Wuhan Diary #14: The Eighteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 9, 2020

Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao

 February 9  The Eighteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure

This morning I woke up to someone singing a song outside my window.  Listening closely, I could tell that it was Angela Zhang [Zhang Shaohan]’s song “Dear it’s Not love” [Qinaide, Na bushi aiqing].  The women singing had a beautiful voice and sang well. For a moment I felt at peace.

Yesterday evening I ate the last tangerine in our house.  We have now eaten all the fruit that we bought before the city closed.

We still have some vegetables — Chinese cabbage, white radish (I don’t like it),  and some garlic. We finished the milk several days ago. We still have a dozen or so eggs and a good amount of meat including pork, beef and lamb.

Currently buying fruit is no problem. When I want to buy some food in the morning, I place an order using an app on my phone and get it by noon.  There is not a lot of variety (only the basics like apples, pears, and tangerines), and not a lot (quantity you are allowed to buy is limited for some products).  Naturally there aren’t any special sales or discounts but I am satisfied with what I can buy. Probably because there have been some incidents of grocery delivery people catching the coronavirus, the delivery people don’t meet the customer in person.  A friend’s community allows delivery people to put packages into the elevator and press the button to send the elevator to the customer’s floor. In our community, the delivery person leaves the package on the first floor and we then go downstairs to get it.

There aren’t many shops open selling rice and vegetable oil. This morning mother told me that during the first ten days of the month the supermarket is having a special sale of 30 kilogram sacks of rice.  That startled me. Normally I would certainly have educated mother not to buy in such a large quantity because if you shop more often you will eat fresher food. Naturally these days it was a very nice surprise.

Buying rice and vegetable oil these days is not too hard however.  If I don’t go to the supermarket, I can place an order on the Dongjing website for home delivery.  It’s not like before when they offered “next day delivery” but at least we do get our orders delivered. 

These days the most difficult things to get are fresh foods like vegetables, milk, eggs and meat. In addition to the apps I already had on my phone for ordering things online, I have added five or six apps the specialize in selling and delivering fresh vegetables.  Even though I have added so many apps, I can’t get everything I want. Some don’t deliver to Hubei Province or our home is outside their delivery area. Others handle large group purchases only (that would mean our community would have to make the purchase. Some housing management companies have been organizing this.)  That would require a certain number of people buying making purchases every day.

As of yesterday evening,  I’ve made three tries to buy a box of fresh vegetables.  

  • The first day I ordered milk, eggs, fresh vegetables and fish. When i tried to pay, there were no fresh vegetables and fish available so the order failed.  
  • The second day there was no milk available so I ordered eggs, fresh vegetables and fish. When I tried to pay, they were out of eggs and fresh vegetables so the order failed.  
  • The third day ordered eggs, green vegetables, fish, glass noodles, and crust of cooked rice. When I tried to pay, eggs, fish and green vegetables were out of stock so the order failed.

I usually start online shopping and ordering at 10 PM. If don’t hurry up and place my order,  I often find that the things that I had planned to buy have now gone out of stock. After two minutes a notice comes up that the maximum number of orders has already been reached.  You need to work quickly. He who hesitates is lost.

Thanks to many years’ experience scrambling to buy tickets for popular performances I am disappointed that I have been a complete flop.  This has been a real blow to my self-confidence.

I’ll try again tonight.

Recently, several schools have been requisitioned as temporary quarantine locations, including somebody from our chat group — their dorm was taken over. Dorm rooms are certainly better for isolating people with contagious diseases than the enormous spaces that quarantined people are put in together these days. Schools are mostly in remote suburban areas, far from the densely populated city center; the rooms are smaller and more intimate, well-equipped with air conditioning, toilets, and other basic facilities.

I heard that in the past two days, many schools have arranged for teachers to return to school to help with renovations. Some problems do arise. Given the sudden nature of the requisition, it was not possible to get the students’ permission in advance. This will lead to conflict between the students and the school. 

As the students left school for winter break, they left a ton of stuff behind, including some things of considerable value. Putting away and storing student property properly is a huge problem. Most important thing of all is that a patient with a contagious disease will have been sleeping in your bed. Considerable meticulous work will be needed to disinfect the room and to reassure the students. Just think about it. If I were a student who had been living in a requisitioned bedroom, I would be very depressed at the very thought of it. But what else can be done? If the epidemic is not brought under control, no one will be able go back to school.

There are too many “emergency matters” and everyone is making sacrifices. I hope that these “sacrifices” will not be quickly forgotten once the “great victory” is achieved.

I really hope that all those opportunists and rabid nationalists online inside the Great Firewall will come to realize that all these “sacrifices” can and should have been avoided. We should not have to be going through all this. Putting on a show to celebrate all those “sacrifices” getting all teary-eyed would be vicious and dangerous. But I’m pessimistic about this.

I saw on Weibo that somewhere in Shandong, sanitation workers were given face masks for a photographs but then the masks were taken away. Ridiculous things like that happen every day.

Translated from Twitter February 10, 2020

Normally, a grass-roots person like me at the center of the epidemic should not be worrying about things going on far away. This time I care about anything related to the epidemic. Currently Hubei is relying on medical staff and medical supplies from all over the country to survive. Medical resources are over-stretched. If the epidemic should get out of control elsewhere, it would be a disaster for Hubei.

By the same token, I still worry about another issue. Currently, only Hubei requires both nucleic acid testing and CT scans for patients with suspected infections. Elsewhere, only nucleic acid testing is used to confirm a diagnosis of new coronavirus pneumonia. We now understand from public data published by the media that the accuracy rate of nucleic acid testing has an accuracy of just 30% to 50%. (Wang Chen, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in an interview that only 30 to 50% of confirmed coronavirus pneumonia patients tested positive using nucleic acid testing). This means that many coronavirus infected patients are not diagnosed.

Obviously, this creates a very big hidden risk, as many places outside Hubei will resume work over the next two days. Once these coronavirus carriers and undiagnosed patients return to work, it is likely to spread rapidly.

I sincerely hope that I am just being worrying too much. God forbid, if the epidemic gets out of control in another big city, it would be all over for Hubei.

Lastly I want to mention something. I went downstairs to pick up fruits at noon today. I carefully checked the door of our building, and did not find any notices about the epidemic. Many other communities posted signs such as “Infection-Free Building” and “Fever Building”. Our community doesn’t have any of signs like that. Humph! This is unacceptable!

Chinese text

2月9日 武汉封城第18天

























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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1 Response to Wuhan Diary #14: The Eighteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 9, 2020

  1. Jennifer Bonner says:

    Thank you for sharing. Best wishes as you face challenges during this extraordinary experience.


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