Wuhan Diary #22: The 26th Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 17, 2020

wuhan coronavirus masks
Customers wearing face masks shop inside a supermarket following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 10, 2020. 
China Daily via REUTERS

February 17th The 26th Day of the Wuhan City Closure

It has started to warm up. The last few days have been very sunny and Spring seems finally about to arrive. I brought all the flowers and plants that had spent the winter indoors out to the their stands on the balcony. The fresh green leaves reflect the sun’s rays nicely so well it fact that they can be painful to look at. Some kinds of plants sensitive to cold did not survive the winter so I will have to plant them again. The plants that did overwinter still look green and fresh, probably because this winter was not as cold as usual. Wuhan’s prettiest and shortest season will soon arrive. I hope the epidemic will end soon.

After the new provincial Communist Party Committee Secretary took office, control measures have become much stricter. When I got out of bed this morning, I saw that our building was already surrounded by the kind of temporary barrier that you see on construction sites. It was a bit sad to see.

I hurried to open our community WeChat group and paged through recent chats. Although I found the order for sealing small communities, I didn’t see any specifics on it will work. The neighbors all talked about it. Someone asked what were the criteria for deciding whether someone was to be allowed to enter or leave the community. Another said that the nearby supermarket from today onwards will require a signed permission slip from the community for entry. The community, however, has not begun to issue these permission slips. Someone sent a question to the @neighborhood network manager mailbox on the neighborhood WeChat group to ask how deliveries of online purchases were to be handled. He never got an answer. The community grassroots workers are useless. Now with this, buying things will get even harder.

Yes, it really has been getting harder to buy supplies recently. Last week I could still go online to buy legumes from a little shop nearby. This week it was completely closed. I don’t know if it was because they sold out all their stock or because of government restrictions.

Now there are probably three methods to buy legumes and other foods.

The first is buying online. That is too difficult now. As I just mentioned, the great majority of the small markets that sell fresh food have already shut down. So now more people are scrambling to order from the Hema supermarkets which offer free delivery. The Hema supermarkets are still operating normally but there is a limit to how much they are able to deliver each day. Every evening they take orders for the next day starting at 10 PM. Before the delivery quota was filled up in just three minutes. Now some goods are displayed as unavailable after ten seconds and after one minute the entire delivery quota for the next day is filled. I have been trying to place an order for a week. Every evening I set the alarm clock to remind me but every time they are either out of stock or they delivery quota is full.

Ah, it’s just too difficult. I’ve been able to place orders on meicai.cn but they have limited delivery capacity so after placing an order I have to wait many days for delivery. Moreover, the minimum purchase for delivery order is 300 RMB. Each package of vegetables weighs four or five pounds each, so when I tried to put together an order for 300 RMB, the total order weighed over 50 pounds. That is too much for our small family to consume. Fortunately we do have enough food at home. It’s just hard to get fresh vegetables but if we have to we’ll make do without.

The second method is to participate in a community group purchase. Here we see how property management companies do things much better. Several of my friends are in communities that started organizing group purchases early on. Now, they get regular deliveries of vegetables, food products and daily consumables. Their group purchases even meat products from Zhouheiya and cake. Thus far, however, many communities (including my own) haven’t taken the initiative to do this. They just watch enviously at the other communities.

Two days ago, a friend joined a small purchase group purchasing group for individuals. For her 100 RMB share, she got 25 pounds of vegetables – which ones she got depended on chance – but she ended up with tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus,green pepper, potatoes, garlic seedlings, and broccoli. That was just what I wanted to eat! I turned green with envy. She sent me information on how to order. Unfortunately, however, the quantity that can be shipped is limited and because you can’t be sure just what you’ll get.

These past two days I have been hearing about a fake group purchase scheme that even some community workers had suggested on a community WeChat network. Once they got the money, they were never heard from again.

The third method is, of course, to go to the supermarket yourself. There are several supermarkets still operating near my home. Going to those big sealed spaces full of people is just too risky. I stopped going three weeks ago. These past few days my mother has been insisting on going to the supermarket. I had to force her not to. To judge by photos and videos I have seen these past two days, the supermarkets in many areas (especially the Qingshan District) are very crowded. Every day they have long lines.

Online many people curse them for being “careless” and “out to get themselves killed” but I understand them. If the first two methods I mentioned don’t work, the supermarket is the only choice especially in some parts of Qingshan with their high proportion of elderly people and few young people since most left to seek work elsewhere. The infrastructure and distribution networks there are weaker and so for many elderly people, the supermarket is definitely their only choice. From today, however, all the supermarkets in Qingshan have closed and now will only accept group orders. They will no longer sell to individuals. I only hope that the communities there will be up to the task.

Today something very ridiculous happened. Quite a while ago I offered to sell something second-hand on Taobao. Today somebody contacted me wanting to buy it. I replied, “I am sorry. I am in Wuhan so it will be a while before I would be able to ship it to you.” After a while, he answered, “Wuhan? I don’t want it. These past few months I haven’t dared to buy anything from Wuhan”. I said over and over to myself “Love and Peace, Love and Peace” in order to control myself. I forced myself to delete one-by-one all the characters of the response that I had prepared to send him. “Then you’d better get off line right away so the virus won’t get you through your internet connection!”

This evening I told my mother about the tragedy of Chang Kai, who together with his parents and elder sister all died of coronavirus pneumonia over the space of seventeen days.

  • Mother: They shouldn’t have eaten their Chinese New Year’s meal together. Maybe the family members gave each other the virus then.
  • Me: A long time ago the propaganda said that it can be prevented and controlled, that only a few people were contagious, so maybe they weren’t very careful and didn’t think it was that serious.
  • Mother: How did you know how to prevent it? Back then you didn’t let us eat our New Year’s meal together!
  • Me: It’s because I don’t trust the Communist Party!

… And for the rest of that entire evening my mother ignored me.

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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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