Wuhan Diary #9: The Thirteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 4, 2020

Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao

February 4 — Day Thirteen of the Wuhan City Closure

It is very sunny today. When I got up this morning, the sun’s rays just poured into the bedroom, bathing the entire bed. For just a moment, I thought it was just an ordinary weekend day. I thought I could, after washing up and getting dressed, go out with some friends, have a meal, and catch a movie.

That now feels like it must have been in a previous life. I get that feeling a lot recently.

Today, I sorted through the receipts I have kept since the we knew about the epidemic. We have spent nearly 1000 RMB [about USD $140] on medical masks, alcohol, hand sanitizer and other medical related items:

  • Face masks: 599.5 RMB (of which 282.6 RMB is reimbursable)
  • Alcohol pads 128 RMB
  • Disposable hand sanitizer RMB 33.7
  • Household pulse oximeter 139 RMB
  • Electronic thermometer 83 RMB

We have gotten nearly all the packages we ordered for delivery by SF Express before the Wuhan city closure. We ordered one parcel for delivery by China Post. That parcel arrived at a Wuhan post office a few days ago but it hasn’t budged since

Two orders for face masks are being refunded. Although they were in stock when I placed my order, the company told us later that we’ll have to wait and they don’t know when they can deliver them.

I bought a lot of disinfecting alcohol pads. I also bought some for my cousin, but it has not been shipped yet. They were taken off the website shortly after I placed the order so it must have been sold out. That store has long been out of alcohol. We have almost used up nearly all our home supply.

I bought a disposable hand sanitizer when new type coronavirus pneumonia was just a rumor. Then I bought the compact size because the household size was not big enough. My classmate recommended a brand widely used in hospitals for disinfection and sterilization that is more effective. Unfortunately, the thought of buying more occurred to me only just before the city closed. By then there were no more in stock. I hope I can buy more later.

I bought the pulse oximeter, which is fairly inexpensive, before the city closed. Then I knew neither what we faced nor whether any of my family members were infected. Now our family is doing alright and we may not need it at least for now. Someone on Weibo social media asked for help the other day, saying that an elderly infected person could not be observed at home without a pulse oximeter. I felt lucky. Although I spent money on it, it was a matter of being prepared for a misfortune that in the end did not come.

Buying the thermometer is the hardest expense for me to justify. I blame yourself for breaking our mercury thermometer. Mercury thermometers are too much trouble. I spent a whole morning cleaning the beads of mercury so I decided to buy an electronic thermometer this time. The electronic thermometer I bought was twice as expensive as usual because most of the pharmacies in Wuhan are sold out. I heard that there are only a few pharmacies that selling it, but I can’t go out now. Although I couls go out walking to do errands, Wuhan is too big and in the end I may not find a drugstore with one in stock. Moreover buying it on your own is expensive. After contacting several online shops fairly close by, I discovered that none of them deliver via SF Express. Finally, I did find one at twice the usual price with guaranteed although that will take three to four days. In times like these though, a thermometer is essential.

We’ll certainly have more expenses later. Now each one of us is mentally prepared to fight a long drawn out war against the virus. Things like face masks, alcohol, disposable hand sanitizers will surely continue to be snatched up as as soon as they become available. My spending has been below average since I only bought surgical masks, and I bought them earlier, before the price doubled. If I had bought 3M surgical masks, the price would have been several times higher. If the situation continues to fail to improve, I will start buying 3M masks if available.

These days however you may not be able to get them. Last week the online shops were saying that they will be able to shap after “February 10th”. Now many are saying they won’t be able to ship until March. I worry too if I will end up buying a fake mask. Recently I saw several so-called “overseas mask large order groups” claiming that medical masks from the United Kingdom can be bought for 3.4 RMB each (compared with the regular Wuhan price of 1.9 RMB) and that you could get that price if over 50,000 people join the collective buying group. But when asked specifics about the brand and type, they respond that they are still awaiting confirmation. However do they determine the price without knowing the brand and the type? Is it even possible to buy that many surgical masks in the UK now? All this gives me a lot of doubts and worries.

I saw an online plea for help for a family of five – including a young child – that all contracted coronavirus after the one suspected case in the family followed the doctor’s suggestion to do a “home quarrantine”.

I see many similar help requests every day. The reason I paid attention to this one particularly is because they live close to me, just so very close that I imagine that I hear them panting for breath.

I also saw news in a neighbourhood WeChat group that several staff members of a supermarket near my company got confirmed diagnoses of coronavirus pneumonia. The supermarket has been closed. I went to that supermarket two days before Wuhan was closed.

Lots of bad news recently. My classmate’s parents were both infected in Wuhan while my classmate was away. The mother is now in critical condition and no one is taking care of the elderly couple. I contacted their community but couldn’t even get the community to take them for medical treatment in one of the cars assigned to the community.

One WeChat group friend has six elderly sister in his family infected with coronavirus. I never imagined that the so-called “outbreak period” could be this bad. Maybe it was just because subconsciously I felt that if I didn’t think about these things I could pretend that life was more peaceful and more beautiful. I am already well into middle age but this is the first time that misfortune has struck so close.

Last night, I saw news on official state media that the Government began disinfect the entire city on Feb 3. Why ever did they wait for twelve days after the city was closed to start doing that! Can you believe it?

Yesterday evening I saw on the neighborhood WeChat group news that a supermarket in another community was surprisingly enough hold a free vegetable delivery event. Photos and video showed that the event attracted a big crowd. I am just speechless. I despair at the incompetence and idiocy of our officials.

I read a saying that goes “A fallout particle of the times comes down like a mountain on a single person’s head”.

Chinese text:

2月4日 武汉封城第13天




l 口罩 599.5元(其中282.6元待退款)

l 酒精、酒精棉片 128元

l 免洗洗手液 33.7元

l 家用血氧监测仪 139元

l 电子体温计 83元



















About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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