the neighborhood community, instead of going to the market to buy supplies”, says Liao. Shopping at 10:00 pm, became a small daily task for her in the weeks to come. “I also cleaned, mopped and sanitized the floor every day. I feel like I’ve done all the sanitation I haven’t done in years,” says Liao.
Other changes included spending more time with family. Liao remembers how she and her relatives passed time during the lockdown, “We wrapped dumplings and made buns together and read a few books.” Relatives and friends kept contact via social media and frequently checked on each other’s well-being. “Every day, relatives and friends would share news of infections in the community via WeChat groups. From time to time, friends and colleagues would send greeting messages. That was really heart-warming,” the Internal Auditor remembers.
A change of mindset: reflecting on a global health crisis
Fortunately, none of Liao’s relatives and friends have been infected, nevertheless, her mindset changed a lot due to the pandemic. “I remember waking up one morning with a headache, accompanied by vomiting, and being very nervous. It’s not that I was afraid of catching it myself. My parents and relatives are within the risk group and I was afraid of passing it on to them.”
Luckily Liao quickly recovered but the tense situation lasted almost half a month. After the local government took severe measures and started building a hospital, Liao and her family eased up.
Now, that the corona epidemic in the country seems to be under control and Wuhan is slowly returning to normal, Qi Liao reflects on what she learned from the crisis. “In terms of life, this epidemic taught me that good health and family is important. So, step up your workouts and motivate your parents to exercise and build up their physique. Also, spend more time with your family in the future.” Additionally, she learned to be kind to herself and even more so to others, not to be selfish and to be grateful. “My biggest feeling is that the epidemic is like a mirror that shines through many sides of humanity, not just between people, but also between nations.”
Returning to ‘normal’ – life after COVID-19
Before Wuhan was unblocked on April 8th, Liao and her team could only work remotely, checking emails and communicating by phone. “It’s still not as convenient as face-to-face communication – but it works,” says Liao. “Thanks to my colleagues for supporting me and sharing a lot of work during the tough times ” she rejoices looking back on the great teamwork of the past months.
In the meantime, Liao could return safely to Shanghai. Now, she is looking forward to returning to ‘normal’ life, eating hotpots and going to the gym.