The following post is the fifteenth 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 initial center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth parts of the series.
Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.
This installment was written between March 28 and March 31, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.
After a two-month suspension of service, the subway in Wuhan began operating again today. There is a subway entrance right in front of my community, but very few people go in and out.
Like many others, I want to get out of our residential district. When the barley tea that I ordered was delivered to my community this afternoon, I went to pick it up and asked the security guy when we can leave. He said that I should ask the grid controller and pointed to a telephone number pinned on the bulletin board.
I called the grid controller. She told me that residents with a “green” health code in communities without recently confirmed case can go shopping in supermarkets for two hours. However, many supermarkets are not open to individual customers.
Our community has no recent confirmed cases, but the closest supermarket is located in a district with confirmed cases. In addition, there is always a long line outside the supermarkets as they only allow a maximum of five people to shop inside. Therefore, the grid controller suggested that I avoid leaving our district for the moment.
I am so tired of carrots, but I still need to finish the last few carrots stored at home. Carrot is officially on my list of least desirable foods for the near future.
I have been asked several times recently, “How did social relationships change after the lockdown of Wuhan?” I do not have a simple answer. After the lockdown, we consciously keep social distance. Many people do not leave their home anymore. However, some have overcome their fear and anxiety and worked as volunteers to deliver supplies to people in need. Some from Hubei Province (the province where Wuhan is the administrative capital) are rejected by hotels outside of Hubei. However, some reach out to offer help. Some cities ban people from Hubei entering and returning to work. Other cities welcome them.
Today around noon, a resident sent a message to the estate manager, “Can we go outside and shop in supermarkets?”
The manager said, “If you have the (green) health code and certificate to return to work, you can go outside.”
Another person asked, “I am staying in Hankou (another part of Wuhan city) now. Can I go back to the community?”
The manager said, “If you have the (green) health code, you can come back.”
They thanked the manager.
I cannot tell how this pandemic has affected me yet. This disaster will leave indelible marks on many of us.
When we walk down a street, we will think about what it looked like in 2020. When we eat a certain dish, it will remind us how we were reluctant to eat it during the lockdown. We will dream about who we met and what happened during the lockdown.
I probably will not develop a special connection with this city, but I will remember that this city experienced a lockdown. I will not forget those empty streets.
The number of takeaway orders in Wuhan has increased in recent days. On March 26, it was reported that the number of milk-tea orders has grown eight times compared to three days before. We have experienced a lot of bitterness, and a cup of milk tea has become a rare sweetness in life.
I saw some people carrying their luggage on the streets. I do not know whether they were coming back or leaving.
People have to act “normal” in order to maintain social stability. Some people believe that those who have lost their relatives or friends in this pandemic should keep their tears private after they receive the ashes of their relatives or friends, so as not to destabilize society.
It is normal to cry in front of others during a relative's funeral. However, this norm has been denounced under these extreme conditions. Grief is not accepted by society. In such an abnormal society, how can individuals behave normally?
A community volunteer sent a message to our chatroom: “Hi, I asked the community staff at the gate today, and they told me that we can go shopping with a (green) health code. Some pharmacies are open now and you can go and buy necessary items.”
Someone asked, “Can the elderly go to see doctors and shop?”
The volunteer replied, “You can go out with a green code.” He added, “Only one person per household can go out and for two hours each at a time. Currently not all supermarkets are open to the public. If you don't have urgent needs, it's better not to go outside too often. It is not safe outside, especially for seniors and children. When you go outside, please wear protective gear and keep social distance from others. It is better not to go somewhere crowded. If it is not necessary, please hold on until April 8.”
I was so excited to see the message that tears came out of my eyes. I applied for the health code on Alipay and prepared to go out today.
I went out at 11:35 AM. The security guy checked my purpose of going outside. I said, “shopping”. He asked me to scan a QR code with “WeChat” to check my health code. As my WeChat is not linked to my mobile phone number, my health code could not be applied through WeChat. The security guy took my temperature and asked me to fill in a form, including room number, temperature, purpose of going outside, and the time of going outside. He reminded me, “You only have two hours.”
I only had two hours. I needed to go back at 1:35 PM. I took a bicycle and rode along streets that should be familiar, but looked foreign to me. I was like an alien arriving on Earth, excited and nervous. I was eager to see the “outside world.”
I rode to the entrance of the river park and walked along the river bank. There were more people there than before the lockdown — there were parents playing with kids, lovers strolling along the bank and people fishing.
Several days ago, someone asked me, “What is the first thing that you want to do when lockdown is lifted?” I said, “I want to walk by the river and yell.” After I ate some food, I walked towards the river, I took a breath and yelled loudly at the Yangtze River, “Ah~~~”. After me, two others yelled, too. One of them yelled three times. It seems that we have been stranded for too long. I yelled again and again. I felt refreshed after that.