COVID-19 diaries from Wuhan: Feelings of insecurity

A dog barking at the world outside. Photo credit: Guo Jing. Used with permission.

The following post is the eighth 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, fifth, sixth, and seventh part of the series.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

This installment was written between March 3 and March 5, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.

Guo Jing: March 3, 2020


Xianzi is a person who I really respect. She has done a lot of volunteer work during this pandemic, and I chatted with her about her work.

Xianzi helps hospitals buy supplies. This is not an easy task during lockdown. The shortage of medical supplies not only exists in our country, but also other countries. Some of her friends from overseas went to pharmacies to buy medical supplies. The Chinese customs office held up medical supplies at the early stage of the outbreak, many overseas Chinese ask acquaintances to hand carry these medical supplies back to China. Those who brought the supplies back to China have willingly paid for the delivery fee to Wuhan.

Once, when Xianzi was purchasing ultraviolet lights, the store attendants decided to pay for a few more from their own pockets. The volunteer network also received a load of protective gowns which arrive in Shanghai, but most delivery companies refused to bring it to Wuhan. Eventually they managed to get help from a delivery company, Bestax, which had planned to donate supplies to Hubei.

Xianzi said that hospitals are very careful about receiving the donated supplies. They only accept  medical supplies, and only the minimal amount. If the hospital has enough supplies, they will suggest the volunteers to donate supplies to other hospitals. The doctors usually reminded them “do not buy too much”. Those doctors are not willing to bother others. They would try work things out by themselves whenever possible, like buying vegetables. [

A doctor once told her, “I have no idea what's going on here. At first, the hospital would list what we need and receive donations. Later, policy changed and they were not allowed to receive donations.” Some doctors had worked for more than ten days continuously, and they have not been allowed to take a day off. During the pandemic, some doctors have stayed in hotels, but no one cleaned the rooms for them. When doctors traveled to and from the hospitals, they had to show their ID several times at checkpoints in streets and at the hospitals. Sometimes community workers even asked them to get off the bus.

Xianzi said, whenever she turned on her phone, the only information she received was about pneumonia and she felt as if Wuhan was like hell. No one knows when the pandemic will end. The voluntary work has distracted her from negative emotions as she mainly works on supply delivery rather than patient support.

A girl hanging a poster for ‘anti-domestic violence advocacy’. Photo by Guo Jing. Used with permission.

Guo Jing: March 4, 2020


Wanfey is a policeman in Jianli county, Hubei province. He has been a policeman for 30 years, and he has seen a lot of domestic violence cases. He thought it was very difficult for the victims of domestic violence to reach out and hence [in 2014] he initiated a NGO called “Association for the rights of all women and children in Jianli”. He also worked with All-China Women's Federation on a charity project called  “No domestic violence” which enhances cross-departmental anti-domestic violence action.

In an interview he said “Based on our statistics, 90 percent of domestic violence is related to this COVID-19 pandemic.” Jianli police station received 162 calls about domestic violence this February, which is 3 times of what we had last February (47). The number of calls from this January is also higher than what they received last January. Each of these numbers represents a painful story and do not reflect the whole picture. Many victims of domestic violence could not find ways to contact the police.

It was sunny this morning. I haven’t seen the sun for a while. I went downstairs to take a walk. Three estate management staff members were chatting in the yard. A man with his dog talked to me and said that he had seen me going out every day. His family name is Chou. We live in the same building. He is on the 10th floor. Mr. Chou’s wife works in Wuhan Renmin Hospital, and she had been working since the lockdown and finally managed to take some days off a few days ago. His wife told him that staff in the hospital had been talking about pneumonia since last December. The condition was serious, and many people died. However, they were not allowed to tell other people.

His wife is in the Department of Oncology. Many medical staff and patients in her department were infected. Now the hospital only accepts patients diagnosed with COVID-19. All other departments are closed.

Mr. Chou runs a hotel. The rent for his hotel is RMB 110,000 Yuan (US$15,524 dollars). He hires more than 30 people, but now he can only pay them half of their salary. He no longer pays for their social insurance. He was distressed as he needs to pay his employees on the 15th this month.
Usually what he earns from the hotel goes to the bills. The main income of his hotel is what he can earn from the month before and after the Chinese New Year. He had spent tens of thousands of Yuan to buy food for his hotel before this Chinese New Year. Now he does not know what he can do with that food. Mr. Chou told me, “I think 50-60% of the hotels will be shut down after the pandemic.”

Guo Jing: March 5, 2020


A friend from Jingzhou, Hubei province said the city's media outlet had reposted a WeChat article, which predicted that the lockdown in Jingzhou would be lifted by March 10. That article emphasized that the news is from a “source with authority”. She said, “I hope it is not fake news.”

I was also very excited about it. Lifting the lockdown is definitely good news. I asked her for the article link. While she was looking for it she said “I want to go to the park to take a stroll after the lockdown is lifted.” In the end, she found out that the news was fake. But the news about the government giving out 10 kg of vegetables is real. My friend was very disappointed. She sighed and said, “Suddenly I feel that day will never come.”

In the afternoon, what I had ordered from the group buying arrangment arrived. I bought 5 bottles of Lao Gan Ma (a spicy sauce). When I placed the order, I was pondering whether I really need to buy so much. The decision is far from a rational choice. Many of my friends share similar stories about compulsive hoarding in our chat. This pandemic has made us insecure and we store things unconsciously.

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