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  • Lise Poulsen Floris

Corona virus outbreak: What are you up to Beijingers?

The epicentre of the corona virus outbreak may be 1300 kilometres away but the world's attention is also very much turned towards China's capital Beijing where there are 114 confirmed cases as of Thursday 30 January. As many airlines have suspended or restricted flights to Beijing, many public places are closing down and all schools are closed for at least two more weeks, I've talked to friends and acquaintances in Beijing (some who have stuck around, some who have left) about how they are coping.


Jaclyn, Dentist:


"We’re currently planning to re-open on February 3rd. But I will limit dentistry to non-invasive and non-elective procedures" - "We’re trying to stay calm and have normalcy but have a constant feeling of being on edge".


I’m in the healthcare business and we’re currently planning to open on February 3rd. But I will limit dentistry to non-invasive and non-elective procedures. Will follow hand washing and temperature checks and all infection control protocols. I am working on this with others.


We have a small group of friends in the neighborhood with whom we are socializing. We play board games or just visit each other for a few hours. It’s good for the children to have friends. We are still going to restaurants that are open but we’re often the only costumers.


It’s a sombre feeling. We’re trying to stay calm and have normalcy but have a constant feeling of being on edge. The city is slowly going into “lock down” as one place after another is closing down. Today the health bureau is closing our gym. Grocery stores are low on products and people are stocking up. So even as we try to be “normal”, it’s difficult.


US Reporter in Beijing:


"Editors decided not to try to send me to Wuhan or Hubei province because of the risk of getting stuck or having to go into self-quarantine which is not useful".


I am reporting on the virus. Editors decided not to try to send me to Wuhan or Hubei province because of the risk of getting stuck or having to go into self-quarantine which is not useful. Many people are still on holiday so it’s hard to get comments in China. I also find that coordinating with a larger team in the US can present challenges. The outbreak is now global so it takes global coverage.


I’m not really seeing friends these days – but then I never have time anyway, working 12-15 hours a day.


Tanya, high school teacher at an International school


"The school is closed at least another two weeks - but we're lucky that we have sufficient funding and expertise to develop a very good online learning platform".


The school I work at has been forced to close down for the time being - like all other schools in Mainland China. But we're very lucky that we have sufficient funding and expertise to develop a very good online learning platform. We know that the platforms will work but as teachers we’re also getting guidelines from the experts on how we best can use them and help students. Some schools who offer online schooling have required that teachers be in Beijing – but my school is flexible and happy for teachers to be anywhere in the world during the online learning period.


When it comes to moving around Beijing, access to many housing compounds are now restricted, making it difficult both for my husband and I and for our kids to visit friends. But overall it seems to be a very rational course of action both by our school and by the compounds. We know that they’re restricting access in order to prevent spreading of the virus – but they are going to keep monitoring the situation and making decisions along the way.


It's a bit like we’re preparing for war and everyone is stocking up on food. I'm spending the extra time at my disposal to catch up with my family, focus on some work and do some more cooking.


Pluto, Freelancer


"I haven't gone back to Beijing yet. I am still at home, in my hometown Langfang in Hebei Province".


I haven't gone back to Beijing yet. I am still at home, in my hometown Langfang in Hebei Province. We have 9 confirmed cases here so far. Personally, I'm rather optimistic about this virus and I think the situation will be under control soon thanks to everyone working so hard on it. We overcame SARS in 2003 so I have faith this time. The timing of the outbreak was just horrible. So many people travelling for Chinese new year during the world's biggest migration and among them people who were infected without knowing it. To be honest, the outbreak has greatly affected my plans. For example, I was preparing a photography workshop in Nepal but now I'm afraid I can't go. The only thing we can do as ordinary people is to wait. I hope a vaccine will be invented soon so everyone can go back to their normal lives.



Enoch, self-employed and mother of 2 young children


"I feel anxious and I can feel the madness and paranoia systemically but there is not much I can do. The uncertainty is unnerving"


I lived through SARS while at university in Hong Kong, and the situation for me feels very unnerving - also because it has impacted my business directly. For example, some clients have postponed workshops, I can’t do programmes at the business school I work with because they just issued a quarantine policy - and I won’t be able to leave China to give enough time (14 days of self-quarantine) before a programme starts.

I feel anxious and I can feel the madness and paranoia systemically but there is not much I can do. The uncertainty is unnerving.


I’m coping by reading only official sources, ignoring most of my WeChat groups, and reading books at home instead.


My kids seem to entertain themselves. We try to spend time playing games with them but I think TV time has increased. I’m hoping our ayi (househelp) can return soon. My mum is here as my husband and I were both supposed to go on business trips in February. But now we won’t go so I guess will look after them, depending on whether my mum will be able to stay.


Jackie, Editor and mother of 2 young children


"I left Beijing with the kids on January 24th, a day after the Wuhan lockdown was announced. I had heard a rumour that Beijing might be next, and so we were in a rush to leave on the 24th".


Now we are in Korea, where a fourth case had just been announced. The man had travelled quite a bit, visiting at least 11 places, before going to a clinic. So now everyone is on their toes regarding their health. Every cough, every sneeze causes worry these days because it's hard to tell if it's an infection or not.


We know we shouldn't go back yet, but our belongings and everything is still there. So we hope this epidemic goes away soon so that we can all go back to our normal lives. Beijing is our second home after all.


Amalie, journalism master student


"I'm not afraid of the virus, which shouldn't be dangerous for a 25-year-old healthy woman like me. I'm worried about my own mental health".


So far, I have been optimistic. I’ve visited a few friends, studied Chinese, read books, taken pictures and reported to Danish media. That could work out for another month I guess but some trains and flights to and from Beijing have been suspended and more schools are being postponed until late February. My university should have opened, but now I'm not sure anymore.

I've decided to go back to Denmark. I'm not afraid of the virus which shouldn't be dangerous for a 25-year-old healthy woman like me. I'm worried about my own mental health were I to stay mainly inside my apartment for weeks - without being able to travel and interview in relation to my projects, without being able to socialize, without having free movement. No thanks. I know several people who have travelled back home for the same reason.

In Beijing, people react very differently depending on their neighborhood. In some places, all masks are gone, supermarkets are empty and body temperature is being measured as you move in and out of the residential area. In contrast, less people are wearing masks in my area, the supermarket is full and there are no temperature checks.



Francisco, restaurant owner


" Before we re-open we’ll be sending our employees to the hospital for a check-up to make sure that they are fine"


The restaurant was supposed to close only for the holidays (until this coming Friday), but due to current events, we may close for longer. Right now, we’re trying to decide until when. We want to make sure that we’ll be able to offer our normal menu to customers before we plan to open. We’ll also be sending our employees to the hospital for a check-up to make sure that they are fine, and we’ll be following the health protocols strictly! All members of our team will wear gloves and masks. They have to wash and sterilise their hands constantly. We will purchase a thermometer before we re-open. If a member of staff is sick, even with a simple flu or cold, they must go to the hospital.

I am meeting with friends mainly in apartments or houses – simply because most places are closed.



Helena, Coach, accompanying spouse, mother of 3


"With my kids' school closed for weeks, it's hard to see an end to it right now".


My mood goes up and down. Sometimes I panic a little and other times, I manage to stay positive and think that the corona virus is no worse than a flu. But with the school closed for around a month in total, it's hard to see an end to it right now. The bad pollution these past 2 weeks certainly hasn’t made it easier – and some in my family we've had mild colds too. Today the air was finally better so we could go for a walk. For the rest, I must say that the kids have had a lot of screen time!

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©2020 Lise Poulsen Floris