What It’s Like Amid China’s Current COVID Outbreak

Here in China, we’re experiencing the worst nationwide COVID-19 outbreak ever since the pandemic began.

Of course, “worst” might be subjective for those of you who live in a country that has been continually ravaged by COVID-19 since the pandemic first swept across the globe.

As I write this post, in China we’re seeing around 1,500 to 2,000 new confirmed cases and over 2,000 asymptomatic ones across the nation per day. That’s in contrast to what previously used to count as a “severe” outbreak — around 100 to 200 confirmed cases daily nationwide.

What does it mean for those of us on the ground?

Thankfully, I don’t live in a city that’s extremely hard hit, but I’ve seen the messages online from people in Shanghai, who write about the reality of locked-down communities. One guy said it was the first time he had worked from home since the pandemic reared its virulent head.

Despite not being at one of the epicenters of the outbreak, I still feel the severity of the outbreak, which has crept much closer to my reality than I expected.

A little over a week ago, I was shocked to learn that several of my colleagues at work, with whom I share a close office, received a disturbing text message warning that their express delivery packages had passed through a logistics center with a confirmed COVID case. It sparked a round of panic in the work group. These colleagues receiving the message, along with hundreds of thousands of residents in the city, were required to get tested for COVID — and it created massive queues at designated testing sites.

At the same time, my employer even reported a COVID-tainted package at a company facility. While I didn’t work from that facility, I knew that people regularly commuted back and forth between the place.

My employer actually ended up offering COVID testing twice on site in less than a week, because of all this.

As much as it does create some inconvenience, I appreciate China’s vigilance toward COVID. Knowing that everyone in my company got tested, and no cases were found, does provide relief. At the same time, my colleagues, who have attended various events within the city, have been required to get tested regularly. Once again, it gives those of us who share an office space with them enormous peace of mind.

Another casualty to this round of COVID outbreaks in China — express deliveries for certain items.

For example, I happened to order something from a Taobao supplier based in Shandong, and was puzzled to see it sitting day after day in the “awaiting shipment” tab. My husband Jun later contacted the seller and learned that, due to the nationwide outbreaks, they were unable to send out any products. We’ve decided to patiently wait until shipments resume.

Another logistics disruption came from one of the largest shipping companies in this area, which has suspended its deliveries until further notice. We ordered something during this time which guaranteed “next-day delivery”, but have since discovered the package is in limbo at a facility in the city. Some online posts have speculated the service will reopen later this week.

And of course, whenever a major outbreak surges, online grocery shopping takes a hit, as more people are eager to stay at home — and stay away from stores.

So that salad I always buy online on the weekend, the lovely prewashed mix of delicate varieties of lettuce, sprinkled with delightfully crunchy slivers of carrots and red cabbage? Out of stock for an entire weekend, and most of the previous week. I was so desperate for my favorite greens that I prodded Jun to buy all of our weekend groceries — including that precious salad — early Friday morning. The strategy proved successful, as we were able to clear our shopping list and enjoy several meals enhanced by tossed salads with tangy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. But still, I pine for the days when I could place an order late Saturday morning and still find a full section of veggies (and salad) at my favorite online supplier.

Of course, these express delivery and online grocery issues are little more than minor nuisances. The fact is, we don’t worry about getting enough food. We’re also safe and healthy.

Given the current nationwide daily caseloads, I don’t expect a return to anything close to “normal” (or, should I say, the “new normal”) anytime soon. But that’s OK. I have books to read, things to write, movies to watch, places to hike nearby, and plenty of other ways to occupy my time.

If you’re experiencing a COVID-19 surge in your part of the world, what are things like for you?

Jocelyn Eikenburg
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One comment

  1. I’m in Turkey and we are on the downhill run to the new normal at this point. Turkey has stuck by its guns all year–as we’ve done face-to-face education all year, albeit with masks and increased hygiene. But with new cases and death rates decreasing, I think by summer we will be back to near pre-covid lifestyle. Everyone I know has been vaccinated; And a good many of those have also gone on to have very mild cases of Covid (Omicron ran through our population quickly and with mild symptoms, if any at all). Turkey’s vaccination program has been fast and efficient. They have recently canceled the HES code system (the QR code we all showed when accessing malls, banks, cinemas, etc). Masks are still expected on public transport and in places that are cramped and have little isolation, but it is daily becoming more of a personal choice. I think we’ve moved into herd immunity. And I say Hallelujah! I feel good about things and am happy to be back in restaurants, bars, and live music venues with friends. If I had Covid, I’m not aware I did.

    Wishing you and my other friends in China (one is a teacher in Shanghai and frustrated to be back online) easier days soon, and healthy days always.

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