Waiting it out in Wuhan

A month has passed since Wuhan was put under lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. For those lucky enough to have stayed healthy, they still sacrificed time, opportunities, and long-held traditions for the greater good.

China.org.cn February 23, 2020
By Zhang Lulu, Yang Xi, Qin Qi

[Portrait design by Peng Xingxin for China.org.cn] 

He Guangming was as happy as ever when his first grandson was born. The whole family was overjoyed, with both the baby and the mother perfectly healthy. But even though they are all living under the same roof, He did not often go into the nursery room. They could not afford any risks.

He and his wife came to Wuhan, Hubei province, in mid-January, just before the baby was born. Soon after their arrival, news came of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and on Jan. 23, the city was placed in total lockdown.

The busy transportation hub in central China came to a sudden standstill. The city's 11 million residents, not to mention people like He who were there for one special occasion or another, have stayed and endured countless adversities. 

A month has passed. While many continue to cope with the outbreak, isolation, and other hardships, some have found hope in small happiness—like He and his wife, who would wear thick masks and visit the new baby in the next room for a few seconds a day.

Canceling Spring Festival celebrations

The novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, has so far claimed the lives of more than 2,300 around the world, including 1,856 in Wuhan. Since the start of its lockdown, the only people authorized to move in and out of the city have been workers bringing in essential supplies, as well as nearly 40,000 doctors and nurses rushing from all over China to the frontline to save infected patients.

Meanwhile, ordinary people have stayed put in their homes, answering the call of the government to avoid going out and gathering into crowds.

To people in China, this was no small ask. The timing of the outbreak could not have been worse, occurring right before the Chinese New Year—also known as Spring Festival—which this year fell on Jan. 25. On this most important of holidays, reuniting with families and relatives is beyond tradition.

Visiting and spending time with extended families and relatives has been the way Qi Yang celebrated every Chinese New Year. Normally working in Wuhan, Qi left for home in neighboring Jingzhou city a day before the lockdown, planning to attend a family gathering of more than 20 people during the holiday.

Like families all over China, Qi's family canceled the plan after learning about the severity of the disease. Qi, along with his wife and son, stayed with his parents at home, making a simple dinner using what food materials they had to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

"Never in my life have I ever spent the Spring Festival like this," said the 34-year-old Qi.

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