Opportunity China’s Program Coordinator, and Beijing local who spent time studying and working in the UK the US and Australia, gives us her perspective on the effects of Covid 19 in China, both during and after the outbreak.
Hi, I’m Cami, a Programme Coordinator in Beijing. I’ve lived in the city for many years, but have been fortunate to study in Australia, as well as work in the UK and US.
As a Chinese citizen I’d like to reflect on my experiences of the coronavirus outbreak; at the time, now as Beijing goes back to normal, and as we look towards the future.
The Coronavirus Outbreak in China
The outbreak happened during the Chinese New Year holiday. It’s the biggest holiday of the year, and the only time that most people visit their friends and families every single day over the course of a week, often returning to their home towns or villages from the cities. Because of the outbreak, all visitings were cancelled.
By mid-February, all public transportation stopped, and restaurants and shopping malls closed down, apart from supermarkets. People were asked to stay at home; the Chinese government is very powerful and when people were told to stay at home, they listened. One reason was that they were scared of getting infected and staying at home was the right thing to do; the other reason was they had to, people can’t not listen to the government.
Of course, this had a wide-reaching impact. The outbreak had a huge impact on business, especially on the tourist and service industries. Some companies didn’t survive, and many people lost their jobs or had to take a pay cut.
On the positive side, for some people, the lockdown was a very good opportunity for them to actually spend time with their families which hasn’t happened in many years.
It was a challenging time, but a lot of people had their families nearby and there was a lot of love and support. Chinese and foreigners were able to help each other out throughout this time and it created a better sense of community.
Our Return to the ‘New Normal’
As the government have gradually lifted the restrictions, life has returned to our new normal. We’ve had to accept the measures put in place for everyone’s safety, and adapt to a new way of living. The health tracking apps are a new key part of life, allowing us to track our locations visited, symptoms and feed this data to help government monitoring.
Shops in Beijing reopened from late February, with customers’ temperatures taken before they enter the shops, and are required to leave their contact information as well. The shops restrict the number of people allowed in to make sure the social distance is no less than 1 meter.
Everyone has to wear a mask wherever they go otherwise they won’t be let in or out of any places. It’s very strict! Some people take it to the next level and wear safety glasses and even protective suits which can be funny to see!
Businesses started up again on 1st of March with each company only allowed a maximum of 50% of their employees working within in the offices, with the remainder working from home. Within office, companies had to ensure that every employee has a personal space of no less than 2 square meters. However from mid-April, there were no strict regulations for working from home, and companies can have employees back to their offices as long as they wear masks.
All public transportation has had thermal scanners put on to test people’s whole-body temperature. There are also temperature scanners in restaurants, and in the entrances to our apartment blocks.
Schools in all cities started phased returns with older grade students from early April, with primary schools and kindergartens open again shortly. Language centres are expected to re-open in May.
Our city is not as crowded as before, but it’s still busy. Parks, restaurants and shopping malls are full of people, the only difference is that everyone wears a mask.
Everyone that comes back to Beijing from another city has to do 14 days quarantine – it’s very strict. There are people watching you to ensure that you don’t get out of your apartment before your quarantine finishes. Therefore, everyone you see out and about in the streets have all done their quarantine, and we feel safe being outside.
Being able to go outside whenever we want or need, without worrying, is a huge relief. It’s been great to see friends, family, and get back to work.
As life returns slowly to normal, it gives us faith that this is going to end.
The Future Post COVID-19
It goes without saying that many Chinese people are worried about the future, and the economy doesn’t look good. It will take a long time for some industries to get back to normal, particularly tourism. That being said, there has been somewhat of a rebound as the restrictions have been lifted.
There are some sectors which have really thrived during this time though, including online education, telecommuting, live streaming videos, computer games, online retail, online shopping and delivery etc. In China, you can literally survive with only a phone! Many believe this is the trend of future development.
Education is prized just as much, maybe even more, than in the past and parents are still eager for their kids to have a great education. As part of this there’s still a large demand for Western teachers to teach English in China. Once the temporary restriction on foreign nationals entering the country is lifted, I believe the industry to foreign teachers will be larger than ever to help students make up for lost time during the crisis, and furthermore to invite more members of the international community to experience the real China.