Before you read this, I want to make one thing clear. I can only speak from my own experience. It may be different from what is happening to other Chinese people, but in some way, it may share some similarities with other Chinese people.
The week after China’s zero-corona policy was officially withdrawn, my boss booked a trip for everyone in my department to spend a few days at a villa in the middle of the mountains in Zhejiang. By the time we got to the hotel, half the crew hadn’t made it to the hotel. They got Covid. The gigantic hotel seemed to be the only people who stayed there. We all joked that we have to be God’s chosen employees to work during this time when half the country is experiencing a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time we left there, two more employees had fallen ill. When I returned to work, I could hardly find my co-workers. Covid spread rapidly. And it never occurred to us to consider so-called asymptomatic.
As I write this, it is Christmas Eve. My father, who was a lifelong family doctor, had time to return to our home in Chongming Island to deliver cold medicine to his grandparents. Before he left, he learned through an antigen test that he was Covid positive. I didn’t get it. Finally, we decided to mail them the medicine. We wrapped the medicine to hide it. My mother joked that she didn’t want her medicine stolen. It happened too soon and I believe there was no plan when we decided to relax the restrictions.
What happened was inevitable and has happened in many other countries that lifted Covid restrictions long before China. Almost overnight, there were no cold medicines on the market, and hospitals were only prescribing cold medicine rations (sometimes only a few tablets per person). Some city dwellers instead ordered online purchases from pharmacies in rural areas where drug panic had not yet arrived. My family was lucky enough to get the medicine, but still one social security card only allows him one or two prescriptions for him. One family after another fell ill, and my father’s mobile phone became the landline phone of a free family clinic. Some have run out of medication and are seeking help. Some people are concerned about high fever. Some people just need to talk to someone about their symptoms. It’s been over two weeks since all restrictions were lifted. Those who fell ill recovered within a week. The symptoms caught people off guard, but most recovered.
How many people have died from this powerful new wave of infection? The death toll has been kept down, but I am skeptical of the gruesome death scenes portrayed by Western media. It is true that hospitals are full of Covid patients. Cities are empty because people are sick or afraid to get infected.
There is a general concern that people with the most vulnerable conditions may die from Covid complications or be unable to receive timely treatment due to the stress the health system is currently experiencing.Western media accuses the Chinese government of going from one extreme to another without firm plans to procure and dispense medicines, use stronger vaccinations, or strengthen the health care system. It’s all about the point. However, the way the West is portraying it causes some disgust, especially among credible Western media outlets about reports on the Zero Covid policy. No country has made such preparations. No matter where the Chinese government goes, the Western media, right or left, always see it as a mistake. Western media can be hypocrites (not to say ours aren’t). After all this, reading Western media is a little tiring, there is no country of straight students in terms of Covid. Maybe cut some of our slack.
But there is a lingering question — what will the Chinese government do next? Medical resources are being pushed to their limits. How do we compensate for our failure to prepare before easing policy? There have been public voices about approving foreign vaccines, as experience has been told to everyone that inactivated Sinovac does not seem to do its job. and with domestic pharmaceutical companies to ensure that all citizens receive timely and effective medicines. There are also jarring questions that each of us faces. So how do we live with Covid in as normal a life as possible? Humans are social animals. No one can live in isolation for long. It is difficult to continue and live a normal post-Covid life without changing the way we think and act.
Editor’s Note: Since posting this article, Jing has been battling and recovering from COVID-19, a mild fever, and other symptoms.