Cina: da un posto qualsiasi..
This month, I had originally prepared an article on traditional Spring Festival recipes.
But after writing it, I realized that there was something else, something much more important, that had to be talked about.
2020 was going to be a year of change.
A change in how we dealt with the environment crisis, a change in politics with the turnover of the US government,
a change in how activism was going to inspire positive change for the masses.
But then the Australian bushfires shocked the world with their smoldering intensity and destruction.
And now, less than a month into this new decade, the media is submersed with the coronavirus coverage, a
disease threatening to become an epidemic in China.
I live in an affected area.
Now, I personally am quite calm- you must be if you want to carry on ordinary life.
I am constantly repeating to myself that at this moment in time, about 95% of cases of the virus are in Hubei,
which is a about a thousand kilometers from here.
It also targets people with weak immune systems, as the flu often does.
Emergency protocols put in place during SARS and the 2013 bird flu have been brought back, such as
the lockdown of Wuhan, the 10-day hospital building project able to house a thousand patients in complete quarantine,
the shutting down of all public places and festivals.
Of course I'm scared- there's the Spring Festival, with about three-hundred million people who travelled
back home, and who will then come back to work on the 3rdof February.
But I find it reassuring that surgical and air-filtered masks are completely sold out both in local stores
and online, because it means that an enormous number of people are buying and using them.
Additionally, on WeChat groups and on television, there are quite a few different tutorials shown
on how to keep clean and safe from the virus, like when and for how long you're supposed to wash your hands for.
But despite all this, it is terrifying to think of yet another epidemic, especially at this time with so much travel.
This travel made it so that there are cases in over twenty Chinese provinces as well as a few cases in other countries.
SARS affected 26 countries and killed around eight hundred people.
Could this be another epidemic of the sort?
I go to an international school, and they originally planned for us to commence lessons earlier than the 10th.
However now, they have aligned themselves to start lessons whenever our city's Education Burau confirms it is alright to.
I expect that when we go back to school, whenever that will be, they will be taking our temperatures every day, as they
will in all public schools.
Those with a higher-than-average temperature will be tested for symptoms, and eventually isolated
to prevent further contamination and to be treated properly.
I try to see the bright side of my extra days of holiday as they give me the opportunity to catch up on schoolwork,
dopast papers, preview, complete homework, and eventually the teachers will send us additional work so that we can
keep up with the planned curriculum.
But this delay in school sure made the reality of the situation sink in.
It sank in for many around me though.
It's been raining for what feels like weeks, but even if it wasn't, the streets are completely deserted.
This is partly due to the Spring Festival, as only the locals will be in the city, and likely will be indoors
with their families.
This is a time of celebration in China, but the festivals being cancelled and the rain
force people to stay inside.
The coronavirus certainly keeps the few wandering individuals to a minimum.
I see it when I go outside:
they eye each other suspiciously, flinching at the smallest cough, or the quietest clearing of one's throat.
Almost everyone is wearing a mask, and I've seen some wear two masks one on top of the other for extra protection.
One of my closest friend's families decided to stay home for the time being, but didn't think it necessary to wear a mask.
As soon as their cleaner found out, she immediately forced them to go around the area looking for a shop that
still had some left.
And just yesterday, because of rising tension, this same family bought gloves for each person to wear so not to directly tough anything.
My father lived in China during SARS:
he said that there were some cities where everyone was wearing them, and others, like Shanghai, where nobody particularity cared.
But its all different now- I've gone to a few cities in this past week, and everywhere in both crowded places,
and open-air areas where frankly the mask becomes useless, there are many wearing it.
This also ensures collective health, as those with masks are not only protecting themselves, but others too.
The virus raises questions about food.
My friend once told me that if thereever was a zombie apocalypse, she'd come to my house, as our pantry is so full
of tinned food, the freezer full of meat, that we'd certainly survive.
It's peculiar to think back to me laughing with her and carrying on with our day, when this is in a way, the same thing.
I'm okay. My parents are okay.
We haven't gone to the grocery store for a while now, and even when the tinned food runs out we'll have pasta
and rice for ages. But this is a luxury.
How about those who must go to open markets trying to buy what they need?
Nobody knows how this virus could affect food production, and trade.
All this has reached people worldwide.
I have people texting me from other countries, asking if I'm okay.
We mutually re-assure each other.
I go from calming a friend of mine at one in the morning as she panics
over the rising number of cases, to having a breakdown at breakfast once I start over-analyzing my temperature.
Is 36 degrees okay? 37?
I'm not coughing.
I'm washing my hands every few hours though having done nothing different.
Ways to protect yourself from the virus are trending.
Wash your hands.
Carry hand sanitizer.
Wear a mask.
Avoid crowded places.
Keep any symptoms in check.
And thrown into the mix, is everyone texting each other news, from reputable sources, others just rumors and word of mouth.
Did you hear that there was a case found only a few kilometers from here?
Did you read that a mayor admitted he was scared?
The virus will definitely go away before summer, since of the heat and all, right?
Isn't the USA collaborating with China to find a cure?
Did you see how many people are wearing masks?
Is the mortality rate increasing?
The cases are rising.
When will we go back to school?
So many questions, so little and uncertain answers.
And we feed off each other's panic.
The media giving so much information is great because it makes the
common public aware of what's happening, but is also means that sometimes the situation
is overdramatized when there are more important issues at hand too.
For example, as already mentioned, last time I checked there were about three cases in my city, which is minuscule.
However, because of the escalating fear of the coronavirus, my friends and I cancelled a movie day we'd been planning
for a few weeks.
One of us has to travel across the city.
Is public transport safe?
Maybe, since there aren't many people, but what if she gets the virus because of exposure
to more people than if she'd stayed at home instead?
And once she gets to our mutual friend's house, there will be several people in a tight living room.
What if one of us is already infected, and symptoms haven't shown yet, and we further spread the disease?
As you can see, the people affected by the coronavirus aren't just the ones who have died, or have been infected.
This widespread fear and inclination to go to the panicking extreme affects everyone who has ever heard or dealt
with the virus.
The media has made this much easier, and even though it all depends on how close you are to the infected areas, and how
calm you try to be, this does seep into people's everyday lives and informs decisions as well.
I have no idea what will happen.
In the next two weeks, the numbers could suddenly spike and coronavirus could take the lives of many more,
and China could go on complete lockdown with travel bans everywhere.
Or, they contain the crisis using all these preventative measures put in place, develop a cure and/or vaccine,
and the number of cases could slowly go down as more people heal and get better.
Honestly, I think- as well as hope- that it'll be the latter.
We'll just have to try to stay calm,
rational, and cautious, and see what happens.
Cortesia di L.B.
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