The following post is the sixth in a series of diaries written by independent filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming and feminist activist Guo Jing. Both are living in Wuhan at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth part of the series.
Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.
This installment was written between February 20-27, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.
A friend mentioned that she was making caramel milk tea at home. We were so envious. She was delighted and demoed how she made it. She put some sugar in a spoon and added some water. She then put the spoon on the stove and heated it slowly. We were all screaming when we saw the sugar turned into caramel. After that, she used a pot to warm the milk and stirred the milk with the spoon of caramel. After she added tea in the milk, she had the caramel milk tea. A friend with a sweet tooth said, ‘I have to go to [online shopping platform] Taobao to fill up my cart to distract me from the desire [for a sweet treat].’
Someone in our community group sent us a message about the criteria for lifting the lockdown: Zero new cases [confirmed or suspected] for 14 days. Details as follows:
- If the number of new cases in the non-forced quarantine group of people is zero and this record is kept for 14 days, Wuhan's three major towns will start preparing for district unlocking.
- If Criterion 1 is met, the lockdown of Wuhan's three towns will be lifted internally, i.e., people within a town can move freely but cannot travel outside of the town. The transportation service among these three towns will still be suspended. If the record of zero case numbers can be kept for another 14 days, Wuhan will be unlocked internally.
- If Criteria 1 and 2 are met, Wuhan's lockdown will be lifted internally, i.e., people can move freely among the three towns and the transportation service connecting them will be restored. People can work and go to school as usual inside Wuhan. If the record of zero case numbers can be kept for another 14 days, the lockdown of Wuhan will be completely lifted.
- If Criteria 1, 2 and 3 are met, Wuhan's lockdown will be completely lifted, i.e., people can move in and out of Wuhan freely, and the transportation service connecting Wuhan and other parts of the country will be restored.
It seems to me that we will be locked inside our community for at least another 14 days.
What is the relationship between us and our past? Yesterday, after I finished writing in my diary, I took a nap. At that moment, an unspeakable sadness hit me.
When people ask me how I am, I always say, ‘I am relatively fine under this kind of situation.’ When I try to recall what has happened after Wuhan was locked down, even yesterday feels like a long time ago. Sometimes, when I talk to people about what I have experienced and what has been changed, I do not carry any emotion in my words — as if what has happened has nothing to do with me.
This is a protective mechanism that helps me to escape from and avoid what might hurt me. However, we cannot heal ourselves by forgetting or escaping from what has happened. I am happy that I keep a record of how I felt during this time by writing in this diary. I will learn how to face it, and telling people about my feelings is the first step. Then I can try to understand my experience and the strong feelings I've been having during the lockdown.
There are always some people with special connections. Someone in our community initiated group-buying for fruit and somehow, like a magician, s/he managed to get six packs of salt, six bottles of vinegar, six boxes of yogurt, and a lot of eggs today.
S/he asked whether we want to buy: a pack of salt for RMB 4 yuan, a bottle of vinegar for RMB 7 yuan, a box of yogurt for RMB 50 yuan, and 25 eggs for RMB 30 yuan. [RMB 1 yuan is equivalent to 14 United States cents.]
Those who go downstairs to enjoy sunbathing probably cannot stand staying at home all day long, like me. When we go downstairs, most of us will wear masks, and we talk to others from a distance. I feel anxiety and despair because I have been trapped at home for a long time, and no one knows when the lockdown will be lifted.
My body is getting heavy these days. I do not have a fever, and my appetite is fine, so I do not think I am infected. I think this is just my body reacting to the feeling of being powerless.
Our community is surrounded by a blue fence and there are two spots with storm damage. Today, three or four people brought some materials from the construction site next to our community to fix the fence. I went downstairs to talk to them. They told me the property manager asked them to fix the fence to prevent people from jumping out. They used to be workers for the subway company, but they are stranded in Wuhan because of the lockdown. They live in the temporary housing nearby, nine of them in total.
They also went to help build the Huoshenshan Hospital, a field hospital for COVID-19. They received a notice at 11 o’clock on one day, and the company drove them to the construction site. They worked until morning the following day. Altogether, they worked on that project for four days. They told me all the workers helping build the field hospital worked in two shifts. After they finished their job there, they were quarantined for 15 days.
Recently, many communities ask them to help with property maintenance work. They are technicians by trade. One of them says, “They forced the technicians to do odd jobs.” Their company gives them masks, and they received subsidies when they worked in that field hospital project, so have made some income during the lockdown.
I seldom think of lifting the lockdown these days. There are more than 30,000 confirmed cases in Wuhan, and we will have to wait for a long time before the lockdown is lifted. Thinking about it does not help.
After pondering it carefully, lifting the lockdown and locking down a city are different kinds of decisions. Lifting the lockdown is a process, and it will not be like the lockdown, which was decided instantly and could be immediately implemented the next day.
Some cities have had zero confirmed cases for a few days. Currently, the number of confirmed cases is decreasing, and many cities have loosened the control [measures]. However, many people are afraid to go outside. I think this is the sequelae of prolonged lockdown, and the sense of fear will not diminish soon.
Dr. Liu Wenxiong in Xiantao city has passed away.
He saw 180 patients on January 21.
He had taken care of 3,181 patients in one month.
He also gave medical advice over the phone every evening.
He only rested for two days in that month.
On the third day, he went to a hospital because of chest pain.