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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

弦子是我非常敬佩的一个人。…这次疫情期间,她也做了很多志愿工作。我就跟她聊了一下。
弦子负责对接医院的需求、采买物资。这些工作在封锁中困难度明显增加。不仅国内的医用物资匮乏,国外的医用物资也较平时短缺。有在国外的朋友跑药店找物资,海关一度对医疗物资管控比较严,她们就找人从国外人肉带物资回来。帮忙带物资的人知道物资是给捂汗的,就自己出了快递费。
弦子在采买紫外线灯管的时候,跟她沟通的店员自己花钱从店里多买了几个灯管一起寄给医院。有一次,一批防护服到了上海,很多快递都不往捂汗发货,她们通过各方联系,正好碰上百世快递要捐赠物资到湖北,就顺便帮她们把物资捎上了。
弦子说,医院在接受物资的时候都很谨慎,不接受除医疗物资外的物资,求助的医用物资只要最少的量,够用就建议分给别的医院。最常听到医生说的话是少买”。医生都不愿意麻烦别人,他们能自己想办法买到的物品就自己买,比如买菜。
有个医生跟她讲:“不知道一切是为了什么。医院一开始还给开单接受社会捐赠,后来医院不让他们接收捐助。”有医生连续上了十几天班,想请假,但医院不批。疫情期间,一些医生住在酒店,但酒店没有人负责打扫。医生上下班的路上要多次停下来出示证件,有的社区工作人员还会要求医生必须下车。
弦子说,每天打开手机都是关于肺炎的信息,一度觉得捂汗就是人间地狱,不知道什么时候会停下来。不过,做物资捐赠不直接接触病人,有很多事情做,会让人不沉浸在情绪中。

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

万飞是湖北省监利县公安局法制大队民警。从警30年,他接触了大量家暴案件,他看到了受害者求助难的问题。万飞发起成立了“监利县蓝天下妇女儿童维权协会”,并与妇联共同发起“万家无暴”公益项目,推动反家暴工作的多部门联动。
他在接受采访时说,“根据我们的统计数据,90%的暴力原因与COVID-19流行有关。”荆门监利县派出所在2月份收到162个家庭暴力的报警,是去年同期(47起)举报的三倍。一月份报告的案件数量也比去年同期翻了一番。
每个数字背后都是真实的伤痛,而这些数字还不是全部,还有很多家暴受害者由于种种限制和困难没能报警。
今天早上阳光还不错,有种久违的感觉。我到楼下散步。物业的三个工作人员在院子里聊天。
遛狗的男人见我天天下楼,就过来跟我搭话。他姓周,跟我住一栋楼,住在10楼。周先生的妻子在捂汗市人民医院工作,之前一直在上班,前几天才调休。他听妻子说,12月底,医院的人都在传费盐的事情,而且情况已经很严重,当时就有很多人去世,但不让外传。
他妻子在肿瘤科,肿瘤科的很多医护人员和病人都感染了费盐。医院现在只接受新·冠费盐的病人,其他科室基本都关了。
周先生是开酒店的,酒店一个月的租金就要11万。他的酒店有三十多个人,现在只能发一半的工资,都没有缴社保。这个月的十五号快到了,又要发工资了,他也很发愁。
平时酒店的营利比较少,只能保本,主要的营利时间是春节前后的两个月。春节前,周先生的酒店还进了几十万的野味,现在也没法处理。周先生说:“这次疫情之后,会有五六成的酒店倒闭。”
中午送煤气罐的人来了,他穿着防护服,只把煤气罐送到小区楼下,不上楼。我把煤气罐换上,又可以炒菜了。

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

一个在湖北荆州的朋友说,昨天荆州网发了微信文章预测荆州各县市3月10日解禁,还写着“权威发布”。她说:“希望不要是假新闻。”我听到这个消息也很激动,任何一个城市的解封都是好消息,就问她要文章链接来看。她边找边开心地说:“解封了想去公园溜达。”
结果,找到的文章是《荆州10号解封是谣言,zf免费送10斤菜是真的!》。朋友立刻失落起来,叹了口气说:“一下子又觉得遥遥无期了。”
下午,团购的生活物资到了。我买了5瓶老干妈,下单的时候我就在想是不是没有必要买那么多,但还是没法理性地判断该买多少。最近跟很多朋友聊天的时候都谈到囤积癖。…这次疫情可能会增加很多人在物质方面的不安全感,不自觉地囤积物品

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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