Despite the USA and UK governments’ advice I ended up staying in Shanghai during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
I ended up in very tricky situation just before the Chinese New Year. Financially things aren’t great right now, but I was all set to start work in February. Unfortunately this also meant that I had to send my passport away to get my visa renewed. So with limited funds and no passport I didn’t have any choice but to stay.
The actual biggest worry many people in Shanghai had was whether they would be able to work and earn a living. Thankfully the government has declared that people should be paid their February salary in full. This doesn’t necessarily help everyone, but it’s good that they did this.
However, it didn’t help my situation. Technically I still hadn’t started work so I was worried I might have to wait even longer before I could start work. Of course my worries were unfounded – being a Server Programmer working Demonware we’re all able to work from home until the situation is resolved.
Really the biggest downside to being in Shanghai during the crisis is how inconvenient and boring things have gotten. You have to wear a mask whenever you go out. If you go to a wet market, a shopping mall, a subway station, or even coming back home you have to have a temperature check. All bars, restaurants, coffee shops, cinemas, and tourist sites are closed so there’s literally nothing to do.
When I went to the office to pick up my work laptop I had to wait in line and show my passport to even get into the office complex. They had computers set up to check a list of people who were authorised to enter.
Of course I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I recognise the need for these precautions, and you can’t deny that it’s working. The number of active cases in Shanghai last time I check is around 70, and the rate at which people are recovering overall has overtaken new cases, seems to be on an increasing velocity. It’s inconvenient, and it’s boring, but it’s working.
Conspiracy Theories, Racism and “Censorship”
Obviously I haven’t encountered any real-life racism in Shanghai. I’ve heard a few news stories from Western countries, but if you’re racist against Chinese this is probably the last place you’ll be.
I moderate /r/shanghai, however, and a few crazies have come out of the woodwork. I’ve ended up using the banhammer a little more than usual, removing conspiracy theory spammers and blatant racists from the sub. Right now people in Shanghai need accurate and up-to-date information. Being told that the virus was developed in a lab in Wuhan, is a biological attack from the USA, or that it’s God’s wrath signalling the end of times helps absolutely no one.
Today the city seemed more alive than it has been since New Year. Many restaurants are open now, although they are only offering take-out service. Crossing the street feels like a real-life version of Frogger again. People are still wearing masks, temperature checks are still ongoing, and restrictions on entering certain complexes are still in place. But things are starting to get better in Shanghai.
Other places aren’t so lucky however. Wuhan still has over 30,000 active cases so is still under lockdown. You still can’t travel between a lot of cities and/or provinces in China right now. At the time of writing the virus has taken more than 3,000 lives.
But China and its people are taking this crisis very seriously, and thanks to their efforts there is a light at the end of this tunnel.