Wuhan Diary #31: The 35th Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 26, 2020

February 26th the 35th Day of the Wuhan City Closure

When I first started writing this diary, I never thought I would still be writing it after 35 days. I thought at first that the city closure was just an “emergency measure” that would be lifted in a week or in a half-month at most.

That first half-month and then a second half-month have passed. Now we are in the third day of the third half-month. Now every day I feel the tension and wonder when that tension will break.

I often wonder what impact this epidemic and the city closure will have on my life? Some are obvious, and others may not appear for a long time to come.

A friend living by the bank of the Yangtze River sent me a night-time scene of the

September 2019 Lighting display, Yangtze river, Wuhan, China via YouTube

Yangtze River last night. After the city closed, neon lights along a large segment of the the river were turned off. Both sides of the Yangtze have been dark for nearly a month.

Light shows along the Yangtze River have become a popular Wuhan attraction these past two years. At the Lunar New Year both river banks are jam-packed with big crowds of people. I have never been interested in going and so have never seen it. Unexpectedly though, the moment I saw from that photo that the Yangtze River was now lit up, I felt strangely moved.

The city is slowly recovering its vitality.

I saw a data set on WeChat worth recording there. Using the Baidu Index, and by restricting the search to Wuhan, one can find the popularity of keywords used in Internet searches made by people here.

Data on how these search term frequencies have departed from average is shown below:

  • Bread: search peak up 260% above normal.
  • Mustard: search peak 343% higher.
  • Steamed roll (mantou): search peak 376% higher.
  • Grocery shopping: search peak up 382%.
  • Chest tightness: search peak 491% above average
  • Fever: search peak increased 422% from average.
  • Pneumonia symptoms search peak up 1093%.
  • Fear: search peak up 183% from average.
  • Funeral home: search peak up 212%.

Baidu Index

These search terms describe the lives Wuhan people have been living for over a month.

In videos I saw on the Internet, many people from outside Wuhan now stranded here by the city closure cannot afford to pay for their accommodations and become homeless. I thought of the girl in the Phoenix TV episode “Humans of Wuhan“. She said she only had enough money for a week or two. Somehow I know that she is doing alright.

A friend from outside Wuhan told me a story recently. He used to run a bed and breakfast place in Wuhan. He shut the business down last year and it was empty. After the city closed, he sent a message on WeChat saying that he was willing to provide bed and breakfast accommodations to people from outside Wuhan free of charge. He never could have imagined that just two days after he sent that message that a complaint was filed against his bread and breakfast for supposed violation of fire safety regulations. The matter is all finished and done with. As he told me that story he made fun of himself. I understood it differently though, as a kind of parable of how we live our lives in this modern era.

I saw in the news that in Weihai, Shandong, Province, beginning February 25th, everyone arriving in Weihai from Japan and South Korea will have to go into fourteen days of quarantine at a hotel free of charge. By contrast, the Wuhan city government, also yesterday, announced a way for outsiders stranded in Wuhan to seek help. The announcement included a help phone number to contact in each district of the city. Other than listing the phone number, the announcement didn’t mention any measures for helping stranded outsiders.

No matter whether someone is an outsider stranded in Wuhan or locals like us who have been banished to our homes, are all paying the price for the government’s hiding the facts and negligence at the beginning of the epidemic. A responsible and humane government has an obligation to protect the lives of all these people. I can’t imagine what they have lived through this past 34 days while the government has been so derelict in its responsibilities. I am very disappointed in it.

I bought cucumbers and potatoes yesterday. I paid 20 RMB for 3 cucumbers and 18 RMB for 5 small potatoes. I examined the bill carefully as I listened to the news from the Chinese Central Television. “China’s epidemic-fighting measures will go down in history as a model of how humanity fights epidemics”. “A model?!”, I cried. I felt personally offended.

Tens of thousands of seriously ill people still lie in their hospital beds. We survivors still need to bear up under a high cost of living but they have already started to hop past the grave mounds to resume their riotous lifestyle. I think that they should wait until the epidemic is over before joyously celebrating a great victory. I never could have imagined that now they just can’t wait to proclaim that everyone should “be happy and cultivate your own garden.”

Could that CCTV anchor, while reading that broadcast script, have given any thought at all to how we in Wuhan, human beings after all, feel?

I thought of the line from the Pu Shu (朴樹)’s song “The Birch Forest”:

Who could say that there can be love and life without tombstones?

Pu Shu’s “The Birch Forest” on YouTube

Chinese text:

2月26日  武汉封城第35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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